I missed Brown Bird at the Black Cat on Thursday and was purely, singularly bummed, so I needed a prize analgesic by the weekend. While my Saturday was spent writing, giving some much-needed attention to my languishing novel, Sunday I dedicated to getting some much-needed culture and sunshine.
It was cold on Sunday, but at least the sky was clear. I met my friend Brian over in Chinatown where the Chinese New Year parade was set to take place on H street (to eventually pass under the Friendship Arch, pictured, at H and 7th) from 2-4:30. It was still early, around 1, so we decided to get some lunch before we staked out a spot on the parade route.
We walked to Matchbox first (that’s the one beneath the bowl of fire and next to the Chinatown bus hub) but it had people standing outside waiting to get in. So we looked down the block and right on the corner of H and 8th was a place called Asian Spice. The menu was extensive and eclectic, the place was warm and smelled delicious inside and it was close to the parade route. As a plus, the owner was jovial and chatty, and convinced us this was the place to eat. I hadn’t the heart to tell him I was already sold on the place, but maybe it swayed Brian a bit.
The hostess was kind enough to seat us upstairs and next to a window just in case we were still eating when the parade began. If we craned our necks, we would be able to see the festivities as they snaked down H Street, as were on the 8th street side. The upstairs area was simple and elegant, with dark wood floors and structural beams, and with different levels separated by one or two steps to create a sense of intimacy despite the open plan. I felt like I was in someone’s really, really big and awesome house. As we sat, the place filled up around us but I never felt overwhelmed (as I am prone to do).
I got the Tom Ka Gai, which is a spicy coconut milk soup with chicken and enoki mushrooms, and Asiana Shumai which are shrimp and pork steamed dumplings. Both were absolutely delicious — well spiced and satisfying. Usually I have to walk off with a doggy bag after visiting a restaurant, and I definitely didn’t want to carry food around with me at the parade, but since both items were appetizers, together they turned out to be just the right amount of food.
Brian got the Thai Chicken Salad. He said, and I quote, “The dressing was good.” He wanted me to put that sentence in this review. So…I’m guessing the lime-chili Thai dressing on his salad was satisfactory. I didn’t get a chance to sample his salad, as I was too busy putting other delicious things in my mouth, but the fact there was none left over for me to try says much more than I could.
So as we were nearing the end of our meal the owner comes by and lets us know they had altered the parade route. A few minutes later we looked outside and realized they were using the block of 8th street below us as the start-point for the parade. As we sipped tea and sat comfortably we watched dancing dragons, parade walkers, martial arts students, dancers and a marching band pass below us. A member of the media brushed past us to take pictures from one of the windows. It was all said and done in about a half hour.
A half hour.
Now, maybe it’s because we were at the start of the route, and they spaced the different elements of the parade out as they stretched down H street, but it seemed fairly anticlimactic to us. Right on the heels of the last marchers was a cleanup crew, walking behind them almost like they were part of the parade, raking large refuse from the street as little fleet of street-sweepers brought up the rear. By the time we paid the bill and left the restaurant the streets were clear of crowds, and clean enough to forget there was even an event. The only lingering reminder was the traffic and the police directing pedestrians and cars at every intersection.
So Asian Spice is what’s up. The parade, well, I’ll skip it next year.