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.
...noteworthy ... On a line-by-line level, there’s nothing particularly flashy about Li’s prose, but there’s a comfortable fluency to the narrative, and she tenderly captures the little intimacies between people that tell us everything we need to know about their relationships ... As such, Number One Chinese Restaurant makes for joyful reading, Li carefully twisting her narrative in and out of her characters’ lives, tightening their entanglements while also exposing the stories behind three generations of the American dream ... funny, tender, and tragic ... a perfectly seasoned delectable dish of a debut.
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.