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The clipboard man summons us to the door. We shuffle in under the famous restaurant sign. Qan: meaning perfection, Ju: representing gathering without departing and De: the highest virtue. In combination the name implies a perfect union of moral excellence and benevolence.

We stop for a moment to admire the plaque imbedded in the floor—stating that the organization has been operating for one hundred and forty-five years just before a tired looking waitress takes over from clipboard man and ushers us into the main room.

Something is wrong.

Where were the white linen table cloths?
The duck carving trolleys.
The lazy susans?
The kids slide onto the wooden bench seat and grab at the laminated menus.
At the opposite table a waiter is busy doling out portions of duck to an expectant crowd.

It was all served on red plastic plates.

The famed duck bone broth is handed to the hungry customers in Styrofoam cups.
On top are plastic, sippy lids.

The waitress looks at me. I am the only person not sitting. She says, “This part restaurant you only get fast duck okay.”
It wasn’t a question.

My son hands me the dripping umbrellas while my daughter happily points at the colourful pictures on the menu. My husband has already ordered a beer.
“Check this out.” He says. “It’s bloody ten percent alcohol.”

As I reach to find a place to stow the umbrellas I feel a squelch under my foot. I look at the bottom of my shoe; a discarded piece of duck has left a big grease stain on my sole.

I see my husband half jogging up Queen Street; he’s trying to protect his glasses from getting wet by crooking his arm over his head.
“Why’d you bring me here?” I ask.
“Because I know you were disappointed with what happened in Beijing.” He says. “This is exactly the same, only it’s the proper restaurant. Look no row of chefs carving ducks behind a glass window like in a friggin’ zoo and it’s all going to be served on … drum roll please … real plates.”

I take his hand and purposefully pull him back under the restaurant sign and out into the drizzly Melbourne rain. We walk up Queen Street in the direction of the parked car. He is bewildered.
“I know, I know.” I tell him, trying to find the words to explain. “But the food was. Just. Delicious.” I say.

And I mean it.

I really do.

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