Ten years ago, I got a call from a friend named Ethel, who, at the last minute, couldn’t use her tickets to a big bash given by The Film Society of Lincoln Center. My work partner, Cathy, and I promptly called our respective spouses to ask them to join us at Shun Lee West (43 West 65th St., Tel: 212-595-8895), then and now one of the city’s top Chinese restaurants. “What’s the deal?” Andrew wanted to know. “Well they’re going to show a martial arts film after the dinner” I answered. I could have gone on to tell him we were going to see “Wo Hu Cang Long” but I am sure I would have gotten the same answer; “Are you kidding? A martial arts movie?” (Our interest in sports of any kind is next to nothing and our interest in martial arts is even lower than that.) So in answer to Andrew I said “No and yes...but let’s go to the dinner, get seats right on the aisle at Lincoln Center so we can leave whenever we want.” Dinner at Shun Lee was worth a few minutes of Kung Foo fighting. So we went.
Shun Lee’s interior design is completely over the top. With its black lacquer and gold dragon décor, it looks like it was flown in from Las Vegas for the night. It’s quite possibly the darkest restaurant I’ve ever eaten in. One visit I remember literally bumping into Woody Allen in the dark. Stumbling back to the table, I had to be told by my dinner companions who he was. But the food at Shun Lee is simply excellent. Along with Mr. Chow in Los Angeles and in New York, it elevates Chinese cuisine and pretty well ruins Chinese food forever from anywhere else outside of Hong Kong. Since we lived in the delivery area, it became our take-out place despite prices that made it quite an extravagance.