What is it about Chinese food that makes me fall in love over and over again? I wish I can put it into words but I can’t — I don’t think the words have been invented yet. Although my daughters have veered more toward Japanese food as they grew older, Chinese food has remained as my favorite. And when we dine out and I’m craving for Chinese food, there are two restaurants that we go to most often — President Grand Palace in Chinatown and Causeway Seafood Restaurant where the food is fit for special occasions (see how to order Peking duck in a Chinese restaurant) while, at the same time, the prices are reasonable enough for those times when there is no special occasion and I just need to satisfy my craving. Although President is my top choice, we go to Causeway more often mainly because it is accessible with several branches in Metro Manila.
Last Sunday, the plan was to have a very late dinner after picking Alex up at the RCBC Theater. We drove to the Causeway Libis branch hoping we could make it before closing time. When we got there a little after 11.00 p.m., we were informed that we could dine on a “last order” basis. Meaning, order all the food you want because no afterthoughts will be entertained as the establishment would close promptly at midnight. No problem. It’s not like we don’t know what to order considering how many times we’ve dined there.
And that’s really the funny thing. Although the menu consists of several pages, we still gravitate toward old favorites. In fact, even the routine is practically the same every time. Almost like a ritual.
We’d sip the house tea while waiting for the food.
We’d prepare our dipping sauce of soy sauce and kalamansi juice, Speedy always adding chili oil to his.
The dim sum items that we order are almost always the same.
Har gao (shrimp dumplings), chicken feet (which Causeway was already out of last Sunday), steamed pork ribs, ma chang, Chinese chive dumplings…
The only marked difference last Sunday was that it was Alex who ordered the Chinese chive dumplings. Usually, it would either be Speedy or me. Didn’t realize that Alex likes Chinese chives now. I always thought she just ate them for variety. What she always orders, as she did order last Sunday, is egg pie — custard tarts in some Chinese restaurants; the Causeway version is egg yolk pie.
Soup and cold platter are Sam’s department. She chose eight treasures with winter melon soup…
… and a cold plate of jellyfish and century eggs.
The only new dish that we ordered was a sea cucumber and chicken hot pot. Sam’s choice. And what an extraordinarily great dish it was. Subtly sweet and subtly salty at the same time. Moist and tender meat. Gelatinous sea cucumber that almost melts in the mouth. The cooks at Causeway do know how to cook sea cucumber well.
I so enjoyed the meal that I was already anticipating our next Chinese meal as a family. President Grand Palace next time, I said, and we’ll have Peking duck. The thought of going to Chinatown excited Sam and she asked if we could also go to the numerous Chinese delis and bakeries, and buy stuff that we could bring and eat at home. I said, “Sure!” I’d love that too.
The total bill at Causeway was a little over PHP1100.00 (about USD25.00). And we did bring home what we couldn’t finish. As usual, we overdid the ordering and there was just too much food for one meal. It’s just so tempting, really, and it’s hard to say, “Stop! We’ve ordered enough!” when what we all really want is to taste everything on the menu. Well, maybe, in time we’ll get to do that. Order all the old favorites and ONE new dish each time.