When I was a young boy growing up in Louisville, Ky., it was always a treat when my parents took me to the House of Chen, one of the few local Chinese restaurants in my hometown at that time.
The restaurant was owned and operated by Mr. Chen himself, who presided over every table with serious attention. And his menu, which favored Cantonese dishes, was much more authentic than what is typically found in most Chinese-American restaurants today. I don’t think Mr. Chen even gave you a fortune cookie after the meal.
But beyond the culinary pleasures it offered, the House of Chen was a fascinating place for me. It was truly a beautiful restaurant, decorated tastefully with embroidered silk art work and delicately carved wood statues. When you walked through the door, you were instantly transported to a distant and exotic land and my visits there – so many years ago – whetted my appetite for not only Chinese food, but also a lifelong interest in Chinese history and culture.