Dieci is a restaurant in the East Village serving Japanese style Italian. Often times when one culture tries to adapt another culture’s cuisine to its own taste, the results are a disaster. However, Japan has been able to take other cuisines and create something is different yet still good. In particular, Japan is known for its French, Italian and Chinese cuisines. In fact, Japan has Michelin star restaurants in such cuisines. Dieci gives you a flavor for what this type of cuisine is.
The restaurant is a small room in the basement level. It’s intimate and the type of place you would bring a date. The service is always excellent and it’s an enjoyable place to have dinner.
Zuke Tuna Salad
This is sliced tuna with squash, snap pea and greens in a truffle soy dressing. The tuna and vegetables are good quality, but the dressing was a bit too sweet. It’s an alright dish, but I thought was a bit of an odd choice to put on the menu and didn’t really stand out. 7.5/10
This is small baked potato topped with uni. This sounds awesome although I found that the uni and potato didn’t really do much for each other. It’s well cooked, but it ends up just tasting like a creamy potato. 7.75/10
Chawanmushi is a savory Japanese egg custard that I grew up eating. However, the chawanmushi at Dieci is far more decadent than what I grew up eating. It has foie gras pureed into it, which gives it a much richer flavor. It’s topped with mushrooms, chives and savory broth. This is one of my favorite dishes here and I highly recommend ordering it. 8.5/10
Uni Egg Scramble
This is scrambled egg topped with uni and sturgeon caviar in a savory broth. This is another dish I really like here. The creaminess of the uni, saltiness of the caviar, the savory broth and egg really pair well together. This is a great dish. 8.5/10
This is roasted brussel sprouts topped with parmesan, miso and walnuts. It’s a pretty decent dish although I wouldn’t say it stands out. 7.75/10
This is fluke sashimi in a yuzu pepper and ceviche sauce. This dish works better than the zuke tuna salad. The sauce is not overpowering and goes well with the fluke. 8/10
This is squid ink tagliolini with calamari in a tomato sauce. The tagliolini is has great texture and is perfectly al dente. The tomato sauce compliments the tagliolini and calamari perfectly. This is another dish that I really enjoy at Dieci. 8.5/10
This is ramen noodles in a spicy lamb bolognese sauce. The noodles are al dente and bolognese sauce is hearty and goes well with the ramen. 8/10
This is fettuccine with sea urchin and calamari in a creamy sauce. The pasta, uni and calamari are good. However, I found the sauce a bit lacking in flavor. If the sauce was a bit more flavorful this dish could be a winner. 7.75/10
Filet Mignon Steak
This is a filet mignon steak topped with a truffle soy reduction and mushroom couscous. The steak is excellent and the sauce pairs perfectly with it. The mushroom couscous is a nice side dish to go with the steak. 8.25/10
Japanese Red Snapper Chazuke
Chazuke is a simple Japanese dish that I also grew up eating which is simply rice with tea poured over it and topped with seasoning. This is a more refined version with seared red snapper on top of grilled vegetable rice ball with hoji tea soup poured over it. The fish was perfectly cooked and went well with the rice and broth. This was a nice dish. 8/10
This was a special. It was a chocolate soufflé with earl grey ice cream. The dessert is pretty self-explanatory and was really good. If they happen to have this, definitely order it. 8.25/10
Overall, while not every dish is a hit, the dishes that are good are excellent and it’s become one of the restaurants that I regularly go to. I highly recommend checking it out.
228 E 10th Street
New York, NY 1003
Japanese curry is a homey and very satisfying meal for me. It reminds me of growing up as it was one of those things that I thought was so good when I younger. While curry is probably most associated with Indian cuisine, it is very popular in Japan. Curry Ya specializes in Japanese style curry, which is a mild brown curry usually served with a meat, white rice and pickled daikon.
The restaurant is a thin space with only counter space seating enough for maybe 12 people. Because the restaurant is so small, there can be waits at peak times particularly on the weekends.
Condiments are on the counter in front of each seat and consist of red pickled radish, pickled onions and toasted garlic. I highly recommend using all of the condiments as they go great with curry.
Berkshire Pork Katsu Curry
This was a deep fried pork cutlet with curry and rice. The batter was crispy and not oily although not quite as light as a really good version. The meat was nicely tender and decent quality. Overall, the pork cutlet itself was pretty good although not amazing. The curry is flavorful and quite good, definitely better than most other places in NY. 8/10
This curry has ground beef with chopped onions, carrots, celery, raisins, a hard-boiled egg and fried onions. The first picture has a deep fried croquette made of mashed potato and ground beef. The second and third pictures have a mini Berkshire pork katsu. The croquette was good and goes well with the dry curry. The dry curry is much thicker than the normal curry. It’s more heavily spiced with a stronger curry flavor than the regular curry. This is a nice change from the normal curry and tastes great with rice. 8/10
Homemade Hamburger Steak Curry
This is hamburger with curry. I like hamburger, but I generally prefer a fried item with curry, so while this is pretty good, I prefer the fried items and curry. 7.75/10
Baked Hamburger Curry
This curry rice baked in the oven in a cast iron skillet with cheese. You can change any of the dishes on the menu to the baked curry. While I generally prefer fried items with curry, we got the hamburger since this curry is heavier and we thought a fried item might be too heavy for this. This curry is heavier because of the cheese, but I found this really delicious and probably the best dish at Curry Ya. 8.25/10
I enjoy eating at Curry Ya and I eat here regularly. If you like Japanese curry then I’d definitely recommend trying it out as it’s the best version I’ve had in NY.
214 E 10th St
New York, NY 10003
Bada Story is a restaurant in Flushing that specializes in hwe (Korean style sashimi). Hwe is a little different than the Japanese sashimi as it tends to be served directly after being killed whereas most fish we have in sushi restaurants has been aged. There is a misconception that great fish in sushi restaurants is super fresh when in fact the meat needs to have a little time in order to break down to get that very tender texture associated good sushi. Also, hwe tends to be eaten with chogochujang which is gochujang (Korean spicy pepper sauce) mixed with vinegar and other seasonings like sesame oil.
Bada Story basically only serves hwe and you order set menus that offer a variety of other dishes in addition to hwe. The restaurant feels like you’re in Korea and the interior looks like a cabin. It’s a fun atmosphere where people are having fun eating and drinking. The waiters speak varying degrees of English, but they have a couple of waiters who are fluent in English and the menu is in English, so communication is not an issue.
There are tanks where the keep the fish and sea cucumbers (the weird pinkish long things).
We got the fluke set, which was recommended by a friend of mine that is from the area. This set was a shocking amount of high quality food for the price and we were very full at the end (everything below is part of the set). It ended up being $65 per person including drinks, tax and tip!
These were raw vegetables served with tenjang (fermented bean paste). They were fresh and tasted great with the tenjang. 8/10
This was a lettuce salad with fish roe and squid in a sweet ginger dressing. The seafood was nicely fresh and it was tasty. 7.75/10
Haemul Pajeon (Seafood Pancake)
This is a typical Korean seafood pancake. It wasn’t oily and was nicely crispy. It came with a tangy soy sauce with peppers and onions in it. The version here was good. 8/10
This is a steamed egg custard that is made with egg, water and sugar. It’s a simple dish, but I always really like this dish as I tend to like eggy dishes. 8/10
This is yellow corn with cheese on top of it, which is common at Korean restaurants. They also added corn, peas and shrimp here as well. It’s certainly not gourmet, but there is something satisfying about the sweetness of the corn and the creaminess of the cheese. 7.75/10
This was a simple soup with mussels. The mussels were fresh and the soup base is very light with the flavor of mussels imparted into it. 7.75/10
This was fried fluke with a slightly tangy soy sauce. It was freshly fried and not oily. The meat was tender and flaky. It wasn’t anything special, but it was still pretty decent. 7.5/10
Sea Pineapple and Sea Cucumber Sashimi
This looks super bizarre, but the red-orange things are sea pineapple and the grey-blue things are sea cucumber. While they look like they might be really mushy, the texture is actually somewhat firm and crunchy when you bite into it. It was very fresh tasting and despite its bizarre appearance the flavor is quite mild and mainly tastes salty and briny. You dip it in soy sauce with wasabi. I found it to be quite delicious. 8/10
Grilled Whole Fish
This was a whole fish grilled with salt and lemon. This fish was cooked properly, so the meat was tender, but they over-salted the fish, so it was a bit too salty otherwise I’d have given it a higher rating. 7.5/10
Mixed Sashimi Platter
This was a platter of several cuts of fish, octopus, abalone, shrimp, uni and this odd looking thing which I’m actually not sure what it was (I believe it might’ve been part of the sea cucumber). Everything was very fresh tasting and surprisingly high quality. I was quite impressed by this sashimi platter. 8.25/10
Fluke Hwe (Sashimi)
This was the main course. The fluke was laid out on rocks with dry ice at the bottom, it was kind of over the top, but it did look pretty. Fluke is a very mild flavored fish, so the flavor is quite subtle. The meat was extremely fresh having just been killed so it’s got a firmer texture than you might be used to at a normal sushi restaurant. I like to dip it in the chogochujang, which is tangy, sweet and spicy, but you can also dip it in soy sauce and wasabi. It was good although I was pretty full by the time it showed up. 8/10
After the fluke they gave us some light kimchi, which was a nice palate cleanser. 7.75/10
Spicy Tuna Roll
This was just a small spicy tuna roll. It was decent, but nothing special. 7.5/10
Maewoon Tang (Spicy Fish Stew)
This is a spicy fish stew. I was so full by the time this came that I only really ate some to see how it tasted. The ingredients were all fresh, but the soup was a little light in flavor. Good versions of this stew tend to be spicier and have more the seafood flavor imparted into the broth. 7.5/10
Overall, I really enjoyed my meal here. The food is good and it’s a fun place to come with friends. It also happens to be very reasonably priced for what you are getting.
