Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I'm No Foodie But I Enjoy a Well-Cooked Chinese Meal

While I enjoy a well-cooked meal (I’m fortunate that Gilda often prepares gourmet-level repasts for me), I’m no foodie, so I was not surprised or too disappointed that of the 10 New York City eateries chosen as locations by comedian Aziz Ansari for his Netflix series Master of None ( and, I recognized and have frequented only one, Shun Lee Palace on East 55th Street in Manhattan. And when I say “frequented,” I mean I’ve eaten there many, many times. It truly is a savory culinary experience.

Shun Lee Palace is around the corner from my former employer’s offices when it was on Park Avenue. So many of our executives, editors and salesmen ate lunch there that we used to call the restaurant Lebhar-Friedman East. Every day at least three or four tables would be occupied by L-F’ers.

My favorite dish was Lake Tung Ting Shrimp, a delightful combination of jumbo shrimp, bamboo, water chestnuts, mushrooms, carrots and snow peas in a white creamy sauce and egg whites. Only one other Chinese restaurant that I’ve patronized has served up a comparable dish, Ocean Flavored Jumbo Shrimp, which I get at China Star, of all places a takeout joint on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains.

About 30 years ago Gilda was reading a list of the best restaurants in New York City in New York magazine. We had not eaten in any of them. Except, when she said Shun Lee Palace I chimed in that I quite often ate there. Indeed, I had lunched there that very day. She was seriously peeved I had not yet taken her there, an omission I shortly thereafter remedied.

It was customary to take the editorial staff to lunch each December. Naturally, Shun Lee was chosen for our culinary treat one year. On the appointed day, however, a meeting kept me from walking over with my staff. When I arrived, the nine editors were seated around a table. I can’t remember who was to my left, but to my right was Jil, one of our senior editors. 

As I commented how pretty the charger plate at my place setting was, quick as a lick Jil whisked it into her oversized tote handbag so, she explained, I could take it home. Before I could protest a waiter appeared, not to investigate the pilferage but rather to take our order. Back in the office Jil handed me the plate which I dutifully took home and which Gilda summarily told me she did not like and was not going to display in our home.

Shun Lee not only was among the top Chinese restaurants in the city, it also was among the priciest. When Shanghai Manor opened a few doors down we gravitated toward it. It didn’t cook Lake Tung Ting Shrimp. I had to settle for shrimp in garlic sauce, but the overall quality of the food and the lower, slightly lower, price kept us L-F’ers coming back time and again until, some 15 or more years later, the owner retired and Shanghai Manor closed. It was replaced by another Chinese restaurant, but for the last five to 10 years of my employment I never truly enjoyed another lunch of Chinese food.