You are seated to a large round pink clothed table. Your nine friends and yourself are handed menus. You start to browse the menu while sipping on some Jasmine tea. As you are ready to order, a waiter walks past you and the wafting smell of something exotic whips past you. You crane your neck to look at the adjoining table. Curiously, the dish of Abalone with Sea Cucumber in Claypot that they have just been presented doesn’t seem to be on menu. Upon closer inspection, quite a number of other dishes they are eating doesn’t seem to be on the menu. You grab your friends menu to check that your menu isn’t missing a page. Nope, same thing. You start to think that maybe these are regular customers and the chef has made a special effort to cook something for them that isn’t on the menu. But as you scan across the restaurant, you see others are having the same dish.
Confused? Well, this is what happened to a friend when he dined at Imperial Kingdom with 9 of his friends. This friend of mine is a white Caucasian male, and his friends also happened to be Anglo Saxon too. In case you haven’t already worked it out yet, they were subjected to the anti-racism that occurs for Anglo Saxon customers at many fine, and not so fine, Chinese restaurants around Melbourne.
Some Chinese restaurants have two menus, one in Chinese which they give to Asian looking customers, regardless of whether they can read Chinese or not. The other “sanitised” menu is given to Anglo Saxon customers, who they think will not want to eat the other types of food and who they can probably rip off more easily. It seems a strange practise given that Australian’s gastronomic vocabulary has improved so much that they shouldn’t give people a choice in the matter.
Many a times I have been to Imperial Kingdom and seen other tables order the banquet and be presented with spring rolls, corn soup, dim sims, lemon chicken, seafood bird’s nest etc and thought to myself that a)no Asian would ever eat any of those things at a Chinese restaurant, and b)they could be trying so much more authentic and more delicious food. I’m not picking on Imperial Kingdom, just merely using it as an example as this was a real situation that occurred. When my friend was telling me about his weekend dining experience at Imperial Kingdom, before he even finished talking, I asked him if he ordered the banquet. When he said yes as that was the easiest thing to do, I started to rattle off the list of food items and he said that was what they had. The killer for me was when I said lemon chicken and plum pork. Uuugh, how many Asians ever eat lemon chicken anywhere. And plum pork is so hard to make taste right. Unless you use real pickled plums so that the dish has both a sour and sweet component, it just tastes so wrong. All restaurants use these generic ultra gluggy plum sauce that only gets served to the “gwei low” (Anglo Saxons).
It’s funny how so many Chinese restaurants are still getting away with having two menus. I guess maybe I may be overestimating the palette of most Australians. Maybe a lot of people are happy with spring rolls and dim sims, but why not give everyone a choice. Some might still go for the dim sims, but others may want to try that delicious Abalone.