It's not that I'm some sort of cheap soulless asshole (okay... maybe just a little), but I hate tipping. I don't understand the point of it, and I doubt I ever will. Before everyone goes apeshit explaining how "tips are the only way a lot of waiters/waitresses make ends meet as single parents supporting their five kids when their spouses fail to pay child support," let me explain exactly what I mean - I think the current system of tipping is dumb. There are certain expectations I have when I go to a restaurant. I feel like good customer service is a fairly reasonable one. So why exactly do I have to pay extra on top of the bill for something that should inherently be included? Because the social norm in the US is straight demented. The way the system in Japan works... everything that goes into the meal - ingredients, preparation time, service, etc. - is already priced into final cost. Maybe costs at restaurants would be higher, but there'd be no awkward post-meal deliberation of how much to leave and no one would leave feeling jipped for paying for an awful experience. That would be just dandy wouldn't it?
It's bad enough that I basically have to dole an additional 20% just for sitting down in a restaurant, but there's something worse. Far worse. Like when restaurants automatically append gratuity to their bills (party of two if it matters). When they do that... it removes any incentive for the waitstaff to do anything and it also removes my ability to voice displeasure without being confrontational. That's not me. I sip Haterade™, but I'm not out to advertise that. Anyway, why am I bitching about tipping all of a sudden? Because it happened in the last place I'd ever expect it - in Chinatown, at a place called "Lucky Plaza Restaurant," where I got hit with a $5 tip on an $18 meal. Are you freakin' kidding me? That's almost 28%. If I'm paying that much then you best be wiping my ass after I use the bathroom too. What makes this even more ludicrous is the fact that the service straight sucked. When I asked to box stuff up to take home, some chick literally tossed takeout boxes on the table and told me to do it myself. That ain't worth a 28% tip yo.
I wish I could tell you not to go there because half the staff needs to chill their hormones, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit the food was actually pretty dope. Lucky Plaza's a Cantonese restaurant with a menu that looked pretty stereotypical of random diner places in Hong Kong. They like doing shit like roasting meat and putting over rice, frying up slick plates of oily noodles, and making various types of dumplings - all of which are awesome things. That said, their char siu fried rice (叉燒炒飯) isn't bad. It's basically one part oil, one part rice, and one part roast pork... a delightfully heavy dish that's moderately flavorful for its simplicity. The pork isn't so tantalizing that the dish becomes the epitome of all fried rices, but it's on par with generic places in Hong Kong. I feel like the act of simply replicating an "authentic" version is testament enough to how well this was made. It's something I'd probably enjoy infinitely more if I were drunk... that kinda thing.
Check that shit out. Glossy as a motherfucker. I'm probably not really the best person to ask about beef chow fun, because to me... the oilier it is the better it tastes. In my mind, there are few things in the world more sensual than rice noodles swimming in a pool of rendered beef fat. Aw yeah. Lucky Plaza might not be very good at refilling your water and junk like that, but at least they understand that oil is the key to making some sick rice noodles. Their version screams mediocrity, but given how difficult it is to make oily noodles taste any sort of bad, by default that makes it taste decent. Does that even make sense? Probably not. Peep this - similar to the fried rice, it's not a destination worthy dish, but if you're hungry and don't feel like waiting for the line at Wah Fung... it's not a bad consolation prize.
They also make soup dumplings. Eight of 'em for like $5. When you compare that to places like Joe's Ginger - and other places with "Joe" in the name - that seems pretty awesome (before they decided to tack on their asshat automatic tip I mean). To be entirely honest they're like everything else this restaurant does - good, but not life changing. Solid enough where you're impressed, but not so ridiculously awesome that you'd ever sell your firstborn for the recipe. Their soup dumplings have that stupid little nubbin of dough at the pinch point, and they don't possess translucently thin skins, but they are filled with a fairly surprising amount of soup. All for a super reasonable price... sort of. Plus if you think about it, most dumplings taste okay anyway. It's a meatball wrapped in dough... a pretty likable combination... even mediocre ones.
So yeah tl;dr time - Lucky Plaza makes pretty good food. They're pretty good at shit like roasting meats, stir-frying things with lots of oil, and making reasonably priced soup dumplings, but they need to chill the fuck out with their automatic tip (or step up their waiting game). That shit is ridiculous. I'd probably get food there again, but probably not eat there. Also, I still think tipping in the US is stupid.
Lucky Plaza Restaurant
81 Chrystie St, New York, NY 10002