Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Soy sauce is so American!"

Two years ago, when Frank Bruni reviewed the great Flushing sino-dining temple, Spicy & Tasty, the mood around my office immediately turned grim.

"I want to stab Frank Bruni in the fucking eye," was the reaction of one Chinese friend of mine.

A review like that (for a restaurant like S&T) is usually the kiss of death. It would only be a matter of time before the effete Manhattan fressers showed up in Flushing and packed the restaurant. It would only be a matter of time before S&T raised their prices and decided to rest on their laurels. Spicy & Tasty, we decided, was a goner. (There's also something heartbreaking about knowing a great secret that is suddenly revealed to the entire world.)

In fact, it wasn't long at all!

I went a month or two after the Bruni review with my parents (who were serious S&T fans) and it had already gone down hill. Having been back a few times since I can say that it has improved itself -- but it isn't the same Spicy & Tasty it once was.

I had a similar moment of foreboding when I saw Julia Moskin's food story about Chinese food in Flushing in today's Times.

But there are three reasons, I think, why we foodies shouldn't worry.

1) The story wasn't written by the restaurant critic -- which means that the places mentioned are not treated with the same regal deference. (What the hell was Frank Bruni writing about a restaurant where nothing on the menu is above $20, anyway?)

2) There are simply too many dumpling shacks and noodle houses for any one to get a swelled head. Let the yuppies spill into Flushing! They aren't going to all converge on Nan Shian at the same time that they're all at Imperial Palace.

3) It really is a kick ass article. There's a great Web-only interactive map showing where all these places are and what to get at them. I had only heard of one or two of the restaurants mentioned -- so you know where this schlub will be eating on Sunday night. It involved real reporting (Chinese sesame bread is from the Muslim minority? Who knew!) And, of course, there's the great quote: "Soy sauce is so American!"