An installation at the Museum of Chinese in America documents a quickly shifting American culture.
There used to be a restaurant at Fifty-First and Lexington, a relic of white-glove Chinese fine dining, called Mr. K’s. Its interior was all baby pink and Art Deco with high-backed plush seats and gold flatware, gold chopsticks, and gold soup bowls with little clawed feet. They served sorbet in between courses and kept a tea candle lit beneath the entrées, which were mostly plated versions of classic take-out fare: hot and sour soup, sweet and sour pork, eggplant in garlic sauce. The Peking duck came out prerolled in flour pancakes painted with hoisin sauce and scallion ribbons. Near the front entrance, there were glass cases of chopsticks inscribed in red with the names of celebrities and politicians who frequented the restaurant.
Ruth Reichl panned it when it opened in 1998—her central critique was about the restaurant’s authenticity. She describes the food as “not-quite-Chinese” and lamented that “unfortunately, Mr. K’s is serving Chinese food from another American era, a time when people had not yet experienced the real thing.” Read More