Noodle Village – Good Hong Kong Style Food in Chinatown

Noodle Village serves Hong Kong style Cantonese food.  I’m not quite sure how I can describe the difference between Hong Kong style Cantonese food versus Cantonese food in the rest of Guang Dong (the province that Cantonese food comes from) as I haven’t spent a huge amount of time in the rest of Guang Dong, so it’s possible it’s like this everywhere, but from my understanding HK definitely has its’ own style of food.  Many of the dishes that are served at Noodle Village are very emblematic of the types of dishes you find at a lot of casual small restaurants in HK.

The restaurant is reasonably nice and clean, better than most restaurants in Chinatown.  The service was fine.  They also claim that they don’t use any MSG, I don’t know if that is true or not, but I didn’t taste any in my food.

Here’s what we got:

Spicy Fried Fish Ball (La La Yu Dan Chuan): These were fried fish balls on skewers that were covered with a dried shrimp paste, chili oil, diced scallions and bits of fried garlic. I think they may make their own fish balls as they had good flavor and texture and didn’t taste like frozen ones. The shrimp paste was awesome and other condiments really went well with everything. These were really good, similar to the type of thing you get in HK. 8.5/10

Braised Beef Brisket Noodle Soup HK Style (Niu Nan Wang Tang Mian): The broth was light and not salty.  It was pretty decent, but I thought it was a little bit on the bland side; it didn’t have the deeper flavor you get with really good broth.  That said it was better than most of the broths you get in most noodle shops in ctown. The brisket was tender and had good flavor although it was a bit on the fatty side.  It also had tripe which was pretty good as well.  I got it with he fen (thick white rice noodle), which were good as well. Overall, it was pretty decent. 7.5/10

Chinese Broccoli & Yau Choy with Oyster Sauce (Hao You Shuang Cai): This was pretty standard, but good.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked and tasted good with the oyster sauce.  8/10

Pork with Salted Fish Clay Pot Rice (Xian Yu Rou Bing Bao Zai Fan): The claypot they use is a little smaller and wider than normal, but this kind of turned out to be good because there was a lot of the crusty rice at the bottom which I like a lot. The pork patty was pretty decent although it was a little too salty.  The soy sauce they use is okay, but it’s not home-made and was a lot saltier than at good places.  Overall, this was good, it’s not as good as A-Wah was at its peak , but it’s better than A-Wah is currently. 7.75/10

Clay Pot Rice with Sausage, Bacon and Spare Ribs: Same description as the other, but I didn’t like this this one as much as the other one because a lot of the toppings were a little on the dry side. 7/10

Fried Buns with Condensed Milk (Zha Man Tou): These are hard to screw up, I thought they were a little over fried, but they were still tasty. 7.75/10

Overall, it was quite good.  I was pretty happy with the preparation of the food as it was lighter than most food in Chinatown.  I’ll definitely be returning and writing more about it.

Address:
13 Mott St (between Chatham Sq & Mosco Street)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 233-0788

Food Gallery 32 – An Interesting New Food Court in Ktown

Food Gallery 32 is located on 32nd Street in the middle of Koreatown in a space that used to be a bank. It was supposed to open in the summer, but it finally just opened very recently.

It looks similar to what a lot of food courts in malls in Asia look like and it has a mix of Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese food. There are 3 floors, the 1st floor has all the actual stalls and up front there is a single cash register area where you order your food and they give you a buzzer that buzzes when your food is ready. The seating is located on the 2nd floor and the 3rd floor. It also looks like the 3rd floor is going to have a crepe / drink place and Red Mango is moving from their current location into the 1st floor. Everything is brand new and very clean.

Here’s a list of the places:

  1. Boon Sik Zip: serves boon shik food which is basically Korean street food
  2. Pastel: serves Japanese food like katsu, curry rice, omelette rice etc.
  3. O-de-ppang: serves Japanese food such as donburi, teppanyaki, onigiri
  4. Bian Dang: serves Taiwanese food, it’s the guys from the NYC Cravings truck. Bian Dang means lunchbox in Chinese
  5. Big Bowl: serves ramen and various Korean noodle dishes
  6. Hanok: serves more regular Korean food with various chigae, bokum dishes etc
  7. Jin Jja Roo: serves Korean-Chinese food

Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

Soon Dae (Korean Blood Sausage):

This was from Boon Sik Zip. Soon dae is a Korean blood sausage that is filled with rice which you dip in some seasoned salt. Soon dae is a pretty popular dish and I like it a lot when it’s done right. Unfortunately, I think the one here might have been frozen before because it was sort of dry and the flavor wasn’t that great. 6.5/10

Fried Squid:

This was from Boon Sik Zip. I don’t know why I always order this at Korean boon shik places because it’s usually been sitting around too long and the batter is always too thick, but I made that mistake again. The squid itself was fine and it was freshly fried, but the batter was too thick and oily. 6.25/10

Odeng (Fish Cake Soup):

This was from Boon Sik Zip. The soup itself wasn’t bad, it was fairly light and not overly salty. The fish cakes themselves were decent although I think they were a frozen kind based on the texture which was too soft, homemade fish cake have a much firmer texture and more flavor. It was decent though. 6.75/10

Beef Kim Bap:

This was from Boon Sik Zip. This was pretty decent, the flavoring was good and the ingredients tasted good. The rice was fine as well. The beef was a little dry, but aside from that it was pretty decent. 7/10

Jja Jang Myun (Noodles in Brown Sauce):

This was from Jin Jja Roo. This is one of the staple Korean-Chinese dishes and its noodles in a dark sauce that has a lot of onions and pieces of pork in it. The noodles were fine and were reasonably al dente, however the sauce was a bit bland, so I thought it was just so so overall. 6.5/10

Kkan Poong Gi (Fried Chicken in Spicy Garlic Sauce):

This was from Jin Jja Roo. This is another typical Korean-Chinese dish. This was much better than the jja jang myun. The chicken was fried well and was nice and crispy. The sauce was a bit tangy and more spicy than usual which I liked. I think Hyo Dong Gak’s version is better, but this was pretty good and better than Shanghai Mong down the street. 7.5/10

Hambak Steak:

This is from Pastel. I’m not sure why it was called “Hambak Steak”, but its hamburger covered in gravy with rice. You find this at a lot of Japanese places. The hamburger meat itself was cooked decently and wasn’t dry. The gravy was a bit tangy and sweet, I’d prefer it less sweet though. Overall, it was pretty decent. 7.25/10

Pork Chop Over Rice:

This is from Bian Dang. This is a very typical dish in Taiwan and its’ called pai gu fan in Chinese. It is a fried pork chop over rice that has a stewed pork belly sauce and pickled vegetables on it. The pork chop was cooked nicely and was tender. However, it didn’t have nearly enough five spice powder in it, so it was a bit under flavored. The meat sauce had decent flavor, but was too salty. The pickled vegetable was decent. Overall, it has potential, but they need to work on the seasoning a bit if they changed it a little bit I think they’d have a pretty decent product. 6.75/10

Zong Zi (Chinese Tamale):

This was from Bian Dang, they gave it to me for free as an opening promotion. It contained glutinous rice, peanuts, dried shrimp, pork, Chinese sausage, green beans, raddish and mushrooms. The filling was good, but the rice was a little too mushy, if they steamed it correctly it would be pretty good. 6.75/10

Overall, it’s sort of a mixed bag as some of the food I tried was pretty decent and other dishes were mediocre. However, it is very cheap and quite convenient. I plan on coming back and trying more dishes to find out what else might be good.

Address:
11 W. 32nd Street
New York, NY 10001
(212) 967-1678

Sea Harbour – Still the Best Dim Sum in LA

To caveat the title of this post, Elite maybe of similar quality, but it’s been a while since I’ve been there.

Sea Harbour 海港 has been my favorite dim sum place in LA for a long time and it is probably the best dim sum I’ve had in the US.  For reference in Hong Kong I think it would be considered a pretty decent dim sum place.  Sea Harbour’s dim sum is similar in style to what you find in Hong Kong these days in that you order off the menu so the dim sum is much fresher than the old school carts, the preparation tastes much lighter and less oily than old school places and there are a lot of new types of dim sum that you won’t see in old school cart type places.  I much prefer Sea Harbour’s more modern dim sum to old school cart type places.

The restaurant is a large open room with a few smaller more private rooms along the sides.  It has tanks in the back with various live fish and seafood in them.  It is actually very clean and nicely laid out.  We sat in the small room in the back left.  I’m not used to nice and clean Chinese restaurants because I’ve been living in NY for so long where most restaurants are generally rundown and old looking, so it was a nice change of pace.  The service was good and attentive especially considering it was for dim sum when the service is normally non-existent.

Here’s what we got:

Pork Dumplings with Shrimp and Roe (Yu Zi Shao Mai Huang):

These were good, they were steamed perfectly, the pork was tender and flavorful, the shrimps tasted fresh and they were just generally of good quality.  8.25/10

Crystal Chive Dumplings (Xian Xia Jiu Cai Jiao):

These are generally not my favorite type of dumplings as I’m not a huge fan of the gelatinous skins, but some of my family likes these, so I ordered them.  The skins were good and the filling was nice with the chives and shrimp.  They’re still not my thing, but these were a good rendition.  7.5/10

Beef Rice Noodle (Niu Rou Shou La Chang): 

This is a classic dim sum dish done well.  The rice noodles was thin and cooked perfectly, the beef was perfectly minced and well spiced and the soy sauce was light.  It wasn’t remotely oily or heavy and was very good.  8.5/10

Shrimp Rice Noodle (Xian Xia Shou La Chang):

Ditto my review for the beef rice noodle except with perfectly cooked shrimp.  8.25/10

Lotus Paste Bun (Feng Huang Jin Sha Bao):

These were very good.  The buns were steamed perfectly, the ratio of filling to bun was good and the lotus paste was smooth and not too sweet.  8/10

Snow Buns (Hai Gang Xue Shan Bao):

Wow I haven’t had these in a long time and these were so good.  The outside is a bit salty and the inside has an egg white custard that is light and sweet, but too sweet.  I really liked these, they were so good I actually tried to order some to go, but the guy told me they are the most popular dish and they had run out by the time I had ordered them. This was my favorite dish of the day. 8.75/10

Steamed Pork Bun (Hao Huang Cha Shao Bao):

These were good, the bun was fresh, the bun to meat ratio was good and the pork (cha shao) itself was good, no weird parts and not overly fatty.  The only thing is that they use the sweeter red sauce and I prefer the more savory brown sauce, but it was still good.  8/10

Beef Tendon and Tripe Rice Noodle Bowl (Niu Nan Chang Fen Bao): 

I hadn’t tried this before.  It was stewed beef tendon and tripe over rolled up rice noodle in a metal pot.  The beef tendon and tripe has been stewed in a broth with star anise and five spice powder.  The meat was very tender and flavorful.  The rice noodle was cooked well as well.  I liked the flavor although I thought it could’ve used a little more sauce, but it was good.  7.75/10

Fried Tofu in Abalone Sauce (Bao Shi Pa Dou Fu):

This was silky tofu that had been fried and they covered in a light brown abalone sauce.  The tofu was fried nicely and the sauce was very light and also pretty light in flavor.  I liked this although I think it’s pretty Chinese, so I’m not sure everyone would appreciate it as it’s quite subtle.  7.75/10

Fried Taro Cake (Jian Jiao Yu Tou Gao): 

This is the one dish I thought was just decent.  It was fried on the outside nicely, but I thought the inside was a little dry and a bit bland.  Oyster sauce made it a lot better.  7/10

Radish Cake with XO Sauce (XO Jiang Luo Bo Gao):

This was interesting as I hadn’t had this before.  It was cubes of pan fried minced radish cake tossed in an XO sauce then covered in scallions and bean sprouts.  I liked it although I thought it could have used more XO sauce as it was a bit on the plain side. 7.5/10

Egg Custard (Su Pi Dan Ta):

These were quite good.  The custard had a good egg-y flavor and it had a nice crust.  I just wish they had the Portuguese version which is burnt on top, but these were still good nonetheless. 7.75/10

Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (Chu Zhuo Jie Lan):

This was standard, but good.  The broccoli was cooked well and tasted good with the oyster sauce.  7.75/10

Baked Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao):

They were bringing these around and asking if we wanted them.  My family really likes these although I prefer the steamed version.  However, these turned out to be really good.  The bread was great, the sweet stuff they brush on the top wasn’t overly sweet and the meat inside tasted great. 8.25/10

Overall, I was really pleased the quality of the food, it was so much better than any place in NY.  I also really want to try it for dinner after reading Exilekiss’s review of dinner there, alas it will probably have to wait until my next trip back home as I’m back in NY now.

Address:
3939 Rosemead Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
(626) 288-3939

Yu’s Garden – Pretty Decent Taiwanese Food in Irvine

Yu’s Garden is located in the small Chinese / Asian area of Irvine off the Jeffrey exit on the 5 freeway.  There are several Chinese places in the two strip malls there and most of them are Taiwanese.  In general, the best place out of all of them is probably A&J (Ban Mu Yuan), but A&J is really the Taiwanese take on mainly northern Chinese dishes or Taiwanese breakfast on the weekends, so they don’t have a lot of more “classic” Taiwanese dishes.  They’ve left that to places such as Yu’s Garden.

I believe Yu’s Garden either changed owners or management because the manager who runs the place is the lady who used to run Nice Time Deli which is about 3 doors down.   She is extremely friendly and the service is actually pretty good here.  Both the service and the food have improved since the prior management.

The place is fairly small and probably sits around 25 people or so.  It has two types of food: 1) a steam table type set up with various cold dishes and hot dishes laid out on display; it will remind you of a bian dang (lunch box) type restaurants in Taiwan and 2) an actual sit down menu.  The food at the steam table part is actually pretty decent, but in this trip we ordered off the sit down menu.  When you sit they will ask if you if you want zhou (rice porridge) or rice with your meal and then will bring you a big bowl of it.

Here’s what we got:

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji):

Three cup chicken is called three cup chicken because it uses sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine.  The dish consists of diced chicken on the bone that has been cooked with the previously mentioned ingredients as well as basil, sugar and ginger in a clay pot kind of thing.  The result is tender chicken that is slightly crispy on the outside is a semi sweet sauce.  The chicken was nice and tender and easy to get off the bone.  The sauce was not overly sweet or gloppy and tasted good.  I thought this was a good rendition of the dish.  7.75/10

Egg Omelet with Sliced Radish:

The picture looks like a regular omelet however there are finely sliced radish strips in the omelet, but given radish’s mild flavor it will taste pretty similar to a regular omelet albeit with more texture.  This was pretty good and a nice compliment to the other dishes.  I recommend getting some chili oil or paste to eat with this.  7.5/10

Shredded Pork with Dried Tofu (Xiang Gan Rou Si):

I’m a big fan of this dish which is shredded pork sautéed with a type of dried smoked tofu (dou gan).  Sometimes they put chilis or sliced spicy green peppers in it as well, but they do not here. The pork was nice and tender and the dou gan tasted nice as well.  It was not overly salty or oily either.  However, I did think it was missing a dimension of flavor that a great version has and I would’ve preferred some spicy peppers and maybe some more scallions, but overall it tasted good.  7.5/10

Egg Flower Soup (Dan Hua Tang):

I originally ordered fish ball soup, but they ran out so I ordered this because my sister likes it.  While I’m not a huge fan of egg drop soup the version here was surprisingly good.  It was very light and not overly salty.  It also tasted of sesame oil which was a nice touch with the flavor of the egg.  It turned out to be a good compliment to the meal.  7.5/10

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and I think the food has gotten better overtime.  It’s not a destination restaurant as you can get better in the SGV, but if you’re in the area or if you live in OC and want Taiwanese food it’s worth checking out.

