Saturday, February 6, 2010

The M&T Experience

Late last year, I decided to check out M&T Restaurant. I'd wanted to try as many different types of regional Chinese food as possible, and here was one I'd never experienced. M&T serves food from Qingdao, a seaport city in the Shandong region. For obvious reasons, the food is seafood-heavy, but also not very spicy. Luckily, Qingdao is also the home of Tsingtsao beer, which is fantastic for washing it all down.

So on a sunny Wednesday afternoon I hopped on the 7 to make my way out to Flushing for a late lunch. The waitress eyed me skeptically, probably thinking I just wanted some kung pao chicken. I wanted some seafood, so I ordered the baby shrimp with green peppers. I also got some greens with garlic, but can't remember what they were exactly. Finally, I pointed to the pigs head with cucumber. The waitress gave me a knowing smile, realizing that I was here for the good stuff.

The food was great, the pig's head and cucumber dish was the highlight, as were the complimentary slices of marinated lotus root.

But that's not why I'm telling this story...

I finished my food, and as I motioned towards the waitress for the bill, I noticed four middle-aged Chinese ladies smiling at me. One walked over to me and said: "We like how you use chopsticks. Have a drink with us."

I'm not one to turn down a free drink, so I quickly agreed. Seemingly out of nowhere, the lady produced a jug of wine and filled my beer glass to the brim. Grinning, she raised her glass, said "chin-chin" and chugged.

"L'chaim!" I yelled, draining my wine. She smiled and immediately poured another round, and we again clinked glasses and chugged.

One of the ladies gestured to the waitress, and my leftover food was brought to their table, where a space had been cleared. In front of me was the ladies' feast, and they insisted I dig in. I tried a whole fish preparation, wood ear mushroom salad, and many other dishes I no longer recall, as the ladies continued to refill my glass with shouts of "chin-chin!"

Only one of the ladies could speak more than broken English, and the other 3 bombarded her with questions which she quickly translated.

"She wants to fix you up with her daughter."

"We love your golden locks."

They were also very excited that I was a lawyer, although no one asked what the hell I was doing getting shitfaced in Flushing on a Wednesday afternoon.

We finished the jug, so I politely thanked them and started to leave. One lady yelled something and shook her head as she reached under the table and produced a fresh jug of wine. She poured overflowing glasses for everyone, covering the table in red wine.

After a few more pours, we had put a serious dent in the second jug. On our last round, one of the ladies (who may have had a drinking problem), whiffed on her mouth, pouring wine all over herself. At that point, I knew it was probably time to leave before I spilled (more) wine on my lap (or before we killed the second jug). With great effort I stood up and thanked them for the wine and company, and they graciously paid my check (nice!). It was a struggle to get away as they insisted I stay, but I didn't want to black out.

The glare from the late afternoon sun sobered me only slightly as I stumbled back to the subway station. Standing on the platform gnawing on a churro, my teeth stained red, wine dripping down my shirt, I thought: "what the hell just happened to me?"

M&T Restaurant, 44-09 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, 718-539-4100

M & T Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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