WE JUST came from a dive, and as expected, were counting down the minutes till hunger strikes. Diving makes you feel hungry in a whole different way. So, where’s a nice place to head to when you’re somewhere in Sasa?

The idea of Japanese food sounded enticing, except that the Japanese restaurant in Lanang beside the Subaru showroom is no longer open. It’s under renovation, the guard said. So is the buffet restaurant beside it, the Jaime’s.

“Ang West Empire lang ang open, ma’am,” the amiable guard says.

West Empire Chinese Restaurant is the restaurant on the second floor of this building beside the showroom of Subaru that we haven’t tried yet for one reason: It’s far from downtown, and that was after Sun.Star Davao moved downtown and left its R. Castillo Street office that was closer to Lanang. (We were able to try Chio’s and Jaime’s while we were in faraway R. Castillo).

But we were that way last Thursday, and hunger pangs were starting to gnaw. There was just Marivi and I though. This means, limited tummy capacity, never mind if we were both feeling ravenous. Feeling is subjective, tummy space is measurable.

We each got our dimsum of choice, Marivi got the shrimp siomai, I got the chicken feet. Some time ago, a long-time buddy who happens to be a Fil-Chinese told me that the best way to check out a dimsum is to try how they make their chicken feet, and so I always order that when trying out a Chinese restaurant offering dimsum. For our main dish, I chose seafood with tofu and we paired that with Yang Chow fried rice.

The chicken feet is very tender, but… wasn’t gelatinous. That makes it okay, but not worth raving about. The siomai was firm and malaman. Very good.

The yang chow had all the components of a yang chow minus the strong taste of MSG. Yey! The seafood and tofu had a lot of sea cucumber in it, a shrimp, and a few fillets of cream dory. I’m not sure if you like it that way, but again, the flavors were well-blended sans the strong taste of MSG, and that makes it very good.

Is that how they cook it or was that a fluke? We hope it wasn’t a fluke because we liked it that way.

West Empire has an appetizing long list from dimsum to live lapu-lapu. When we were there, there were four other tables occupied. One by a group of four women and three young girls, a couple, another couple, and a group of four. They all appeared like they know what they wanted to eat out there; they must be regulars.

The West Empire is a welcome addition to the Chinese restaurants in the city and a welcome addition to those living in the northern areas.