Drama In Asian Restaurant

This picture doesn’t do justice to the cute restaurant in this local strip mall. It was a little snowy outside and I was driving past it to go to the Kam Man grocery store to buy lunch. The tents used to look much better during the summer months, more shiny, more in shape, certainly without those little dismal objects on the lower edges to serve as anchors.

I am fascinated with Asian restaurants in New Jersey, and my fascination is not about food, since New Jersey really doesn’t have many good Asian restaurants despite the Asian immigrant population. One can find much better Korean, Indian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese food in New York City or Philadelphia, but not in between.

I am fascinated by the fact that each restaurant is family based with a tragic story that reminds one of those well known tragedies ever written. Here, one at least knows one or two Asian restaurant intimately, or one at least knows one person who knows restaurants intimately. Stories of love, friendship, betrayal, heartbreak are the same everywhere. I deliberately mixes one with another so that you really can’t identify which is which.

  • One family owning a very popular restaurant has a story like “King Lear”. The family patriarch has several children, but ends up favoring one son and alienating all the others. He was expecting that the son and the daughter-in-law would treat him well in his retirement, but that didn’t happen. The consequence is a devastating blow to him, not only to his finance, but also his pride.
  • Another family has a story like this. A couple opened a restaurant and one day they rescued somebody half starved who came in at night for some leftover food. He charmed the couple and started to work as a kitchen help. Half a year later, the owner became addicted to gambling. The kitchen help, together with the owner’s wife, took over the restaurant, kicked the owner out by some dubious double dealings. The owner’s wife divorced her husband, married the kitchen help. One night, the owner, I mean the previous owner, came back. What was he going to do? He lost everything already and what did he care?
  • Two restaurants have been competing with each other for ten years. They’ve tried various ways to outsmart each other, only to find themselves losing money in the fight and being trapped in a bad cycle. They make a deal and stop the fight, but only to find that neither side can honor the deal to the satisfaction of the other. During the time, unfortunate things happen to one owner, which is considered by the other owner as an opportunity to crush the competition. However things do not turn out as expected. Just as the other owner wins the fight and starts his expansion, Covid19 comes…

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