It was with great sadness that I learned my beloved Pauoa Chop Suey has closed down. In memoriam, I’ve compiled a list of things I’ve learned over my years of eating at Chinese restaurants.
When you go to a Chinese restaurant be ready to you use your one flimsy napkin to wipe down your chopsticks, your soup spoon, your plate, your rice bowl, your mustard dish, and your tea cup. And your fork, if you choose to embarrass yourself by cheating with that utensil.
Always bring a pen and paper with you. The menu is so long that you won’t remember what you wanted from the first several pages by the time you reach the end of the volume.
Don’t sip your tea right away. It’s often scalding hot and will burn your tongue, making enjoying your food impossible.
Check your water before you drink it; there may be unidentifiable objects floating around in it. And check the water they replace it with for the same reason.
Prepare your mustard and shoyu slurry in the little dish even if you don’t end up using it. It’s a ritual that boasts to everyone you’re a Chinese restaurant veteran.
The roast duck on the next table always looks larger than yours even though it’s farther away.
And their kau yuk always has more fat.
Make sure you grab your noodles first so you can have one shrimp.
Don’t spin the Lazy Susan while someone is serving himself. It works against the image of an old-hand that you’ve tried to portray by casually stirring up your unused mustard-shoyu mixture.
If there is a discount lobster available for purchase, don’t bother asking if it’s from Maine.
Seven courses are always better than five, but the bill may surprise you more than an assumed two courses worth.
Make sure you open and eat your fortune cookie. Not doing so gives others the idea that you choose to ignore the portents of the gods.
If you leave an inadequate tip, unlike many other places, the employees of a Chinese restaurant will chase you down in the parking lot and demand you make things right.
Alas, poor Pauoa Chop Suey! I knew it, Dear Reader. A restaurant of infinite dishes, of most excellent fried gau gee. It has fed me on my couch a thousand times. And how endeared in my imagination it is. My appetite rises at it. There hung those ducks that I have scarfed down I know not how often. Where are your Singapore noodles now? Your beef and shiitake mushrooms? Your mapo tofu? Your servers with jokes about customers who didn’t tip well thus giving us customers a big hint? Not one now, to employ those women who will accost you on the sidewalk for their 15% minimum tip. Quite quiet these days? Now get yourself new owners, have them announce to us all, to get our pens and paper in hand for there is a resurrection yet to come. Make us smile for that.
Until that happy time may come, the rest is silence.