Thursday, October 13, 2011

Another last time

Tonight I went to my local sushi joint for the last time. Since I moved to my current house I've made it a habit to go every Thursday when they have a buy one roll, get the second free promotion. It's one more thing that I won't be able to do in Machias. There is a Chinese restaurant there, it's called Hing's Garden, but I'm not sure just how much I trust Chinese food in Maine. Granted, it's not like I've had a lot of good Chinese food in California, but with such a large Asian population I can at least count on it being on the authentic side of American Chinese food.

It reminds me of when I was at my sister's wedding in Montana and we were staying in the very small town of Big Timber. There was a Chinese place there and I remember thinking that it seemed a bit forced, like there has to be a Chinese restaurant in any town whether or not there are any Chinese people there. I'm sure the place in Big Timber, just as I'm sure Hing's Garden, is owned and run by people from Southeast Asia, but I'm not so sure that the people who eat there have the same taste in Chinese food as someone like me who has had a chance to sample of a lot of it.

Speaking of Chinese food my neighbors took me to lunch at a Chinese restaurant in town that I've wanted to go to since I moved to Sacramento. It's called Frank Fat's and it's been around since the thirties. The outward appearance makes it look like a gangsters hangout, something like the first scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I wasn't disappointed. The atmosphere inside was all dark reds, low lights, gold filigree on everything, just the kind of place where Chinese gangsters in very fine tailored suits would spend there time, especially since we were seated in the back room.

The food itself was ok, there was a good variety, more then you'd usually find at a Chinese restaurant. The highlight was actually the amazing banana cream pie, and this is coming from a guy who hates cream pie.

Reading through this post I feel like it could come off a bit racist, but I'm not sure why. I guess I feel uncomfortable with how many times I have used the word Chinese, especially because Chinese food and Chinese restaurants run a much larger gamut then simply "Chinese". The places I've eaten at that advertise as Chinese could be Szechuan, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Hmong, Laotian, Korean... That's one of the problems with the Americanization of other cultures, we tend to pick the most dominant culture and try to plug everyone resembling that culture into it. The people who run Hing's Garden could very well be Thai but have found that producing easy to understand Chinese dishes is more lucrative in small town Maine then creating a genuine Thai restaurant. Or maybe they're European Americans who bought a Chinese cookbook at a garage sale and decided there was a vacuum to be filled in Machias. My point is in Sacramento I can be fairly sure that the cooking staff of a "Chinese" restaurant was raised on traditional Asian cooking, but in Machias I don't know. Is it a genuine Chinese establishment? And if it is, why are they there? Did they move to town in order to open a restaurant? Has their family been in Machias for long?

Ok, looking at the menu online I'm fairly impressed. Still, the sharp contrast between Chinese food and small town Maine is still sorta bugging me. Really, why there? Well, I'm sure I'll find out eventually cause I'm unlikely to avoid it forever. I'll tell you what, readers, when I do go I'll try to get the story out of the proprietors and relay it to you. That'll make for an interesting post. 

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