If you are a fan of cozy food dramas where nothing much happens besides chatting and eating, Tao Wong’s new novella will definitely be up your alley. Colourful characters and a cozy setting mix with detailed food descriptions to provide a comfy read for a rainy day
About the book and its author
Tao Wong is a prolific Malaysian Canadian writer based out of Toronto. All of his books are self-published making it that much more impressive to me that there was an excellent audio version available of his upcoming novella. In fact there are audio versions available of many Tao Wong titles. The author writes all sorts of different genres including xianxia inspired cultivation novels, LitRPG video game inspired worlds, and urban fantasy stories. If you’ve read books like Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation or Solo Leveling you’ll be familiar with the first two genres. The Nameless Restaurant falls more into the third category of urban fantasy.
The Nameless Restaurant is listed as the first book in a new Hidden Dishes series. The book reads alone quite well although it is clear that some readers might already know the characters involved from the author’s fantasy series Hidden Wishes.
The Nameless Restaurant centres around an obscure little restaurant in downtown Toronto. It has no name, it has no menu, and it has no social media presence. What it does have is and incredible cook who has been around for centuries, and a lot of magical wards to keep the rain (amongst other things) out. The story starts around lunch time. As the proprietor of the restaurant preps for dinner, a troublesome Jinn from his past works her way past all of his wards in order to demand some food. She and her companion Henry (of the Hidden Wishes series) eat their fill and plan to return for dinner. The majority of the story occurs over the dinner hours. Multiple patrons experience the evening’s Malaysian menu with varying responses, but all of them include the bliss of a delicious meal.
I really, REALLY enjoyed this little story. I will definitely be checking out the Hidden Wishes series. The characters of Henry and his Jinn companion were very interesting, and I’m very excited to see the story of how they came together. Plus, I loved reading Solo Leveling and I just generally enjoy urban fantasy type stories. The descriptions of the food in this book were fantastic. I was hungry the whole time and I wish there were a Malaysian restaurant nearby I could go to. A couple of the dishes were described in such detail that I think I could probably make them for myself based out of this book alone.
The different characters who enter the restaurant each have their own stories. There are reasons why they have found their way to The Nameless Restaurant. They come and go throughout the evening, each experiencing the restaurant in their own unique way. Mages, dwarves, jinn, and even an ice giant all come to enjoy a satisfying meal. Oh, and humans, sometimes even humans find their way into the restaurant. Interestingly, the novella culminates with a sort of philosophical discussion about the nature of our current pandemic and the way that it is affecting the magical communities. The discussion turns to whether or not the pandemic could be cured magically by, say, an extremely powerful jinn? I won’t go into detail, but I found the discussion very interesting. It reminded me of the types of discussions that happen over an Irish Whiskey at Callahan’s Place.
Though the story is short, taking place over a single day, there is enough time for character growth and development. It’s impressive how much Tao Wong has packed into so few words. The narrator of the audiobook is Emily Woo Zeller, whom I have listened to before. If you’re not an avid audiobook listener, you still might be familiar with her work in videogames and anime dubs. She does an excellent job bringing the different characters to life through her narration. My only complaint, and it’s a minor one, is with the way that she pronounces Toronto. Nobody who lives anywhere near the city would actually pronounce it that way, but I guess reading all the letters as written isn’t a crime 😜
If you’re a reader who loves the worlds of Asian webnovels, but who’s tired of tracking down decent translations, I recommend checking out the works of Tao Wong. Perhaps The Nameless Restaurant won’t be for you, but maybe one of his many other worlds will be.