Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Little Portuguese Goes A Long Way In Chinatown

Lower Manhattan from Liberty State Park
It should come as no surprise that I love New York City. I visit several times a year, and have done so since I was small. I've gone the tourist route and frequented Times Square and Ellis Island. I've gone off the beaten track to the Morgan Library, a fabulous sushi bar on 45th Street, and Dean and Deluca down on Prince Street. Lots of discoveries, lots of memories. However, my most vivid (and unfortunate) memory is a time I had dinner in Chinatown.

My parents, Jonathan, and I all spent the weekend at a friend's closet-sized apartment several years ago. We were down near Ground Zero (sans the 9/11 Memorial Garden, which tells you how long ago it was) and decided to mosey up to Chinatown for dinner. It was November, cold and rainy. Upon reaching Canal Street, which runs straight through the "touristy" section of Chinatown, we decided we didn't want to eat with the rest of the tourist riffraff. So we started wandering down side-streets and found a small place that had what appeared to be "locals" wandering in and out. It didn't look too scary, so we went in, sat down, and started perusing the menu.

Normally I'm a "standard fare" person when ordering from a menu. I don't venture too far away from what I know I'll like. Yet feeling adventurous, I flipped the menu over and looked at some more adventurous dishes. I finally landed on: Portuguese Chicken.

Many of you already are shaking your head. Why, you may be asking yourselves, would she order something Portuguese from a Chinese menu? Excellent question. And one for which I don't have any reasonable answer other than I experienced a moment of abject insanity (or stupidity, which might be more precise).

We ordered. We waited. Finally everyone's dinner arrived . . . except mine. I nibbled from Jonathan's plate. He ordered Sweet and Sour Chicken. Wise man. It was the best S&S chicken I'd ever had! That palate-pleasing experience encouraged me, and since my meal was taking so long it must mean it was going to be even better!

Finally our server returned with a steaming dish. My mouth watered. With a flourish he placed my Portuguese Chicken before me. I looked down. And I saw what can only be described as a boiling bowl of vomit.

Yes. That is precisely what it looked like. I looked up at my parents, at Jonathan, all of whom had finished their meals by this time. They looked at my Portuguese vomit.

"Maybe it tastes better than it looks," my dad said with an unconvincing smile.

It did not.

I muscled down about 3 bites and was done. Jonathan and Dad even tried to help me finish it off without success. I was left with a growling stomach and a feeling of utter dejection. (This feeling was somewhat alleviated by the fact that we wandered into a quaint little shop** that sold authentic china and housewares--it was the oldest store of its kind in Chinatown, we were told.)

That day I learned a valuable lesson:

When in Chinatown, order Chinese!

**I've been unable to ever find that little shop again, unfortunately. So if anyone knows of this store's location--PLEASE let me know!

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