161-23 Crocheron Ave
Flushing, NY 11358
Chiu Hong Bakery is an old school Cantonese bakery located on the cusp of Chinatown and Soho. It’s the type old school Toisan family owned bakeries that are slowly dying in Chinatown. The place is dingy with no décor whatsoever. There’s not much more to say about the place other than it’s turning out some great pastries.
Lotus Seed Pastry (Lian Rong Su)
This is a flaky pastry that is filled with lotus seed paste. The dough was nicely flaky and not too oily or dry. The lotus seed paste was fairly dense and not overly sweet. It was pretty good. 7.75/10
Wife Cake (Lao Po Bing)
This is a thin flaky disc shaped pastry filled with a winter melon filling with roasted sesame. The version here is excellent, definitely the best version I’ve had in NY and pretty close to Asia level good. In particular the filling is excellent; it’s not the paste that most places have, but rather actual strips of winter melon. This is really excellent and definitely a must order. 8.5/10
Peanut Mochi (Hua Sheng Nuo Mi Ci)
Everyone knows about Japanese mochi, but there is a Cantonese version of mochi as well. I believe they were very popular a long time ago in the 50s or 60s. Anyhow, today they are an old school pastry that you don’t see a lot of people eating anymore. Chiu Hong’s version is excellent and homemade. The dough is very soft, thicker than Japanese mochi and dried coconut has been sprinkled on the outside. The ground peanut and sugar filling is delicious. These were really good. 8.5/10
Red Bean Mochi (Dou Sha Nuo Mi Ci)
These are the same except with red bean paste in the middle. 8.5/10
Red Bean Pancake (Shao Bing)
This was a thin disc shaped pancake made out of rice dough with red bean filling that has been lightly grilled on one side. The rice dough was soft, but had a slightly crispy texture on one side and the red bean filling was nice. This was surprisingly good as I thought it might be bad because it looked like it had been sitting around for a while. 8/10
Fa gao is a steamed fluffy cake made of rice flour that kind of looks like a cupcake, but is much more fluffy. You normally eat these at Chinese New Years. They are simple, but fairly easy to mess up and are dry when they are bad. Unfortunately, these were a total dud here and were quite dry. 6.5/10
Baked Roast Pork Bun (Kao Cha Shao Bao)
This was a typical roast pork bun except the filling was really ugly and not the regular red or brown filling. It tasted much better than it looked although I thought it was meat wasn’t great. The bun was quite good and it could’ve been a good roast pork bun if it had a more flavorful filling. 7/10
Steamed Roast Pork Bun (Zheng Cha Shao Bao)
Same as the baked pork bun except it was a steamed bun. 7/10
I highly suggest trying this bakery because given it’s location in Soho, I can’t imagine it will be around that much longer. Some of the pastries here are really high quality and it will be a shame when they’re gone.
161 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
I think I may get jaded sometimes when you go to as many restaurants as I do and it takes more for me to get excited these days than it used to. Luckily, Bangane is one of those rare finds that really got me excited.
Bangane is a Korean goat specialist restaurant located further down Northern Blvd in the sleepier part of the Korean section of Flushing. I’ve tried one of these places in LA a long time ago, but it was so long ago that I barely remember it as this point, so I was really excited to go re-introduce myself to this dish. This dish is pretty rare and even if you ask people from Korea about it you get this questioning look as it’s not common at all. I don’t know this for sure, but I’d guess this is probably country people type food.
The restaurant has a very traditional looking wood interiors and looks like an old school neighborhood restaurant in Korea. It has this sort of rustic sleepy atmosphere, which I liked. The staff was very friendly and helpful. Most don’t speak English very well, but one lady spoke English decently and was able to help us order properly.
I read a few reviews online who said they were well known for their kimchi. However, while their kimchi wasn’t bad, I found it too sweet and I thought it was just alright. 7.25/10
This was standard jap chae (glass noodles), but was made well. It wasn’t overly sweet or over sauced as a lot places make it and was a pretty decent rendition although it was pre-cooked as most panchan is. 7.75/10
Bean Sprouts And Broccoli
This was bean sprouts and broccoli cooked with sesame oil; it was fine and pretty standard. 7.75/10
Dried Squid In Spicy Sauce
This is dried squid that is covered in gochujang (Korean chili paste). While it looks spicy, it’s actually sweeter as opposed to spicy. I always love this and it was quite good here. 8/10
Standard boiled greens, nothing special. 7/10
These were lotus root cooked in a sweet soy sauce. They made these excellent here as they retained their crisp without being too tough and were not overly sweet as most places make them. 8.25/10
This is a simple dish made from boiling eggs, water and sugar, which results in this egg custard thing with scallions. It’s pretty hard to mess this dish up and it was good here. 8/10
Pickled Radish Soup
This is a cold spicy pickled radish soup that is tart, slightly sweet and very refreshing. I always love when they give you this. 8/10
Pan Fried Goat Liver
This was goat liver that had been covered with egg and then pan fried in oil. It turned out to be quite good, it wasn’t metallic tasting at all, wasn’t dry and had good flavor. Also, while it looked really oily, it actually wasn’t at all. 8/10
Boiled Goat Meat
They bring out a big chunk of boiled goat meat on the bone and cut up the meat table side then they put the meat on top of a steamer which has a bed of scallions which have been steaming. You let it steam for a couple minutes then you take the meat, scallions and wrap it in lettuce with the various condiments and dip it in a really great smoky tangy spicy sauce. I wasn’t sure how this would be, but really it turned out to be excellent and one of the more exciting dishes I’ve had in NY in a while. The meat was tender, flavorful and had a slight gaminess to it that I really liked. I know a lot of people shy away from goat or lamb because they don’t like the gamey flavor, but I’m telling you this is really good and I believe most people will really like it. 8.5/10
The next course is a jungol, which is a big stew. They take the leftover goat meat, add more scallions and cook it in a spicy broth. The resulting stew was pretty good although I thought it could use a bit more flavor. However, one of the waitresses told us to put some of the spicy sauce with vinegar we used for the boiled goat into it, which was perfect as the tangy sauce gave it an extra kick of flavor that made it quite good. 8/10 (7.5/10 without the sauce)
Normally when they do this, I never end up having enough room to actually enjoy it. However, this time I had enough to room to enjoy it. They take the soup pan, add rice and seawood to the leftover soup and keep cooking it until it turns into fried rice. It’s fairly light as far as fried rice goes because they don’t use any oil. Also, it’s not heavy flavored, but I liked it quite a bit particularly as a last dish. 8/10
Overall, I really enjoyed this meal and I’d highly recommend trying this place out as not only is it delicious, but quite unique in NY.
16519 Northern Blvd
Flushing, NY 11358
Phone: (718) 762-2799
Kang Ho Dong is a famous Korean comedian and former wrestler who started a chain on Korean BBQ restaurants in Korea. Baekjeong refers to low class people in ancient times who were butchers by trade although it’s not a term people regularly use anymore. Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong opened their first branch in the US in LA where it is very popular and well regarded. Thankfully they decided to open another branch in Flushing.
Kang Ho Dong is located on Northern Boulevard in the Korean section of Flushing that is quieter and much less hectic than Downtown Flushing. When you walk in you’ll find cartoon pictures and life sized cut outs of Kang Ho Dong everywhere. The restaurant is large industrial looking open space that very much like you’re in Seoul although bigger than restaurants in Seoul.
We came at an off hour, but the service was pretty good and attentive. I also love that they have the button, which every Korean restaurant in LA has. When you press the button a waiter comes; it’s so practical, I kind of wish all restaurants had it!
