Cafe Reviews

A Mother Time, a Mother Place

C-Fu Gourmet, 2051 West Warner, Chandler, 899-3888. Hours: Dim sum, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., seven days a week.

"M" is for the million neuroses she gave me.
"O" means that her act is getting old.
"T" is for time I spend in therapy.
"H" is for her heart not made of gold.
"E" is for those eyes so cold and beady.
"R" means right, and right she has to be.
Put them all together they spell MOTHER.
She's screwed me up since 1963.

Moms come in all shapes and sizes. Beaver Cleaver had a good one. Norman Bates had a bad one. But it doesn't take the imagination of a science-fiction writer to see that 21st-century moms won't be at all like the ones we're familiar with. Test-tube babies carried by surrogate mothers are already here. Human cloning is just around the corner. In the future, you'll not only be able to have a girl just like the girl that married dear old dad, as the song says, you'll be able to have a girl exactly like the girl that married dear old dad. And no doubt researchers somewhere are working on out-of-body wombs, as Aldous Huxley predicted in Brave New World. When it's perfected, this process will put a decisive end to traditional motherhood, as well as cause massive layoffs at Hallmark Cards.

So let's enjoy Mother's Day before it goes the way of Labor Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day, the other celebrations whose original purpose we no longer remember. And what better way to show Mom how much we care than by taking her to brunch on her special day.

If Mom has a gastronomic sense of adventure, consider a dim sum meal at C-Fu Gourmet. The Valley's premier Chinese restaurant rolls out a nonstop array of goodies seven days a week, with an especially elaborate spread on weekends.

Big, cavernous and sparely decorated, C-Fu's dining rooms aren't much of a feast for the eyes. There's a sea of tables lined with foam-green linen. Most of the seats are filled by members of the Valley's Asian community. In the near room, customers can gaze on C-Fu's fish tanks, where dinner is so fresh it's still doing the backstroke. The larger back room features a quartet of big chandeliers and a large panel with Chinese characters, flanked by ceramic dragons.

The great charm of dim sum, of course, is the way it's served. There's no menu. Instead, you watch a carousel of pushcarts laden with Cantonese delights spin around the room. When a cart pulls up to your table, the driver will show you its wares. Point to what you want, then send her on her way and wait for the next wagon in the caravan to pull in. When you've got enough dishes to take care of your appetite for a while, start eating and let the procession wheel by. Ready for more? Just signal the carts to stop once again.

The hardest part about dealing with C-Fu's dim sum merry-go-round is figuring out which carts to stop. If you've got the willpower, you may want to watch the parade for a while to see what choices you have. If you don't have the willpower, however, don't fret: With the possible exception of such authentic native fare as chicken feet in black bean sauce, beef tripe with ginger and deep-fried seaweed rolls, even novices can't go wrong no matter which carts they pull over.

Dumplings and steamed buns are a key element in any dim sum meal, and C-Fu's have a quality that's pretty astonishing for a city that lacks a Chinatown. Pork dumplings, crab dumplings, shrimp dumplings and sublime shark's fin dumplings make a fine first course, a light prelude to more substantial fare. So do the buns filled with chicken and mushroom, barbecued pork and beef.

I'm a big rice-noodle fan, so I always look for the chow fun cart. C-Fu offers two varieties, a regular chow fun, thick and starchy, and a luscious pan-fried version.

If Mom wants to make sure she gets her vitamins, keep an eye out for the Chinese broccoli. The pushcart driver heaps a platter full of steaming greenery, seasoning it with a pungent oyster sauce. Nobody has to be told twice to finish these vegetables.

That's also true for the remarkable stuffed eggplant, possibly the single best dish here. Lovely, flavorful Japanese eggplant is filled with ground shrimp, then moistened with a savory black bean sauce. It's irresistible.

So is another rarely encountered dim sum specialty, sugar cane shrimp. It's fashioned here the same way it is in Vietnamese restaurants: Shrimp paste is rolled around a stick of sugar cane, then deep-fried. First, you eat the shrimp; then you suck on the sugar cane. Mom might get a kick, too, out of the steamed lotus leaf wrapped around a mix of chicken, barbecued pork and sweet, sticky rice.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Howard Seftel