You may be wondering where I’ve been for almost two years. Well keep wondering. Suffice to say I was busy with my ill-fated culinary zine Gastronomie D’Enfer, a literary abortion whose remains I interred in September. Back issues are still for sale here, however, so if you’re so inclined, do me a fucking favor and buy a copy already.
Anyway. Sometimes you get blog posts from navel-gazing shithead bloggers lamenting how hard it is to write. Those people are bullshit artists. Writing is easy as fuck. You know what’s difficult? SELLING SHIT. Selling is impossible for someone like me; someone with a grating personality who has difficulty concealing his boredom, and zero fucks to give. But even though I’m a failure as a publisher, it’s cool. After all, if you’re willing to embrace the dour, fatalistic notion that life is futile and likely will end in disappointment, then you’ll never be truly let down. Because only when one dwells in darkness does the light even make any sense.
So suffice to say I’ve been bummed. But sometimes, though, JUST ONCE IN A BLUE MOON, there comes a glimmer of hope that sets everything right with the world again and restores your faith in humankind. No, I’m not talking about something genuinely uplifting, like Bob Dylan, or a Fleshlight. I’m talking about New Luck Toy.
New Luck Toy is in West Seattle, in what used to be a really trashy Chinese restaurant that I would order from sometimes. The old placed closed and sat vacant for a while, but then the lease was miraculously scooped up by Ma’Ono Chicken & Whiskey owner Mark Fuller and restaurant designer Patric Gabre-Kidan. Given the pedigree of these two guys, I was scared that New Luck Toy was going to be too fancy, like they were going to fill the dumplings with foie gras, or put yuzu on everything. I don’t understand the fascination with yuzu; it tastes like what some blind guy thinks an orange looks like.
Luckily they didn’t do this. New Luck Toy wasn't the only lucky one: the trip to New Luck Toy was underwritten by my lovely and magnificently titted wife, who proposed the trip for my birthday dinner. And she, my friends, is a keeper: a sarcastic valkyrie with a clit that won't quit. We started with Spicy Shrimp & Pork Fat Dumplings. $9 got us a bowl of these dumplings, delicate wrappings as thin as a baby’s nutsack enclosing a rich and densely flavored shrimp meatball. The eponymous pork fat offered its silken texture to the shrimp filling, and these dumplings splashed playfully in a burnt sienna puddle of savory and spicy sauce. My complaint, of course, is that a snowdrift of minced cilantro sullied the proceedings here: cilantro is for Thai and Vietnamese food, ese.
Shiitake Pork Egg Rolls ($7) were pleasing in that they used flour wonton wrappers instead of rice paper. It seems that here in Seattle, rice paper egg roll wrappers prevail, but I fucking hate that shit because when fried it resembles a toilet paper roll that you had to hastily reroll after your child or cat unspooled the entire thing onto the floor. The shiitake pork egg rolls were pretty nice, with finely minced pork and a few shiitakes here and there and some sautéed cabbage and glass noodles to liven things up.
Chow fun mian ($10) was great: a big pile of wide rice noodles concealed bean sprouts, scallion, some basil chiffonade, and shiitakes, all dusted in a light spotting of sesame seeds. With a deep black sweet and salty splash of soy sauce, this dish was fucking packed like a rat full of glutamates, perfectly calibrated to fit right into the pleasure slot in your brain. And they did all of this without meat! If there were some pork belly in the chow fun, I think I might have moaned theatrically while eating this like a fucking Today Show host.
The punny title of the General Oh Tso Good Fried Chicken ($11) makes an utter mockery of this august dish. When I saw the stupid pun printed in the menu I almost rebelled, but fortunately I practiced mindfulness, and patience prevailed. I am grateful that I didn’t refuse to get the General Tso’s out of spite, because it was good as fuck: crunchy slabs of fried chicken thigh were glazed in an understated sauce which was sweet enough, spicy enough, and salty enough, but not too much of any of the three. Which, to me, is the problem: while New Luck Toy’s version is very tasty, it’s too classy. I EXPECT General Tso’s Chicken to be a fucking minstrel show. The sauce should punch your face. It should taste like you’re being fisted by a clown. But at least the chicken, with its midtone crunch like a Metallica riff and flesh as juicy as office water cooler gossip, was perhaps the most perfectly fried of any General Tso’s Chicken I’ve ever eaten. Then again, I’d expect no less from Fuller, the Crown Prince of Frying the Ever Living Shit out of Some Chicken.
We finished with the Rice Krispies Treat ice cream ($5), which is another classic Fullerism: a cup of glossy soft-serve, slick and glistening and fresh from the Pacojet, tasting of marshmallows and topped with a scattering of Snap, Crackle, and Pop, was a fittingly cloying end to a frustratingly even-keeled meal.
If there’s any missteps at New Luck Toy it’s that the flavors aren’t trashy ENOUGH: Fuller’s cheffy restraint keeps getting in the way of the orgy of flavor that truly trashy Americanized Chinese food should have. In perfect trashy Chinese food, your mouth is an offramp Quality Inn and the seasonings are a bunch of old guys waiting their turn to jack off onto your tongue. Traditional Chinese cuisine emphasizes the “doctrine of five flavors,” and while Americans have taken this concept, as Americans unfortunately too often do, to its logical extreme, the concept is still there: Americanized Chinese food is an exercise in culinary S&M that jizzes all over your tits with sugar and twists your nipples with salt, pisses on your head with white vinegar then stuffs Thai bird chilis up your ass and finally dumps you, the bitterness of star anise lingering in your mouth long after you’ve gotten hungry again. But it’s still a careful mix: the graphic equalizer has been properly set, it’s just that the volume is turned up way too loud. Only places like P.F. Chang’s or Panda Express, designed to appeal to Trump voters, discard the uncomfortable sour and bitter and spiciness, keeping only sweet and salty to appease a generation of fatasses for whom Hot Pockets is, to answer the question posed in that brand’s rhetorical tagline, what they’re gonna pick.
But I digress. New Luck Toy really is the most perfectly designed American Chinese food I’ve eaten in ages. The straight-ahead versions of these classic dishes are as lovingly covered as an Iron Maiden tribute band’s rendition of “Number of the Beast,” and while I for one could really use a plastic jello shot ramekin filled with neon pink sweet & sour sauce, it’s a minor quibble. New Luck Toy is the hero we need right now. A-fucking-men.
Rating: 9 Quality Inns out of 10
New Luck Toy is located at 5905 California Ave SW. They don’t take reservations, so don’t bother calling them. Just fucking go already, and take your chances with the wait like the rest of us.