No dry cough. No fever. No muscle aches. Nope, a night in Chinatown, a world away from Hong Kong, does not give you SARS. Even so, business has been down so much that Mayor Thomas M. Menino felt the need to eat lunch here recently to show the city's diners that they have nothing to worry about. Despite his campaign, East Ocean City, one of our favorites, was nearly empty on Wednesday night, with only eight tables -- a fraction of the cavernous restaurant -- full by about 7:30 p.m.
With more waitstaff than customers milling about, we slurped down two gigantic steamed oysters swimming in ginger-scallion sauce, then tackled the fragrant pile of fried jumbo shrimp with spiced salt -- biting through the crunchy shells and heads into the soft flesh inside. A group of college students next to us traded stories about travel through Asia (none of it recently); one recalled seeing a girl in Japan, long before severe acute respiratory syndrome made headlines, with a "Hello Kitty" mask tied around her face. That brought to mind recent newswire photos from Hong Kong's airport of trendy young women sporting rhinestones and other jewelry on their masks.
Here in Boston's Chinatown, thankfully, no such fashion statement is needed.