September 12, 2007

Chinatown Disparú o la lenta desaparición del Molokai restaurant

Por: Manuel Clavell Carrasquillo en fragilidad

imageEscribe Manuel Clavell Carrasquillo

En una esquina dilapidada de la avenida Fernández Juncos en Santurce, que le abre paso a un callejón lúgubre y altamente sospechoso, conducente a varios hospitalillos y barras de amores clandestinos, se encuentra la casa donde se preparan los mejores manjares chinos.

Allí han compartido tenedores la farándula burocrática isleña, líderes sindicales hambrientos, parte del lumpenato nacional dispuesto a sustituir el jamón con piña por “dumplings” al vapor hechos a mano por el dueño, mafiosos amantes de la buena mesa que ordenan pato a la naranja y clasemedieros “esmayaos” de todo tipo.

La atracción del Molokai es contradictoria. Lo cutre de la ambientación decadente, en vez de inhibirlas, es lo que estimula las papilas gustativas. Los plafones caídos, las goteras de los aires acondicionados, la decoración imperial vetusta, el cuadro con la estampa bucólica de los pescadores medievales color bronce y el Buda de porcelana iluminado con una velita votiva son los elementos esotéricos que le dan una sazón oriental única al menú variado.

Luego de 30 años de valor y sacrificio, doblando el lomo en ese enclave maldito congelado en el tiempo, la familia fundadora de inmigrantes anunció el cierre definitivo debido al cansancio del patriarca de 73 años, las cuentas energéticas infladas que llegan a los miles y las metas universitarias de los herederos. La clausura no es derrota para ellos, pero para nosotros ha sido hecatombe.

¿Adónde vamos a ir los amigos a comer platillos inolvidables como el “ginger chicken” o el “hot and sour soup” con mostaza picante y “fried noodles” cuando nos hartemos de la carne guisá y las habichuelas de lata? ¿Dónde en el barrio hay un servicio que fomente alteraciones a la carta que se traducen en sopas de calabaza con camarones y tostones de pana con salsa Schezuan en vez de mayoketchup?

Se van, y me la ponen difícil. El círculo gastronómico de nuestro Chinatown en facsímil se cierra entre la fritanga dominicana y la ortodoxia criolla de la fonda.

4 Responses to ' Chinatown Disparú o la lenta desaparición del Molokai restaurant '

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  1. Bohemia said,
    on September 13th, 2007 at 10:40 am

    😥 no eres el unico que llora el cierre del Molokai. En mi infancia, el Molokai era lo máximo de comida china. Eran famosos por sus alfajores. Mi plato favorito es el pollo al curry.

    oye y que crees del cierre del Pueblo de Diego?? me encantaria una cronica tuya sobre eso.

    Mañana defiendo la tesis y pongo punto final a mi vida estudiantil. POR FIN!!!

  2. j.a. bonilla said,
    on September 14th, 2007 at 6:52 am

    Me uno a esta plegaria y responso por la desaparición de ese antro culinario oriental donde convergían lo exótico con lo cursi.

  3. on September 30th, 2007 at 7:33 am

    el ginger chicken!!!!!!!
    fuck, era el mejorrrr.

    un saludo desde acá.

  4. ecl said,
    on October 1st, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    It is indeed sad to see this fine Chinese restaurant close. I had always heard about it in the years that I worked on the island, but strangely I did not really try it until 1 or 2 years ago. When I first walked in and saw the old owner making fish balls by hand the way it had always been done for generations, I knew the food would be good. And it IS good. Very good, indeed, for Chinese food in Puerto Rico. Sure, the decor is faded and funky, and the surrounding rather downtrodden as you mentioned. Yet, when one sips the rich and flavored broth and bite into the juicy fish balls in the Fish Ball Soup, it brings back memories of home-cooked meals prepared with joy and heart! (And I do know what I am talking about in this case.) Many dishes may have been altered to suit local tastes, but unlike in most of the Chinese restaurants in Puerto Rico, even the fancier ones, at Molokai one can tell that there is someone who is a real chef of Chinese cuisine at the helm in the kitchen.

    I wish all of the family the best of lucks. I spoke to the daughter a little bit, and although she didn’t say much, I could tell that the younger generations really don’t have their hearts in the restaurant business anymore. Well, in a way, this is perhaps the closing of a chapter in the story of a very typical Chinese immigrant family and the start of a brand new chapter. The elders came to a far, alien land to seek better life for their family, and they did. Now their children can go on to bigger and better things. At least that’s how I hope to see Molokai’s closing: while a sadness, yet also a celebration of goals accomplished and successes achieved.

    I was also talking to a friend about how Molokai must have also witnessed and been the victim of the rise and fall of Miramar, from the heydays of its being the glamorous residential address to its current somewhat decrepit state. Time flows by and things change.

    For other decent Chinese food. I recommend Great Taste on Ashford in Condado. Hunan House in Hato Rey used to be good, but I have heard things may have changed. The other places are all somewhat generic unless one gets to know the owners, who would then come up with things not on the menus that they were going to eat themselves.

    Thanks for posting about Molokai.

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