Address:
5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 654-2366

Ken’s Seafood Restaurant – Pretty Decent But Not Great Cantonese Food in Philadelphia

I was in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving to see my GF’s family and we decided to go to Chinese food on actual Thanksgiving Day so that her mom wouldn’t have to cook.  I was debating between Ken’s and Tai Lake as those seemed to be the most highly recommended restaurants in Chinatown.  We picked Ken’s because I was able to reserve a private room.   This was the first time I’ve ever eaten in Philly’s Chinatown, so I was curious to see if it was any good.

Ken’s is a three story restaurant in the heart of Philly’s Chinatown.  Its décor was pretty rundown for a full service restaurant (i.e. not some quick noodle take out type place) even by Chinatown standards.  Our private room was on the 2nd floor and had a karaoke machine.  The service was pretty decent and the servers were friendly.  The restaurant was probably half full.

Here’s what we got:

Fish Maw Soup (Yu Du Tang): 

Fish maw is actually the air bladder of a fish.  They are dried and then re-constituted in soup; it is a very common Cantonese soup.  While it sounds like a weird ingredient, it’s actually very mild tasting and doesn’t have a weird texture, so I’ve found that even those who are squimish for anything weird are usually fine with it.  The soup itself is very mild tasting and you have to add white pepper and red vinegar to make it more flavorful.  The version here was fine, but they put too much starch in it, so it was a bit more “gloppy” than it should be.  7/10

Salt Baked Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):

The batter was a little heavier than it should be and it didn’t have enough salt in it.  I also like more fried garlic and jalapenos on it.  The version here is decent, but not great.  6.75/10

 Pan Fried Fish:

They recommended this fish, which I am blanking as to what kind of fish it was now.  I asked them to prepare it pan fried as one of my GF’s relatives prefers it that way (I prefer it steamed “qing zheng”).  The fish meat was fine quality as the meat was reasonably tasty and not fishy at all.  However, they cooked a fish a little too long so it was drier than it should be and the sauce was a bit too oily.  Good Cantonese fish has the flavor that something oily / fried except its not oily or heavy at all; this fish didn’t really meet that criteria. 6.75/10

Peking Duck (Bei Jing Kao Ya):

They made a pretty decent albeit a bit heavy version of Cantonese Peking duck.  The skin was crispy and flavorful.  The meat was tender and flavorful.  The mantou was freshly steamed so they were nice and fluffy.  The plum sauce was fine although it did have this smoky flavor that was a bit different and I wasn’t crazy about.  Overall though I thought it was pretty good. 7.5/10

Stir Fried Razor Clams in XO Sauce:

Our waiter said these were good.  They were stir fried razor clams out of the shell and snap peas in XO sauce (dried seafood, chili, oil and garlic).  The razor clams were pretty good and not overcooked.  The snap peas were cooked well as well.  Overall, it was a pretty decent dish.  7.5/10

Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):

It’s sort of hard to screw this dish up and the version here was pretty decent.  The sauce wasn’t gloppy, but it was too sweet.  The pork chops were tender and nice tasting.  They cut them up a little too small, but that was fine. 7.5/10

Fried Rice:

This was just typical fried rice, I thought it was a bit heavy because the last fried rice I had was at Seafood Village in LA which makes amazing fried rice, but aside from that it was fine.  7/10

Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves (Qing Chao Dou Miao):

A pretty standard version of sautéed snow pea leaves in oil and garlic.  It was a little too oily, but was generally pretty decent. 7/10

Sweet Red Bean Soup:

This was given as the typical complementary tang shui (sweet soup) at the end of the meal.  It was surprisingly good; I actually ate two bowls of it.  It wasn’t watery like many places serve it.  I believe they mixed some coconut milk into it because it had a creamy coconut-y flavor to it.  I liked this soup a lot.  7.75/10

I think I might have made a mistake and should’ve gone to Tai Lake as we walked by it afterwards and it was completely packed with a lot of people waiting outside for a table and was mainly a Chinese clientele.  It also looked significantly nicer décor wise.  Ken’s wasn’t bad, but wasn’t anything special.

Address:
1004 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19176
(215) 925-3837

Old Sichuan – Good Sichuan Food in Chinatown

Last night I went to Old Sichuan 老正川 with some chowhound people.  It is a new Sichuan restaurant that is located where the now defunct Yeah Shanghai Deluxe used to be.  According to some people on chowhound, it is the same owners as Yeah Shanghai Deluxe.
The owner was extremely nice and very talkative.  She runs Old Sichuan and her husband runs Old Shanghai Deluxe down the street.  I’m pretty sure she is Shanghainese, but I didn’t ask her specifically.  She told us that the chef at Old Sichuan is from Chengdu, which is the capital of Sichuan province.  He started cooking when he was 19 and has been cooking for 30 years.

The restaurant is reasonably nice with exposed brick and this weird bridge with a rock formation and water along the wall when you first enter to the restaurant.  It’s clean and much nicer looking than most Chinatown restaurants.

On to the food:

Roasted Peanuts and Seaweed:

This was served at the beginning of the meal. Both of them were pretty standard and self-explanatory, but they were good.  7.75/10

Pickled Cabbage (Si Chuan Pao Cai):

I’m not a huge fan of this generally, it’s just pickled white cabbage.  It’s a good version here though, crispy cabbage, good flavor and not overly sour. 7/10

Ox Tongue & Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce (Fu Qi Fei Pian):

This a famous Sichuan dish made of thin slices of tendon, tongue and tripe served cold in spicy red oil sauce with chopped up peanuts and chili peppers.  The version here is excellent, very clean tasting and you could taste both the ma (numbing sensation) and the la (spicy).  I really liked this dish a lot.  8/10

Sliced Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce (Suan Ni Bai Rou):

This was definitely my favorite dish of the night.  The dish is thin sliced pork served cold topped with spicy red oil, garlic, chopped peanuts, diced scallions and red chili.  The sauce was spicy, but really fragrant and slightly sweet.  I really liked this and I could eat a whole plate of this with some rice and be happy.  8.5/10

Pan Fried Chicken Tiny Bun (Sheng Jian Bao):

Normally, I’d never order these at a Sichuan restaurant, but the owner recommended them and I believe she is Shanghainese, so it sounded like a reasonable idea.  She told us how they use chicken meat instead of pork, which is the normal meat you use.  The bottoms were perfectly crispy, the bun was not too doughy or thin and the meat inside was tender and flavorful.  I thought these were really good.  8.25/10

Water Cooked Fish (Shui Zhu Yu):

I think this dish was actually on the specials menu which is only written in Chinese on a blackboard.  In this dish, the meat is poached in water then put in a bowl with chili peppers and vegetables and then a bath of hot vegetable oil is poured over it.  The result is very tender meat, but a very oily and spicy bath of sauce over it.  The fish meat was excellent; it was a clean tasting white fish that was super tender although maybe too tender as it was hard to pick up.  Although the sauce was quite spicy, I felt was missing something.  When you have a really good version the sauce is very flavorful, but I felt it was a bit under flavored.  Overall, I thought it was quite good, but not amazing.  7.75/10

Shredded Potatoes with Vinegar Sauce (Suan Liu Tu Dou Si):

This was interesting and was recommended by the owner.  It was julienned potato strips with a few julienned sliced green peppers and carrots in it.  The dish was served hot and had a sour vinegar sauce on it.  I thought it was a bit plain; it would’ve been better if it more sour.  I wasn’t crazy about it, it would have been better cold.  6.75/10

Lamb with Cumin Flavor (Zi Ran Yang):

This is the typical sliced lamb in cumin.  The lamb was very tender here and not gamey.  The cumin was not as strong as most places and was also not really noticeable on the outside like it normally is. I liked it, but I think Szechuan Gourmet’s version is better.  7.5/10

Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken (Chong Qing La Zi Ji):

Generally, I’m not a huge fan of this dish.  This is small chunks of dark meat chicken on the bone in a bath of chili.  The version here is pretty decent, but I’m still not a huge fan of the dish.  7/10

Sour String Beans with Minced Pork (Suan Dou Jiao Rou Mo):

This looks like a Taiwanese dish called cang ying tou, but tastes completely different.  It was finely diced snake beans with minced pork and some other vegetables.  The beans are sour, but I found the dish oddly bland.  It wasn’t bad, but didn’t have that wok flavor or anything all that distinctive about it.  I feel like it could be really good, but was just decent.  7/10

Sweet Eight Jewel Taro (Ba Bao Xiang Yu):

This was interesting, normally ba bao fan is made with nuo mi (sticky rice), but here she told us a specialty of theirs was to make it out of taro root.  It’s a mound of mashed taro that has sweet red bean paste inside it and raisins and dates on top of it.  They pour a condensed milk sauce over it.  Clearly, an extremely healthy dish!  I liked it a lot though, however it is a very Chinese old people type of dish, so I’m quite certain there are a lot of people who would disagree and not like it at all.  7.75/10

Overall, it was a mix of some very good dishes and some decent dishes, but a lot of promise.  I thought the dishes were probably a little better executed than most Sichuan restaurants in the city.  I definitely plan on coming back, so I would recommend trying this place out.

Address:
65 Bayard St
Manhattan, NY 10013
(212) 227-9888
https://oldsichuanrestaurant.com/

New J&B (formerly King’s Seafood) – Potentially The Worst Dim Sum I Have Ever Had

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED**

I generally think I’m pretty good at filtering restaurants. I’ve usually researched a restaurant enough to figure out whether there is a reasonable chance that it’s good or if it’s something like Chinese food where reviews can be unreliable you can usually scout it out to see if there are tell tale signs that could be good.  In the case of New J&B there were a lot of signs that it should be good: hidden, crowded and not a single non-Chinese patron (nothing wrong with non-Chinese, but generally if I don’t see a lot of the given ethnicity in a restaurant I immediately get skeptical).  Unfortunately, they all these signs were very wrong.

I noticed this place a while ago when it was called King’s Seafood (it is also called New J&B on the check).  The state of dim sum in Manhattan is quite bad, so I’m always trying to find a new good dim sum restaurant.   So my GF and I walked in on a Saturday around 11am to check it out.

New J&B located on the 2nd floor of a commercial building on East Broadway in Chinatown.  When you walk in, it looks like a typical Chinese banquet hall.  It was quite crowded and so I was hoping maybe I’d found a new gem.  However, that was not the case.

Here’s what we got:

Steamed Shrimp Rice Crepe (Ha Cheung Fan / Xia Chang Fen):

This was the only dish that was even passable.  It was okay, the rice noodle was a bit thicker than it should be, the shrimps were okay and the soy sauce was fine.  It wasn’t terrible, but just okay.  6.5/10

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling (Ha Gao / Xia Jiao):

Wow, these were so bad.  They were way oversteamed, so they all stuck to each other and paper at the bottom of the steamer, they’d completely fall apart by the time you got done un-sticking them from the paper and the other dumplings.  The skins were really thick and gooey.  The shrimp filling was bland and just generally mediocre.  One of the worst renditions I’ve ever had. 4/10

Pork and Thousand Year Egg Congee (Pi Dan Zhu Rou Zhou):

I don’t normally get this at dim sum because I usually find congee at dim sum places tends to be sort of mediocre.  However, we were sort of craving it so we tried it out.  The congee was flavorless, there was barely any pork or thousand year egg in it and I think it had been sitting around too long because it was luke warm.  Another bad dish.  5.5/10

Zha Liang (Fried Crueller Wrapped in Rice Crepe):

This is one of my favorite dim sum dishes.  However, again it was a travesty here.  The rice dough was too thick and had clearly been sitting around for a while as it was sort of cold and stiff.  The fried crueller (you tiao) in the middle was mushy and had also been sitting around too long.  We barely ate any of this.  3.5/10

Clams in Black Bean Sauce (Dou Chi Jiang Ge Li):

I really like clams in black bean sauce.  In an attempt to salvage the meal, I went over to the station where they were cooking fresh food hoping that it would be better than the garbage we had eaten so far.  However, this was probably the worst renditions of the dish I’ve ever had.  The black bean sauce was a flavorless gloppy mess.  The clams were overcooked and rubbery.  This was awful.  3/10

This is my first really bad review I’ve written in a really long time.  Oriental Garden served me one of my worst dim sum experiences ever and this was worse than that.  I couldn’t believe that place had any patrons even places like Golden Unicorn which I do not like at all are better.  I definitely recommend not going here.

Address:
39-41 E Broadway
New York, NY 10079
(212) 233-3359

Ka Wah – My Favorite Bakery in Chinatown

Chinatown is chock full of bakeries.  Most of the bakeries fall into two categories they are either a) old school style cha chaan teng (茶餐廳, cha can ting, literally “tea restaurant”) that serve various old school Cantonese buns and pastries or b) more modern bakeries that have all types of pastries, buns and crazy cakes shaped into cartoon characters.  For example, Mei Li Wah would fall under the cha chaan teng category and Fay Da / Tai Pan would fall under the latter category.  Generally, the quality can vary from pretty decent to just okay.  It is sort of hard to tell which ones will be good and which ones will just so so because they really all look very similar.

Ka Wah is a throwback and is closer to being in the cha chaan teng category.  It is an old school Cantonese bakery that is in the eastern part of Chinatown jammed in the middle of a completely Fujian neighborhood.  Based on that fact and the décor, I think this bakery must be very old.  It’s run by 3 old Cantonese ladies, who are pretty old school themselves. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding their Mandarin because they have such a thick Cantonese accent.

Unlike most bakeries in Chinatown, this place only serves maybe 8-10 different types of pastries and maybe 4-5 different types of buns.  All of it is Cantonese classics: dan ta (egg custard), dan gao (sponge cake), lao po bing (wife cake, a pastry filled with a sweet winter melon filling), almond cookies, ji wei bao (cocktail bun), bo luo bao (pineapple bun) and a few other things.  They also serve good yin yang cha (yuan yang cha, coffee and tea mixed with evaporated milk and sugar), nai cha (tea with condensed milk) and coffee.
I come here on the weekends usually fairly early around 10:30am-11am when the pastries are fresh (they taste better in the morning when they are fresher).

