Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

We wander aimlessly around the ‘hood, past a little shop where a woman appears to be giving a man a massage around the eye sockets (undoubtedly good for migraines), a landmarked Anglican church with services in Chinese, and stores selling mysterious dried stuff in big glass jars. Along Main Street are several inviting pastry emporiums, where the art of French confection seems to have gained a major foothold (maybe because Asian desserts are so uninspired?).

Then, suddenly, thinking we have come across another indoor mall, we are plunged into a hotel, the Chinatown Sheraton, as sleek and elegant as any high-end hostelry in Hong Kong. Upscale stores occupy one level, whose balcony overlooks the restaurant and lobby. Inside one, a girl is examining precious stones using chopsticks. There’s a dark and welcoming bar, leading me to wonder how well a martini would sit on top of a lamb burger, and spotlit objets d’art which look, to this eye at least, like they might be genuine collector’s items.

“Who the hell would want to stay in the Flushing Chinatown Sheraton?” I ask Dave.

“Beats me.”

"I suppose if you’re a Chinese businessman, or maybe a family of tourists, you’re simply more comfortable staying in a neighborhood that feels like home.”

The restaurant, which is designed around a big stone fireplace worthy of an Aspen ski lodge, also has immaculate restrooms, and I highly recommend the facilities if you’re tooling around the area (I have occasionally wondered if a Zagat’s guide to public restrooms in hotels and department stores would find an audience; I consider myself a connoisseur.)

I’d be happy to linger here, perched on a bar stool for an hour or so, but Dave is soon getting bored and restless. One look tells me what he is thinking: “Your pathetic love of alcohol and frivolity are what is leading to America’s demise as a major superpower.” And so we are off to do more serious food reconnaissance.

IF YOU GO: Take the #7 train from Grand Central (or Times Square). Trip time: about half an hour. The Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel is at 135-20 39th Avenue, a block and a half from the subway stop.

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