Sunday, September 04, 2005

Noshing Around London I

The incomparable Poon's, London

When I was planning my Yiddisher Britisher Tour back in June, I left a phone message for long-lost cousin Larry in London, asking whether we could meet. I knew that he and I were going to hit it off when he emailed a response that began as follows:

Picked up your message as just about to go in to see Yoko Ono on the South Bank therefore more alive to the unexpected than usual - though believe me an hour was plenty (it must have been very wearing for John)...

He then further secured a place in my heart by suggesting that we meet for Chinese food. However, not knowing Larry's tastes or London restaurants, I was a bit apprehensive about his choice: Poon's, off Leicester Square. When I mentioned this to his sister-in-law Lorraine, she told me that Poon's is one of his favorites, and assured me that if Larry recommended a restaurant, it was guaranteed to be: 1) inexpensive and 2) really good. I asked her whether Larry was, you know, frum. "Oh no!" Lorraine responded. "He's like the French--he'll eat anything that moves." I took this as high praise, though her tone of voice didn't entirely support my interpretation.

Poon's wasn't quite as easy to find as Larry had led me to believe. Leicester Square was far larger than I imagined, as well as choked with hordes of clueless tourists, making it quite a challenge to find someplace "just off" the Square, as Larry airily described it. The address I had was on Lisle Street, which wasn't on the map I had. Eventually I found my way into Chinatown--"just off" the Square--and struck gold when I asked a Chinese shop proprietor for directions.

And so, not two hours back from my sojourn in Kent, I was hunkered over a bowl of hot and sour soup at Poon's. It was thinner and much more chili'd than its American cousin, though unfortunately had just as much MSG. I wasn't impressed. However, the entrees (seafood something and duck something) were out of this world. And the fried rice was like nothing I'd ever had: ungreasy and light in color as well as texture, with little bits of crunchy green onions. I'm making myself hungry just thinking about it. Oh, right...I haven't had lunch yet. Wish I could have it at Poon's; will have to settle for what's kicking around the fridge.

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