Here are some of the things I get:

Sponge Cake (Dan Gao):

This place probably has the best sponge cake I’ve had in Chinatown.  The cake is very light and airy with a great egg-y flavor and it’s soft as a pillow.  I really like these and they are so light you can eat them like they were nothing and they go great with some yin yang cha.  As a word of advice these in particular taste much better in the morning when they are fresh. 8.5/10

Wife Cake (Lao Po Bing):

They make a good version here.  The crust is nice and flaky and the inside is flavorful and not overly sweet.  However, this is an old school type of pastry and it’s very Chinese, so I’m not sure everyone will like this.  My GF thinks that its “old people food” and she doesn’t like it at all.  She also says I like “old people food” when it comes to desserts, so this is the type of thing I like, but I’m sure there will be a decent amount of people who do not.  7.75/10

Egg Custard (Dan Ta):

Hands down the best dan ta in Chinatown.  The crust is flaky, crispy and buttery without being overly buttery.  The custard is nice and egg-y and not overly sweet.  They sell both the small versions and large version.  I prefer the small version as I like the ratio of custard to crust better.  These are great.  8/10

Coconut Tart:

I always forget what this is called in Chinese.  I’m not totally sure why I always end getting these because I don’t love them and it’s not the version here just in general.  I guess it’s a nostalgia thing because I grew up eating stuff like this.  Anyhow, the version here is good. 7/10

Drinks:

I forgot to take pictures, but these guys make some of the best yin yang cha (yuan yang cha, coffee and tea mixed with evaporated milk and sugar) and nai cha (tea with condensed milk) in Chinatown.  I always get a cup of it when I come here.  7.75/10

Overall, this place is great and I highly recommend coming here before they decide to retire or something.  It is also ridiculously cheap.  Highly recommend.

Address:
9 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 226-0133

Bo Ky – Good Chiu Chow Noodle and BBQ Restaurant in Chinatown

I never really understood why Bo Ky and New Chao Chow never really get mentioned when people talk about Chinatown.  They are two of the better restaurants in Chinatown.  They are also the only restaurants that serve Chiu Chow food (潮州, Chao Zhou, Teo Chew).  Chiu Chow is a city in Eastern Guang Dong.  Even though they live in Guang Dong, Chiu Chow people have their own dialect that is much different than Cantonese and their own cuisine.  They are known for many dishes such as their rice porridge, lu wei 卤味 (soy sauce braised meats), noodle soups and use of fresh seafood among other things.

It’s definitely one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, but it is quite difficult to find it in New York.  In fact there are only three places in NY that serve it: Bo Ky, New Chao Chow and Chao Zhou in Flushing. I grew to really appreciate it when I studied abroad in Asia.  It is probably the second most popular food in Hong Kong after Cantonese food and it is probably the tied for first place as the most popular food in Singapore along with Hokkien food.  Generally, their food is a little lighter than Cantonese food.  You can see a couple of other Chiu Chow posts on my blog as well (http://www.lauhound.com/category/chiu-chow/).  The Chiu Chow restaurants in NY have some Chiu Chow noodle soups and lu wei meats, but the rest of the menu is mainly Cantonese.  So unfortunately the breadth of Chiu Chow food is not really available in NY.

Bo Ky is owned by Chiu Chow people from Vietnam (hence the Vietnamese listed on their sign and menus).  There are a lot of Chiu Chow people in Southeast Asia, so you will often find them in Vietnamese areas.  For example, there are many Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants in Little Saigon in Orange County, CA where the food is technically Chiu Chow, but definitely has some Vietnamese influence.  It also happens to be delicious.

Bo Ky has typical Chinatown décor, which means there isn’t much.  The waiters are nice although the service is quite brisk.

On to the food:

Chili Oil:

Bo Ky has the second best chili oil in Chinatown (New Chao Chow has the best), the reason it’s so much better is partly because they make it themselves (you can buy it to go at the restaurant), but also because they use ground up dried shrimps in the chili oil which makes it so much better.  They also have some ground peanut and sesame seeds in it.  I use it quite generously when eating their noodle soups a long with the vinegar that has peppers in it, it really takes their noodle soups up a notch. 8.25/10

Cambodian Noodle:

I’m not sure why this is called Cambodian Noodle on the menu as it is definitely a Chiu Chow dish.  In Singapore, this is called bak chor mee (in Mandarin its called rou zuo mian).  It’s a noodle dish that is served in a bowl with noodles, minced pork,  bean sprouts, slices of pork, shrimp, scallions, these golden fried onions and fish balls (there is some variation in toppings, but this is how they serve it here).  They then serve a fragrant semi-cloudy pork stock soup on the side.  The noodles are called mee pok (麪薄 mian bao in mandarin).  However, for some reason the menu only offers rice noodles or thin egg noodles.   What you need to do is ask them for the soup on the side and for mee pok and then you will get this.  The version here is pretty decent although the soup is a bit saltier than it should be and not quite as fragrant as it should be (New Chao Chow’s is a bit better).  The noodles are served nice and al dente and the toppings are good.  I wish they put in the vinegar and chili oil like they do in Singapore, but I highly suggest adding both to this dish as it is an integral part.  Overall, it’s very tasty. 7.75/10

Here it is with the thin egg noodles (I definitely prefer it with the mee pok as opposed to the egg noodles)

Fish Ball Noodle Soup (Yu Wan Tang Mian):

Same thing, but only has fish balls, scallions, minced pork and golden fried onions.  It’s good but I prefer the bak chor mee. 7.5/10

Country Style Duck (Lu Wei Ya):

You will see ducks and chicken hanging up in the window here except you will notice they look different than other Cantonese BBQ places in Chinatown as they are a dull brown sort of color, they actually look much less appealing than Cantonese versions.  However, this a case where looks are very deceiving.  The reason for the dull brown color is that these are braised in a soy sauce.  The result is great, the meat is very flavorful and the skin is really delicious.  The flavoring here is excellent, the meat and skin are delicious.  The only knock is that there isn’t enough meat on the duck (New Chao Chow’s is better).  They also give you sweet pickled radish on the side which really goes well with the duck.  This is a very solid dish. 8/10

Country Style Mixed Meat:

This is the same thing, but it’s all offal, so liver, intestines, tripe etc.  It’s good as well, but I prefer the duck.  7.25/10

Fried Tofu:

I’m not sure this is on the menu, but it’s listed on the wall with pictures of it posted everywhere.  It’s freshly fried tofu triangles with broccoli served on top of a tangy soy sauce.  This dish is quite good, but I think my GF liked it more than me.  It is still worth trying though. 7.25/10

Overall, Bo Ky is quite good although New Chao Chow is better and I’ll be reviewing them soon.  I definitely recommend trying it out.

Address:
82 Bayard St (between Mott St & Mulberry St)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 406-2292

y – Good Chiu Chow Noodle and BBQ Restaurant in Chinatown

I never really understood why Bo Ky and New Chao Chow never really get mentioned when people talk about Chinatown.They are two of the better restaurants in Chinatown.They are also the only restaurants that serve Chiu Chow (潮州, Chao Zhou, Teo Chew) which is a city in Eastern Guang Dong.Even though there are in Guang Dong, Chiu Chow people have their own dialect that is much different than Cantonese and their own cuisine.They are known for a many dishes such their rice porridge, lu wei 味 (soy sauce braised meats), noodle soups and use of fresh seafood among other things.

It’s definitely one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, but it is quite difficult to find it in New York.In fact there are only three places in NY that serve it: Bo Ky, New Chao Chow and Chao Zhou in Flushing. I grew to really appreciate it when I studied abroad in Asia.It is probably the second most popular food in Hong Kong after Cantonese food and it is probably the tied for first place as the most popular food in Singapore along with Hokkien food.Generally, their food is a little lighter than Cantonese food.You can see a couple of other Chiu Chow posts on my blog as well (http://www.lauhound.com/category/chiu-chow/).The Chiu Chow restaurants in NY have some Chiu Chow noodle soups and lu wei meats, but the rest of the menu is mainly Cantonese.So unfortunately the breadth of Chiu Chow food is not really available in NY.

Bo Ky is owned by Chiu Chow people from Vietnam (hence the Vietnamese listed on their sign and menus).There are a lot of Chiu Chow people in Southeast Asia, so you will often find them in Vietnamese areas.For example, there are many Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants in Little Saigon in Orange County, CA where the food is technically Chiu Chow, but definitely has some Vietnamese influence.It also happens to be delicious.

Bo Ky has typical Chinatown décor, which means there isn’t much.The waiters are nice although the service is quite brisk.

On to the food:

Chili Oil: Bo Ky has the second best chili oil in Chinatown (New Chao Chow has the best), the reason it’s so much better is partly because they make it themselves (you can buy it to go at the restaurant), but also because they use ground up dried shrimps in the chili oil which makes it so much better.They also have some ground peanut and sesame seeds in it.I use it quite generously when eating their noodle soups a long with the vinegar that has peppers in it, it really takes their noodle soups up a notch.

Cambodian Noodle: I’m not sure why this is called Cambodian Noodle on the menu as it is definitely a Chiu Chow dish.In Singapore, this is called bak chor mee (in Mandarin its called rou zuo mian).It’s a noodle dish that is served in a bowl with noodles, minced pork,bean sprouts, slices of pork, shrimp, scallions, these golden fried onions and fish balls (there is some variation in toppings, but this is how they serve it here).They then serve a fragrant semi-cloudy pork stock soup on the side.The noodles are called mee pok (麪薄 mian bao in mandarin).However, for some reason the menu only offers rice noodles or thin egg noodles.What you need to do is ask them for the soup on the side and for mee pok and then you will get this.The version here is pretty decent although the soup is a bit saltier than it should be and not quite as fragrant as it should be (New Chao Chow’s is a bit better).The noodles are served nice and al dente and the toppings are good.I wish they put in the vinegar and chili oil like they do in Singapore, but I highly suggest adding both to this dish as it is an integral part.Overall, it’s very tasty.

Here it is with the thin egg noodles (I definitely prefer it with the mee pok as opposed to the egg noodles)

Fish Ball Noodle Soup (Yu Wan Tang Mian): same thing, but only has fish balls, scallions, minced pork and golden fried onions.It’s good but I prefer the bak chor mee.

Country Style Duck (Lu Wei Ya): you will see ducks and chicken hanging up in the window here except you will notice they look different than other Cantonese BBQ places in Chinatown as they are a dull brown sort of color, they actually look much less appealing than Cantonese versions.However, this a case where looks are very deceiving.The reason for the dull brown color is that these are braised in a soy sauce.The result is great, the meat is very flavorful and the skin is really delicious.The flavoring here is excellent, the meat and skin are delicious.The only knock is that there isn’t enough meat on the duck (New Chao Chow’s is better).They also give you sweet pickled radish on the side which really goes well with the duck.This is a very solid dish.

Country Style Mixed Meat: same thing, but it’s all offal, so liver, intestines, tripe etc.It’s good as well, but I prefer the duck

Fried Tofu: I’m not sure this is on the menu, but it’s listed on the wall with pictures of it posted everywhere.It’s freshly fried tofu triangles with broccoli served on top of a tangy soy sauce.This dish is quite good, but I think my GF liked it more than me.It is still worth trying though

Overall, Bo Ky is quite good although New Chao Chow is better and I’ll be reviewing them soon.I definitely recommend trying it out.

Address:

82 Bayard St (between Mott St & Mulberry St)

New York, NY 10013

(212) 406-2292

South China Garden (formerly Cantoon Garden) – Still the Best Restaurant in Chinatown

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED (LOST THEIR LEASE)**

I originally wrote about South China Garden (formerly Cantoon Garden) in January 2009, which you can see here, as one of the best restaurants in Chinatown.  Since then not too much has changed except for the English name; the Chinese name remains the same 粵江春餐館 (yue jiang chun can guan) which literally means Cantonese river spring restaurant, but really is referring to the Pearl River.  The menu, staff, manager and cooks all remain the same.  This has led to it also being the most consistent restaurant in Chinatown, which is actually quite a feat seeing how many if not most restaurants in Chinatown seem to suffer from ups and downs in quality as their kitchen staff comes and goes.

I probably come here about once a month maybe more, so I also come here much more frequently than any other restaurant in Chinatown by a long shot.  I’ve also slightly changed my order patterns as I’ve found other dishes in the restaurant that are very good.  I decided to write this post as an update since things are always changing in Chinatown and this is my re-affirmation that this is my favorite restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Here’s my latest meal here as well as my typical order now:

黃龍魚兩食 (Huang Long Yu Liang Shi / Yellow Dragon Fish Cooked Two Ways):

The one type of dish I always felt was missing at SCG was a good Cantonese fish dish, which I feel is pretty emblematic of Cantonese cuisine.  I’m not a big fan of the type of fresh water fish they used in their qing zheng yu (steamed fish) as it has that sort of fresh water fish taste that I’m not a big fan of (think the fish equivalent of being gamey).  This time I asked the waiter what fish is good and he told me to order the 黃 龍魚 (huang long yu).  Unfortunately, it is not listed on the menu and only listed on the wall in Chinese (hence I’ve provided the Chinese characters to make things easier for anyone who wants to try this).  First comes out the a very light fish soup that boils the fish, tofu, mushrooms, ginger and baby bok choy together and then they separate the soup from the ingredients.  The soup is excellent, very light, not fish and goes great with a dash of white pepper.  The other ingredients they give you on the side, but they’re not all that tasty since you’ve sapped most of the flavor for the soup.

The second preparation is diced pieces of the fish that have been lightly sautéed in a light clear sauce with peas (in the shoot), some other green stalk vegetable which I couldn’t identify and mushrooms.  This is a big winner, the fish is much higher quality (not remotely fishy), very tender and just a really good dish.  I highly recommend this as it’s one of my favorite dishes on the menu now. 8.25/10

Lobster in XO Sauce (XO Jiang Chao Long Xia):

This has been another staple dish for me and is not only quite good, but a steal for $25 for two lobsters.  I’ve tried most of the preparations and I prefer the XO sauce the best as it has good flavor and a slight amount of spice that really make it quite good.  The lobster is always tender and the sauce is great. 8/10

Fried Stuffed Hot Peppers:

This is another one of my newer favorite dishes here.  It is spicy green peppers stuffed with a fish paste and then sautéed in a black bean sauce.  The peppers are really delicious and the fish paste and black bean sauce go really well with the peppers. Surprisingly, the green peppers can be very spicy (it depends sometimes they are spicy, sometimes not) as Cantonese food isn’t usually even remotely spicy.   If you don’t like spicy food, I suggest removing the fish paste (it comes out easily) and scrapping out the seeds as the seeds are what is actually hot. 8.5/10

Salt Baked Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):

Along with NY Noodletown, SCG has the best version of this dish in Chinatown (I think NY Noodletown’s breading is better, but SCG has more tender squid).  The saltiness of the batter along with how non-greasy it is and the fact that the squid is still tender makes this a solid rendition of this dish. 8/10

Fried Garlic Chicken (Suan Xiang Cui Pi Ji):

For some reason this dish is called “Fried Chicken w. Sauce” on the menu, but it’s actually a fried chicken with minced garlic on it.  However, it’s not like American fried chicken as it’s not breaded and it actually looks like rotisserie chicken.  The meat is very tender and the skin is perfectly crispy, but not dried out.  The garlic compliments it’s really well.  I definitely think this is one of their strongest dishes. 8.25/10

Steamed Big Crab With Ho Fun and Garlic:

This is great dish that consists of a large crab that has been steamed over a bed of ho fun (thick rice noodles), garlic and scallions, so that the juices from the crab mix with the garlic and great it’s own sauce that is really good.  The star is the noodles rather than the crab although the crab is still good.  8/10

Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):

This is the Cantonese version of sweet and sour pork chops.  The pork chops are fried and coated with a sweet and sour sauce that is not gloppy or weird tasting.  It’s a very solid dish although it is sweet in case you don’t like sweet dishes. 8/10

Stir Fried String Beans with Preserved Vegetables:

I very recently started ordering this dish at the request of a friend and it turned out to be another good dish to add to the rotation.  It’s the classic stir fried string beans with minced pork, minced pickled vegetables and dried chilis.  They do it well here as you can taste that great wok flavor and the minced pork and pickled vegetables really compliment the dish and are not overly salty. 8/10

Pea Leaves With Crab Sauce (Xie Rou Pa Dou Miao):

This is dou miao (pea leaves) sautéed and then covered in a egg white and crab claw meat sauce.  Pretty self-explanatory, but very good.  8.25/10

Overall, still my favorite restaurant in Chinatown and definitely the most consistent.  Highly recommend.

