Visiting Miami when I lived in Los Angeles my parents told me of a new Chinese restaurant they heard about. Way out West on the Tamiami Trail in an unassuming mini mall next to a pet supermarket and behind a gas station stood Lung Gong. I figured how good could this place be? I lived on the West Coast where excellent Asian food was a dime a dozen and Miami has a miniscule Asian population. But every person of Chinese descent in South Florida was dining at Lung Gong.
We sat down and were quickly overwhelmed by the menu. There were literally hundreds of items with over fifty vegan options. I got a scallion pancake, a crunchy fried disc of an appetizer, Szechuan noodles that were in a spicy sauce mixed up with bok choy, and another pancake dish where the pancake wasn’t a pancake at all, rather a chewy gluten concoction mixed in with stir fried vegetables. This was Chinese food like I had never tasted before.
Every time I visited Miami I returned. The quality of the dishes varied as you went up and down the menu. A couple people I recommended the place to cried food poisoning (hey I can’t vouch for non vegan items. You order frog legs or oysters you’re on your own). When I moved back to Miami and I was in a ten mile range from the restaurant I’d pass through, but my last visit brought some tragic news.
We sat down and there was a woman I had never seen serving the tables. She brought us menus made of newsprint. I unfolded the menu and it looked like a typical Chinese restaurant menu you’d find anywhere in America. Where were my sesame balls? My seaweed salad? Instead they were replaced with General Tso’s chicken and chow mein. Worst of all was in big lettering were the words “Under new management.”
I was devastated. I said , “I have to go.”
The waitress whose English was a bit better then my Chinese asked, “What wrong?”
“The menu. I want the old menu.”
Like that she pulled out the old menu. My smile grew. She could not understand what I was ordering. I had to point at the item and she wrote down the number. There were a couple mix-ups. Instead of sweet and sour tofu, she brought out salt and pepper tofu which was still excellent and instead of the Szechuan noodles we were brought out cold noodles with no bok choy in them.
Then I saw the old owner walk in. She looked tired and explained that the restaurant was too much for since her husband had a stroke, but that the same kitchen staff was still there. She brought me the proper noodles. I’ll return the next time I’m in the neighborhood as my mouth is watering as I typed the descriptions of the food, but I guess I’m not too good with this change thing. And I suppose I could work on my compassion as I’m more concerned about the decline of a restaurant than that of a man.