8th Street Cafe

It’s M’s last week here before she moves home to Italy, and I thought that July 4th would be a great time to show her what America was all about. So off we went to Chinatown in Oakland—the city that never sleeps on holidays. I wanted to run some errands but it turns out the optometrist does sleep, so we went straight to the food.

Being unfamiliar with the restaurants and unsure of what to eat, we decided to go to the most crowded restaurant we came across. This place left its competitors in the dust.

3 o’clock and we still had to wait ten minutes. The waitresses were brusque but efficient, like a grouchy, well-oiled machine. They made no eye contact and literally threw our utensils on the table. Our water glasses weren’t once refilled. Even though I don’t understand Cantonese, I felt right at home.

Order food from one of several menus, with hella entrees that range from $3-6. I have complete faith that anything you order will come fast and fresh.

Our Sichuan style eggplant (5) came with rice and the soup of the day. Okay, I have very little experience with Cantonese style food, but my impressions are that it is meat-heavy, creamier and sweeter than Mainland cuisine. This strange soup was made from a strong meat broth and milk. (Let’s all hope that’s why it was opaque.) And MSG, the seasoning of the gods.

The eggplant came with strips of bamboo, wood ear, onion and pork. I have a Sichuan grandmother and this was one of my favorite dishes as a kid so believe you me, I know eggplant and this wasn’t Sichuan style. Cantonese style--mild and sweet--yes.

I’m always a fan of rice noodles with sauce (3) for dim sum, and M was intrigued. I’d never seen it served like this, with thick beany sauce on one side and sesame on the other. Again, it was super sweet but absolutely divine with lashings of hot chili oil. This is what all comfort food strives to be.

Going back tomorrow to get my eyeglasses. No question what I’ll be having for lunch!

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Value guacamole

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