Anyhow here’s what we got:
They don’t give you much panchan at Kang Ho Dong; you only get a sweet potato pancake, sweet potato chunks in a sweet thick soy sauce and kimchi. All of the panchan were decent although not outstanding. 7.75/10
Beef Brisket Soybean Paste Stew (Tenjang Chigae)
We ordered two BBQ sets, each came with a free soup and this was one of those. Over years I’ve become a bit of a snob when it comes to these types of soups as my GF’s mom is an amazing Korean cook and I’ve realized how subpar most restaurants make these. However, I was pleasantly surprised and this was a pretty decent. The broth had good flavor and was not overly salty or watery like most places. I don’t normally see beef in this dish, but the brisket was a nice touch. I was surprisingly pleased by this. 8/10
Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Chigae)
Same as the beef brisket, I was surprised that it was pretty decent. It was nice and spicy and not overly salty. 8/10
Buckwheat Noodle With Spicy Sauce (Bibim Naeng Myun)
I love naeng myun which are black arrowroot noodles; you can read more about here. They are typically a summer dish as they are served cold, but I couldn’t pass them up. They are either served in a cold tangy and sweet broth (mul naeng myun) or served dry in a spicy, tangy and sweet sauce (bibim naeng myun). We got the bibim naeng myun. It’s pretty self-explanatory and is served with slices of pickled radish and Korean pear. This was a pretty decent version and I’d order it again. 7.75/10
The BBQ meats came with several condiments including scallions and bean sprouts topped with gochujang (sweet and spicy red chili sauce), lettuce, pickled radish slices, thick sweet soy sauce with onions and we also got sesame oil with salt and pepper, which I forgot to take a picture of but I highly recommend getting (you need to separately order it). I particularly liked the scallions and bean sprouts and I got multiples orders of that. 8/10
Thinly Sliced Beef Brisket (Chadol Bagi)
This is thinly sliced beef brisket, which you cook very quickly and then put in a lettuce wrap with condiments and dip in the sesame oil with salt and pepper. The meat quality was noticeably better than other Korean BBQ restaurants in NY, which I generally find use pretty mediocre quality meat. It was good and I was quite happy with it. 8/10
Premium Boneless Short Rib (Saeng Kalbi)
This was one of my favorite cuts of the day. In NY, I usually get marinated kalbi because the meat quality is not that great. However, unmarinated kalbi is the way to go if the meat quality is better as it is here. The meat was nicely marbled with great flavor; you really didn’t need much more than the meat and some lettuce. I highly recommend getting this. 8.5/10
Marinated Boneless Short Rib (Yangnyum Kalbi)
This is the regular marinated kalbi. The cut of meat while fairly decent wasn’t as good as the premium cut. The marinade was good although it tasted a bit sweet after eating the saeng kalbi. Overall, it was certainly better than other places in NY, but wasn’t at the same level as the saeng kalbi. 8/10
Marinated Pork Collar
This was pork collar marinated in a sweet soy sauce. The meat was nicely tender and the marinade was good although I will say after the saeng kalbi all the marinades tasted kind of sweet. 8/10
Premium Seared Pork Belly (Sam Gyup Sal)
This was the traditional sam gyup sal; it’s pretty self-explanatory and they do a good version here. Make sure to dip it in the sesame oil with salt and pepper. 8.25/10
Premium Pork Jowl
This was interesting as it’s not common to find pork jowl at Korean BBQ. As it turned out it was my other favorite cut of the day. It had a good pork flavor and while tender still have some springy-ness to it, which I really liked. I would say this was the consensus favorite at our table. Definitely make sure to order this. 8.5/10
Steamed Egg, Corn Cheese And Onion
When they cook your meat on the sides they put egg, corn and cheese and peppers and onions in these moats on the side the side of the grill. As its cooking it cooks these as well. They were all pretty good, but I think I liked the egg the best. 7.75/10
Overall, it was very good and I’m glad there is finally a good Korean BBQ place in NY.
152-12 Northern Blvd
Flushing, NY 11354
Somtum Der is one of the latest additions to NY’s explosion in Isaan style Thai food with restaurants like Zabb Elee, Larb Ubol etc. It’s kind of a weird because it’s a food that most NYers had no idea what it was until the last few years and then it just exploded. If you had asked me I wouldn’t have thought it would’ve caught on given its pretty spicy food which generally doesn’t work well against an American palate. However, luckily I would’ve been dead wrong and now we have all this delicious food available.
Isaan is an area in northeast Thailand and Somtum Der is actually the NY branch of a Bangkok based restaurant, which is sort of funny because it’s a transplant of a transplant. Isaan food is quite a bit different than the southern curries that most Americans associate with Thai food. Instead it has a lot of salad type of dishes and various things like sausages, grilled meats etc.
The inside of the restaurant is dimly lit and fairly nice with all wood interior and long wooden tables. There is also a station with all their ingredients laid out and a guy who is mashing them to make various dishes such as their somtum. The menu is helpful with lots of pictures and descriptions. The wait staff is generally pretty friendly although I’ve noticed that when it gets busy they get overwhelmed and the service can be disjointed at times like that.
Tum Thai Kai Kem
I’m going to start with the disappointing stuff here and the somtum dishes despite being the restaurant’s namesake fall into this category. This is spicy papaya salad with salted egg. The flavors fell pretty flat here; the normal slightly sweet, sour and spicy flavors all tasted a bit muted and I thought the salted egg would add another dimension, but it didn’t really do much for the dish. It was ok, but not something I would order again. 6.75/10
Tum Kor Moo Yang
This is spicy Papaya Salad mixed with grilled pork neck meat. This was better than the tum thai kai kem, but still wasn’t that great. The flavors were a bit better and the grilled pork neck meat was decent, but again really nothing special. 7.25/10
This is spicy minced pork salad with green vegetables and chilis. This was kind of bland, it wasn’t spicy enough and just generally wasn’t that flavorful. 6.5/10
This is spicy minced duck salad with green vegetables and chilis. This was definitely better than the larb moo although it was just alright on an absolute basis; for some reason they made it spicier and also a bit more flavorful, which helped the dish. 7.25/10
Moo Rong Hai Der + Khao Ji
Now that we’ve gotten through the duds, let’s get to the stars. The pork is grilled with a thick layer of this spiced dry rub that is really delicious; it’s spicy, salty and has a semi-smoky flavor that is great. The sauce it comes with is salty, sour and spicy and compliments the dish nicely. It also comes with sticky rice that has been grilled that is a bit buttery in flavor and goes really well with it. 8.5/10
Sa Poak Kai Tod Der
This is “Der styled” deep fried chicken thigh, the chicken is perfectly crispy on the outside and very tender on the inside and isn’t greasy at all. The sauce that is comes with is bit spicy, salty and sweet. This is a good dish. 8.25/10
Moo Ping Kati Sod
This is grilled coconut milk marinated pork skewers. The pork is tender and a bit of charred on the outside and the coconut milk has a slightly creamy coconut-y flavor. It’s served with rice noodles and the same sauce as the moo rong hai der. It’s very good. 8.25/10
Yum Tra Krai Sardine
This is sardines mixed with lemongrass, tomato sauce, herbs and spices in chili dressing. It’s salty, sour and spicy with big chunks of sardines. Silverjay on chowhound told me the first time he had it was served differently as the sardines were different and weren’t these big chunks. It was decent, but I didn’t love it. 7.5/10
Goong Chae Nam Pla
This is prawn sashimi with green chili sauce and is probably my favorite dish here. The shrimp meat is slightly sweet as prawn sashimi typically is. The sauce is the spiciest thing I’ve had here and is spicy, sour and salty. It really compliments the shrimp nicely. Also if you don’t like really spicy food, I’d suggest taking peppers off as they are what is really spicy about the dish. 8.5/10
Yum Crispy Leaf Fish
This is chunks of crispy leaf fish in a spicy dressing. This is another one of my favorite dishes here, the chunks of fish are crispy and the dressing is spicy, sweet, salty and sour. It also has these vegetables which I’m not sure what they are and they look kind of like onion; they are really delicious with a unique flavor which is hard to explain. I highly recommend trying this dish. 8.5/10
Black Jelly With Fresh Milk
This is chunks of shaved ice with small bits of black herbal jelly and milk that is sweetened and this brown powder on top. It was alright, but wasn’t really what I was expecting. 7.25/10
Taro In Condense Coconut Milk
This is a warm sweet coconut milk soup with mochi taro balls. The soup is sweet, salty and creamy and the mochi are very tender and I believe uses real taro as it tastes like taro. This is really good and I highly recommend getting this. 8.5/10
Overall, I really like this place if you order the right dishes and stay away from their somtum and larb. This is a great addition to NY’s Thai scene.
85 Ave A
New York, NY 10009
Takahachi Bakery is a Japanese bakery that I discovered by accident this summer because it’s very close to where I get my haircut in Tribeca. Japanese bakeries have always been one of my favorite things since I was a kid. However, I’ve found the ones in NY to be somewhat mediocre, so I was very happy to find a good quality Japanese bakery.
The bakery is a long a narrow space with exposed brick walls and high ceilings. It has a large display case showcasing its goods and a small space in the back to sit and eat. The staff is nice and is pretty helpful.
Here’s what we got:
An pan is a baked red bean bun and is one of the most common pastries you see in Japanese bakeries. The version here is very good; the bread is soft and moist and the red bean filling has good consistency and is not too sweet. The ratio of filling to bread was also perfect. Overall, this is a solid version. 8.25/10
Mochi An Pan With Green Tea Powder:
This is the same as the regular an pan except with green tea powder on top, which gives it a slightly bitter green tea flavor and with mochi (rice dough) in the middle. The mochi makes the inside chewy. It’s pretty good, but I prefer the regular an pan over this. 7.75/10
Sourdough Green Tea An Pan:
This is an pan except they use a green tea flavor sourdough bun. I couldn’t really taste the green tea and just tasted like a sourdough bun although very light in flavor. It’s not as soft or fluffy as the regular bun with thicker and tougher exterior. It was alright, but I didn’t think it was anything special. 7.25/10
Sweet Cheese Bun:
This is a fluffy white bun filled with a sweet cheese filling and topped with powdered sugar. The bun is perfectly fluffy and soft and the cheese filling is really good. It’s slightly sour, but sweet and almost runny. This is excellent and one of the stars here. 8.5/10
Melon pan is the Japanese version of a Chinese bo lo bao (pineapple bun). I’m not sure who actually came up with it first, but I’m pretty sure it’s Chinese originally although I did read that either the Chinese got it from the Mexicans (pan dulce) or the Mexicans got it from the Chinese. Any which I love everyone’s version of this. It’s a baked white bun with no filling and a hard sugary top. The sugary top is really good and the bread is moist and fluffy. It’s simple, but really good. 8.5/10
Sweet Potato Cone:
This is a cone shaped pastry that is filled with sweet potato filling that has been spiced with cinnamon and has sesame seeds on top. It tastes exactly as it sounds and I love sweet potato so this was awesome for me. 8.25/10
This is just strawberry shortcake. The cake was moist and light and the frosting is the typical Asian style frosting that is very light. However, the frosting was a bit too sweet; I’d prefer if it was less sweet. I would’ve given a higher rating if it was less sweet. 7.25/10
Curry Beef Bun:
This is a baked bun filled with curry filling that has beef, potatoes and carrots in it and it’s topped with this savory herbal seasoning. The bun is soft and moist as all of Takahachi’s buns are. The curry filling is nicely flavored and the herbal powder seasoning on top is really good with the bun. It doesn’t look that great, but it’s really delicious. 8.25/10
This is my favorite thing here. It’s really light cheesecake that is just slightly sweet and a bit sour. I don’t know how to properly explain this, but it’s really good. 8.75/10
This is a twisty roll that has swirls of pumpkin paste in it. Again moist and soft and the bread goes perfectly with the pumpkin. This was very nice. 8/10
Overall, I like this bakery a lot and if you happen to be in the area definitely give it a try.
