Wong's King SeafoodHey, traditional Easter celebrants, you missed out on our great RR shrimp and chocolate extravaganza, a journey that took our select but laughter-demented crew not only on a tour of some of the best Asian cuisine our city has to offer, but to Pix, that most wonderful chocolate paradise.

Although Marnie seems perhaps a little confused today, (probably some weird rebound from all that candy she and Leo bought at Pix,) and kept referring to our gathering as happening on Saturday (oh yeah, you know that famous holiday, Easter Saturday,) since I saved all my confusion for Sunday, I’ll let her lead off with her thoughts on our somewhat off-kilter Easter (and thank you so much Dave for saying it was your best Easter ever. It warms my heart to hear comments like that from the group. If only I had a heart. But I’m all stomach, unfortunately in multiple ways.) And Marnie, that wasn’t a corncob pipe, that was a deep fried shrimp I was sucking on…

Anyway, here’s Marnie’s pithy little comments on dim sum at Wong’s King ……………

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, Leo and I packed into the car for our earliest (or maybe latest, since it’s normally Friday night) Restaurant Roulette event. This would be my virgin experience with dim sum and ominous stories of variously prepared hot dog filler type animal bits, and had me wondering what I was headed for. When we arrived at the parking lot for Wong’s King, my reservations grew. The lot was absolutely packed to the gills with cars and there was a mob of people waiting to be seated. The rest of our party had not arrived and without knowing our final head count, we couldn’t even put in for a table. As we stood waiting, we heard someone say that there was a 2 hour wait. Panic began to well in me. I’d take bad food now over great food in 2 hours. I’m a growing girl (well, at least that lower portion of me, upon which I sit.) I needed food. Jackie arrived, and we put in for a table with the assurance that it’d be a mere 30 minutes. When Tori and Dave showed up, they brought along with them the good sense to suggest we meander over to the bar for some cocktails.

As one walks into the bar, the thick scent of smoke and greasy food wafts over you, but, as with most things, one adapts in time. We sat at the bar where we could watch the TV (set to MTV) in front of us, or watch folks playing video poker behind us. The girls ordered a syrupy sweet something-something-sours, while the boys and I had the “Cajun Bloody Mary.” Each of us in turn asked “Is it hot?” To which the bartender replied, “I can make it hot.” This did not bode well for us.

It was not hot. It was also blended. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, this drink probably came in at around a 2.5, mostly bolstered by a great mood and good conversation, if by “good conversation” you consider the topic of masterbatoriums an apt choice.

When our table was ready, we were seated in, as Dave and Tori noted, the mausoleum; a nicely sized side room that would make an ideal location for displaying a well embalmed corpse. I suppose that’s oddly fitting for the day, now that I think of it.

No sooner had we taken our seats, then food started to arrive. Dumpling like things with shrimp, noodly things with shrimp, fried dumpling things with shrimp, shrimp in steamed dumpling paper. It was a sonata to delicious
shrimpy goodness. Heaven forbid, one of us has an allergy to shellfish, it would mean certain doom, but for the bug-of-the-sea lovers, like we, it was a delicious feast. We did manage to score some pig and even some — brace yourself — steamed vegetables in the process. While Dave, a veteran of Wong’s King, did attempt to procure us some calamari, proclaiming it a delicious dish, it never arrived. No harm, no foul, though, we soon found ourselves stuffed to the gills. None of us held back, accepting almost every dish that came our way. In fact, for the first 20 minutes of the meal, Leo hardly allowed the waiter to finish the description before saying “SURE!” It wouldn’t have mattered much anyway, most of could only make out key words, like “Shrimp” and “very good,” above the din of the restaurant.

Jackie lamented the lack of chicken feet, mayhaps as a stem for her corncob pipe, but for the most part, I don’t think any of us felt let down by the experience.

