The other day I mentioned on social media that the Everloving and I were going for dim sum today. Normally, that would not have elicited a moment’s interest from anyone but these are anything but normal times.
As a society we are in the midst (or perhaps just the beginning) of a virus pandemic panic that is beginning to paralyse everyday activities: business and recreational travel has almost ceased, sports events have been cancelled or closed to the public, major gatherings of people are discouraged, handshakes have given way to elbow bumps, and there are reports of toilet-paper riots at Costco, Even some of my most rational acquaintances have become besotted with following every drip of news about covid-19.
So, my announcement was met with shock in some quarters. I was advised not to go (the risk of infection was too high), I was told that Chinese restaurants are empty these days (and so eating there would be weird), and our continued good health was wished for several times.
Well, we went. On the way, the cab driver told us that all Chinese restaurants were empty and some had even laid off their staff. It would have been a surprise to him, I am sure, to see the crowds of people outside Western Lake’s door happily waiting for their number to be called. It took us a while to barge through the crowd to get to the reception desk but, once there, we were soon seated for our reservation. It was packed, every table filled to the brim with contented customers, none of whom were wearing masks, and attentive servers, most of whom we have known for a decade and more.
We stuffed ourselves with sui mai, ha gow, deep fried squid, chow fun, spicy green beans, and finished it off with chilled goji berry with lychee gelatin. It was a feast, each bite tastier than the last. In the hour or so we were there, there was always a lineup, and the crowd at the door when we left was thicker than when we arrived. There seems no chance that Western Lake is going out of business any time soon.
But they were definitely aware of the virus. We were chatting with the manager. His uncle (who was our very friendly landlord for 17 years) just came back from a Mediterranean cruise that included Italy. He and his wife are self-quarantining for two weeks.
Other than that, whatever pandemic panic is gripping the city, the Province, the world, there was no evidence of it all today at Victoria & 34th.