25 Murray St (between Broadway & Church St)
New York, NY 10007
Sushi Nakazawa was recently opened by Daisuke Nakazawa who is famous for being the apprentice in “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” who made tamagoyaki two thousand times before Jiro finally said it was good enough quality to be served to customers. Naturally before he even opened up there was a lot of buzz about him, how he compares to Jiro, how his experience in Seattle might have shaped him and many other permutations of that conversation. Well I’ve never been to Jiro (and neither have 99.9% of the people asking how it will compare), but I can tell you this he’s making some of the best sushi in NY right now and is solidly in the top tier sushi level with places like Sushi Yasuda and 15 East.
The restaurant is located in the West Village. The space is a long narrow space with a sushi bar upfront and tables in the back. The window facing the sidewalk is floor to ceiling and gives the restaurant a more open feel versus most sushi restaurants which feel enclosed. It is a beautiful space and I really like how it feels more casual than other sushi restaurants. The service was excellent and attentive. Daisuke Nakazawa is a very nice guy. While his English is not great he’s always smiling, laughing and is engaging with customers which is rare in NY.
We got the sushi omakase which is $150 for 21 pieces (a lot of people asked me about that).
I’m going to comment on the sushi rice here since it is a commonality amongst all the sushi. It was excellent and on par with Yasuda which has the best sushi rice in NY. The texture was great, perfectly al dente and the flavor of the vinegar was nice and not overpowering or too weak. The flavoring is a bit different than Yasuda, but it’s a tossup as to whose rice is better.
Another thing I’ll comment on is he uses way more locally caught seafood than other places and I’ve heard some complaints about that because of the price of the meal. My view is that the seafood was excellent and I don’t care where it’s from if it’s really good although I understand the price vs where the food is from argument, but I’ll let other argue over that.
Here’s what we had:
Wild King Salmon
This was from Alaska and was served with sea salt and yuzu. The meat was very light colored and quite delicate tasting. I thought the sea salt and yuzu really complimented it nicely. 8.5/10
Alaskan Sockeye Salmon
This had a slightly stronger salmon taste although again it was excellent. 8.25/10
This was from Maine and was live. They brought the whole shell out to show us before serving it to us. It was sweet and bit briny, a really standout scallop. 8.5/10
The searing gave the geoduck a very smoky flavor and the soy sauce complimented it nicely with some saltiness. While it was not super tender it also wasn’t tough like some geoduck. I thought it was good although not amazing. 7.75/10
This was from California and was steamed for 4 hours. This was good for abalone although abalone is not my favorite sushi as I find it a bit hard and not that flavorful. That said this was better than most abalone you get in the US as it wasn’t that tough. 7.75/10
This was from Japan. It was really great and was the best piece I’ve had in the US. 8.75/10
This was from Japan and pickled for 5 days. The pickling killed any fishy flavor and I thought it was a really nice tasting piece of mackerel. 8.25/10
This was from Long Island and served with liver. The fish was quite light tasting with a good firm texture. The liver was a nice touch as it gave the fish an extra bit slight liver flavor which made it a much fuller taste overall. 8/10
This was from Long Island and served with yuzu. This was a standard, but good piece of fluke. 8/10
This was from Long Island and it was quite tender actually. Squid itself does not have a ton of flavor, so the soy sauce is definitely necessary. 7.75/10
This was from New Caledonia and while I normally don’t like ebi all that much this was definitely the best piece I’ve had in the US. It had been recently cooked, so it was slightly warm. 8.25/10
This was from Japan and it was a really great piece of fish. Tender and just had great flavor. 8.5/10
This was from Japan and was smoked. It was nice with a very slight smokiness to it. 8.25/10
Blue Fin Tuna
This was wild caught from Boston. It was interesting because all of the tuna was from one fish from Boston which I’d never had tuna from Boston. I thought it was surprisingly good, nice tuna flavor with pretty good texture. It’s not like the best stuff I’ve had in Japan, but it was actually very nice. 8.25/10
Chutoro (Medium Fatty Tuna)
This was wild caught from Boston. It was nicely marbled and buttery. 8/10
Otoro (Tuna Belly)
This was wild caught from Boston. It was also nicely marbled and buttery. 8/10
Uni (Sea Urchin)
This was from Santa Barbara. I was a little worried because it looked bit weird, but once I took a bit it turned out to be excellent. It was sweet, briny and creamy. It was definitely a respectable piece of uni. 8.25/10
This was from Alaska. Wow this was a standout; this was by far the best ikura I’ve had in the US. It wasn’t fishy at all, nicely salty with just generally good flavor. 8.75/10
Anago (Conger Eel)
This was from Japan. It was a nice piece of anago with good texture not too mushy and the sweet sauce was not overwhelming. 8/10
This was a tuna handroll that had a bit of liver in it. While tuna handrolls are not my favorite, this was very good for a tuna handroll with a good ratio of fish to rice to nori. 8.25/10
Here is the infamous tamago from Jiro Dream’s Of Sushi. This was different than most as it’s the kind that is more of a cake as opposed to an omelette, so the texture is more spongy. It was fairly sweet and delicate tasting. I thought it was good although I think I prefer the traditional tamagoyaki more. 8/10
Overall, I really liked Nakazawa across the board. I thought the food was some of the best I’ve had in NY this year, the service and setting were great and Nakazawa was a really nice guy. I highly recommend coming here as soon as possible.
23 Commerce St (between S 7th Ave & Bedford St)
New York, NY 10014
Tao Hong Bakery is a bakery I noticed because of a positive review on chowhound, which you can see here.
It’s a rather small and non-descript Cantonese bakery which would not particularly standout if you were just walking by it. The interior is quite small with two display cases at the front and side and that’s really it. The lady who runs the place is quite nice and can speak English pretty decently if you don’t speak Chinese.
Here’s what we got:
Pork Floss And Crème Bun
This is a baked bun that has pork floss (rou song) and a slightly savory white crème in the middle. The bun itself was quite good; it had a slightly sweet flavor and was nicely moist. The pork floss was good as well, but I’m just not a fan of the savory cream which sort of reminds me of room temperature butter. This is a good version of this type of bun and probably the best one I’ve had in NY, but as a dish it’s just not my thing. 7/10
Egg Tart (Dan Ta)
The actual egg custard was pretty good; it had a decently egg-y flavor and was fresh. The crust was standard, but not as flaky as I like it. It was a pretty decent rendition, but I prefer Double Crispy or Ka Wah. 7.75/10
Coconut and Red Bean Pudding
This is a square of cold coconut and red bean pudding with some coconut shavings on top. The pudding is creamy, but fairly light and not too sweet. It’s not heavily flavored and generally tastes a bit more of coconut than red bean as the red bean flavor is faint. It’s decent although I wouldn’t go out of my way to get it, but if you happen to be here might be worth trying. 7.5/10
Vanilla Cake Roll
The cake was decent although it could’ve been a bit moister. The vanilla crème was good and it’s slightly salty which I liked as it contrasts nicely against the sweet cake. It was decent, but nothing special. 7.25/10
Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao)
The bun itself was pretty decent, fresh and reasonably fluffy. However, I wasn’t crazy about the sauce; it was that red sweet sauce and it was a bit gloppy and too sweet. I much prefer Mei Li Wah’s to these. 7/10
Mango and Coconut Glutinous Rice Ball
This is the standout here. It’s a fairly large mango flavored glutinous rice ball covered in coconut shavings with fresh mango in the middle. The lady told me to eat it the same day. The glutinous rice ball was very soft and tender with a slight mango flavor and was sweet although not too sweet. The coconut shavings add a nice textural contrast and flavor. The mango in the middle was very fresh and tasted great. This is the one thing I’d say is worth coming here for. 8.25/10
Overall, everything at this bakery is fairly decent and it’s definitely an above average bakery in NY. Although I didn’t feel like anything was particularly standout with the exception of the mango ball and I prefer Double Crispy and Ka Wah for Chinese pastries.
79 Chrystie St (between Canal St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10002
New Kam Hing is an old school Cantonese coffee shop on Baxter Street in Chinatown. It’s really small consisting only of a kitchen and small display counter. It’s a true specialist only offering a handful of items and for many years it’s been known for its great sponge cakes.
It was originally run by an old Cantonese woman, but she decided to retire at one point and I heard it was going to close. However, it appears that the Mexican worker who has worked there forever has taken over and now runs the place (he can speak some Cantonese btw), so it appears that this place will be running for a long time to come hopefully.
There is only one thing to order here and this is it. This is an egg-y sponge cake that will remind you of an egg-y version of angel food cake. The version here is moist, egg-y and quite good. The only version I’ve had in NY that is close to it is Ka Wah, which you can read about here. While pretty-self-explanatory this is definitely quite good. One thing to note is that they are significantly better when they are freshly baked as opposed to when they have been sitting around (I suggest warming them up in the microwave if you come when they have been sitting around for a while). 8.5/10
Overall, while not a destination spot if you’re in Chinatown during the day this is a great place to pick up a nice light snack.
