My mom tells the story of her Uncle Manny who stunned her, as a young girl, out at Chinese restaurant when he told the waitress: “Bring whatever’s good” without even glancing at the menu.
I remember hearing that story as a kid and thinking nothing could be more lavish than shirking a menu and all the required calculations one must make in order not to break the bank. And then, years later, as I entered the food world I started dining with food writers and food professionals and guess what? They’d ask the waiter “what’s good?” and do as my Uncle Manny did–order not what was economically sound and reasonable, but whatever it was that the restaurant was proudest to proffer.
The Uncle Manny bug bit me last week when I stumbled back into Rickshaw, a former favorite dumpling place near my old apartment on 23rd Street and 6th Ave. I stared at the menu and all its options–6 dumpling options, essentially–and instead of choosing one I asked the cashier if I could have one of each.
“Sure,” she said. “You can do individual orders of each: they each come in their own sauce.”
“In their own sauce?” I asked. “Like floating in sauce?”
“No,” she said. “Like there’s a little thing of sauce and the dumpling’s in the sauce.”
That sounded very strange but I wasn’t going to argue. I also ordered my favorite Rickshaw beverage, the Meyer lemonade and eagerly awaited the arrival of my dumplings.
I wish I could say that this dumpling tasting was a success, but it really wasn’t. When the dumplings came they were, as the cashier said, dunked into little tubs of sauce. Many of the sauces were thick mayonnaisey sauces and so the dumplings, by the time I got to them, were saturated with fat and goo and also rather mealy. Also, for the amount of money it all cost–over $10–it would’ve been smarter just to choose one dumpling and pair it with a salad or soup, the way it’s normally done at Rickshaw.
No one dumpling stood out, but essentially the dumplings themselves were very decent: as decent as anything wrapped in dough and fried in oil can be. I just wish they weren’t soaked in sauce. And that I’d gotten a salad to negate how unhealthy it all was.
Alas, there are times to be an Uncle Manny and times not to be an Uncle Manny. This was one of those times not to be an Uncle Manny.