What, no chandelier? Is it truly dim sum without a bit of pomp? At Chinese Cuisine it is, more so than usual when I was in the no-frills dining room completely alone last Saturday evening.
Usually, eating dim sum without a crowd ensuring turnover on the food would be a risky proposition. But at Chinese Cuisine, there are no carts to point at. Diners mark up the paper menu and dishes are prepared to order. With 103 items, all the staple dumplings, bao and pies are accounted for. But it was number 68, the deep-fried durian puff, that really made me question why the dining room wasn't packed.
Admittedly, durian isn't for everyone. One of my all-time favorite writers, Anthony Burgess, compared the olfactory oddity of the spiny fruit to "eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory." I think it's more like a mash of melon and banana, with a gasoline finish. But the fresh, gooey durian that oozed from the whisper-light fried puff pastry at Chinese Cuisine skipped that aggressive ending note. The flavor was sweet and clean, tucked into the incomparably flaky pastry.
I loved it so much that I finished dessert first, leaving behind enough slippery, beef-filled rice rolls and eggplant, filled with cilantro-speckled batter and fried, to take home for a midnight dim sum snack. Sure, the savory dishes will last me longer, but it's the memory of the durian puffs that will linger.