119 Baxter St, Ste B (between Canal St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10013
Mei Li Wah is a Chinatown institution and my blog would not be complete if I didn’t cover it. It’s a cha chaan teng / cha can ting (literally means tea restaurant), which is a type of old school Cantonese restaurant that is common in Hong Kong serving tea, coffee and various cheap foods. In particular Mei Li Wah is known for its various buns.
Originally, Mei Li Wah was a rundown super old school Toisonese run place, but a few years ago they changed ownership, renovated the restaurant and hired a much younger staff. Now it’s a much brighter, cleaner and new looking restaurant. The service is still fairly quick and brisk although it’s nicer than before when the old guys had little patience if you didn’t know what you wanted right away although some people liked that as part of the character of the place. I’m not one for nostalgia, but I do miss the old school feel of the old Mei Li Wah a bit.
Generally, I stick to their buns, which are all displayed up front as I find a lot of their other food to be pretty mediocre.
Steamed Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao / Cha Shao Bao):
This is their most famous item. It’s a fluffy steamed white bun filled with diced cha siu (BBQ pork) in a brown sauce. One of the major differences between MLW’s and others’ versions is that the sauce is much more savory and brown than the normal sweeter red sauce. The sauce is the best thing about this bun as I really like that savory flavor. The cha siu itself is decent although sometimes it can a bit too much fat in it. The bun has a nice slight sweetness to it, but I’ve noticed over the last year or so that it’s become noticeably less fluffy than it used to be. I still think this is the best cha siu bao in Chinatown, but because of the decline in quality of the bun I’d say it’s good, but no longer great. 7.75/10 or 8/10 on a good day (a few years ago I’d have probably given it an 8.25 rating)
Baked Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao / Cha Shao Bao):
This is baked white bun filled with diced cha siu (BBQ pork) in a brown sauce. Same exact filling as the steamed version. While I normally much prefer steamed cha siu bao, MLW’s baked version is actually quite good and maybe better than its steamed version as the bread is quite good with a nice honey glaze on the outside. 8/10
Big Bun (Dai Bao / Da Bao):
This is another famous offering. It is similar to a cha siu bao except it’s bigger and filled with chicken, Chinese sausage, half boiled egg and shitake mushrooms. They used to make these quite well, but I’ve noticed that the bun has gotten way too dry since they switched ownership. The filling tastes like it sounds and is reasonably tasty. Overall, it’s decent version, but not great. 7.25/10
Cocktail Bun (Gai Mei Bao / Ji Wei Bao):
This is the sleeper for me here. This is a baked bun with sugar on top and a minced buttery and sweet coconut filling. The bread is nicely moist and the sugar on top adds nice textural contrast. The filling is good and not too buttery like most places. I’m not sure everyone will like this as much as I do because I really like gai mei bao, but they make this really well. 8.25/10
Overall, they are pretty decent cha siu bao and certainly better than the vast majority in Chinatown which are quite mediocre. I’d recommend coming to try out the cha siu bao and the cocktail bun.
64 Bayard St (between Mott St & Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10013
Hou Yi is a hot pot specialist restaurant located in the northeastern Fujian section of Chinatown that borders the Lower East Side.
Hot pot is a pot of broth which you cook raw ingredients in and then dip in various sauces. Surprisingly I’ve had a hard time finding a decent hot pot place in the city and usually go to Flushing to Baidu to get my fix, which you can see here. It’s surprising because it must be one of the most universally popular dishes amongst all types of Chinese people.
The restaurant is a small place that quite ugly even for Chinatown with bright orange walls, dim yellow lighting and ugly wooden tables. The service was fine and relatively efficient. Both times I’ve been there has been a wait, so I’d either go early or late. The price is $23 for all you can eat hot pot including drinks, so it’s very well priced.
I’ll break down the hot pot by different aspects:
We got regular and spicy broth. Both were pretty standard, but good. The light broth is a standard mild flavored broth and the spicy one is a Sichuan style ma la broth. The spicy one is very spicy and spicier than the broth I’ve had at most Sichuan restaurants in NY, so if you can’t handle spicy food I’d avoid it. 7.75/10
We got the beef and lamb. While they were frozen they seemed reasonably fresh to me. I liked the beef better than the lamb. My GF thought the beef wasn’t good quality, but I thought it was fine. The lamb was alright, but was a bit gamey (my GF did not like it at all, but she doesn’t like lamb in general). 7.5/10 for the beef, 7.25/10 for the lamb
They have a variety of standard non-meat sides of vegetables, dumplings, fish balls etc. We got fried tofu skin, fried tofu cubes, corn, tofu, enoki mushrooms, daikon, cabbage, Hong Kong style fish balls, Fujian style fish balls and some other stuff which I’m forgetting. I thought all of it was good except I thought the Hong Kong style fish balls were too processed tasting and the fried tofu cubes were mediocre as well. 7.75/10
They don’t have a lot of options for sauces, I used the sesame and sha cha sauce. The sha cha sauce was not provided on the tables and I had to ask them for it. Sha cha sauce is a dried shrimp sauce, which you can read more about here. Both sauces were pretty standard tasting, but reasonably decent. The major shortcoming of this place for me was the lack of variety of sauces. I normally like to make my own with soy sauce, chili oil, garlic, sesame oil and cilantro. I felt like it was missing an element without that. 7.5/10
Overall, while it’s not amazing hot pot, it’s pretty decent and extremely reasonably priced. If you’re looking for your hot pot fix in the city without going to Flushing this is a decent place.
112 Eldridge St (between Broome St & Grand St)
New York, NY 10002
Yuji Ramen is run by Yuji Haraguhi and was originally a pop up at Smorgasburg. However, he has now set up a temporary pop up restaurant on the 2nd floor the Whole Foods on Bowery and is moving to a permanent space in Brooklyn after July. Besides being well known for having some very unique ramen, Yuji is also interesting because they do a ramen tasting menu, which unfortunately is completely booked out.
The space is just a long wooden counter on the 2nd floor of the Whole Foods, so there isn’t too much to say about the restaurant itself. It’s very casual and similar to going to a food court because you order at the register and then can either eat at the counter or one of the various tables on the 2nd floor.
Here’s what we got:
Bacon and Egg Mazemen:
Mazemen is a style of ramen that is basically ramen with very little or no soup; I believe it’s a fairly new concept from Japan (feel free to correct me on that). They use a thicker yellow egg noodle that is kind of like fettuccine. The noodles are excellent; they are perfectly al dente and have great texture. The toppings are a soft boiled egg, crispy pieces of bacon, dried bonito shavings and greens. There is also a light slightly sweet sauce that I believe is soy sauce based. It’s quite a flavor bomb between the bacon, bonito and sauce. It was pretty tasty although heavy and probably not something I would order very often. 7.75/10 (8.5/10 for the noodles, 7.5/10 for everything else)
Salmon Cheese Mazemen:
This mazemen has salmon cured with lemon zest and Sichuan peppercorn, nori (seaweed), greens, the same light sweet sauce and yes it has cheese on it! The cheese sauce is a mix of Camembert and heavy cream. The creamy sauce goes well with the noodles and salmon although it’s quite heavy. Overall, it was a bit more a novelty for me than something I’d probably order again although it was reasonably tasty. 7.5/10 (8.5/10 for the noodles, 7.25/10 for everything else)
Roasted Miso Vegetable Mazemen:
This mazemen has cauliflower, carrot and turnip in a barley-based miso sauce topped with shredded kale and seaweed. This one tastes exactly how it sounds and is definitely the lightest of the mazemen offerings. It’s not quite the flavor bomb that the other two are, but I probably liked this one the best because I could eat it on a more regular basis. 7.75/10
While everyone has been talking about the unique mazemen and the ramen tasting menu, the star for me has been the shoyu ramen. The broth and toppings change daily depending on available bones and trim from the Whole Foods meat and fish counters downstairs. The noodles are the thinner ramen noodles, which were nicely al dente and good quality. The broth was pork bone based; it was very nice and had a level of complexity that doesn’t just rely on a lot of salt and can only be done by teasing the flavor out of bones. They had smoked blue fish as the topping, which was nice and complemented the ramen nicely without overpowering it. I really liked the ramen here and it’s probably my favorite ramen in NY right now. 8.25/10
Overall, I really like the shoyu ramen here and the mazemen is definitely interesting. I look forward to trying to ramen tasting menu one day (probably once they open in Brooklyn).
95 E Houston St, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10002
South China Garden was my favorite restaurant in Chinatown, which you can read about it here. It was one of the only places in Chinatown that you could get consistently good Cantonese food.
Needless to say I was quite dismayed when they were forced to shut down after they lost their lease. However, I recently received wonderful news when the owner’s son emailed me to tell me they’ve re-opened as Café Hong Kong. Also, the owner is still the head chef along with his brother, which means the food is being cooked by the same people.
The new restaurant is smaller, modern and much cleaner looking. Some of the staff is still the same from SCG. The menu is smaller and now includes a fairly substantial section Hong Kong café style foods (baked pork chop rice, spaghetti etc). However, it still has most of the staple Cantonese dishes, which I previously ordered at SCG.