Address:
22 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 964-2229

Hung Ry – Awesome New Modern Noodle Restaurant on Bond Street

**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED**

Normally, I’m really skeptical of any type of fusion Asian type cuisine as 9.5 out of 10 times the result is some really bad food in some meatpacking type atmosphere.  So when I heard about Hung Ry I was very skeptical about it.  A pseudo Chinese noodle shop in a hip space on Bond Street.  I immediately imagined poor quality Chinese noodle soup trying to be masked in an upscale setting and taking advantage of customers who don’t know what any of this stuff is supposed to taste like.  Luckily, I was very wrong.

The space is a great spot on Bond Street that is somewhat industrial looking modern feel to it, but the décor looks great and really fits in well with the neighborhood.  The service was excellent and the owner is a really nice guy.  I spoke to him for a bit and he is a Tibetan guy who grew up in Switzerland.  He had an idea for this type of restaurant so his head chef and him walked around to different hand pulled noodle shops in Chinatown and ended up hiring one of the guys who pulled the noodles from an unnamed restaurant.  Great move on their part to hire someone who knows what they are doing.

Squid Appetizer:

The owner highly recommended this and said it was one of the best dishes in the restaurant.  It is basically salt baked squid with chopped up cilantro and pumpkin seeds on top of it.  At the bottom there is a homemade chili sauce (not spicy at all). This was really good, better than any of the salt-baked squid in Chinatown (including South China Garden and NY Noodletown).  The batter was great, a little less salty than the versions in Chinatown, but still quite good.  Not overly battered and fried perfectly, not oily at all.  The squid is what really stuck out as it was very tender.  The cilantro and pumpkin seeds were a nice touch especially the cilantro as I really like cilantro. 8.5/10

Beef Tongue Appetizer:

Another recommendation from the owner.  The beef tongue had been stewed in a very light brown broth that I believe used soy sauce.  The beef tongue had a melt in your mouth type of texture with a great flavor.  The broth was a really nice compliment as it was very light, not too salty and really allowed the beef tongue to shine.  The execution was excellent on this dish.  8.25/10

Pig Foot Noodle Soup:

This was a special that night and the bartender (we sat at the bar) said it was excellent so I tried it.  It had a lot of Japanese chest nuts in it which made the soup slightly sweet.  The soup also had a nice star anise flavor, it was quite good, not too salty and you could taste a reasonable amount of complexity in it.  The pig foot was really good, nice and tender.  I tried the thin noodles.  They were good, but pulled a little too thin, so they didn’t retain their al dente quality as well.  Overall, it was an excellent dish. 8/10

Duck Noodle Soup:

This was awesome, quite simple just a seared duck breast, noodles and soup.  The soup had a more discernable star anise flavor as there were no Japanese chestnuts in this one, so it didn’t have that sweet flavor.  I liked this broth a little bit better.  The duck breast was cooked excellently and was rare in the middle.  We ordered the thick noodles in this one and they were much better as they retained their al dente quality better.  Overall, this was really good, much better than any of the Chinatown handpulled noodle places.  8.25/10

I was really pleasantly surprised by this place, it was probably one of the better discoveries I’ve made this year.  I highly recommend coming here.

Address:
55 Bond St (between Lafayette St & Bowery)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 677-4864

A-Wah – An Unfortunate Downhill Visit

I originally went to A-Wah in April 2010 and wrote a very favorable review of the restaurant on chowhound, which you can see here. A-Wah had by far the best bo zai fan (claypot rice) in Chinatown and probably the best version I’d had in the US.  I re-visited it probably 5-6 times shortly after that and it was always excellent.  Soon after that the NYT and Eddie Huang of Baohaus both ended up getting writing very favorably about it which made me happy since I always want good restaurants to do well.

Since then there have been some reports on both chowhound and yelp that either people didn’t like it or thought it was going downhill.  It had been 4-5 months since my last visit, so I stopped in today for lunch to find out whether it had actually gone downhill or whether some people just didn’t like bo zai fan in the first place (it’s not a dish that everyone universally loves).

Unfortunately, the naysayers are very much correct in their assessment that it is no longer very good.  So apologizes to all who tried it after it had gone downhill because you never got to experience what it should taste like.

Bo Zai Fan (Bao Zai Fan / Claypot Rice):

I got the house special which is called hua zai bao zai fan in Chinese (hua zai is the name of the restaurant in Chinese).  I immediately noticed a difference in the amount of meat they gave you, which was probably half as much as before.  I also noticed that the meat was drier and less flavorful than on my previous visits, I think it might have been re-heated.  The rice itself had definitely been pre-cooked and then they just threw some meat on top.  The rice was not that flavorful and was a bit on the dry side.  Because of the short cutting on the preparation the rice no longer has that great flavoring from the meats that good bo zai fan has.  The homemade soy sauce was still excellent though.  Overall, this was quite disappointing and I thought it was pretty mediocre. 6.25/10 (8/10 for the soy sauce though)

Before:

After:

Salt-Baked Chicken (Yen Ji):

Their shao la (Cantonese BBQ) has never really been their strong point, but today was particularly bad.  The chicken was quite dry and the skin wasn’t very flavorful as all.  I had to really put a lot of the scallion, garlic and ginger oil on it to make it worth eating.  This was not good at all.  6/10

Thousand Year Egg With Pickled Ginger (Suan Jiang Pi Dan):

I wasn’t expecting this to be great, but I love this dish so I ordered it anyhow.  The pidan (thousand year egg) was the molten kind where the yolk is a bit runny, they weren’t bad, but weren’t great either.  The pickled ginger wasn’t very good, it had a sort of weird taste to it that I didn’t like and it wasn’t sweet enough.  The last time I had this was in July at Yung Kee in Hong Kong, so my bar is pretty high and it’s probably unfair to compare it to the best pidan I’ve ever had, but that is the bar in my mind right now.  Overall, it was okay, but nothing special.  6.25/10

Choy Sum With Oyster Sauce (Hao Jiang Cai Xin):

This was pretty good, the choy sum was cooked perfectly and they didn’t douse it was oyster sauce.  This was the only thing I thought was really good. 7.75/10

This happens a lot in Chinatown where a restaurant starts off strong and then goes downhill.  I thought A-Wah would be different because I believe the chef is the owner, which in my mind is great since you can’t pouch the chef if he is also the owner.  I’m not sure what happened?  Maybe they got lazy, the traffic got too high for them to handle after the media coverage or maybe they decided to cut costs, but whatever the reason I was pretty disappointed and this went from being one of the best restaurants in Chinatown to being another mediocre Chinatown restaurant.  I plan on going one more time for dinner to see if I had an off day or the chef was off or something.

Address:
5 Catherine St (between Division St & Broadway)
Manhattan, NY 10038
(212) 925-8308

Lan Zhou Zheng Zong La Mian –Interesting Chinese Muslim Hand Pulled Noodles

Lan Zhou Zheng Zong La Mian (兰州正宗牛肉拉面 ) was a place we happened to just stop by when I was in Shanghai, my friend and I were looking for something quick to eat by his apartment and we stopped by this place because it looked interesting and it was really close to his apartment.   It was a run down little shop that had lots of pictures inside with all of their dishes.

I’m not sure where the guys who ran the place were from, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t Han Chinese as they looked sort of Chinese, but were darker in complexion and looked more Central Asian. They also spoke a very strange dialect that I’ve never heard before and were Muslim.

The menu read like a typical Lan Zhou type noodle soup shop, but the spicing was way different than normal Chinese spicing.

Here’s what we got:

Red Braised Beef Noodle Soup (Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian):

The noodles were freshly hand-pulled and had a very good al dente texture.  The broth and the meat were way different in the way they spiced them.  They had a lot of different spices in them including cumin, it really didn’t even taste Chinese; the flavor was much more almost Middle Eastern or Central Asian.  It was very interesting.  I thought it was a bit too salty and the beef wasn’t quite as tender as it should be, but overall it was reasonably tasty.  I would say that I prefer the regular style though all things being equal. 7.5/10

Stir Fried Knife Cut Noodles (Chao Dao Shao Mian):

My friend got this dish, it was stir fried knife cut noodles.  The noodles were very good again and were cut a bit on the thick side, but I liked them that way.  The sauce was exactly the same sauce that was in the beef noodle soup I had.  It was a bit on the salty side as well, but I thought it was a bit better than my beef noodle soup. 7.75/10

Scrambled Egg With Tomato (Xi Hong Shi Chao Ji Dan):

This is a pretty typical dish in Taiwan, but they probably make it in China as well.  We ordered it because we both like the dish.  The preparation was similar to normal, but the spicing was quite a bit different again utilizing the same spices that were in the other two dishes.  This was probably the best dish of the three, doesn’t look like much, but it was good.

Overall, it wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good.  It was definitely interesting as it was unlike any noodle place I’ve ever been to.  I forgot what the address was.

Xin Da Lu China Kitchen – Good Upscale Peking Duck Restaurant in Shanghai

新大陆中国厨房 Xin Da Lu China Kitchen is located at the Hyatt on the Bund.  The Hyatt is a very nice hotel on the Bund in Shanghai (check out their rooftop bar, it has a great view of Shanghai at night).  Unlike most of the restaurants I chose to eat at in Shanghai, Xin Da Lu is very upscale.  It’s got a very sleek, modern design, dim lights and high vaulted ceilings.  The décor looks like an upscale restaurant in NY in fact it’s probably a bit nicer than most.  All of these things would normally scare me away from a Chinese restaurant.  However, I wanted to treat my friends since I’d been staying with them and they’d been taking me everywhere and Xin Da Lu came recommended from some friends as a good place to have good Peking duck in a nice atmosphere (it was also recommended on chowhound).

The service was again pretty poor.  They kept rotating servers and the servers were slow to respond to requests although it was passable service.

Xin Da Lu specializes in Peking duck and they also have a lot of Shanghainese and Hangzhou dishes on their menu as well.

Here’s what we got:

Peking Duck:

This is what Xin Da Lu is famous for along with their Beggar’s chicken (fyi, you need to pre-order either dish).  They had shipped in a big Peking duck oven from Beijing, which you can see in their open kitchen and hired a couple chefs from Beijing to man it, so the duck was supposed to be among the most authentic in Shanghai. The skin was excellent, crispy and very flavorful, thought this was among the better skin I’ve ever had.  The meat was pretty good, but I thought it was a bit on the dry side.  The pancakes were good, but not amazing.  The sauce was great (I believe it was tian mian jiang i.e. sweet bean sauce), I actually had to get more because they barely give you any, but it really complemented the duck in the pancake with the spring onions.  Overall, it was quite good although not transcendent.  8.25/10 (8.75/10 for the skin and sauce, 8/10 for everything else)

Fried Dumplings (Guo Tie):

These were the most beautiful guo tie I’ve ever seen.  There are five of them and they are served together with a sort of web connecting them (see the picture below).  I was concerned they were going to be a complete gimmick because they looked so pretty, but they were surprisingly good.  Nice skin, crispy bottom, good flavorful interior and well made.  8.5/10

Tomato and Pork Rib Soup:

We wanted a soup, so we got this.  It was a light tomato and pork broth soup with chunks of tomato and pork ribs.  The pork ribs were good, not melt in your mouth falling apart ribs, but good nonetheless.  The broth was flavorful although not outstanding.  7.75/10

Snow Pea Leaves (Dou Miao):

These are the smaller and skinnier dou miao that you get in Asia that I like a lot.  This dish was on the soupy side with large chunks of garlic in it with a light sauce that didn’t overpower the dou miao.  It was pretty good.  7.75/10

Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao):

These were surprisingly very good.  The skins were nice and delicate.  The soup was light, not overly oily and the filing was good.  I was very pleasantly surprised because we actually just ordered them because we weren’t sure what to order.  8.25/10

Overall, I thought it was very good although I wasn’t blown away by the food (for comparisons sake if this restaurant was in the US this would be considered an amazing restaurant).  It is however a beautiful restaurant and I would come back if I had the chance.

Address:
1/F, Hyatt on the Bund, 199 Huangpu Lu
黄浦路199号上海外滩茂悦大酒店1楼
Phone: 6393-1234 ext. 6318
shanghai.bund.hyatt.com

Di Shui Dong – A Very Good Hunan Restaurant in Shanghai

Di Shui Dong滴水洞饭店 was the first dinner I had in Shanghai.  My friend’s girlfriend recommended this restaurant, which serves Hunan food.  I believe it’s a pretty well known although some people told me it’s a bit touristy / overhyped.

It’s located on the second floor in a pretty busy neighborhood in Shanghai.  The interior is mainly wooden and has red and white checkered table clothes on the tables.  Honestly, it really doesn’t look like a Chinese restaurant at all.  If you got rid of all the Chinese people and replaced them with Americans, it would look like some American BBQ joint.

The service was not that good, but unfortunately that is a common trait in Shanghai restaurants.  Unlike Chinese restaurants in America where the service is gruff, but very fast, the service in Shanghai is gruff and slow.  My friends who live in Shanghai attribute the poor service to the fact that no one tips, so the servers could careless one way or the other whether the service is good or not.

