|Clay pot rice from Utopia.|
There is a particular shade of teal that I'm beginning to associate with Rice Plate Journal food shots. It's the color of the tables at Utopia Cafe, Lucky Creation, and a couple of other places I've visited. And at Utopia Cafe, just a few doors off Washington on Waverly Place, the blue-green tables stand out against lemon-yellow walls decorated with pink menus -- an Easter basket of a room.
On every one of the teal tables, from the square two-tops along the sides of the room to the large round tables at its center, there is at least one brown stoneware pot, set on a cork trivet blackened from its heat. Utopia Cafe's patrons may have ordered any number of Cantonese stir-fried dishes and stews, but they're eating them with the restaurant's specialty: clay pot rice.
There are 15 varieties, all of which take 20 minutes to cook. Cuttlefish and minced pork. Spare ribs and black beans. Chinese sausage and preserved duck. All served with a few stems of baby bok choy draped over the top and a bowl of soy sauce, which you drizzle onto the rice, tinting the white grains beige and baking onto the sides of the pot, forming a dark brown crust.
On my first trip, I try the Chinese sausage and preserved duck, their salt and fat seeping down into the rice. There are two shades of sausage covering the rice: a sweeter pink lap cheong that leaves a faint taste of anise and spice on the lips, and a darker, muskier sausage with liver's metallic edge.