When the bill arrived, we discovered that, despite our full bellies and piles of empty plates around us, our bill came out to a paltry $8 per person before tip. While this does not include the initial round of drinks, there is no doubt that this is a bargain at twice the price and for such a delicious feast, it’s little wonder the place is packed.

Jackie’s blatherings on “The Wong King Experience” …..

If you are a lover of China, things Chinese, or even southeast Asian culture, but don’t think you’ll ever afford or have the stamina to visit there, just get on your car and drive over to SE Division St. and Wong’s King Seafood. As sorry as I am to admit it (please don’t banish me from the group,) I’ve lived near to 82nd Ave. my entire life. In fact, I’ve never lived more than 22 blocks away from 82nd. I live only five blocks from there now, and lived only four blocks from 82nd the first 21 years of my life. So I unfortunately know 82nd like the back on my hand (yes, the back of my hand can be pretty ugly too.) That being said, I was still amazed by the incredible amount of Asian business along 82nd between south of the airport where I live and Division St. (and I work on Sandy Blvd, another Little Asia neighborhood.) In case you are starting to wonder what I’m yammering on about by now (that makes two of us,) I hadn’t seen nothin’ until I drove into the parking lot of Wong’s King, and seemingly half the Asian population of Portland was there, trying to park in the parking lot, and waiting in line, and eating inside. I’ve actually read in the paper that Portland is thinking that Chinatown should be relocated to 82nd Ave, and from what I saw Sunday, I would think Chinatown should be relocated to SE 87th and Division, since it’s obvious that any Asian in town looking for authentic Chinese food heads to Wong’s King for Dim Sum.

As Easter is one of those holidays where many people eat out after church (or devil worship, or whatever,) I was worried that WK might be a tad busy, but a tad busy is just a tad of an understatement for the pandemonium that awaited us. By the time I finally parked a couple blocks down the street, i found a frantic looking Marnie pacing around through the hoarding masses waiting in line. Of course I also know that this is the first time that Marnie has even seen me in the daylight (seriously,) so that could have had much to do with the angst ridden looks on hers and Leo’s faces. Marnie said something about hearing it was a two hour wait, and she didn’t think she could hold on that long (especially with me being out in the daylight and everything.) She directed me to go inside to look in the waiting room, which seemed to me had the look of either a teaming airport boarding area or the waiting room for the last bus out of New Orleans a couple of summers back.) There were that many people in front of us, I’m sure a guestimate of 100 people is not far off. Since our two other co-diners, Tori and Dave (WK veterans) had not yet arrived, I charged up to the hostess, and was told to my amazement that the wait for a table for five would be 30 minutes. Wong’s King is a BIG place, and these people know how to efficiently work their space. The waiting list looked like something an aircraft controlled would have to deal with, but I was handed a little yellow post-it with our number written on it, 274 I think it was.

Of course the wait wasn’t really 30 minutes, it was at least 45 minutes, but the time just slipped away in the basically empty bar sipping my radioactively green cocktail. Luckily I like sweet and silly drinks, but this was a very poor cousin to the similar looking (it’s the midori folks,) Electric Blowfish at the Dragonfish downtown, as this was a weak drink, and an Electric Blowfish can blow your toes right out of your socks and into someone else’s socks. And although I don’t like tomato juice, I did have a sip of one of the Bloody Marys, and even I found it V-8 ish at best, and nauseating at least best. I think the bartender really tried to make good drinks though, he seemed to put much care into each one, lovingly crafting every not particularly tasty concoction. The drinks really didn’t matter though, it was the sitting down while all of those suckers were standing around outside, and the enjoyable conversation, especially Tori and Dave regaling us with the surprises on their new old house, rotting basement walls, walled up hidden rooms filled with time capsules and beer, and secret staircases outside. I could have been drinking one of those endoscopy cocktails and it almost would have seemed fun at that point. These were all around dun people I was with, unusual conversationalists all.

