Grease Pit

Now I know what my car feels like when I take it in for an oil change.

It's been days since my dinner at Jumbo Chinese Restaurant, a depressing little dim sum joint in North Miami Beach, and I can still taste the grease from just about everything I ate. The egg rolls were greasy, the stuffed bean curd was greasy, the scallion pancake was greasy, the Szechuan shrimp were greasy, the tasteless pork with soggy vegetables was greasy.

I haven't seen anything so well lubed since Monica Lewinsky's cigar.


Jumbo Chinese Restaurant

1242 NE 163rd St, North Miami Beach

305-956-5677. Open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Closed Wednesday.

There's a general air of hopelessness about the place that doesn't bode well for your meal, beginning with the location in a rundown strip mall on that turnpike known as NE 163rd Street.

The cavernous dining room, virtually empty on a Saturday night, boasts a stained acoustic-tile ceiling and a few uninspired prints on the walls for decoration. Many other prints -- fingerprints, that is -- decorate several mirrored columns that sprout up at intervals around the room. Near the entrance to the kitchen a handful of narcoleptic fish drift sluggishly in a tank the size of a pillbox. A glimpse into the kitchen is disconcerting. The men's bathroom is gross.

Our first pair of chopsticks was encrusted with something white and unpleasant; I didn't ask what. But you will ask for much. If you want a dim sum menu, you have to ask. If you want a dipping sauce for your greasy egg rolls or bean curd, you have to ask. If you want a glass of wine from the minuscule and hilariously outdated list, you have to ask. It won't do any good though, because they're out of everything but some nasty white zinfandel. If you ask for a Tsingtao beer, they don't have any.

A Chinese restaurant that doesn't carry Tsingtao? Truly, the mind wobbles. (Okay, you can get Heineken.)

To be fair, not every dish was greasy. Har gow, the plump little shrimp dumplings in their pearlescent wrappers, were properly delicate and faintly perfumed with sesame oil. Steamed pork buns were good in a generic, steamed-pork-bun sort of way, the reddish filling savory, the snow-white bun modestly fluffy. And Singapore noodles, brightly curried and with a sneaky chili bite, were actually quite good, loaded with bits of tender chicken, pork, and shrimp.

After that, it's Lube City.

Vegetarian egg rolls had decent flavor but left pools of oil on the plate. Bean curd skins stuffed with shrimp and a single stalk of celery were greasier still. Flaky scallion pancakes would have been excellent -- the kitchen here doesn't take the cheater's way out and make them with flour tortillas -- but they leaked more oil than the Exxon Valdez.

Tiny nuggets of pork spareribs weren't all grease. They were all fat. Check that, they were all fat and bone. There may have been a few microscopic shreds of meat attached, but I couldn't find them. Too bad, because they arrived in a deliciously meaty broth perked up with chilies and fermented black beans. But after so much grease, I mean, an entire dish of fat?

A pair of stir-fries weren't much better. The requested shredded pork in garlic sauce was delivered as shredded pork with a veritable garden of soggy vegetables in a bland but -- all together now -- greasy sauce. The sauce for a generous complement of Szechuan shrimp was a well-balanced blend of sweet, tart, and spicy, but we had to eat them fast because their heavy (and, sigh, greasy) breading tended to slough off like a snake's skin if we didn't chomp them down right away.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get my oil changed.


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