Having recently moved, Nate and I have been on a trek to discover all the best nearby restaurants. We've been to a dozen taco shops, made a few ice cream runs and eaten more pizza than is healthy for two people to consume in a month. Trying to broaden our horizons, Nate asked a friend to point us in the direction of a good Chinese place. Clearly, this friend's definition of good translates to “extremely authentic,” whereas our definition of good is more like “something akin to Pick-Up Stix, minus the paper napkins” or as Nate put it, “the kind of Chinese food people have delivered in movies.”
The moment we pulled up, I was worried. The complex that this restaurant was in consisted mostly of medical offices, all of which I prayed to God we wouldn't somehow wind up in as a result of eating at “Emerald.” We walked into the first door and found ourselves in the back of the restaurant, standing in the midst of tables full of people enjoying Dim Sum. After backtracking and giving the other door a try, a hostess somehow appeared behind us. “You wan sumting?” At this point, I'm actually not sure. Do we? Really?
We were seated in the middle of the restaurant and a giddy-looking busboy approached with water, filling our glasses while his eyes darted between Nate and myself. He giggled sporadically and Nate grinned, questioning “What's so funny?” The poor guy instantly drew a stern face and shook his head vigorously, backing quickly away from the table. I clarified quietly, “I think what's so funny…is us. We don't exactly fit in here.” I gestured quickly to the entirely Chinese crowd. “And you're, well, gigantic. You probably scared the crap out of the guy.” At six-foot-four, Nate IS a pretty commanding presence.
Next were the menus. Thankfully, they had an English translation (“Special menu for you,” the hostess had explained), but there were still a lot of words we didn't understand. When we asked for a clarification of the word “squab,” our waitress did a bizarre charade dance that involved puckering her lips and flipping her hands out along the side of her head. Convinced it was some sort of blowfish, we skipped the squab. A Wikipedia search later revealed that a squab is THIS scary-looking pigeon-type creature:
We weren't sure what we ordered but what ended up on our table was: a platter of giant shrimp, complete with eyeballs, which Nate clarified were supposed to be eaten whole (head and all); another shrimp dish with really spicy peppers (the waitress half-explained, half-acted out a warning about the pepper spiciness); a noodle-beef dish; and an unidentified-meat dumpling which Nate dubbed “bull testicles.”
All-in-all, the food was pretty good. The unexpected theatrics were impressive. It actually reminded me of a time in Mexico City when I asked a waitress what an almendra was. Have you ever seen someone try to pantomime an ALMOND? I have. And while I'm glad we didn't get the squab, I'm glad we went…if for no other reason than the fact that I can check off “eat an authentic Chinese meal” on my Live Fully to-do list.