Salt Baked Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):
This is exactly the same as before which means that they make the best version in Chinatown. The salty non-greasy batter and tenderness of the squid makes this a solid rendition of this dish. 8/10
Lobster in XO Sauce (XO Jiang Chao Long Xia):
This is again the exact same quality as SCG. In fact I thought the quality of the lobster was actually better than SCG (although I’ve only tried it once). The XO sauce tasted great and this was a winner. 8/10
Stir Fried String Beans:
This was slightly different than SCG as there weren’t any preserved vegetables in it, but other than that it was the same. It’s the classic stir fried string beans with minced pork and dried chilis. They still get good wok hay meaning the flavor you get from effectively smoking the food in a wok at a very high temperature. This is a definite winner. 8/10
Fried Garlic Chicken (Suan Xiang Cui Pi Ji):
Another SCG classic and it again tastes exactly the same although the dish is a little smaller. The meat is very tender and the skin is perfectly crispy and the garlic compliments it perfectly. This is still one of their strongest dishes. 8.25/10
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce Casserole (Yu Xiang Qie Zi Bao):
I ordered this randomly because I saw it on another table. While it was cooked nicely, making the eggplant nicely tender, I found the sauce to be a bit on the bland sauce. I like the sauce to be slightly sweet and spicy and it just didn’t have enough of that. 7/10
Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):
This is the Cantonese version of sweet and sour pork chops. The pork chops are perfectly fried; the meat is tender, the outside is crispy and it’s not greasy or oily at all. The sauce is slightly different than SCG in that they added more pineapple to it and while it was still good it wasn’t quite as good as SCG because I prefer less pineapple flavor. 7.75/10
Steamed Buffalo Carp (Qing Zheng Yu):
This is the typical Cantonese style where you steam the fish and then pour hot oil and soy sauce over the fish. The fish was cooked perfectly and was very tender. The sauce was excellent as well being both salty and very slightly sweet. While I am not surprised their technique was good, the quality was the fish was surprising. Carp typically has this muddy flavor that I really do not like and while this had a very little bit of that it was not that noticeable and really made this an enjoyable dish. While I still prefer an ocean fish, this was quite good. 8/10
Normally, I wait to go a few times to report on a place, but I thought that I should report on this as soon as possible. I definitely recommend trying Café Hong Kong out.
51 Bayard St (between Bowery & Elizabeth St)
New York, NY 10013
Yopparai is a relatively new izakaya in the Lower East Side. My friend Silverjay on chowhound recommended it to me so I almost immediately tried it as I was missing good Japanese food after coming back from my Tokyo trip.
Izakaya are a style of Japanese restaurant where you drink beer / sake / sochu and eat various dishes to accompany those drinks. The dishes are generally somewhat smaller dishes and there is usually a large variety such as yakitori, oden, fried dishes, sashimi etc. They are extremely popular in Japan and have also become reasonably popular in NY as well.
The restaurant is located 1st floor up from the ground level inside an apartment building. Strangely you need to ring a doorbell to get into the restaurant. It’s laid out as is a long narrow space that is mainly a long counter with seats accompanied by small tables along the wall. You can watch them prepare the food if you are sitting at the counter, which I always like to do. While it’s small, it is comfortable and homey. The décor and vibe really make it feel like you’re in Tokyo. The owner and his wife are both extremely nice and helpful. The service is generally good although some of the younger servers can be somewhat forgetful.
Here’s what we got:
Homemade Masu Tofu:
This is a block of homemade tofu in a thick clear savory broth. The tofu has good consistency and is clean tasting. The broth is a bit savory and salty although not overly flavorful. It comes with grated ginger, shiso and bonito shavings which are always a great compliment to tofu. While this dish was not amazing, it was solidly good. 7.5/10
This is lightly roasted spicy marinated cod roe. I don’t usually order this because I find it somewhat off-putting if it’s not good quality. However, I had a feeling it would be good here and I was right. It had a nice toasty flavor from being very slightly charred and the eggs have this great briny flavor that tastes wonderful with beer. I also like the crunchy texture you get from the eggs. This was great and probably among the best I’ve had in NY. 8/10
These are grilled prawns served simply with salt and lemon. The prawns were fresh and the meat was sweet and cooked perfectly. I really enjoy prawns served simply with just salt and lemon which are the perfect compliment. These were great. 8/10
These are chicken meatballs and are probably my all-time favorite yakitori dish. They are tender and the charred flavor from being grilled coupled with the sweet soy sauce marinade is really great. They do a very nice job on these here and are the best version I’ve had in NY. 8.5/10
We got hamachi (yellowtail), shima aji (striped jack) and aji sashimi (spanish mackerel). I thought the sashimi was surprisingly good as I wasn’t expecting much; everything was all fresh and delicious. In particular the hamachi was quite good. 7.75/10
Natto are fermented beans. They are slimy and have a strong and somewhat bitter flavor. When I was a kid I couldn’t stand them. I only started to like them in maybe the last 5-7 years and now I am the only person in my family besides my grandma who likes them. The version here was good; it was served with bonita shavings, shiso and mustard. I like it best over hot rice, but the version here was still quite nice. I will warn you ahead of time if you’ve never had this prepare not to like it. 7.5/10
This was Washu beef tongue and was advertised as Sendai-style. Sendai is a port city in Japan that is probably now most famous for unfortunately being the epicenter of the tragic 2011 earthquake. On a happier note this beef tongue was wonderful. It was perfectly cooked; it was tender with a nice charred flavor from being grilled. It was served with lemon which was great contrast to the beef-y flavor of the tongue. It was also served with cabbage as well. 8.25/10
This was a special of Washu beef seasoned with just a little salt and pepper. You were given a skillet with a piece of fat which you melted and then cooked the beef in. This was wonderful and among the best dishes I’ve had here. The beef was very tender and had great flavor. This was a very simple, but excellent preparation. 8.5/10
This was tendon with tofu in brown gravy topped with diced green onions. While it looked and sounded delicious unfortunately it was one of the big duds here. The gravy and other ingredients were fine, but the beef was terrible; it was gristle-y and hard to bite through. I’m not sure what happened, but it was so gristle-y that it made it almost impossible to eat. 6/10
Ramen Style Pork Belly:
This was the other dud. It was pork belly served with menma (fermented bamboo shoots), kamaboko (type of processed fish cake) and green onions in a ramen like broth. Basically ramen without the ramen noodles. The broth was savory and fairly decent tasting and the other ingredients were good. However, I found the pork belly to be overcooked, so it was kind of dry. This was a good idea, but the execution was off. 6.75/10
This is a Japanese winter stew that consists of a light soy sauce dashi broth with various ingredients stewed in it. This has been one of my favorite home style Japanese dishes since I was a kid as my grandma used to make it. In these pictures I ordered black daikon (radish), satsuma age (fish cake), kuro tamago (boiled egg) and hanpen (fluffy fish and yam cake). The broth is nice; slightly sweet and salty although I prefer my broth a little lighter than the one here although this is still good. All of the oden was good and in particular the satsuma age and black daikon were particularly good. The one that I thought was a bit weaker was the kuro tamago as I found the egg a bit on the dry side. Overall though this is the best renditions I’ve had in NY. 8/10
This is anago (salt water eel aka conger eel) simmered in dashi broth with soft scrambled egg and mushrooms. I’ve always loved this dish. The eel and egg are nicely tender and are perfectly complimented by the sweet dashi broth. I will say the dashi broth is a tad too sweet, but I really like this dish with some rice. 7.75/10 (would be higher rating if the broth was slightly less sweet)
Jidori Tamago Toji:
This is the same dish except with chicken and onion instead of eel and mushroom. It’s also quite good. 7.75/10 (would be higher rating if the broth was slightly less sweet)
Yaki Onigiri (Soy Sauce):
Yaki onigiri are grilled rice balls with various filings that are very popular in Japan. This was brushed with Sekigahara soy sauce. I put up 2 pictures because in the 1st picture that is how they normally look, but 2nd time they were flatter and served with nori. I’m not sure if something got lost in translation in my order. Anyhow, these were pretty good, but as a personal preference I prefer regular onigiri. However, if you like yaki onigiri you will like these. 7.5/10
Yaki Onigiri (Red Miso):
Same as the other yaki onigiri except with red miso paste. 7.5/10
Beer and Sake:
The beer they serve here is really ice cold and is great with your dinner, so I’d definitely recommend getting a beer. They have a nice sake list as well and the owner is pretty knowledgeable (now this comes from someone who only knows a bit about sake, so take that with a grain of salt).
Overall, I really enjoy the food here and I definitely think it’s one of the best izakaya in NY and worth checking out.
151 Rivington St, 1st Fl (between Clinton St & Suffolk St)
New York, NY 10002
Yeh’s is a Taiwanese bakery that’s been recommended to me for a long time, but it’s taken me years to finally getting around to trying it. When I decided to revisit Main Street Imperial, which you can read about here, I decided I should do lunch so that I could try Yeh’s as well.
Yeh’s is located near Main Street Imperial which is not in downtown Flushing and is closer to the LIE. The bakery is very small with just two glass display cases. Unlike most Chinese bakeries, they have a much more limited selection consisting with a few types of cakes, cake rolls and traditional Chinese pastries such a sun cakes and moon cakes.
