Wednesday, December 30, 2009
THE FEEDING OF THE INNUMERABLE
I’ve just been to a traditional Chinese wedding feast for my friends Marc Gerald and Christina Fang, at the Ocean Star restaurant in Monterey Park. The restaurant specializes in dim sum, and receives some fairly mixed reviews from online foodie bulletin boards, but we had a great time.
A traditional Chinese wedding feast is a ritualized and symbolic affair, I understand. Suckling pig is served to symbolize virginity. Shark fin soup to symbolize wealth. 7 Up is also served because the Chinese word for happiness sounds like the English word “up” and so the drink is a stand in for “Seven Happiness.”
We certainly ate some pork dishes, and some soup, though I can’t guarantee that suckling or shark was involved. You see we were served a multi-course set meal and it didn’t come with a menu so we struggled at times to know what we were eating, which led to much discussion and attempts at identification. This is in fact a really great way of bringing people together and giving them something to talk about.
Still, I think we can safely say we had jellyfish, abalone, pigeon, lobster, sea cucumbers among many, many other things. This was all grand.
It was the desserts that completely defeated everybody when it came to identification. They looked like this:
The one on the left tasted like a sweetened bean soup and it appeared to have a lychee floating in it, but it wasn’t a lychee. When you bit into it you discovered it was a kind of dumpling filled with a chocolaty seedy filling. This was pretty good.
The other was just plain absolutely baffling. It seemed to be, possibly was, tapioca in aspic. A first for me, and apparently for many others.
Incidentally I think the Ocean Star is the biggest restaurant I’ve ever been in. The place seats 800 people. Somebody suggested this might make it the world’s largest restaurant. But no way.
According to the Guinness peopl the world’s biggest restaurant is the Bawabet Dimashq (or Damascus Gate) in Syria. It claims to seat 6,014,and a small part of it looks like this:
But it’s an outdoor restaurant, which actually strikes me as a bit of a cheat. Anybody can have a massive restaurant if they don’t have to put a roof on. Any frankly once a restaurant gets to that size a number like 6,014 is surely pretty arbitrary. Isn’t there always room for one more? It’d be just terrible to arrive there as part of a party of 6,015 and be told one of you had to go away.