Monday, November 8, 2010

Joy Tsin Lau Restaurant

The formula for choosing Chinese restaurants postulates that one should go for those with most Chinese patrons. And it is certainly the case at Joy Tsin. On any given Sunday morning or early afternoon, the line of diners often extends past its spacious lobby and spills onto the street. This can be a fun if a bit stereotypical way to introduce yourself to Chinese everyday life and culture, as the line is full of families complete with miniature, ancient yet dignifies elders with toothpick thin bones and parchment-like skin and vibrating packs of small children with nearly identical haircuts.

There is a constant flow of newcomers and goers dead set on squeezing past you at any cost. First you maybe overwhelmed by this persistence and the lack of consideration for your perceived personal space. And it so happens that once in a while some respectable American lady in front of you would make a sarcastic wisecrack, looking back at you with the expectation of comradery, as if both of you are united by some sort of shared experience by virtue of looking European. And you frankly don't know if these people are delivery men (unlikely), members of the family ahead of you ( you keep hearing the words "party of nine" from the hostess) or just eager visitors trying to gouge how long their wait will be. But you should just flow with it knowing that the food won't disappoint and that this, as much as the collage on the wall of hundreds of photos of the owner in various traditional costumes, in front of various honor plaques, banners and posters, with various children in arms is a part of experience.

And the experience is what you're here for. Well, really you're here for fantastic Dim Sum. And it begins with carts of steamed dumplings - shrimp, chives, pork, or freshly fried rice crepes. Followed by an unbelievably tasty and fragrant star anise beef tripe and lungs stew that goes down like an elixir spiked with spicy red chilly oil. The first 15 minutes is where you should really pace yourself. You're hungry, and everything looks good. Unfortunately you may reach your capacity right after having a bowl of congee (rice porridge) or what looks like the most tender wonton you've ever seen. So you may opt for the next cart pushed by a smiling lady and loaded with plates of crawfish (visual factor: 10, taste factor: 4), fried shrimp, snails, clams and fried quail. There's also baked rice wrapped in dry leaves, and plates with jelly fish, pork buns and mustard greens.

The waiters rush past you like acrobats balancing piles of steaming plates in a hurry to replenish the carts. Your only hope is that you get a chance at first dibs on stuffed pig intestine, since you're afraid that by the time the cart makes a circle around the immense dining room you won't have any. But that fear soon disappears as you realize that the mysterious kitchen elfs keep churning out their delicious wares and the waiting stuff is not at all interested in kicking you out in order to free up your table. One cultural trait, the wisecracking respectful American lady, I hope will find refreshing.

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