Sun Cake (Tai Yang Bing):
Sun cakes are a traditional Taiwanese pastry from Taizhong / Taichung. They are difficult to find outside Taiwan and last time I was in Taipei they were actually even difficult find to there with one bakery even jokingly telling me “go to Taizhong if you want those”. I believe they’re not that popular amongst younger generations. Anyhow, it’s a circular flaky pastry that looks similar to a wife cake (lao po bing) with a filling made of malt sugar. At Yeh’s the English name says “honey cake” or something like that and while the flaky exterior is normal, the filling does taste like honey which is not normal. However, I liked the honey flavor and it was much better than other sun cakes I’ve had in NY. It isn’t close to a real good one in Taiwan, but it’s a decent version and worth checking out. 7.75/10
This is what they are known for. It is a cake with cream custard filling and powdered sugar on top. The cake is extremely light and fluffy literally one of the lightest cakes I’ve ever had anywhere. The cream custard in the middle is also really light with the perfect level of sweetness (i.e. its sweet without being really sweet). While it’s really simple this is one of the best cakes I’ve had in Asian bakery even in Asia. I highly recommend you try this, it is really good. 8.75/10
Green Tea Roll:
This is another specialty. It’s a cake roll with green tea flavoring and vanilla cream in the middle. The cake is more dense than the Boston Pie and similar to pound cake. The green tea flavor is very light so you will barely notice it and the vanilla cream is again only slightly sweet. While not amazing I thought it was solidly good especially if like vanilla cake rolls as I do. 8/10
Overall, I really enjoyed this bakery a lot and if you like Asian style cakes then I highly recommend you try this place. I look forward to trying the rest of their cakes and pastries.
5725 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355
Taiwanese food is definitely one of my favorite Chinese cuisines. It’s a delicious mix of southern Fujian food blended with regional cuisines from all over China that came about because the large influx of mainland Chinese immigrants to Taiwan during the Communist Revolution. However, I feel like people often tend to only associate Taiwanese food with street food and maybe beef noodle soup. While these are certainly great and delicious there is much more to Taiwanese food than these two types of food. Main Street Imperial is a Taiwanese restaurant whose strong points are not street food, but rather more home style type dishes.
The restaurant is not located in Downtown Flushing, but rather further down Main close to the LIE, in the 2nd area in Flushing that has many Chinese restaurants. It’s small and homey with some décor in that it has colorful pieces of paper that have various dishes written in Chinese on them. The servers are really nice and are pretty helpful although I’m not sure they really speak English very well. The other issue you’ll run into is that about half the menu is not translated into English and some dishes are listed only on the wall in Chinese. I’ve provided the characters of the dishes I ordered since some of them are not translated to English, so I’d suggest printing them out if you don’t read any Chinese.
Here’s what we got:
Sauteed Cabbage (Chao Gao Li Cai 炒高麗菜):
This is one of the house specialties. It’s a simple dish of cabbage sautéed with oil and garlic. While simple they do a nice job on this dish and it’s quite tasty. The cabbage retains some crispness and the oil and garlic compliment it well. It also has some wok hay (the smoky flavor you get from effectively smoking food by cooking it at a very high heat in a wok). Overall, this is a solid dish. 8/10
Oyster Omelette (Hao Zai Jian / Oh Ah Jian 蚵仔煎):
I almost never order this outside Taiwan because it’s so easy to screw up, but a friend wanted it and surprisingly it was much better than the 1st time I came here (so can’t tell you it wasn’t a fluke). The omelette was crispy and not overly gooey. The sauce was sweet, but not overpoweringly so and the oysters were decent tasting. Overall, I actually enjoyed eating this which is rare in the US. 7.5/10
Clams in Basil Sauce:
I didn’t order this dish, so I’m not actually sure what the exact Chinese name of it was on the menu. This was clams cooked in a slightly spicy light brown sauce with basil. This is a pretty common Taiwanese sauce. I thought the sauce was nice being slightly spicy, sweet and salty and I love basil so that was great as well. The clams were decent quality, but not amazing. 7.5/10 (could’ve been higher rating if they used better clams)
Three Cup Tofu (San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐):
“Three cup” is a famous style of preparation that involves one cup of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil hence the name “three cup”. There is also sugar, ginger and basil in it as well. While three cup chicken is the most common it can also be cooked with other meats or tofu. This was fried cubes of tofu in the three cup sauce. The outside was perfectly crispy while the interior remained soft, which was great texture wise. The sauce was both sweet and salty as it should be with the basil being a nice compliment. Overall, this was one of the best dishes I’ve had here. 8.25/10
Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji 三杯雞):
Oddly unlike the three cup tofu, this dish ended up being not sweet whatsoever and was a little overly oily. The chicken was very nicely tender, which was the best part about the dish. It was an alright rendition, but a little too oily and plain flavor wise. Gu Xiang’s version is much better than this and flavor wise Liang’s Kitchens’ version was better, but Main Street did a better job than Liang’s actually cooking the chicken (i.e. it was very tender here). 7.5/10 (could be a higher rating if they improved the sauce)
Sesame Oil Kidney (Ma You Yao Zi 麻油腰子):
This is one of the house specialties that I read about on a Chinese blog. Its slices of kidney sautéed in sesame oil based sauce. The kidneys are cooked very well so they are perfectly tender and they did a good job so the metallic flavor you can get in kidneys is only slightly present. The sauce has a slight flavor from the sesame oil and has some soy sauce flavor as well and because they seared the kidneys at a high heat in the wok you get a bit of the smoke-y slightly burnt taste which is nice. If you like kidneys this is a very good rendition of kidneys. 7.75/10 (I like kidneys, but don’t love them otherwise it’d get a higher rating)
Salt and Pepper Shrimp (Jiao Yen Xia 椒盐虾):
This was on the wall and I saw a couple of tables order it, so I decided to try it. This is just typical salt and pepper shrimp, but they did a nice job on it. The batter wasn’t too heavy or oily and had good salty flavor. The shrimps were fresh and good sized. I don’t have too much more to add to this other that it was good and worth trying, probably one of the better versions I’ve had in NY. 8/10
Putz Fish (Bu Zi Yu 布子魚):
Putz is actually something I’ve never had and I’m not even sure I’d even heard of it until ScoopG on chowhound mentioned it. So I made it a point to try it this trip (you can read more about it here). I tried ordering the whole fish on two occasions, but both times on of the waitresses told me that the pieces were better quality and flavor so I should order those instead of the whole fish. The fish pieces were nicely cooked and tender. The sauce was a nicely light soy sauce based sauce that wasn’t overpowering. The thing that I ended up liking the best about this dish was the putz; it reminded me of a sweet olive. Overall, while not mind blowing this is a solid dish and I’d recommend giving it a try for something different. 7.75/10
Red Cooked Ribs (Hong Shao Pai Gu 紅燒排骨):
I was trying to order another dish, but the waitress told me that that dish was too similar to the Hakka stir fry (which I forgot to take a picture of), so she recommended this dish. These were ribs cooked in a style called “hong shao” which you braise meat in a sauce made up of ginger, garlic, chilli, sugar, soy sauce and rice wine. The sauce here was pretty thick, thicker than normal. The ribs were cooked decently although I’d have preferred them to be a little more tender. The sauce was just ok, I found it to be kind of bland. I probably wouldn’t order this again. 6.75/10
Can’t Taste Stinky Tofu (Chi Bu Dao Chou Dou Fu 吃不到臭豆腐 ):
This is another one of the house specialties. It literally translates to “can’t taste stinky tofu”, which I think it’s called because the way the chef cooks it he cooks out most of the stink, so it’s only faint. The stinky tofu is fried in a slightly spicy and salty red meat sauce with cabbage. It’s a bit hard to explain, but definitely order this dish it’s very good. 8.25/10
Fly Head (Cang Ying Tou 蒼蠅頭):
This is my favorite dish here. It translates to “fly head” (I have no idea why it’s called that) and its diced garlic chives, red chili, minced pork and fermented black beans all stir fried together. This dish is the type of dish you really need a hot wok for because the wok hay adds a whole new level to this dish. It’s spicy, salty, smoky and just delicious. This is the dish to come here for. 8.5/10
Overall, this is probably the best overall Taiwanese restaurant in New York and it’s worth your time to check out.
5914 Main St
Flushing, NY 11355
Spicy Village was originally a branch of Henan Fengwei from Flushing. Around 6 months ago they were supposedly shutting down and possibly re-opening in another space on Allen. Luckily that never happened and instead they ended up changing their name to Spicy Village, but everything else remained the same.
Spicy Village specializes in cuisine from the Henan province in China. Henan is a landlocked province that is northwest of Shanghai. I’d love to give you some long winded background on Henan cuisine, but I don’t actually know that much about their cuisine as I have little experience eating it as isn’t prevalent or popular in the parts of China I usually visit. This Wikipedia article discusses it a little bit. I believe the owners are actually from Fuzhou as I’ve heard them speaking in the Fuzhou dialect with customers.
The restaurant is typical Chinatown in that it has very little in the way of décor although it is clean. The service is fine and the lady who runs the place is really nice. She also happens to speak English well and the entire menu is translated into English, so you will have no issues ordering.
