Get Sum

Get ready to feel sorry for yourself.

HURRICANES IN FLORIDA, rainstorms in California, and insect swarms in Mexico are only partially to blame for the tomato that sat waiting on my kitchen counter for six days. Should I have it in my spinach salad? Slice it onto my pumpernickel bagel with cream cheese? For three bucks, I wanted it to really count. When I finally picked it up and discovered it flaccid from inactivity and soddened by time, I decided—with the image of Alice Waters wagging a stern, scolding finger at me—that I can only blame myself for the tomato "crisis." You feel sorry for yourself because you have an overpriced dimpled tomato, but then you meet a man who has no dim sum. Considerably more catastrophic than this business with the tomato is the closure of a Seattle institution, the King Cafe. Behind Millie Lew and her cash register is one of those bright, red-and-gold-themed calendars you see behind almost every cash register in Chinatown/the International District, but on this one, the square marking Dec. 31 is circled. On that day, the last to-go order of pork humbow will be out the door, and the dumbwaiter in the kitchen will send the last batch of the family's secret recipe lo bak ko up to the second-floor dining room. After more than 35 years of serving dim sum six days a week (they've always been closed on Wednesdays), the entire family is retiring. Although chef Ming Fung has been thinking seriously about walking away from his spare ribs and shrimp balls since his wife recently became pregnant again, the family has actually been facing closure of the restaurant for some time. Before the Wing Luke Museum moves into the Kong Yick building at King Street and Eighth Avenue South, the current occupants will have to vacate—and that includes the King Cafe, the longest standing inhabitants of the building. Millie explained that at first they thought they'd just close for a month's break after Ming's baby was born and ride out the rest of their time until the museum takes over the space; but because Wing Luke's remodel will begin in March of next year, they realized that the restaurant would have to close soon after their hiatus, so they circled the last day of the year on the calendar and got used to the idea. It might take their patrons a little longer to adjust. Although it definitely isn't the fanciest dim sum joint in town, the King Cafe inspires the kind of devoted fandom that only extremely affordable little hole-in-the-wall dives that don't serve much in the way of vegetables can inspire. They'll be open on Christmas Day, and on New Year's Eve, so if you don't stop by on your way to Grandma's house and pick up one last order of gin dau, those amazing sesame seed-covered, sweet rice-and-lotus paste-filled, deep-fried dough balls, well hey, don't say I didn't warn you. WHAT'S THAT THEY say about every closed door giving way to an open window? Well, how about an open oyster shell? Close enough? You probably remember us mentioning the Totten Inlet Virginica in our Hot Dish column a few weeks back, and you've probably noticed the name on fresh sheets around town, courtesy of Taylor Shellfish Farms (they've had them in cultivation for about 10 years). I finally tried these comeback kids, and by God if they aren't indeed the most ridiculously plump and luscious bivalve I've ever had. As my in-house shucker commented, the only thing better than enjoying oysters on a hot summer day is enjoying them in front of the fireplace in the dead of winter. Flying Fish, Elliot's, Ray's, and other restaurants are serving them; Mutual Fish and the Metropolitan Market have them, and you can catch Taylor's Oyster Bill at the Ballard Sunday Market. As for the firewood, you're on your own. lcassidy@seattleweekly.com

 
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