There are two things I rail against which might classify some of my restaurant reviews as a bully pulpit. One is the incursion of chain restaurants, a pitiable parade of mediocrity that has largely resulted in the homogenization and “dumbing down” of the American palate. The other is the lack of authenticity in so-called ethnic restaurants, a lacking that often goes hand-in-hand with the culinary chaining of America’s restaurants.
In my reviews of New Mexican food restaurants, I refer to this phenomenon as the “anglosizing” of New Mexican food (the Taco Bell phenomenon). In Chinese restaurants, this “Americanization” phenomenon manifests itself in the offering of deep fried, heavily coated meats bathed in a syrupy sauce (nee P.F. Chang’s). Restaurants which excel in the preparation of outstanding meals without compromising their cultural and ethnic traditions have become far and few in between.
When Chinese Restaurant News listed the top 100 Chinese restaurants in America, I had high hopes that the honorees would provide both a genuine and an excellent dining experience. In the Cathay House, I was right in one respect. The Cathay House, the only Las Vegas restaurant on the list, was as authentic as you could hope to find.
Renown for its dim sum, it is a China town establishment in which the 80/20 rule applies (80% or more patrons being Chinese), a huge plus in my book. Dim sum, the Chinese word for “a little bit of heart” is the specialty of the Duke City’s Ming Dynasty so it would be interesting to consider the best Chinese restaurant in Albuquerque with one of the top 100 Chinese restaurants in the country. There was no comparison. Ming Dynasty is infinitesimally better.
The Cathay House dim sum includes several items not offered at Ming Dynasty–roasted duck, barbecue pork, barbecue pork ribs, lo mein noodles and more–but these offerings were not prepared nearly as well as Ming Dynasty would have prepared them. The Ming Dynasty would also not have served them as cool as the other side of the pillow nor would they have been paraded in uncovered dishes.
While we were sorely disappointed that a mediocre restaurant would make a top 100 list, we were also made proud that in Albuquerque, we have a restaurant that’s better than at least one restaurant on the top 100.
5300 Spring Mountain Road
Las Vegas, Nevada
LATEST VISIT: 21 November 2004
# OF VISITS: 1