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Fine | Nov 19, 200212:00 AM     8

Had such a crummy experience here years ago, I didn't go back till just the other day.

They had no crabs on the second day of the season. They did, after the waiter got the manager, allow us to order a half pound of live prawns, which were good, if not bursting with that ocean sweetness.Had to accept plain boiled; they wouldn't give us the cooked two ways dish.

From specials we ordered a claypot described as fish heads, brisket, and bitter melon. When it arrived, we were unable to find any brisket, though there were several chunks of skin-on duck! When I spoke to the manager, I learned that what the restaurant had meant was "fish brisket"! When he comprehended that brisket implies beef, he asked me how to express the fish part in English. I promised to research it and went through a few fish encyclopedias and cookbooks along with several Chinese cookbooks and "The Eater's Guide to Chinese Characters," all to no avail. Isn't there some old one-liner about fish having lips or something?

Anyway, if any of you have a suggestion, I'll pass it along. To be honest, I'm still struggling with exactly what fish "brisket" is.

The dish was pretty good. We preferred a Chinese turnip, minced pork, and vermicelli claypot and a dish that reminded me of nouvelle cuisine--stir-fried little fish and vegetables: the fish were tiny, battered, star-shaped critters, the veggies thin, barely blanched strips of carrot, scallion, etc. Good flavors, good texture, despite the reluctance of both waiter and manager to serve it.

With rice and two small bottles of sake, the bill came to close to $70 before tip.

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