I actually liked the room we were seated in, sort of like a bowling alley that was all floor or being trapped on a giant backgammon board. For one thing, there were only four or five larger tables, and at one point we had the entire room to ourselves, not surprising considering some of the conversations emanating from our table. As Marnie mentioned, we had barely sat down, and the food started rolling in. As there were five of us, and most things were served in threes or fours, out came the clippers, snip snip snip, it was like I was at a barber shop. Don’t they have kitchen shears in China though? These things were $1.99 at Office Depot scissors. Many of the outfits worn by the servers, especially the female staff, was Hot Dog On a Stick meets cut-rate airline, especially the little caps (lavender stewardesses perhaps, as Dr.T. suggested.)

As mentioned by Marnie, shrimp was the predominantly understandable word, that and “it’s good” (they even said that about the napkins,) but I attribute that to my own poor Chinese skills rather than anything involving the English spoken at WK (after all, I’m not even good with THAT language.) One diminutive little Chinese woman in lavender literally scared the holy heck out of me barking out the food wares she was hawking, none of which I could remotely understand. Later she came back with something that sounded like “fish balls,” and although we were all pretty full by then, I still thought of accepting them, as fish balls would have to be small, wouldn’t they?

I love a whole meal of small appetizer type things, and as everything at Wong’s King was fresh and intriguing, it made for a fun and largely tasty meal. (There was that one thing that Marnie insisted tasted like Spam, but since it turned out a couple people at the table like BBQed Spam, we won’t mention that again.) I personally liked the shrimp stuffed, fried eggplant the best, although everyone else at the table also seemed wowed by the BBQ pork (I thought it wasn’t bad, but as a tacky westerner, I liked my BBQ served with hot mustard, I like my pork to come with torture, not plum sauce.) The Har Gow was good, but we never made it t the Hum Bow, as we ordered so indiscriminately at the beginning (me at the head of that line.) I suppose that was the only disappointment with the food at WK, we only got to try less than half of the dim sum before our poor western bellies gave out. (Oh, and there was that skanky visit to the restroom, flush people, flush.)

Like everyone else, I was amazed by the total bill of $41.00 for five hungry eaters. I kept re-counting the tip, because although it was plenty generous, way over 20%, it seemed so small in the realm of Restaurant Roulette, I’m getting used to the tips approaching $100.

After lingering awhile with our dregs of dim sum, the patrons barely trickling in for the final moments of feeding frenzy, Dave suggested he would like some exercise. I knew there was a reason I like this guy, (besides “that secret room” in his basement,) as the next words out of his mouth were “Is Pix open, we should go to Pix.” Way to go Dave, from exercise to Pix Patisserie (a magnet for chocolate gluttony) all in 30 seconds flat. So off we went in our separate little vehicles, 53 blocks down Division to that palace of cocoa sin. Marnie and Leo had never been to Pix before, and seemed dazzled by the chocolate wares that awaited their arrival, all in the funky, hippie, kooky little bundle that makes up Pix, a cute, cozy little place made classy by its beautifully prepared French desserts and hand made chocolates (and they even serve an assorted Corn Nut plate!) Yeah, I have to hand it to Marnie and Leo, they spent $8.00 on each on their lunches, and were too full to get anything but espressos at Pix, but bought $45 of individual pieces of candy at to take home with them.) As for those eaters on the spot, Tori consumed a sensible selection of two decent size hunks of heavy duty chocolate with her coffee, while Dave and I pigged out on my favorite, Amelies, dark chocolate mousse on top of delicate while cake, enrobed in dark chocolate and filled with orange ganache, meringue bits, and roasted crunchy hazelnuts. Enough said.

I agree with Dave, it was a great holiday, made better by celebrating it the way we wanted to celebrate it . Our next big holiday is planned when Copernicus Day rolls around, (sorry Copernicus, but Easter is much easier to spell,) so we’ll let you know when that date is pinned down. (I think it will depend on the rotation of the planets.)