Luckily, the food was quite good. Here’s what we got:

Spicy Pig’s Feet:

I ordered this as I like pig’s feet and so does my friend’s GF (although my friend does not).  This came out in a bowl in a spicy brown sauce with chilis, sliced ginger, green onions, garlic and maybe a few other condiments.  The sauce was excellent, not gloppy, very flavorful and not too salty.  The pig’s feet were great, flavorful and very tender.  Even my friend who doesn’t like pig’s feet thought this was pretty good.  I liked it a lot.  Unfortunately, my picture came out kind of crappy. 8.5/10

Broccoli:

My friend’s GF ordered this dish. It was broccoli that I believe had been boiled and then lightly sautéed with oil, chilis, salt and garlic.  It looks very plain, but it was awesome.  This was the best broccoli I’ve had in a long time.  Not too oily, the garlic and chilis really gave it some good flavor.  It was a very simple dish, but executed really well. 8.5/10

Cabbage with Chilis and Ham:

This was shredded cabbage that had been sautéed with oil, chilis, tiny chunks of a salted ham and a bit of salt.  Another good dish, surprisingly it wasn’t too salty and the cabbage was cooked really well.  It’s a pretty self-explanatory dish, but I liked it. 8.25/10

Cumin Ribs:

This is the house specialty dish, specifically my friend’s GF wanted to come here to get this.  It’s big beef ribs that are dry rubbed in cumin, chili flakes and some other spices.  I believe they might have been fried because there was oil on the outside although they weren’t oily at all really.  The flavor of the spices was excellent (I really like cumin) and the meat tasted amazing.  However, while the meat was tender it was slightly overcooked, which my friend’s GF confirmed she said that the meat is normally more tender.  Overall though these were still really good. 8.5/10 (could’ve been a 9/10 if the meet was more tender)

Spicy Intestines and Bamboo Shoots:

I ordered this as the pictures looked good on the menu.  Another simple dish of sliced bamboo, intestines, chilis, green onions and some other spices sautéed in oil.  Intestines were very clean tasting and the bamboo was really nice.  This was another good dish. 8.5/10

Whole Fried Fish:

This was recommended by one of our servers.  This was the surprise of the night.  It was a whole fish fried and then covered with a mixture of pickled vegetables, fried garlic, chilis and green onions that was made into a sort of crunchy paste.  This was so good, the outside was crispy, but the fish meat was nice and tender and the mixture they put on top was really good (I was eating it with a spoon after we finished the fish).  This was my favorite dish of the night. 9/10

Overall, I thought Di Shui Dong was very good (better than anything I’ve had in the US).  Supposedly, there are some much better Hunan restaurants in Shanghai and I wish I had more time to try everything I wanted to try, but I’ll be back and I guess I’ll have to try them then.

Address:
2/F, 56 Maoming Nan Lu,
茂名南路56号2楼
Phone: 6253-2689

Tian Tian Hai Nan Ji Fan 天天海南雞飯 – My Favorite Hai Nan Chicken Rice in Singapore

Hai Nan chicken rice is probably my all time favorite dish in Singapore.  I literally ate chicken rice 4-5 times per week for lunch when I studied abroad in Singapore.  Tian Tian Hai Nan Ji Fan (天天海南雞飯) is located in Maxwell Food Center, a well known hawker center.  It is very famous in Singapore and probably even somewhat known in the US know since Anthony Bourdain went there on his trip to Singapore.  There is always a line in front of it even when we went which at an off hour (the lunch line is crazy).   You can see a video of the line in full effect here.

Hai Nan chicken rice originated from Hai Nan 海南, which is a Chinese island province in Southern China.  I believe that Singapore has quite a few immigrants from Hai Nan.  Hai nan chicken rice is based on an original dish called wen chang chicken 文昌雞 although I heard that it tasted different than what you get in Singapore.  The chicken is cooked by boiling in water flavored with garlic and ginger with the resulting stock used in the preparation of the rice and also in the accompanying soup.  The chicken is then immediately put into ice cold water and then hung up, it results in the skin separating the meat.  The rice is sautéed in garlic, ginger and chicken lard then they boil the rice in the chicken broth they got from boiling the chicken.  You can see the whole process here (go to about 1:30).

So, I always separate the rice from the chicken when thinking about how good it is.  The rice here is unbelievable. It’s so light, fluffy and flavorful, not oily or heavy or stuck together.  I can’t say enough about how good the rice is.  The condiments are very important as well.  You drizzle a dark very thick soy sauce, homemade chili sauce and a ginger sauce on it.  Each of these condiments is exceptionally good here as I believe they make all of them.  The chicken itself is good clean chicken, given the way it is prepared don’t be expecting some bold flavor, but just good chicken.  I like the chicken, but to me the rice has always been the star and the chicken is effectively a condiment in my mind.  You also eat it with sliced cucumber slices that are served cold and really go nicely with the dish.  This is a mind blowing dish for me and it was so good that we came back twice. 9.5/10

This is a must try dish and a must try place in my mind when you visit Singapore.

Address:
77 Maxwell Road Food Centre
Stall 10

Jin Hua 金華- Great Fish Bee Hoon at Maxwell Food Center in Singapore

Maxwell Food Center is a hawker center.  In Singapore, street food has been organized in a very efficient manner whereby you go to a center that has tons of stalls with communal seating and people that will clean up after you.  These hawker centers maybe one of my all time favorite styles of eating because there are so many choices and there is some really amazing food.

We had just gotten off the plane from Hong Kong and were starving, so I decided to make our first meal at Maxwell Food Center specifically to go to Tian Tian Hai Nan Ji Fan, which I think is unbelievable.  However, since we were there I decided I should try at least one other place.  After looking around the center, Jin Hua 金華 looked like it was a good candidate as there was a reasonably long line which is always a good sign and I like fish bee hoon.  Bee hoon is I believe the chiu chow name for mi fen (米粉) otherwise known as rice vermicelli although maybe it’s the hokkien name (I can’t remember because I don’t speak either of those languages).

Fish Bee Hoon (Yu Pian Mi Fen):

I wanted to try the fish head bee hoon, but the vendor told me they were out of it and to try the fish slice bee hoon as it’s exactly the same except with fish slices instead of fish head.  It came out and it was a bowl of rice vermicelli with gai lan (Chinese broccoli), crispy golden fried onions and lightly fried slices of fish in a milky broth.  It looked a bit different than most fish bee hoon I’ve had as the broth was more milky than usual.  Wow was this good, the broth was actually a little bit milky, which I wasn’t expecting, but it was really good, the flavor of the fish broth was really clean, not even remotely fishy in a bad way.  The noodles were excellent and really complemented the broth.  The pieces of fish were perfectly cooked, I’m not sure what type of fish it was, but the meat was perfectly flaky and delicious.  The vegetables and fried onions were a good complement as well and didn’t overpower the soup at all.  This was really good, probably one of the best noodle soups I may have ever had.  I really liked this. 9/10

I’d highly recommend coming here if you’re in Singapore

Address:
77 Maxwell Road Food Centre

Eng Seng 永成餐室 – Great Black Pepper Crab and Chili Crab in Singapore

When I studied abroad in Singapore a local buddy showed me this place.  I liked it so much that we started coming here once every other week.  So coming back to Singapore for the first time in 8 years, this was a place that I really wanted to come back to (I still remembered the cross streets after 8 years).

Eng Seng 永成餐室 (yong cheng can shi) is pretty famous specifically for it’s black pepper crab.  However, when I lived in Singapore I also really liked their chili crab.  The place is very well known and you need to make a reservation and show up early as the lines can be really long.  They also sell out of crabs fairly early like by 7 or 8pm.  The lady who runs the place makes things run very efficiently, but is kind of a food nazi-esk and is a bit gruff.  She came by and I flagged her to take our order, I started ordering food and then told me in Chinese “my English is better than your Chinese, your Chinese is bad, you talk to me in English” haha and her English was surprisingly good.

I think the place might’ve been a small hawker center before, but now Eng Seng takes up the whole place.  There is no real décor to speak of, but you’re not here for a service and décor you’re here for one of the messier and delicious dishes in Singapore.

Mee Goreng:

Mee goring is basically a Chinese-Indonesian-Malaysian version of chow mein.  It is made with thin yellow noodles fried with garlic, onion, prawns, calamari, bean sprouts, chili, vegetables, tomatoes, egg, and acar (pickles). You can have it with other ingredients as well, but that’s how they serve it here.  It’s a bit on the sweet side and they serve it here with a chili sauce you can dip it in.  It’s not my favorite dish, but she recommended it so I ordered it.  I thought there version was good, but wasn’t mind blowing although I am probably the wrong person to ask as it is not something I all that keen on. 7.75/10

Sotong You Tiao:

I loved this dish when I used to come here, so I was excited to order it again.  This is a you tiao (fried crueller) filled with sotong (squid paste), I actually always thought it was a fish paste, but someone corrected me and told me it was sotong.  They then top it with the asian mayo (it’s sweeter and lighter than the US mayo) and I actually hate mayo, but this is one of a few dishes that I make exception for.  It’s definitely not a healthy dish, but it is really good and it’s not remotely fishy or anything like that to those who are worried about that.  I really like this dish. 8.75/10

Baby Gai Lan Sautéed with Garlic:

I love gai lan (jie lan 芥蘭) also known as Chinese broccoli.  I particularly like the way they cook it in Singapore.  It’s a pretty simple preparation just stir-frying the baby gai lan in some oil, garlic and ginger then topping it with tiny golden fried onions that are completely crispy (I found out from a Vietnamese restaurant in CA that you actually need to fry them for 45 minutes to get them so crispy).  The version here was good and complemented the meal well. 8.5/10

Black Pepper Crab: 

This is one of the signature dishes at Eng Seng.  This dish is large Sri Lankan mud crabs that have been stir fried in a jet black pepper sauce that is slightly sweet and not too spicy.  I like the Sri Lankan mud crabs as the meat tastes good and there is so much of it.  Even though I like chili crab better, the black pepper crab is excellent here. 8.5/10

Chili Crab:

This is still one of my all time favorite Singaporean dishes.  It is the same Sri Lankan mud crabs that are stir fried in a semi-thick sauce that is a bit sweet and tangy made from chillis and tomato sauce. It’s also flavored with garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce and eggs are beaten into it creating yellow ribbons in the sauce.  It’s really good and I really like to slather the sauce on every bite.  At the end you ask for bread and they bring you out sliced white bread to dip in the sauce which is awesome.  This dish was great and I still love the version here. 8.75/10

Overall, it was excellent although I will say that I don’t think it was as good as it was when I was here 8 years ago, someone told me the food quality had gone down slightly although it was still very good and I would agree with that statement.  That said I’d definitely recommend coming here if you’re in Singapore.

Address:
247 Joo Chiat Place
(Joo Chiat Place and Still Rd)
Phone: 64405560

Fu Cheng Shi Pin 富城食品 – Pretty Good Popiah in Chinatown Food Center in Singapore

We were walking around Chinatown and decided to stop by the Chinatown Food Center to grab a snack.  Chinatown Food Center is a cool looking hawker center that is on the second floor that has a huge amount of hawkers, I used to come here pretty frequently when I lived here.  It’s actually pretty funny that Singapore has a Chinatown given it’s a country that is 75% Chinese.

We first stopped by Wu Shi Nian Dai for kaya toast and since it was one of our last meals, after walking around I decided that my gf should try popiah as I really like them and it is impossible to get decent quality popiah in the US.

Popiah (bao bing 薄餅) is a sort of non-fried spring roll type of dish that is thin paper-like wheat crepe  that contains grated turnip, cooked bean sprouts, lettuce leaves, grated carrots, Chinese sausage, sliced fried tofu, chopped peanuts and shredded egg and fried pork lard.  You eat with a sweet sauce that sort of tastes and looks like hoisin and chilli sauce.  They are awesome when done right, I could eat them everyday as they aren’t that heavy and have a great texture because some of the interior is crunchy.

It happened that one of the only places I could find it that day that was open (we were there at an odd hour) was a place called Fu Cheng Shi Pin 富城食品 (no English name), which means “rich city food stuff”.  They specialized in popiah and so I decided to give them a try.

Popiah:

The popiah turned out to be pretty good, nice skin, good flavors and nice pieces of crunchy stuff in the interior with a sauce that I believe was homemade.  We both thought it was pretty good and my gf was really surprised as she had had it in the US and thought it was a crappy dish, but I told her she needed to have it in Singapore because the difference in quality would be huge. 8.25/10

I’d definitely come back here again.

Address:
Blk 335 Smith Street
#02-04 Chinatown Complex Market S050335

Ya Kun – A Chain, But Still Tasty Kaya Toast

Ya Kun is a chain of Singaporean breakfast restaurants that are all over Singapore and also has branches in Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and the Philippines.  They serve a variety of different types of toasts, coffee, tea and soft boiled eggs.  All these are fairly staple Singaporean breakfast items.

As I mentioned in my post on Wu Shi Nian Dai kaya toast is one of my all time favorite breakfast items to eat.  Kaya is a spread made of eggs, sugar and coconut milk and flavored with pandan.  You spread it on toast with butter.

We were walking around Orchard Road and decided to stop by the branch at Far East Plaza as my gf had eaten kaya toast there on a business trip her first time to Singapore, so she wanted to go back again.

We got the following:

Kaya Toast:

This was pretty good, not the best kaya toast I’ve ever had, but I’d be very happy if they had a branch in NY.  The toast was crispy, the kaya was pretty good and they put a little bit more butter than I like, but overall it was pretty decent especially for a chain. 8.25/10

Coffee:

The coffee was standard coffee with condensed milk in it, still very good though.  If you’ve ever had Vietnamese coffee it tasted pretty similar. 8.25/10

Soft Boiled Egg:

I love soft boiled egg, they are simple, but taste really great with the kaya toast and coffee. 8.5/10

Overall, a pretty decent place and surprisingly good for a chain.

Address:
Far East Plaza
14 Scotts Road #01-16 Far East Plaza S(228213)
https://www.yakun.com/
Phone: 6341 9554

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle – Great Bak Chor Mee in Singapore

Bak chor mee (rou cuo mian 肉挫面) is a great dish that was one of my “must have” dishes on my latest trip to Singapore as I remember it very fondly from when I studied abroad in Singapore.  It is a chiu chow (chao zhou / teo chew) dish that consists of flat yellow noodles called mee pok (mian bao 麪薄) that is garnished with minced pork, pork slices, pork liver slices, sliced mushrooms, bean sprouts, bits of deep-fried lard and a piece of sliced fried fish.  It’s usually served “dry” meaning the soup is on the side and you can get it with or without chili sauce.  There is also a really good vinegar on it.  It’s a pretty popular dish in Singapore.

Tai Hwa is a really old vendor that I think started in 1932 according to their website.  It’s very famous and I decided that I would try this place as my one place to get bak chor mee (unfortunately, I was only in Singapore for 3 days, so I had to pick wisely).  The restaurant is located in a hawker center that is sort of in an apartment building, it’s not really close to anything so we took a taxi there.  The place seemed pretty local and is totally jammed, I had to wait around 20 minutes to get to the front of the line.  A guy comes and takes your order in line, they don’t really speak English from what I can tell, but you could definitely just point if you don’t speak any Chinese.  It’s quite an interesting scene once you get close enough to watch them as there are four guys going at a break neck speed preparing the ingredients and cooking the food (you can see it around 2:20 of this video).

Bak Chor Mee (Rou Cuo Mian):

The noodles here are awesome; they were perfectly al dente and springy.  The version here is a bit different than other versions as it’s not sweet whatsoever; other versions that I’ve had were slightly sweet.  You really just taste the vinegar and the chili oil, both of which are excellent (the chili sauce is particularly good).  The pork slices, minced pork and pork liver slices were good although they were a bit drier than I like.  The soup on the side is quite good as well, a pork stock soup that is sort of cloudy, goes really well with the noodles.  My gf didn’t like it that much as she was turned off by the liver, but I like liver so it suited me well.  Overall, I thought this place was very good. 8.75/10

Address:
Blk 466 Crawford Lane
#01-12
www.taihwa.com.sg
phone: 62927477

Wu Shi Nian Dai 五十年代– Great Kaya Toast and Coffee at Chinatown Food Center in Singapore

Kaya toast is one of my all time favorite breakfast items to eat.  Kaya is a spread made of eggs, sugar and coconut milk and flavored with pandan.  You spread it on toast with butter.  In Singapore, there are lots of “kopi tiam”, which are small restaurants or hawker stalls that serve Singaporean breakfast items like kaya toast, soft boiled eggs, coffee, tea, Milo etc.

Wu Shi Nian Dai 五十年代 is a small hawker stand in the Chinatown Food Center that serves typical kopi tiam items, but they specifically specialize in kaya toast.  They do not have an English name (it is only written in Chinese.  It literally translates to 50s, referring to the 1950s.  We noticed it because there was a fairly long line and whenever you see lines in Singapore there is a high probability that you’re going to get some good food.

Kaya Toast:

At Wu Shi Nian Dai they use thick toast that I really liked and the kaya was very good.  If you’ve never had kaya before, its sort of hard to explain, but its a sweet and thick spread made up of coconut milk and pandan leaves.  It that has a pandan flavor to it (if you’ve never had pandan I can’t explain to you what the flavor is like). Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the actual toast.  Pretty self explanatory, but it was awesome.  I could eat kaya toast everyday if it was readily available in the US. 8.5/10

Coffee:

Their coffee was also really good.  In Singapore, you get coffee served with condensed milk.  8.5/10

Address:
Blk 335 Smith Street
#02-48 Chinatown Complex Market S050335

Yu Chuan渝川菜館 – Great Sichuan Private Kitchen in Hong Kong

Yu Chuan is a small private kitchen serving Sichuan food in Wan Chai.  Private kitchens are something do not exist in the US.  They are unlicensed places that serve food.  They’re usually in an apartment building and you have to make a reservation and then usually ring some bell to get in.  A lot of them happen to serve amazing food.  I really like the whole private kitchen thing, I wish NY had an equivalent.

Yu Chuan is on the 2nd floor of a non-descript building in Wan Chai.  When you get out of the elevator there are two doors one is to a Chinese dessert place and the other is to Yu Chuan.  You knock and they let you in.  It’s a reasonably small restaurant, there are probably 10 tables in the place that are meant for family style dining.  The lady that runs the place is very nice and the service was very good.

Cold Sichuan Noodles:

These were quite good.  It was thin white noodles with bean sprouts, diced scallions and crushed peanuts tossed in ma la chili oil served cold.  Ma means the numbing sensation you get on your tongue from the Sichuan peppercorns and la means spicy in Chinese.  The noodles were well cooked and al dente.  The sauce was nice, not overly oily and went quite well with everything. 8.25/10

Ma La Pi Dan (Preserved Duck Eggs in a Ma La Sauce):

These were ridiculously good, probably the second best version of pi dan I’ve ever had (first is Yung Kee).   The pi dan (preserved duck eggs) are cut into quarters and then topped with a sauce that is made up of chili oil, pickled vegetables, chilis and diced green onions.  The sauce is so good and perfectly pairs with the pi dan.  I loved this dish. 8.75/10

Cold Cucumber in Garlic Sauce (Liang Ban Huang Gua):

This was a solid rendition of a dish that I like a lot.  The cucumbers are diced and dressed in sesame oil, garlic and a little bit of salt and served cold.  The cucumbers were fresh and had a nice crunch to them.  The dressing was very good, a lot of places don’t have the right amounts of the various ingredients (too much or too little garlic etc), but the version here was very nice.  Overall, this was a nice refreshing dish. 8.5/10

Water Cooked Beef (Shui Zhu Niu Rou):

Shui zhu preparation is a specific cooking preparation from Sichuan.  The meat is prepared with water, starch, and a slight amount of salt. Boiled vegetables are placed at the bottom of the serving bowl or dish. The prepared raw meat is poached in water.  Then it is drained and put in the serving dish with vegetables. Minced dried chili, sichuan pepper, minced garlic, and other seasoning are spread over the meat. Vegetable oil is heated in a pan nearly to smoking point, then poured over the prepared meat and vegetable.  It results in really tender meat, the meat was melt in your mouth soft.  Although the dish clearly has a ton of oil in it, it actually doesn’t taste all that heavy when you eat it.  The flavors were outstanding; I thought their version was very good. 8.75/10

Stir Fried String Beans (Gan Shao Si Ji Dou):

This is string beans stir fried with chilis, Sichuan peppercorns and some pickled vegetables.  This version was really good, it had that great wok flavor and the string beans were cooked perfectly.  They make an excellent version of this dish. 8.75/10

Shrimps with Spicy Sichuan Salt:

I’ve only had this dish once before and it is a great dish.  Shrimps that are still in their shells are stir fried with just a little bit of oil, diced green onions and a spicy salt.  The shrimps are a bit crispy on the outside and the spicy salt is so good.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but this dish is really outstanding. 8.5/10

Ma Po Tofu:

They make a pretty good version here, the flavors were quite good and although it looks really oily, it was surprisingly not too heavy. 8.5/10

Hot and Sour Eggplant (Suan La Qie Zi):

This is sliced eggplant with spring onions, minced garlic, chilis and a maybe a few other vegetables in a hot and sour sauce.  Another great dish, the sauce was not gloppy or overly salty and went really well with everything. 8.25/10

Unfortunately, I had to tone down the spice level because a few of my friends can’t handle really spicy food, but the food was still great.  I thought this was a wonderful restaurant and really makes me want to go back to HK right now.  I definitely recommend coming here.  Small caveat, a good friend of mine from Sichuan thought it was good, but she thinks Si Jie is better, so I’ll definitely be trying out Si Jie next time.

Address:
Shop B, 1/F, Hundred City Centre, 7-17 Amoy Street, Wan Chai
灣仔廈門街7-17號百旺都中心1樓B室
Phone: 2838 5233 / 9858 1561

Yung Kee / 鏞記酒家 – Famous Roast Goose in Hong Kong

Yung Kee 鏞記酒家 is a very famous restaurant in Hong Kong that is known for it’s roast goose.  It’s located in Central close to Lan Kwai Fong.  I believe the 8th floor is a members only area where they supposedly serve their best geese (I would love to try that one day).   It’s a reasonably nice restaurant that looks like a typical upscale Chinese place.  The service is quite good, very attentive.

Thousand Year Old Duck Egg with Pickled Ginger (Pi Dan):

They give you these at the beginning of the meal.  It is preserved duck eggs (pi dan / thousand year old egg) with pickled ginger (think of the ginger you get at a sushi bar).  These are amazing, the best pi dan I’ve ever had.  The flavors are quite complex and the egg yolks are half molten, so it’s a bit softer than most pi dan.  The ginger is quite sweet and cut pretty thick; it’s not amazing pickled ginger, but when paired the pi dan it turns out to be an amazing combination.  I really liked this dish; if you like pi dan this is ridiculously good. 9/10

Roast Pork (Cha Siu / Cha Shao):

This was pretty decent cha siu.  Pretty good flavor, reasonably fatty (I like fatty cha siu) and it wasn’t too sweet.  However, it pales in comparison to Fu Sing which has transcendent cha siu that I had just eaten the night before.  Overall, good, but not amazing. 8/10

Baby Bok Choy:

This was a very simple preparation with a little bit of garlic.  It was well cooked and quite good.  8.25/10

Roast Goose:

This is what they are known for.   I liked the skin a lot, it was crispy and had good flavor.  They serve it with a plum sauce that compliments it pretty well.  The meat is what I was a bit disappointed in, I thought it was a little overcooked.  It wasn’t dry, but it was drier than it should be.  Overall , I thought it was good, but it didn’t live up to the hype.  I’ve had better goose. 8/10 (8.5/10 for skin, 7.5/10 for the meat)

Jelly Fish:

This was pretty standard jelly fish served cold with sesame oil and some sesame seeds.  Pretty good, not amazing though. 7.5/10

Eel:

This was very good, it was stir fried and cooked in a semi sweet sauce.  The eel was very tender and the sauce was good, not overly sweet or gloppy.  I liked this quite a bit. 8.5/10

Pretty good meal, not as good as I was hoping for, but definitely still good.  I would come back for the pi dan alone, those were just amazing.

Address:
32-40 Wellington Street, Central
中環威靈頓街32-40號
Phone: 2522 1624

Manor Seafood Restaurant – Good Upscale Cantonese Restaurant in Causeway Bay

Manor Seafood Restaurant / 富瑤酒家 is an upscale Cantonese restaurant in Causeway bay that was recommended to me by FourSeasons on chowhound as a place to eat great roast goose.  I made a reservation at the restaurant the day before and then the day we were supposed to eat at the restaurant, I thought about it and was like “what if I need to reserve a roast goose?”, so then I called them and they were like sorry you need to reserve a day in advance, I was literally like NOOOOO!  Oh well, to anyone that goes there now you know.

The service was nice and good and the atmosphere was a little formal, but decent.

On to the food:

Roast Suckling Pig:

To make up for not being able to get roast goose, I ordered roast suckling pig.  Although it was a consolation order, it was very good. The skin was beautiful and crispy and they gave you tiny pancakes with hoisin sauce and spring onions. The combo tasted great. I really liked this. 8.75/10

Shrimp and Egg Vermicelli in a Sizzling Clay Pot (干燒粉絲煲 / Gan Shao Fen Si Bao):

This came out in a sizzling clay pot with clear vermicelli noodles, dried shrimp, pieces of yellow egg, diced green onions, bean sprouts and diced mushrooms.  It’s the same dish that I ordered at Fu Sing except the shrimp were larger and it basically tasted exactly the same. So this was very good. 8.25/10

Steamed Crab in Wine Sauce (雞油花雕蒸蟹 / Ji You Hua Diao Zheng Xie):

This was way different than what I had envisioned. The crab itself was excellent, very fresh and sweet meat. But, I didn’t really like the sauce, I originally thought it was a buttery sauce, but FourSeasons pointed out that it’s actually chicken fat.  To me it tasted like a butter sauce that had wine in it and it really didn’t taste Chinese to me at all even though it is a Chinese dish. Overall, it was great crab, but a sauce that I didn’t care for. 7/10 (8.75/10 for the crab, 6.5/10 for the sauce)

Mapo Tofu:

I didn’t order this, but a friend wanted it, so we got it. It didn’t taste like mapo tofu, but it was good. It was more of a Cantonese rendition of it, which was much less sauce-y and oily than normal. 8/10

Lettuce with Shrimp Paste in a Sizzling Clay Pot (蝦醬生菜煲 / Xia Jiang Sheng Cai Bao):

Pretty self explanatory dish; it was very good though, the shrimp paste is fermented so it has a strong flavor, but I liked the flavor a lot.  It tasted exactly the same as Fu Sing. So it was quite good. 8/10

Overall, I liked this place and I’d like to come back to try other stuff someday especially to get the roast goose.

Address:
Shop F-G, 440 Jaffe Road, Causeway Bay
銅鑼灣謝斐道440號駱克大廈地下F-G舖
Phone: 2836 9999

Xiao Fei Yang / Little Sheep – Hot Pot in Hong Kong

小肥羊 (Xiao Fei Yang / Little Sheep) is a famous chain of hot pot places and it is a massive chain (it’s a public company with hundreds of branches). I’m not the biggest fan of hot pot, while I think it’s good, I just don’t love it, so you’ll almost never find me choosing to go to a hot pot place and this was no different.  I’ve been to this branch before; it’s very nice for a hot pot place and was jam packed (1 hour wait).

We got the half spicy and half non-spicy, the spicy broth was more spicy than I remember it being (some people at the table couldn’t really take it although I was fine with it). The ingredients were fresh and everything was fine, but there’s just not that much to it, it’s just hot pot and again I wasn’t wow’d by it (I’ve only been wow’d by hot pot once in Chengdu, China). 8/10

Address:

2/F, Causeway Bay Plaza 2, 463-483 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay

銅鑼灣駱克道463-483號銅鑼灣廣場二期2樓

Phone: 2893 8318

Xin Pin Xiang Zhou Mian Dian – Random Noodle Shop with No English Name in Bowrington Road Market

新品香粥麵店 (Xin Pin Xiang Zhou Mian Dian) has no English name, in Chinese it literally translates to “new stuff fragrant congee noodle shop”.  It is located in Wan Chai in the Bowrington Road Market.  Bowrington Road Market is a very cool open air market with lots a vendors selling meat, fruits, seafood and other stuff.  It also has an indoor section that has an awesome cooked food court (see my post on Wai Kee).

It’s a small shop that is pretty run down with maybe 6-7 tables.  It was our first meal after we had gotten to Hong Kong and we ate here around 8am in the morning. They do not speak English and none of the menus are in English, in fact I even had a really hard time understanding their Mandarin because they had such a heavy Cantonese accent.  The service is quick, efficient and brisk.  It’s really the type of places that people come in to get a quick meal and that’s it.

Here’s what we got:

Beef Brisket Noodle Soup (Niu Nan Mian):

This was pretty good, not the best version I’ve had in HK, but still tasty.  The meat itself was quite good, very tender and flavorful.  The noodles were good as well, good chewy al dente texture with good flavor.  The broth itself was also quite flavorful and not too salty, however it’s downfall that it was too heavy, it was much heavier / oily than it should be.  The vegetables were fine, but pretty standard. 8/10 (8.25/10 for the beef and noodles, 7.5/10 for the broth)

Zha Liang (Fried Crueller Wrapped in Rice Noodle):

Zha liang is a favorite dim sum food of mine.  It is a you tiao (fried crueller) wrapped in a white rice noodle that is sprinkled in sesame seeds with a light sweet soy sauce.  The version here would be good except it wasn’t that fresh, so the you tiao was a bit soggy and the rice noodle had also gotten soggy.  The flavors were good, unfortunately it was just not fresh. 7.5/10

Overall, it’s not the best place I’ve been to in HK, but it was pretty decent.  Their noodle soups would be considered awesome in NY, but again we’re talking HK not NY, so the bar is pretty high.  Also, it is extremely cheap, you can eat here for $4-5 USD and you’ll be full.

Address:
253 Wanchai Road, Wan Chai
灣仔灣仔道253號地下

Tsui Hang Village /翠亨邨 – Not the Greatest Dim Sum in Hong Kong

Every time I visit Hong Kong I always get dim sum as it’s so good in HK.  Last time I was there a friend’s friend mentioned that he knew the “best place for dim sum”. Unfortunately, this was definitely not the best in HK.  It wasn’t bad, but was among the weaker dim sum I’ve had in HK.

Tsui Hang Village is a reasonably nice dim sum restaurant in Central in a small shopping center. We got there pretty early on a weekday, so it was fairly empty when we got there.  The service was fine and pretty efficient.

