Good Luck Dim Sum & Dale Chihuly at the de Young

goodluckdimsum“One piece, or one order?” This is the question you will continually have to answer at Good Luck Dim Sum in San Francisco, at least until you begin to address this query preemptively. The stoic lady behind the counter is all business, and once you finally become more specific with your ordering, the next question you will continually have to field is, “What else?” Perhaps there is something subliminal at work here, but that second question is the tricky one. For me, it somehow implied that maybe I should be ordering something else, and so I happened to make several selections above and beyond the levels of moderate human consumption.

As they say, gluttony is its own punishment. But as I accumulated a plastic tray piled high with egg rolls, pot stickers, pork shoo mai, steamed pork buns, shrimp dumplings, and anything else that looked interesting, I didn’t really mind that I was destined to leave Good Luck as a pathetic, bloated mess. After all, it’s difficult to care about over-eating when the total bill for everything, including beverages, is a scant $12.50 (simply incredible). The value at some of these Bay Area dim sum places is like a punchline that never grows old. I covered a decent portion of the menu (with three-piece orders, no less) and the bill was only $12.50? But that’s dim sum, and that’s why it’s great.

The reputation at Good Luck is what brought me to the restaurant, although the space itself does not really have that “restaurant” vibe. It could just as easily be a donut shop — if they served donuts. Orders are placed at a glass display case, and there are six or seven tables towards the back for dining. A checkerboard pattern of pinkish and white tiles adorns the floors. And as it just so happens, to-go orders are heaped into the classic pink donut boxes, so the donut shop comparison is really not that much of a stretch. But I could really care less about the ambience at Good Luck. In fact, the no-frills aesthetic works perfectly well in this scenario.

As I sampled the myriad dim sum in front of me, I felt that everything I ordered at Good Luck was delicious and honest, just as comfort food should be. The steamed pork buns were actually what I had been craving all morning, and they were exactly what I had wanted. The rich, red pork filling was slightly sweet, while the breading was fluffy and just barely off-white. The condiments at Good Luck include a chili sauce and a sweet soy sauce, and I like to mix the two, which achieves a combination of spice, slightly off-set by sweetness. Just drag a piece of the pork bun through a pool of this mixture, and you will have something quite tasty.

• • •

Although I love dim sum, the main reason why I ventured into San Francisco today was the Dale Chihuly Exhibit at the de Young Museum, which I had mentioned about a month ago (see the May 24 entry). As it turns out, the exhibit was far more awe-inspiring than I had even anticipated. Only nature itself — with its fall foliage and its ocean sunsets — can compete with the kinds of colors that Chihuly has captured in his immense body of work. One of the descriptions in the gallery mentions that Chihuly draws upon a palate of 300 different colors, and I’m pretty sure that they are all present and accounted for in the 11-room exhibit.

The thing that really caught me off guard about Chihuly was how the full installments often transcend the beauty of the individual piece. I wasn’t prepared for that level of artistry, even though I knew full well that Chilhuly likes to operate on a large scale (especially with his Chandeliers, of which there are four or five on display). Without a doubt, all of Chihuly’s glasswork features incredible detail and nuance, but dozens upon dozens of these single pieces are often assembled into a much larger construction. For instance, in one of the rooms, a large vintage rowboat overflows with glass spheres of varying colors, sizes and designs. Each of these spheres boasts its own unique character, yet to examine them individually would take the better part of a day. As observers, we are forced to pick and choose where we should focus our attention, and so the exhibit is bound to be unique for each person.

My favorite Chihuly installment was titled Persian Ceiling, which is a stark white room with a clear glass ceiling. Literally hundreds of the artist’s Seaforms — along with many other examples of his work — rest upon the glass overhead. I can barely imagine how long it took to assemble this collage, since it appears as though the pieces were casually dumped onto their resting spot. But given the thin, delicate nature of each glass piece, they were most certainly placed into their position with the utmost care, one by one. Backlighting provides the only illumination in Persian Ceiling, casting a beautiful, fluid pastiche of colors upon the walls. I overheard one patron say that she felt like she was underwater, but I felt as if I was standing inside a kaleidoscope.

As I left the final installment, I purchased the compendium that the de Young published for the Chihuly Exhibit, but even the museum’s professional photography cannot really capture the beauty and the essence of the displays. Of course, I was well aware that even the best photos would ultimately fall short of this task, which is why I initially backtracked through the exhibit to see it once again, firsthand. Compared to photos, mere words do an even greater disservice to the Chihuly Exhibit, so rather than attempt to convey the beauty of the installments any further, I will simply encourage people to visit the de Young before September 28.

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