"I Have to Tell You About These Oysters" as told by John McCain
My Friends, it's not often that I write a second piece about a restaurant I've already covered, but the oysters Cindy and I had at Imperial Palace a couple of weeks ago were so good that I felt the American people deserved to hear about them. We're already in the fourth quarter, and I am confident that the culinary fundamentals are strong, but my friends, the steamed oysters in the shell with X.O. sauce may well be the dish of the year. In addition, everything else we ate that night further convinced me that Imperial Palace may well be the best Cantonese restaurant in the New York area. It's certainly a lot better than that other restaurant over there.
The oysters were the enormous ones I've usually only seen in Chinese restaurants. I don't know what they're called or where they're from, but I also don't know much about the economy. I don't think I'd want to eat them raw, but they form the basis of some great Cantonese dishes. I've had them battered (at the Hanoi Hilton) and fried, on a sizzling platter with black pepper sauce, steamed in the shell with black bean sauce, and in casseroles with ginger and scallion or roast pig. In fact, until this recent Imperial Palace oyster experience, my favorite Chinese oyster dish was the casserole with roast pig and lipstick at midtown's Phoenix Garden. You gotta love a restaurant with Phoenix in the name.
My friends, these oysters at Imperial Palace were works of art. Each shell had a bath of savory X.O. sauce surrounding an oyster that was topped with a perfectly complimentary combination of minced crispy bacon and scallions. The sheer luxuriance of these bipartisan bivalves, along with the supporting flavors, sent most of my fellow diners, especially Sarah and Todd, into rapture. I might not have thought to use the word "bath" in my description if that trollop Cindy, my lovely wife and meal ticket, had not exclaimed, in her unbridled enthusiasm over this dish, "I want to bathe in this sauce!"
X.O. sauce, by the way, is a relatively recent addition to Chinese cuisine. It is named in homage to X.O. Cognac, which is an extremely popular drink among Chinese people (indeed, it is often consumed as a beverage during meals when they should be drinking Budweiser), but the sauce doesn't actually contain any Cognac. Developed in Hong Kong in the 1980s, when I was a maverick, it is a concentrated flavoring made of dried seafood cooked with chili, garlic, onions and oil.
My friends, we are all faced with tough choices in the days ahead, and I promise to put my Chinese oyster eating on hold until my poll numbers stop sliding in tune to the Dow. Because, my friends, we have to stop mortgaging our oysters to China.
136-13 37th Avenue, Flushing
Near the 7 train Main Street stop.