On to the food:

Siu Yau Gai (Soy Sauce Chicken / Jiang You Ji):

I’m a big fan of this dish and this was the only dish I ordered as someone else ordered everything. This was actually very good, tender chicken, great flavor and just generally good. This was one of two winner’s here (unfortunately, neither of them were dim sum dishes). 8.5/10

Spring Rolls (Chun Juan):

I never order these as I don’t really like them, but these were a good rendition. Not greasy at all, nice and crispy exterior and good flavorful insides. 8.25/10

Rice with Chicken Sauce (I have no idea what this was called in Chinese or English):

This was the other dish that was a winner and the one dish that was outstanding here.  It comes in a wide glass bowl.  It’s steamed rice with a brown sauce that consists of diced chicken, mushrooms, broccoli stems and few other vegetables. It’s sort of hard to explain, but it was really good. 8.5/10

Scallop Siu Mai (Gan Bei Shao Mai / Steamed Pork Dumplings):

These were just decent.  They were steamed okay, but I wasn’t wow’d by the filling.  I’ve had much better siu mai than this and these were definitely below average for HK. 7.25/10

Meatballs (always forget what these are called):

These are those steamed meatballs that you put Worcester sauce on. This is not one of my favorite dim sum items and the version here is just okay. 7/10

Cha Siu Bao (Cha Shao Bao / Steamed Pork Buns):

This is one of my all time favorite foods (not just dim sum, but food in general). However, the version here was just okay.  The bread was fine, reasonably soft although not as soft as it should be, filling was decent, but sweeter than I like. Fine but nothing mind blowing. 7.25/10

Ha Gow (Xia Jiao / Steamed Shrimp Dumplings):

My relatives once told me that these are what you are supposed to judge a dim sum place on.  However, these were just decent. Skins weren’t as delicate as I like them, filling was fine, but just nothing to write home about. I know places in the US that do a better job than here. 7.25/10

Pai Guat (Pai Gu / Spare Ribs):

Another one of my favorite dim sum dishes, but again just another okay rendition. 7.25/10

Now it wasn’t bad and if it was in the US it would be considered good / above average, but I’ve had way better dim sum in HK and this place just didn’t cut it for me. If you’re in HK, this place is not worth going to.

Address:
2/F, New World Tower, 16-18 Queen’s Road Central, Central
中環皇后大道中16-18號新世界大廈2樓
Phone: 2524 2012

Ho Hung Kee 何洪記 – Decent Wonton Noodle Soup Shop In Causeway Bay

Ho Hung Kee is a noodle shop in Causeway Bay close to Time Square.  One day, I wanted wonton noodle soup and I had to meet my friend who works around there and she took me to this place. It’s a typical small wonton noodle soup place with basically no décor.  The service is pretty fast and brisk although the servers are generally pretty nice.

Here’s what we got:

Cha Siu Wonton Noodle Soup (Roast Pork Wonton Noodle Soup):

The broth was pretty decent, not too salty and reasonably flavorful although not the amazing kind that you can get at really good places in HK.  I liked the wontons; they were plump and fresh with a pretty decent shrimp filling. The cha siu (roast pork) was decent, but not amazing. Overall, good but I’ve had better in HK.  8/10 (7.5/10 for the cha siu)

Regular Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup:

This was pretty much the same as the cha siu version, but with no cha siu. 8/10

Beef Chow Fun:

I almost never order this dish because I’m not a huge fan of it, but this was very good here.  It had great wok flavor, wasn’t overly oily and the beef was very tender.  Combined with some chili sauce, it was really good. 8.5/10

Overall, it was good, I’ve had better in HK, but it was definitely still good on an absolute basis, far better than what you can get in the US.

Address:
2 Sharp Street East, Causeway Bay
銅鑼灣霎東街2號
Phone: 2577 6558

Qiao Tei 橋底辣蟹 (Under the Bridge Chili Crab) – Amazing Chili Crab in Hong Kong

Qiao Tei (橋底辣蟹) is one of several places on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai that is famous for their chili crab, not Singaporean chili crab, but rather a Cantonese chili crab that is completely different.  My friends in Hong Kong recommended this place as they said it’s their favorite one out of the bunch.

It’s a pretty rowdy place (I loved the atmosphere) that is super crowded and has lots of people happily eating and drinking.  It’s definitely not an upscale place, but rather a no-frills type of place to eat some great food and have a good time with friends.  The service was fine, they were pretty nice, but they are running around a lot since the place is very busy.

Let’s get to the food:

Chili Crab:

This is going to sound like a bit of a bold statement, but this is single handily one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. As much as I like very refined food, my favorite foods are generally much more low key foods that are delicious and this is a perfect example. Its crab fried that is covered in a huge amount of fried crispy garlic, scallions and peppers. This garlic is weird because it’s super crispy and it’s not nearly as strong as regular garlic cloves, so you can eat a lot of it, I was literally eating spoonfuls of it. The crab meat has such a good sweet flavor and combined everything else is just so good. I just can’t say enough about how good this was. 9/10

Spare Ribs:

I don’t know what this was called in Chinese b/c I didn’t order anything (big group of like 8-9 people and I let my friends order since they knew more about the food there then I did).  These were awesome. They were battered and fried and then glazed with a sweet and sour sauce, but these were different than jing du pai gu as they were less sweet and brownish as opposed to red, there were some pineapples in the clay pot as well. The meat was nice and tender, the sauce wasn’t overly sweet. Overall, just really awesome dish. 8.75/10

Braised Fish Head:

This is the one thing I ordered, I showed up a little late so they had already ordered, but I saw fish head soup on the menu and it looked good. The guy told me they ran out, but he had braised fish head that was very good, so I said okay. This was awesome.  It was chunks of fish head braised in a sort of spicy soy sauce with chilis and scallions; similar to a hong shao preparation (red cooked). The meat on the head was so tender, not fishy at all and the sauce tasted amazing with this dish, super good. 8.75/10

Spicy Clams:

My friend ordered this, another “wow” type of dish. Clams stir fried in this brown spicy sauce, so flavorful. The sauce was amazing, wasn’t heavy or goopy, not too salty just really good. The clams were very fresh tasting too. 8.75/10

Chili Mantis Prawn:

Same preparation as the chili crab with mantis prawn and it was really good.  I forgot how good mantis prawn can be if you cook it right.  It tastes like a slightly sweeter lobster.  This was another huge winner. 8.75/10

Overall, I really like this place a lot.  If you happen to be in Hong Kong, I highly recommend going here, it’s a lot of fun and a great restaurant.

Address:
Shop 6-10, 429 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
灣仔駱克道 429 號 6-9 號舖
Phone: 2573 7698

Fu Sing Shark Fin Restaurant /富聲魚翅海鮮酒家 – One Of My Favorite Restaurants In HK

Fu Sing (富聲魚翅海鮮酒家) was originally recommended to me on chowhound.com by “FourSeasons”, which you can see here.  I’ve since eaten there three times and it has become one of my favorite restaurants in HK.

Originally I came here specifically for cha siu (Cantonese roast pork).  Fu Sing is sort of an odd place because I don’t associate cha siu with nice restaurants; I grew up eating it out of little Cantonese BBQ joints in LA where my grandparents would pick it up as an addition to our home cooked meals, so I associate it with hole in the wall places. However, Fu Sing is a reasonably upscale restaurant on the 2nd floor of a commercial building in Wan Chai that has a couple of other restaurants in it. The décor is reasonably upscale semi-modern, but still Chinese décor.  The service is fine and very prompt.  I’ve generally found the waitresses to be pretty nice and helpful.

Dinner:

Cha siu (BBQ Pork / Cha Shao):

This was the best cha siu I’ve ever had.  Feel free to correct me if there is better in HK because there likely is since its HK, but wow I was blown away by how good this was. The meat was so tender and flavorful. It was sweet, but perfectly sweet not overly sweet. The fat was just perfect, no chewy pieces, just melt in your mouth goodness. Even my GF who doesn’t really like fatty meats including cha siu (she’s Korean and thinks a lot of Chinese BBQ is too fatty) was like this is amazing. 9.5/10

Lettuce with Shrimp Paste in a Sizzling Clay Pot (蝦醬生菜煲 / Xia Jiang Sheng Cai Bao):

I don’t see this dish very often in the US and I haven’t had it in a very long time. Pretty self explanatory dish; it was very good though, the shrimp paste is fermented so it has a strong flavor, but I liked the flavor a lot. 8/10

Da Zha Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings with Hairy Crab Roe):

This was the surprise of the night, I was somewhat skeptical because XLB are Shanghainese and I wasn’t sure how this would turn out as this is a Cantonese restaurant. Luckily I was very wrong, these were unbelievable. I had Din Tai Fung in Taipei a few days later, which I consider very good, so I’ve got a good comparison. The skins were very light and delicate, they aren’t as quite as good as DTF skins, but still very good. However, the filling was the best I’ve ever had. The hairy crab roe gave them an unbelievable semi creamy flavor that is hard to explain, but was really good. The soup was so light and flavorful not the overly fattiness you can get with some XLB. I think these may have been the best XLB I’ve ever had. The crab roe really takes it to another level. 9/10 (9.5/10 for the filling, 8.5/10 for the skins)

Soy Sauce Chicken (See Yao Gai / Jiang You Ji):

Just a simple soy sauce chicken, but another winner, very light soy sauce and very tender meat. It’s a simple dish, but really good. I would’ve liked a little more meat, but overall very good. 8.5/10

Shrimp and Egg Vermicelli in a Sizzling Clay Pot (干燒粉絲煲 / Gan Shao Fen Si Bao):

This came out in a sizzling clay pot with clear vermicelli noodles, small dried shrimp, small pieces of yellow egg, diced green onions, bean sprouts and diced mushrooms. Another good dish, pretty simple, but well executed. Everyone liked it. 8.25/10

Tang Yuan (Boiled Rice Dough Balls with Black Sesame Paste):

I got this for dessert, fairly standard dessert, but one of my favorites. It came in a hot ginger soup, the rice dough was melt in your mouth soft and the sesame paste was great. 8.5/10

Dim sum: probably the best dim sum I’ve had, more expensive than other places, but well worth it in my opinion

Ha Gow (Xia Jiao / Steamed Shrimp Dumplings):

A lot of people think this is how you should judge a dim sum restaurant.  The version here was excellent.  The skins were light and delicate and the interior was really good.  The shrimp tasted very fresh.  Overall, these were excellent. 8.75/10

Siu Mai (Shao Mai / Steamed Pork Dumplings):

The skins were perfect not overly thick like most places, the interiors were tender, flavorful and perfectly minced (i.e. they had no “stops”).  Another winner. 8.75/10

Cha Siu Bao (Cha Shao Bao / Roast Pork Bun):

The best cha siu bao I’ve ever had.  They use the amazing cha siu that they make along with perfectly buns that are so fluffy.  Just amazing. 9/10

Lo Bat Go (Luo Bo Gao / Pan Fried Turnip Cake):

The best luo bo gao I’ve ever had as well.  The version is different than most I’ve had as the exterior has this crispy exterior that sort of looks like something that is fried with panko mix on the outside.  The interior is perfectly minced, no strands of turnips (I hate that) and there are small pieces of ham in that are very good.  This was really several steps ahead of any version I’ve ever had. 9/10

Chun Juan (Spring Rolls):

I don’t normally order these, but I was with my friend’s younger brother, who likes them, so I ordered them.  These were surprisingly good, not oily or heavy at all with a flavorful filling. 8.5/10

Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings):

I had these during the summer, so the hairy crab version was no longer in season.  These were still quite good except the interiors weren’t as good as the hairy crab version which really just takes it to another level. 8.5/10

Cha Siu (Cha Shao / Roast Pork):

Same as the other times I’ve been, simply amazing. 9.5/10

Overall, I really like this place, it’s become one of my favorite places in HK and I highly recommend coming here.  I can’t wait to go back again and try more dishes, I’m curious about their abalone as they are known for it.  Also, you should definitely make a reservation especially for dim sum.

Address:
1/F, Sunshine Plaza, No. 353 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
灣仔駱克道353號三湘大廈1樓
Phone: 2893 0881

Hao Da Da Ji Pai – Great Taiwanese Fried Chicken at Shi Lin Night Market in Taipei

Shi Lin (士林夜市) is Taipei’s largest and most famous night market. Night markets are big outdoor marketplaces that have tons of street food, games, shopping and other small stores. They are a lot of fun and happen to have some wonderful food. This night market is massive and has a huge amount of food vendors.

The main area for food vendors is an indoor area away from the main night market that has rows and rows of food vendors. I always look to see who’s busy as local Taiwanese will really flock to a place if it’s very good. We saw a huge line at Hao Da Da Ji Pai (豪大大雞排), which has no English name. We decided that is where we were going to eat (we had eaten a lot earlier so that is why I don’t have more pictures).

Hao Da Da Ji Pai serves a big fried chicken chop (雞排) that is similar to a pork chop except chicken. Taiwanese fried chicken tastes much different than American fried chicken because the batter is different; I believe it uses corn starch and sweet potato starch. It’s very crispy, not as oily as American fried chicken and the batter has a lot of five spice powder (wu xiang fen / 五香粉) and white pepper in it, so it’s quite flavorful. They dust it with a red pepper powder. It’s awesome and the version here is probably one of the best I’ve ever had. The outside is so crispy and flavorful, but the inside remains perfectly juicy. Really amazing fried chicken. It also happens to be massive, one piece is about as big as your face. 8.75/10

I highly recommend this if you are at Shi Lin although I’d recommend sharing it as it’s a lot of fried chicken for one person (I wasn’t really hungry after I ate it!).

Din Tai Fung – Great Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) in Taipei

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐) is a Taiwanese chain of xiao long bao (soup dumplings) restaurants that are probably the most famous in the world and among the best in terms of quality.

They have multiple branches in Taiwan, Japan, China, Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, Los Angeles, Malaysia and Sydney.  I’ve always been surprised that they have been able to maintain their quality given the number of branches they have.  Normally, restaurants that branch out like that tend to lose quality over time.  I’ve been to the Fu Xing branch in Taipei, the Paragon branch in Singapore and Arcadia branch in LA and all of them are quite good (if anyone at DTF is listening…please open one in NY, you’ll crush the competition).

This review is for the Fu Xing branch in Taipei.  The restaurant is located in the basement food court at the SOGO department store on Zhong Xiao East Road.  There is always a fairly large wait and the waiter comes out gives you a number and a menu where you pre-order what you want, which is great because it’s extremely efficient.  The restaurant is reasonably nice and the service is fine.

We only got two things, but multiple orders of it because we wanted to stick to the classics:

Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings):

The dumpling skins at Din Tai Fung are the best I’ve ever had; they are very thin and delicate, more so than any other version I’ve ever had.  That is the where I think DTF really excels.  They are among the best dumpling skins I’ve ever had. The filling is very good as well (the best I’ve ever had though goes to Fu Sing Shark Fin Restaurant in Hong Kong), the meat is great and the soup is light and not greasy at all.  Just an all around great soup dumpling. 8.75/10 (9.25/10 for the skins, 8.5/10 for the filling)

Beef Noodle Soup (Hong Shao Niu Rou Mian):

Beef noodle soup is one of the national dishes of Taiwan and DTF makes a pretty respectable version.  Beef noodle soup in Taiwan is sort of similar to ramen in Japan in that there are tons of places that specialize in it and people tend to get pretty picky about it.  I may not be as picky as I once was about it because in the NY a really good version doesn’t exist, so it’s rare that I get to have a really good bowl of it.  The version here wasn’t the best I’ve ever had in Taiwan, but it was very good.  The beef was excellent, very tender and flavorful.  The noodles were excellent as well, al dente with good flavor.  The broth was very good, not overly salty, that great hong shao (red cooking) flavor although I prefer mine a bit spicier and flavorful (the best versions I’ve had have a slightly deeper flavor).  Overall though it’s a very good bowl of beef noodle soup. 8.5/10

DTF is very famous and famous for a good reason.  If you are in an area with a DTF, I highly suggest going.

