Toni Award

Or would have been considered dietetic, had our waiter been less prompt and attentive -- he actually retrieved for us what goodies fell accidentally from our untutored utensils. Indeed, service in general was outstanding on all three occasions that I dined at Chrysthanthemum. Dishes were spooned in the style of the French, the waiters filling from each platter a generous plate of food. Second helpings were also served by the staff, the result being that diners have nothing more strenuous to do than open their mouths like baby birds.

My companions all agreed on the delicacy of sauteed beef in spicy garlic sauce, served in a beautiful snow of crisp Chinese vermicelli. Tender whorls of seared beef exuded a fantasy of garlic, though not the ultra-zing of Szechuan spice promised on the menu.

But our pleasure centers were nevertheless appeased, particularly by the eggplant in black Chinese vinaigrette. Stir-fried eggplant featured a crisp skin outside and a nutty, melted center. The sauce, tangy with vinegar, empowered the natural flavor of the eggplant. I couldn't help finding deficient every other eggplant dish I've ever had, the rubbery fingers of the vegetable nowhere near these sheer, delicious strings.

As is appropriate to Pekingese and Szechuan cuisine, noodle dishes factored prominently. Peking noodles with stir-fried vegetables were pliant, handmade treasures. Singapore noodles, with preserved vegetables and the appropriate light touch of curry, wound into an untidy but comforting nest on the plate, promoting contentment.

In the end, more than the superb cuisine satisfied at Chrysanthemum. The empty plates set before us radiated, like the day, a wonderful, superheated touch that kept food warmer longer. Varnished chopsticks, not cheap, splintered ones that taste like pencils, rested on ceramic Japanese eggplants, a tiny luxury at each place setting. And when the steam of the season falls too heavily upon us, the cool tiled floor and flower arrangements suggest a welcome trade: heat lightning for a touch of Chrysanthemum's own aurora borealis, those beckoning, crowning northern lights.

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