Monday, January 14, 2008

Egg Rolls and a Dose of World History

It felt weird the other day driving north, up Connecticut Avenue, in Washington and seeing the now-shuttered Yenching Palace restaurant. I had read the article in the newspaper last year announcing that it would be closing, but this was the first time I actually saw the restaurant closed (for good). As that article had noted:

Once the place to go for Peking duck and General Tso's chicken, Yenching has become a relic in a time when Asian restaurants are abundant, and high-end Asian-fusion cuisine is wildly popular. "It's a matter of taste," says current owner Larry Lung. "Chow mein, egg foo yong — older people like that, but the younger people, they don't."
The Chinese food at Yenching Palace was good, not great. But two things made the restaurant noteworthy — the wonderfully vintage neon sign across the front facade and something important that happened there roughly 45 years ago:

The most famous and oft-told story about Yenching Palace is how emissaries representing President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev met there (in October 1962) to negotiate during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and legend has it that they hammered out the final details, and avoided a war, in the second-to-last booth on the left.

No comments: