The Beijing Duck House is not only a beloved go-to setting for hunger pangs and celebrations; it is its own world, inhabited by waiters and kitchen staff who have been fighting, loving, and aging within its walls for decades. When disaster strikes, this working family’s controlled chaos is set loose, forcing each character to confront the conflicts that fast-paced restaurant life has kept at bay.
So expertly does first-time novelist Lillian Li conjure the Beijing Duck House...that readers of Number One Chinese Restaurant can almost taste its signature dish and feel the heat of its woks ... Number One Chinese Restaurant, by turns darkly funny and heartbreaking, is sometimes over-plotted, but Ms. Li brings her characters to vivid life.
...[a] darkly hilarious debut novel ... The novel is tense from start to finish, taking place mostly in close quarters, indoors and internally ... The pacing is as quick as an industrial kitchen over dinner service, jumping from one emergency to the next. There is a wild fierceness to Li’s writing ... The flavor of Number One Chinese Restaurant is anything but typical, as Li combines broiling anger and slow-simmering love in delicious proportions.