Denveater - Deconstructing Colorado Cuisine, Dish by Dish

Dim Sum Bright Spot: King’s Land

There’s this flick I utterly adore & would never recommend to anyone called Frownland. In a bitter, frankly ill-fitting nutshell: it’s the post-slacker-era American übernebbish’s answer to Haneke’s godforsaken The Piano Teacher, whereby a hopelessly despicable anti-protagonist—if that; some would just say antagonist in the lead—lives a relentlessly miserable life, The End. Somehow, though, Frownland’s funny, if agonizingly so, & moving, if impossibly so.

My point is this: King’s Land’s no Frownland!

If it’s comparable to any other Land, it might be the Land of Dairy Queen (where there must have been a coup, as it’s now called DQtopia—I wonder if strawberry topping ran red through the streets)—except here streams of chili sauce dotted with stuffed-shrimp skiffs replace the hot-fudge rivers bobbing with banana boats, & the soft-serve spires give way to thatched taro huts:

Klspread

Going in a clockwise spiral from top right, we had ourselves a slew of taro puffs; lollipops of fried shrimp ball with sugar-cane sticks; some soupy sort of siu mai; steamed banana-leaf packets stuffed with rice & sausage & such; saucy mushroom slabs; less soupy siu mai; shrimp dumplings; a different type of shrimp dumpling; bone-in pork ribs; more shrimp dumplings; more less-soupy siu mai; & stuffed shrimp that I’m seeing for the 1st time in this picture—damn! Gotta move quick among the crew I was with, I guess. Not pictured is a plate of roast-duck chunks—indeed just ducky—or bowls of congee that, being congee, pretty much looked like this:

Images

Of course, all that was just the beginning. Someone counted & said we had 31 dishes total, for which we each paid a little over $15. What’s that, 50 cents a pop? Jaw-dropping. Button-popping.

Among the other savory tidbits:

Kldumpling2

still more dumplings, these fried & filled with pork

Kldumpling4_2

still more dumplings, these made with spinach

Klturnipcakes

turnip cakes, whose gelatinous texture isn’t for everyone but whose earthy-creamy flavor is

Klsandpshrimp

salt-&-pepper shrimp—perfect, really, lightly crispy & greaseless

As for the sweets:

Kldessert2

yolk-custard tarts & sesame balls—again, crunchy-gooey perfection

Kldessert1

candied-pineapple pastry

Kldessert3

turnovers filled with a crumbly sort of sugared-egg mixture & coconut gelatin cubes

In sum, there’s not much I can say that the photos don’t about the excellence of the dim sum at King’s Land—except to quote Captain Beefheart, from whom the smartie who directed Frownland, Ronald Bronstein, apparently swiped his title: My smile is stuck!

King's Land Chinese Seafood on Urbanspoon

Fuck it, I’m the next Marlon Brando: Chopsticks China Bistro

Depp, DiCaprio, Gosling, Ledger (sometime before last week), Stallone (sometime before this millennium)—they’ve all laid claim to the glorious title, only to lose it in their total failure to take it to its logical extreme & actually become him. (I suppose Ledger’s come closest.)

That leaves me—voracious, bloated & largely incoherent—to step in. Or waddle, or roll.

That’s right, if you could have sworn you saw ol’ dirty Brando himself, alive & dribbling down his bib at Chopsticks China Bistro one night last week, you now know ’twas really me, morphing with gusto over a feast that followed by mere ticks of the clock the aforementioned lunch at Centro.

Yes, yes, ’tis but the name that is thy chowhound’s enemy. Why not Moo Goo China Enoteca or Ye Olde Flied Lice China Sub Shop? They’re all wrong. But the food is truly all right, as I found out by trusting the word of Joey Porcelli—not because she’s co-author of The Gyros Journey: Affordable Ethnic Eateries Along the Front Range with Clay Fong, who also graced the table that night, but because, speaking of names, hers is Joey Porcelli. It’s just like the biggest, gooiest bowlful of sound-pasta ever.

“Would-be honeydew,” I thought upon tasting the barely-there winter melon in a so-so bowl of soup with chunks of pork rib. Clay thought better: “the celery of melons,” said he, while noting the sesame-oiliness of the broth.

Wintermelon_2

Faring far better in our esteem was pretty much everything else. Take the Director’s shredded pork with garlic sauce, an old standard prepared in good faith; for once, you wouldn’t swear “yu hsiang” must translate as “corn syrup” or “blood clot,” but rather as “turnin’-churnin’-finger-lickin’-kaleidoscope-of-garlicky-chili-y-salty-sweetness.”

Garlicpork

Or the walnut shrimp or the fish braised in hot bean sauce, likewise serving as rare reminders that sauces, dressings, aiolis, chutneys, relishes, compotes, etc. etc. supposedly exist in service of the main ingredient, not the other way around (buttercream* being an arguable exception):

Walnutshrimp2

Fishhotbeansauce

Or my hot pot, chock-full of fat & clean marine flavor, whole roasted garlic cloves &—strangely best of all—chunks of fried tofu we all chomped like soy candy.

Seafoodhotpot

Or dumplings worthy of the name—at once velveteen & al dente, filled with somehow creamy-sweet crabmeat, truly exemplary:

Dumplings

Or, the pièce de résistance, crispy duck with pancakes. Back in Boston—I’m thinking in particular of beloved Chinatown dive King Fung Garden—an order of Peking duck required 24 hours’ advance notice; the reward for planning ahead (what, as opposed to planning behind? Ha, the redundancy of that phrase is almost as bad as the puke my brain just recently had to wipe up from the “premiere issue!” of a certain local mag (for which I guess I will now never write): “Some people may have a preconceived idea about what they think of when they picture what a ‘prefabricated home’ looks like.”) was 3 full courses: the crispy skin served with pancakes & hoisin, followed by the stir-fried flesh &, finally, duck soup (no wonder, when Rufus T. Firefly demanded to know what a traitor was “doing over here,” Chicolini replied, “Well, the food’s better over here.” Yeah, yeah, but I just saw it for the 3rd or 4th time.) What was my point? Oh, flawless ducky: skin as golden, firm & well-oiled as the young Stallone’s (he’s the next Daffy!), flesh as juicy & musky as the young Stallone’s (I’m guessing), all available within minutes of ordering it. Sweet. Great pancakes too, basically Chinese injera.

Pekingduck_2

Speaking of rewards, ours for closing down the place were sesame balls oozing with bean lava. Just goes to show you: to the annoying go the spoils.

Sesameballs

*Heh! Surprise!

Chopsticks on Urbanspoon