Living on the Edge
When Cecilia Chiang (asianpacificfund.org/awards/bio_chiang.shtml) asks you to dinner, you know you’re in for a grand event—full of multiple courses and many toasts—no matter how highfalutin or no-nonsense the restaurant. In the case of an end of December meal, I found myself driving a bit white-knuckled, through fog and rain to get to KL Restaurant (4401 Balboa Street at 45th Street), a Cantonese spot that I’d never heard of. Cecilia leaned over to whisper to me “You don’t see Americans here!”—which was true, barring my parents who had come along, as well as food writer Patricia Unterman, a true eater who’s traveled the world over.
Everyone at our table of eight merrily dove into their first course of turtle soup. The beautiful, consommé-clear broth was afloat with chunks of turtle, some of it bony with bits of chicken-like meat. Just for me, Cecilia fished around in her soup and triumphantly plucked out a piece of the prized “edge” (she it deemed this because of the meat’s location near the edge of a turtle’s shell). As much as I pride myself on my adventurous, unsqueamish spirit, the slightly green, spotted coloring and soft texture of the “edge” was disconcertingly… turtley. I ate it anyway.
The rest of the meal came out rapidly. The lazy Susan was on heavy rotation: geoduck clams, sliced thinly and topped with jalapenos; sweet, sticky, addictive pork spare ribs; shrimp in the shell; neon-green, bulbous mustard greens; a supremely fresh black bass scattered with ginger; a humble claypot of rice that’s seasoned with the juices of the likes of Chinese sausage, bacon and frog legs; a bubbly pot of soft tofu with salty fish. It seems impossible to believe, but I believe seven courses of shared plates of food cost us around $28.
With the wine Patty brought, we toasted to the holidays, to the upcoming New Year, to good friends. And then I left to catch a red-eye to Mexico where I spent a week eating even more food of a very different sort.