Why Asian Jell-O is a Better Babysitter Than Bubble Tea



Thanks to Fluffernutter for spearheading this weekend’s outing to Golden Coast Chinese restaurant. Her pre-teen daughter is just old enough to be revered by my all-male litter of sub-5-year-olds. Meanwhile, the exotic buffet of congee, octopus and other oddities is enriching enough to substitute for some other more prim cultural outing, such as a visit to a gallery, through which, let’s face it, we would yawn our way, all in the name of expanding our children’s horizons, until it was finally time for lunch.

There we were, circling the double-island buffet like a pack of all-you-can-eat buzzards, occasionally bobbing in with tongs to pull out a floppy bowtie of green-black seaweed or a limp chicken foot, when the boys decided abruptly that it was time to go home. I had made only two laps of the buffet at that point—hardly all I could eat—when the nagging escalated. (Fortunately, Golden Coast is very family-friendly. The behavior didn’t alienate us so much as it built an instant bond between us and several other families in the multicultural dining room. The knowing eye-rolls, exaggerated sighs and half-laughs of parental frustration constitute a more universal language than Esperanto will ever hope to be.)

I made a feeble attempt to appease the boys with bubble tea, but despite their affection for bubbles—bubble bath, bubble gum, blowing bubbles—they quickly hated the stuff. (Like mother, like sons.) Then I plied them with Purity ice cream from the all-you-can-eat self-serve cooler. The sugar only ramped them up.

It was Fluffernutter’s daughter who found the elegant solution. Pointing to the jiggly platters of agar-agar cubes in pastel shades of green and pink on the buffet, she asked, “Can I give them some of these to play with, because even if they fall on the floor, they don’t break or get dirty?”

And so it came to be that our children happily amused themselves with a handful of semi-solid seaweed-based Chinese dessert bites. I don't even think it crossed their minds to eat the rubbery-looking nuggets (which is odd, since my boys love to eat them some rubber nuggets). Meanwhile, the adults got their money’s worth out of what is likely the best authentic Chinese food in town. I devoured some gorgeous pan-fried whole shrimp, dozens of tiny clams and a deep-fried fish ladled with spicy soy sauce. Fluffernutter—in between bragging about her recent foray into veganism—managed to sneak in a chicken foot or two and a few ruffles of tripe.

We left happy, sated and, one could argue, more culturally enriched than had we gone to a museum, which, let’s face it, would have kicked us out for bad behavior.

Golden Coast, located at 1722 West End Ave. (phone: 321-8882), serves lunch and dinner daily. The buffet is available 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the authentic Chinese-style buffet on Saturday and Sunday only.

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