Hors d’oeuvres are the indecisive diner’s menu entry of choice. They are cheap, so you don’t feel bad for not finishing them; they are versatile, allowing for elaborate combinations that enhance your culinary experience; and they are small — their bite-size nature is not only convenient, but also safe, as they lower the number of unnecessary knives around.
Although appetizers are convenient and generally tasty, they are sometimes just unavoidable settlements. That is to say, even though you may have willingly satiated your appetite with a handful of canapés instead of a regular meal, some establishments often force you to order appetizers due to their insensible menu options.
Yes, I’m talking about restaurants with tons of main dishes, none of which are vegetarian-friendly.
Dee Asian Kitchen on Temple Street is one such place. It has over 30 noodle selections, none of which would content a vegetarian. At any other place I would suggest ordering off-menu, but in fast-food restaurants, that’s not normally a viable option. Unlike many other places, though, Dee has a great range of appetizers to choose from, which could please the most capricious patrons.
Cautious, I chose No. 50, “fried vegetable spring rolls” ($2.75). The vegetables were fresh; I wasn’t thrilled by the excessive use of mushrooms in the filling, but they ended up complimenting its otherwise bland texture. The wrapping was great, obviously. I usually prefer baked spring rolls to the oily fried ones, but Dee’s crunchy wrapping was delicious and did not overwhelm.
I moved on to the “steamed bun with vegetable [sic],” No. 5 ($2.75). As in, I ordered No. 5 but I’m pretty sure they gave me No. 14 (“steamed bun with mushroom crem [sic] cheese”) given that the filling tasted like a Campbell’s® Cream of Mushroom Soup™, only more solid and wrapped in a bun. Maybe mushrooms are vegetables? Maybe it wasn’t mushrooms? I’m not sure. In any case, the dish is called “steamed bun with vegetable,” in singular, and I sure did not see anything inside my bun besides bits of the same thing drowning in cream cheese.
I didn’t mind No. 5/14, but as a starch lover that hardly means anything. The (mushroom, I swear!) filling wasn’t all that terrible, but heavy-duty cream cheese wrapped in already-hearty bread will leave your stomach uneasy, and perhaps even a little annoyed.
The last appetizer on my list — No. 26 “vegetable and guichai dumpling” ($2.75) — was the epitome of my meal at Dee. That is not to say that it was the best, but it was the most greasy — the perfect embodiment of all that fast food stands for. The phyllo dough was tongue-numbingly oily, but at least I could identify the vegetables within. The guichai (chives) were fine if a bit limp, but after lining the interior of my mouth with the oily exterior of the dumplings, I can barely remember.
Below their display of bubble teas are the different flavors of mochi ice cream. Ranging from strawberry and vanilla to red bean and green tea, visitors are given a decent selection. Choosing to be both traditional and exotic, I passed on the bubble tea ordered vanilla, chocolate, green tea and black sesame mochi ice cream.
It was a case of pointless caloric intake. The mochi was served too cold, so much so that they had to cut it with a knife, and struggled. As a result, the encasing was too hard to eat satisfactorily, let alone taste good. As for the ice cream fillings, the chocolate and vanilla were both pretty uneventful, but the green tea exceeded my froyo-born expectations. Simultaneously fresh and aromatic, I felt like I was eating perfume. Awesome, edible perfume. The black sesame, on the other hand, left a heavy, milky taste in my mouth that took an extra portion of green tea to diffuse.
While some of the food tended toward the greasy side, this much should be expected (perhaps even embraced) at fast-food restaurants — if they were healthy they might as well be salad bars. As for their noodles, a friend who accompanied me said that No. 88, “crispy noodle with pork gravy soup,” ($7.50) was “really good,” so I guess you are covered even if you, unlike me, choose to hate the environment and order an entrée.