Address:
Fuxing Branch
B2F., No.300, Sec. 3, Zhongxiao E. Rd.
Da-an District, Taipei City 10654, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
(B2F of Fuxing SOGO Department Store)
phone: 886-2-8772-0528

復興店
10654台北市大安區忠孝東路三段300號

(太平洋SOGO百貨復興館B2F)

https://www.dintaifung.com.tw/en/index.asp

Rao He Night Market / 饒河 – A Lesser Known, But Great Night Market

Taipei is known for it’s large night markets.  Night markets are big outdoor marketplaces that have tons of street food, games, shopping and other small stores.  They are a lot of fun and happen to have some wonderful food.  The largest and most famous is called Shi Lin (士林夜市), however there are many other night markets.  One that is close to my friends’ condo is called Rao He (饒河) which as it turns out is the first night market in Taipei.   It’s much smaller than Shi Lin with basically one long street in front of a big temple.

Hu Jiao Bao (Pepper Bun):

We saw a huge line in front of this stand and basically anytime you see a long line in Taiwan for food it’s almost guaranteed to be awesome.  This was no exception, I think this might be one of the best street foods I’ve ever had.  This was cooked like a cylinder oven very similar to how Indian naan bread is cooked.  Not surprisingly the bun itself actually tastes fairly similar to Indian naan, but the inside has pork, minced mushrooms and scallions in it, which tastes very Chinese.  The bread is awesome and tastes so good.  The filling was amazing, really flavorful, think about the best dumpling you’ve ever had and this is better than that.  So good. 9.25/10

Fruits:

Fruits in Taiwan are really good, here’s a pic of a fruit stand.  The guavas were really good. 8.75/10

Squid:

This was interesting, this was some type of preserved squid.  It’s interesting as it’s much more firm than regular squid and they put a pretty good sauce that was a bit spicy and had a lot of garlic in it. 7.5/10

Corn:

I think I’m the only person who likes this, but its roasted corn that is basted with a spicy soy sauce mixture.  The version here was decent, but not the best I’ve ever had in Taiwan. 7.5/10

Grilled Squid:

This is grilled squid that is basted with a soy sauce mixture.  It’s pretty good, I like it with beer. 7.75/10

Squid Vermicelli Soup:

This isn’t actually in Rao He, but it’s in a small street stand that is close to Rao He.  They serve something that is similar to oh ah mi sua (a famous oyster vermicelli soup), but instead of oysters, they put squid in it.  The soup is fairly thick and has a mild taste, but they give you vinegar and chili oil, which go really well with the soup.  They also put cilantro, bean sprouts, pickled vegetables (suan cai) in it as well.  The squid is really good and tender.  Overall, it was excellent. 8.5/10

Overall, a fun and good night market, I highly recommend for the hu jiao bao place.

Here’s a map to find it: https://www.raohe.com.tw/e4-1.htm

Yong He Qing Zhou Dou Jiang Da Wang /永和清粥豆漿大王– The Best Taiwanese Breakfast I’ve Ever Had

Yong He (永和) is an area in Taipei that is known for it’s Taiwanese breakfast.  You will find many restaurants in the US serving Taiwanese breakfast and a great deal of them will be called Yong He.  Taiwnese breakfast consists of things like sweet soy bean milk, salty soy bean milk (soy bean milk mixed with vinegar, pork floss, pickled vegetable and chili oil), fan tuan (a rice roll stuffed with pickled vegetables, fried crueller and pork floss), luo buo gao (fried turnip cake), shao bing (a baked wheat bread with sesame seeds) and you tiao (fried crueller).

Yong He Qing Zhou Dou Jiang Da Wang /永和清粥豆漿大王 is among the most famous of the breakfast places.  In December 2009, I got a chance to try Yong He Qing Zhou Dou Jiang Da Wang and it more than lives up to it’s reputation.

Sweet Soy Bean Milk (Tian Dou Jiang):

This was the best version I’ve ever had, it’s made fresh at the restaurant.  It’s served hot and comes out in a bowl.  It’s not too sweet and has such a clean soy bean milk flavor, not chalky whatsoever.  My GF doesn’t even like soy bean milk and she thought it was really good.  I mean it’s pretty self explanatory, but simply amazing. 9.25/10

Salty Soy Bean Milk (Xian Dou Jiang):

This was also the best version I’ve ever had as well.  Same soy bean milk as the sweet soy bean milk except it has vinegar, pork floss, pickled vegetable and chili oil in it.  The vinegar causes the soy bean milk to curdle, so it sort of has chunks of tofu in it.  Same thing, my GF doesn’t even like this stuff and was like this is really good.  Amazing. 9/10

Egg Pancake (Dan Bing):

This is a thin pancake that has fried egg on it.  Their version was outstanding, so fresh and the thick chili paste they gave you has some type of bean in it that was really good and matched up perfectly with dan bing. 9/10

Fried Turnip Cake (Luo Bo Gao):

This is different than the Cantonese version which I’m used to eating.  It’s prepared the same way, but they put a different sauce on it, I believe it was some sort of oyster sauce, but different than the regular oyster sauce.  These were amazing.  The turnips were properly minced so that there weren’t strands in it.  The ham in it was really good.  They were fried perfectly, so they were crispy, but not oily at all.  One of the best version I’ve ever had. 9/10

Rice Roll (Fan Tuan):

This is rice that is stickier than normal that is rolled up sort of like a sushi roll and stuffed with pickled vegetables (suan cai), fried crueler (you tiao) and pork floss (rou song).  This was so good.  The pickled vegetables were really good, I’m pretty sure that they make it themselves, I don’t know how to explain how taste, but the Taiwanese suan cai is one of my favorite pickled vegetables.  Everything was just so good about this especially when you dip it into the xian dou jiang. 8.75/10

Wheat Pancake (Shao Bing):

They baked these fresh and they literally pulled them out of the oven when we ordered them.  You take these and dip them in the dou jiang, again the best version I’ve ever had. 8.75/10

I can’t say enough about how good this place and it was also exceptionally cheap (3 of us at for $5 USD total).  If you are in Taipei this is a “must go” type place.

Address:

Taiwan台北市大安區

No. 102, Section 2, FùXìng South Rd,

Phone: 02-2702-1228

Lord Stow’s at EXpresso 咖啡吧 – Delicious Portuguese Style Dan Tat (Chinese Egg Custard Tarts)

Lord Stow’s is a bakery in Macau that is famous for their dan tat (egg custard tarts).  At the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay, the coffee shop called EXpresso has Lord Stow dan tat.  A friend of mine showed me this place last time I was in Hong Kong.  The store itself is just a small upscale coffee shop with typical coffee shop fare, the real appeal is the Lord Stow dan tat.  They are the Portguese version meaning that the tops are somewhat burnt and so they have a sort of carmelization on top.  Egg custard tarts are probably one of the more famous and popular Chinese pastries.  They have a buttery flaky crust and a very egg-y yellow custard that is sweet.  The Lord Stow version is very good especially when they are hot.  The crust is delicious and flaky and the custard is not too sweet and has a great flavor. 9/10

I definitely recommend trying these out if you are in Hong Kong.

Address:

Lobby, The Excelsior Hong Kong, 281 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay

銅鑼灣告士打道281號香港怡東酒店大堂

Phone: 2837 6777

Yee Shun Dairy Company – Delicious Milk Pudding in Hong Kong

Yee Shun Dairy Company is a chain of Chinese milk pudding places in Hong Kong.  When I go to HK I used to get dou hua (a silky tofu with a sweet syrup poured over it) everyday, but once I found Yee Shun I switched to getting their milk pudding on a daily basis.  The restaurants don’t have much décor to them and the services is quick and without any frills.

Double Milk Pudding:

The milk pudding is very light and has this great milky creamy flavor, I particularly like the pudding skin that is on the top of the pudding.  It’s not too sweet, which I like because I don’t really like very sweet desserts.  I can literally eat this multiple times per day because it’s so light and not very sweet.  They have other flavors, which I’ve tried, but the double milk is definitely my favorite one. 9/10

Definitely recommend trying this place out.

Address:
G/F., 506 Lockhard Road, Causeway Bay
銅鑼灣駱克道 506 號地下
Phone: 2591 1837

Wai Kee / 清真惠記 (Qing Zhen Hui Ji) – Amazing Chinese Muslim Curry Lamb in Hong Kong

In my December 2009 trip to Hong Kong, I randomly was walking around Causeway Bay and happened to find the 2nd floor food court at the Bowrington Road Market.  It’s a very cool food court that reminds me of a hawker center in Singapore with lots of vendors selling all sorts of different foods (basically all Cantonese).  However, one vendor caught my attention, which was a Muslim Chinese vendor selling curry meats and roast meats.  It looked really good and decided that I needed to try it next time I was in town (unfortunately I was really full when I was walking around).  I asked around and my friends told me it’s really good and it also got excellent reviews on openrice.com.  I finally got to try it on my last trip and wow was it good.

Curry Lamb (Ga Li Yang Rou Fan):

This was so good, the meat is super tender and flavorful, not gamey whatsoever.  The curry sauce is pretty oily and rich, but not in a bad way.  It’s got an amazing flavor and it isn’t too salty or overspiced.  However, it really doesn’t taste like a Chinese dish at all really.  If you just randomly put it in front of me I’d say that it was from India or Pakistan.  It also has pieces of boiled radish in it that go really well with the curry, I originally thought they were potatoes, but as I ate them I realized the texture was different.  Overall, an excellent dish and unbelievably cheap at 28 HKD. 8.5/10

Roast Duck (Kao Ya):

They are also famous for the roast duck.  It looks and tastes like typical Cantonese roast duck.  The skin was excellent, a little crispy and lots of flavor.  The meat was pretty good as well, but there wasn’t that much of it (much more bone than meat).  They give you a plum sauce on the side to dip it in, which goes pretty well with the duck.  Overall, definitely good roast duck although I’m not sure it lives up to the hype of some of the reviews I read. 8/10

If you happen to be in Hong Kong this is definitely a good place (although there are so many good places in HK) and I would definitely try it.

Address:
Shop 5, 1/F, 2/F Bowrington Road Market, 21 Bowrington Road, Wan Chai
灣仔寶靈頓道21號鵝頸街市鵝頸熟食中心1樓5號
Phone: 2574 1131

Shanghai Café – Surprisingly good Shanghainese meal with the off the menu dishes

I’ve been to Shanghai Café many times and it’s been mixed in terms of quality, some dishes are pretty decent and some are mediocre.  However, it is probably the best Shanghainese restaurant in Manhattan.  I recently went back to order off the Chinese menu, which luckily I had a print out of as it wasn’t posted on the wall for some reason (scoopG on Chowhound has a great post of it, which you can find here).  As Shanghai Café is a well-known restaurant, I’ll get straight into the food.

Hundred Leaves Knotted BBQ Meat (Bai Ye Jie Kao Rou /百葉結烤):

This dish consists of knotted tofu skin and pork belly cooked in a brown sauce that is hong shao (red cooking).  Hong shao sauce is made of sugar, garlic, star anise, soy sauce, shaoxing wine and broth.  It’s slightly sweet, but still savory.  The sauce was good and not gloopy or over salted.  The meat was very tender and good.  I really like the knotted tofu skin as it absorbs the flavor of the sauce really well.  Overall, a very solid dish, definitely the best dish of the night. 8/10

Crispy Yellow Croaker (Cui Pi Huang Yu /脆皮黃):

This is a yellow croaker that has been lightly battered and fried.  The sauce is a sweet and sour sauce.  It was surprisingly good; I was concerned it would have that fresh water fish flavor that I don’t like.  A lot of Chinatown restaurants have that flavor because the fish aren’t great quality.  However, there wasn’t any of that flavor in this dish, which was great.  The skin was very good, freshly fried and crispy.  Everyone liked this quite a bit. 7.75/10

Fragrant Shredded Peppers and Beef (Xiao Jiao Xiang Gang Niu Rou Si /小椒香干牛肉):

This is shredded beef, dried tofu and sliced spicy green peppers.  Very simple and self-explanatory, but I always liked this dish and the rendition here is good. 7.75/10

Crab roe soup dumplings (Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao):

I decided to try the XLB here again, but unfortunately they were disappointing again (there are no even decent XLB in the city).  The skins were too thick and a bit over-steamed.  The soup is too heavy and the filling was a bit bland.  Stick to the regular dishes.  6.25/10

Stir Fried String Beans (Gan Shao Si Ji Dou):

I love this dish, but unfortunately it was very mediocre.  It had none of the wok flavor that it should have and it was a bit on the salty side.  Simple dish, but I wouldn’t order it here. 6.25/10

Overall, this was a surprisingly good meal and definitely took Shanghai Café up a notch in my book.  The state of Shanghainese food in NY especially Chinatown is pretty bad and in Chinatown this is definitely the best place although the competition is terrible.  Definitely recommend trying some of the dishes I ordered.  I look forward to trying more of the Chinese menu.

Address:
100 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-3988

Sun Light Bakery – Fresh made to order chang fen / cheung fan (Chinese steamed rice crepe) in Chinatown / LES

Sun Light Bakery is a small Cantonese bakery on East Broadway located on the far eastern part of Chinatown that borders the Lower Eastside.  The bakery is a regular Cantonese bakery with decent baked goods.  However, the real draw is that next door is a small snack shop that is part of the bakery that serves fresh made to order chang fen / cheung fan, which is a steamed Chinese rice crepe with various fillings you can choose.  Typically, you see this dish at dim sum places.  However, in Hong Kong there are places that will make it fresh for you.  It’s much better fresh and when I saw they were serving it fresh, I got very excited.  They have a variety of fillings you can get such as dried baby shrimp, fresh shrimp, beef, roast pork.

So far I’ve tried the beef, dried baby shrimp and the cha shao / cha siu (roast pork):

Beef:

The beef is different than the version you get at dim sum places, this is more small chunks of minced beef as opposed to the minced beef that fills up the middle.  The chang fen is cut up and the lady will ask you if you want scallions and she will sprinkle diced scallions and cilantro on it (definitely recommend getting that).  You then pour a dark, semi sweet soy sauce on it.  This was quite good. 7.75/10

Dried Baby Shrimp:

This was the same thing, but I liked it a bit better as I really like dried baby shrimp. 8/10

Cha Shao / Cha Siu (Roast Pork):

This was the same thing, but I thought the cha siu wasn’t very good quality as it was a bit dried out although it still tasted pretty good overall. 7/10

Overall, a solid place and if you’re in the neighborhood I recommend stopping in.  Also, I recommend eating it immediately as it tastes much better.

Address:
160 E Broadway
New York, NY 10002
(212) 608-8899