Embarrassment of riches

A long time ago I posted about my favorite Chinese restaurant in Mexico City, and the strange way I had found it. It was a great relief to find a good Chinese restaurant here -- I have also posted about how terrible most Chinese food is in the city.

When my foodie friend Nick Gilman told me he had found another excellent Chinese placee, I felt as if I were, pardon the expression, in pig heaven. With two Chinese restaurants to choose from, the city feels like a veritable embarrassment of riches. This other place is called Restaurante Dalian, and it's on Calle Humboldt #56, at the corner of Calle Artículo 123, in the Colonia Juárez. You can walk in through a furniture store on the corner, or through a hallway at the above entrance on Calle Humboldt, which marks the Chinese Center of Commerce.

From Monday through Saturday, the restaurant serves a buffet for only 65 pesos per person. I'm tempted to give it a try, although I have had pretty bad luck with Chinese buffets in the city. Meanwhile, I have only been there on Sundays, so have always ordered a la carte and had mostly very good luck.

You have to be a little adventurous when you order, because the dishes are not exactly as they are described on the menu. This is eggplant in a sweet and sour sauce. However, there is nothing either sweet or sour about it. It has that lovely squishy eggplant texture, and is sauteed in soy and chile.

This is a dish of scallops in what was described as a tomato sauce. Nothing even vaguely resembling tomato is in its flavor, but the combination of scallops and asparagus is delightful.

With lamb sauteed in cumin, what you see is what you get -- and a little too much of it, in my estimation. It tasted as if the chef put in about a half a jar of cumin into the dish, which was also heavy on the chile. It wasn't bad but was far outshined by the other two dishes, which were outstanding. I will be returning here frequently.

Restaurante Dalian is around the corner from El Palacio Chino, a former movie palace inspired by Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. Like most movie palaces, it has been remodeled and subdivided into a multiplex with a dozen tiny theatres, each of which shows the latest Hollywood pablum. These days, El Palacio Chino is most remarkable for the way that, during the quiet moments of the film you are watching, you can hear the soundtrack from the theatre next door.