Po King… More like Po Bastard to anyone foolish enough to come here. Elaine and I decided to give Po King a try along with Kim from I’m Only Here For the Food. Don’t judge Kim based on his suggestion to try this place, it was his first time, too!
Where to begin? Well, I think that the only way to go about this is through literary reference. Join me, won’t you, as we take a cruise down the river in to the Heart of (Dim Sum) Darkness.
As we pulled in to the parking lot (po-king lot?), the outer station of this hell hole, the evidence of the horror that was to envelope us on our dining excursion was all around. Lots of people milling around the entrance with little to do, in a seeming daze.
As we entered the restaurant, it had the look of a typical dim sum joint – lots of chatter, plates clanking. But the familiarity of a Cantonese weekend brunch was shattered when we the front of house lady approached. I held out my hand showing three fingers, as I normally do to show that we wanted a table for three, and was greeted with screaming in response. Really, I think that it actually was screaming; insane shouting at the very least. This was the dragon lady, make no mistakes, and this was her show. We, the consuming public were only a necessary annoyance in running a restaurant, and she would have had the cooking staff and servers delivering food to empty tables if she could have gotten away with it, I’m sure. Oh, and by the way, although I know some Mandarin and a little Cantonese, screaming instructions in Cantonese at a 6′ white guy does not seem in any way rational. Then again, we left the realm of rationality when we entered the front doors…
Eventually, Kim (who does speak Cantonese) told me that Dragon Lady wanted to know if we would share a table with other people. I nodded mostly from fear, I think, but by then it was too late. The Dragon clamped down on my arm like a demon dragging me to Hell and hauled me into the dining room. She then yelled at another table (telling them that she was taking the extra chairs for us), and then shoved them at us. It was only then that we noticed that there were several perfectly good, unused tables available near by, like this one the right. You’ll notice that many of the pictures of our journey into darkness are somewhat blurry. That’s fear, my friends, pure fear.
As I looked around the table, I noticed that our compatriots mostly didn’t speak, just kept their heads down. Focus on your own food, then they won’t pick you… Pick me for what? No time for questions. We had tea and our ticket, that would have to do. Never get off the boat… damn right.
The food itself was mediocre, which actually caught me off guard. One hears about these restaurants in places with made-up-sounding names (L.A.?) with wicked head chefs where you need to audition to demonstrate that you are able to appreciate the food that you might receive. Not hear, folks. Just generic-ass dim sum. The siumai were ok, but the roe on top was stale, and had developed the slightly metallic taste that sometimes occurs.
The leaf-wrapped rice (in a banana leaf, which was somehow more appropriate for our Conrad-esque jungle adventure) was oily, but edible. Look at that photo of our table, over there. Those aren’t happy hands at the the top left, those are terrorized hands, fearful that they will be next for, well, something.
Another mystery was the lack of hot sauce. What was the deal, here? We tried everything, asking several times and being assured after each request that it was coming, only to arrive once we no longer needed it. The servers, rightly so, also seemed to be terrified of the Dragon Lady. You couldn’t get two bites in your mouth without hearing her yell at
someone else, often a poor helpless denizen of the dim-sum-cart-pushing class that had gotten in her way of domination, but domination of what? There’s our chili sauce. Isn’t it sad looking in the bottom of its bowl? It’s so lonely, small and lost.
We ran into similar troubles on the tea-refill front. Anyone that has been to dim sum before knows that all you need to do is put the lid of your empty teapot on its spout, and a passing waiter will see it and refill it. No such luck at Po King, where they must be hoarding tea and hot water (and chili sauce) for the coming apocalypse. We waved at waiters who proceeded to ignore us in their daze, we waved at them with the teapot – still no good.
Eventually one server who seemed to acknowledge our Kafka-esque prison sentence (sorry, I know that I am mixing influences, but I am still in a daze myself) kindly brought us some more hot water, from the boiling kettles that we had been looking at throughout our struggle, just in time to enjoy (?) it with our desert (??). So, I take responsibility for bringing these misery-cubes to our table, but I wasn’t responsible for making them. I was hoping that they would be like the glutinous peanutty-sesame things that I used to get at Mirama in Edmonton, but no such luck. They taste about as good as they look.
We hurriedly finished our meal, paid our bill, and found our way back up river to the entrance and the freedom of the open air as the jungle opened up around us. We had a brief scrum, not unlike the ones that occur after a group has just taken in a terrible movie – Was it really that bad? Yes, it was. We are now wiser, but old beyond our years. Steer clear of this place, and I can only hope that you will heed my warning.
The Horror… The Horror…