It's just about 11 a.m. on a Sunday. It's grey and cold, and the sky threatens snow. That doesn't stop cars from lining Belmont Street in Belmont and groups of people, ranging in parties from 2 to 10 and of all ages, from lining up outside Shangri-La. They wait. There's light chatter and periods of silence.
By 11:25, there are about 40 people assembled in line. "Four minutes!" someone shouts. An elderly man who does not look he usually runs has sheer panic on his face as he sprints down the street to secure his place in line. His wife trails behind with equal looks of despair and annoyance.
Finally, at 11:32, the lights flick on, and a woman unlocks the door. The masses flood in. She tries her best to control the crowd; within minutes, everyone is seated, and the restaurant is alive with chatter, laughter, and food that is quickly leaving the kitchen and arriving to the tables.
At each seat, a silver teapot waits for guests, accompanied by a plate, chopsticks, napkin, and a teacup — all of the tools one needs for the popular dim sum brunch at Shangri-La.
Those lucky to get in on the first wave of people are rewarded with a bright green laminated menu with over sixty options to choose from. Those who do not secure a seat are presented with a small sticky note bearing a number on it, and they have the option of standing outside or milling around the center of the already crowded restaurant.
It's cold out, so a gaggle of people line up in the center of the room, making servers take on the role of acrobat as they balance full, heavy trays of food and weave around a hungry crowd.
The popular item that hits most tables first is the Chinese fried dough, a dramatically long tube that is meant to be dunked in a large bowl of soybean milk.
A big bowl of beef noodle soup arrives at the table, and its aromatic spiciness makes one easily forget waiting in line so long to be here. It's packed with noodles and gelatinous, tender chunks of beef.
Not to be missed: the turnip cake. Similar to a crispy tater tot, the cake comes cut into triangles with a thick, shatteringly crispy golden brown exterior and a creamy white center. It's best doused in what can only be described as Asian ketchup, a tomatoey sauce with a rich, five-spice and soy flair to it.