Rice Plate Journal is a yearlong project to canvass Chinatown, block by block, discovering the good, the bad, and the hopelessly mediocre. Maximum entrée price: $10.
The conversation between the three women who work at Lucky Creation is as constant as the Stockton street traffic. Conducted in Cantonese, it bounces back and forth as the women wander around the tiny room, ricocheting off the cook who emerges from the back, circling around the cash register where they perch when the tables are either empty or occupied. Matching perms can make it hard for the halfhearted eavesdropper to pinpoint just who's holding the ball, conversationally, except when the blondest of the three breaks into song.
When you go to a ultra-ultra-liberal-arts college, your circle of friends tends to include more than the statistical average number of vegetarians. Which is how I began going to Lucky Creation for mixed gluten plates and unfamiliar species of mushrooms in the early 1990s.
Lucky Creation practices Buddhist Chinese cooking. It's a more rustic version of the food at Enjoy Vegetarian on Kearny, which cooks with a full spectrum of realistic-looking faux meats. At Lucky Creation, the tofu doesn't look like spare ribs. It looks like tofu. And some of the restaurant's gluten selection resembles barbecued pork bits, but most of it takes the more abstract forms of puffs and chunks, with slight variations on the same bright-red sauce.