Here’s what we got:
Cucumbers and Smoked Tofu (Liang Ban Huang Gua Dou Gan):
This was typical cold marinated cucumbers and smoked tofu called dou gan in Chinese. The pickles are tangy and a bit sweet as well. The version here was alright; it had decent crunch and flavor, but they were missing the really good flavor you get in a good version. I wasn’t really a fan of the dou gan as it was pretty plain tasting. 7.5/10 for the cucumbers; 6.75/10 for the smoked tofu
Pancake with Pork (Rou Jia Mo):
This is a shredded pork sandwich with cilantro. The bread is sort of like pita bread and is crispy from being toasted. The pork is actually quite light and is savory from the brown sauce they cook it in. It will remind you of the pancakes from Xi’an Famous Foods except the bread is thinner, it’s not as heavily spiced and it’s lighter. Overall, it’s not amazing, but it is a tasty enough pancake. 7.5/10
Pancake with Beef (Niu Rou Jia Mo):
This is the same as the prior pancake except with beef. However, I find the meat to be a little more flavorful, so I’d give the nod to the beef version. 7.75/10
Soup Dumplings (Guan Tang Bao):
While these look like misshapen ugly Shanghainese soup dumplings they are actually quite good and different than regular soup dumplings. The skins are a bit thicker and there is no soup inside. However, they are delicious as the filling is very flavorful. I actually enjoy these more than I do most Shanghainese soup dumplings in NY (I only like Nan Xiang actually). These are one of the best dishes here. 8/10
Homemade Steamed Dumplings (Shou Gong Shui Jiao):
These are typical northern Chinese style dumplings with thicker skins and pork and chive filling. I like their dumplings, but I don’t love them. The skins are decent, a bit on the doughy side, but I find their filling to be a bit bland. I end up using a lot of black vinegar and chili oil to make them tasty. 7.25/10
Black Bean Sauce Huimei (Zha Jiang Hui Mian):
Hui mian is thick wheat noodles that I believe are Henan in origin. Zha jiang mian literally means “fried sauce noodle”. You may know this dish as it is a ubiquitous dish in Korean-Chinese restaurants where Koreans took northern Chinese dishes and fit them to Korean tastes; they call it ja jang myun. I think it’s almost more popular with Koreans than it is with Chinese despite it being Chinese in origin. The Chinese version is more of a meat based sauce similar to a ragu. This can taste very different depending on who is making it. Here the sauce is fairly light in flavor and mainly just tastes like meat. I added some chili oil which made it a lot better. The noodles are excellent as they are a bit al dente and have great texture. Overall, the dish was decent, but not great. 7.5/10
Spicy Beef Brisket Huimei (Ma La Niu Nan Hui Mian):
This is a spicy beef brisket noodle soup. The beef brisket has been simmered for a while so it was quite tender and also had a good five spice flavor. The noodles are excellent being nicely al dente. The broth is flavorful and a bit spicy. While a bit different from traditional beef noodle soup, this is my current pick for the best beef noodle soup in NY. I think it far surpasses the various Lan Zhou noodle places around Chinatown (and Flushing) as the beef and broth are far superior in quality. This is another one of my favorite dishes here. Also, definitely use some chili oil and black vinegar, it tastes great with it. 8.25/10
Oxtail Huimei (Niu Wei Hui Mian):
This was an oxtail broth noodle soup with the hui mian. This was one of the duds here; I thought the broth was a bit bland, so there just wasn’t that much to it. We had to add a lot of chili oil and black vinegar to make it more interesting. 6.75/10
Grilled Pepper Chicken with Rice (Qing Jiao Ji Fan):
This was a surprise dish as I don’t think I’ve heard anyone mention it. Its stir fried pieces of chicken in slightly spicy and sweet sauce with diced green peppers. The chicken is tender and the sauce is really good, it’s a bit peppery, smoky, spicy and sweet. It tastes great with rice. This is one of my favorite dishes here. 8.25/10
Spicy Big Tray Kitchen (Da Pan Ji):
This is the dish that made them famous. It’s large chicken casserole in big iron pot. There are big chunks of very tender chicken on the bone and potatoes topped with cilantro. The sauce while it looks really oily isn’t actually all that heavy. It’s also ma la in flavor, which is normally a Sichuan flavor profile. “Ma” means the numbing sensation you get on your tongue from the Sichuan peppercorns, while “la” means spicy. While it is ma la, it’s not nearly as ma la as what you get at most Sichuan restaurants. It’s a bit hard to explain this dish, but it’s really good, so just hurry up and go try it. 8.5/10
Sweet Peanut Filled Rice Ball Soup (Tang Yuan):
Tang yuan has always been one of my favorite Chinese desserts, so I almost always get them when I see them on a menu. They can have various fillings, but here they serve them with peanut filling. The peanuts are not chopped that finely, so the chunks are pretty big. The filling also had these pinks things, but I couldn’t figure out what they were and they really didn’t taste like anything. The skins were decent, but not as super tender as I prefer them. These were alright, but I think this is the way Fuzhou people prepare them because this is the way they always taste at Fuzhou restaurants in NY. I prefer the Cantonese preparation. 7.25/10
Overall, I enjoy this place a lot and it’s somewhere that I eat at quite regularly. It’s also one of the few bright spots in a fast dying Chinatown, so I’d highly come recommend coming here to support them.
68B Forsyth Street
New York, NY 10002
Han Joo is a well-known Korean restaurant located in the Korean area of Flushing / Murray Hill. As I’ve waxed on about in the past I love specialist restaurants because you know exactly what you’re going for and you know they are going to make it well. At Han Joo they specialize in sam gyup sal, which is Korean pork belly BBQ. They are also known for the fact that they don’t BBQ the meat on a typical Korean BBQ grill, but rather on crystal plate, which I’ll explain more about later.
The restaurant is located right in the middle of Korean area of Flushing / Murray Hill, which is the real Koreatown in NY. It’s a small restaurant that like most restaurants in the area doesn’t have too much in the way of décor. The service was fine and the hostesses seemed nice although I don’t think they speak English very well (my friends speak Korean). However, the menu is translated into English (as you can see from my pictures below), so you should have no problems.
Ban chan are the small dishes that they give you for free at the beginning of the meal at Korean restaurants. Here they gave us pajun (pan fried pancake), broccoli and seaweed with gochujang (chili paste), kong na mul (bean sprouts), sweet pickled radish strips, potato salad, marinated cold eggplant and jalapeno in soy sauce. These were all good, nothing amazing, but competently made. 7.75/10
Unlike most places in NY that use the regular metal grill, at Han Joo they bring out a thick crystal plate which is propped up diagonally with a fire underneath it and you grill you meat on it. It looks cool although I’m not sure if there is a huge difference aside from the fact that your meat never actually touches fire. Although the other added bonus is that the juices from the pork run down the plate and they put kimchi at the bottom which baths in it and you eat this kimchi which is delicious.
Thick Fresh Pork Belly (Kal Saeng Sam Gyup Sal):
Han Joo offers several different types of sam gyup sal, which you can see in the pictures of the menu above. The first cut we got is the thick fresh pork belly was pretty similar to normal sam gyup sal except it was a little thicker. It had great flavor and the meat was nicely fresh. It’s pretty explanatory, but it was delicious. This is definitely among the best sam gyup sal in NY and is a “must order” dish. 8.5/10
Marinated Pork Belly With Green Tea:
My friend who eats here fairly regularly said the thick cut is the best, but we decided to get the green tea as well so I could try some other flavors. This was not cut quite as thick and was dusted with a green tea powder. The powder gives it’s a green tea flavor and makes it a little more salty. It was pretty good although I preferred the thick fresh pork belly. 8/10
The sam gyup sal comes with a variety of condiments including tenjang (bean paste), kinako powder (roasted soybean flour), sesame oil with salt and pepper, marinated onions and green onions, pickled radish, green peppers and raw garlic. Personally I like it with sesame oil with salt and pepper and some kinako powder. I also like it to wrap it up with the marinated onions and green onions in lettuce wraps and dip it in the sesame oil with salt and pepper. I love pickled radish as well, but I usually eat it separately.
Purple Rice in Pumpkin:
The rice is pretty good here; nice and al dente. I also love pumpkin so I liked this. 8/10
Tenjang chigae is a simple bean paste stew. It’s something people eat at home all the time, but for some reason restaurants in NY can never really get this right. This wasn’t very good. 6.75/10
Mul Naeng Myun:
Mul naeng myun is a cold buckwheat noodle dish that has origins in North Korea and is usually eaten during the summer. It’s served with ice, pickled radish, Korean pear and hardboiled egg. The broth is tangy and sweet and the buckwheat noodles are slippery and have a bit of bite to them, but aren’t al dente per se. I love mul naeng myun, but I find that the difference between a good version and an ok version to be relatively large. It was ok here, but nothing special. 7/10
Overall, I thought the sam gyup sal here was great and definitely worth your time. Also, they have opened a branch on St Marks in the East Village, so if you don’t want to trek all the way out the Flushing you can find it right here in the city as well.
Flushing / Murray Hill Branch:
41-06 149th Pl
Flushing, NY 11355
East Village Branch:
12 St Marks Pl (between Cooper Sq & Astor Pl)
New York, NY 10003
In my last post on Mission Chinese I discussed the evolving nature of “Americanized Chinese” food and how Mission Chinese is an example of Americanized Chinese evolving into something worth checking out (in my opinion). However, I entitled it “Part 1” because there is a second example of this in New York and its Yunnan Kitchen.
Yunnan Kitchen serves food that is influenced by Yunnan food. Yunnan is a province in China that borders Burma, Laos and Myanmar. In China, it’s known for among other things its nice weather, large number of minorities and its variety of mushrooms. The food is supposed to be quite different including very odd things like use of cheese which is completely unheard of in the rest of China and “Yunnan” food is somewhat of a misnomer because there are some many different minorities that I think “Yunnan” food can mean different things to different people there. Anyhow, I’ve only had it maybe once or twice as it’s not that common in most of the cities I normally visit and I’m not even sure if I’ve even actually met anyone from Yunnan.
There is a decent amount of information about the restaurant in this NYT article, which you can see here. Funny enough their “training” consisted of going to Shanghai and Beijing to two weeks (very far away from Yunnan) and training in some Yunnan restaurants there. So, I think it’s fair to say that this is a very loose interpretation of Yunnan cuisine.
The restaurant is well done; it’s got a very cool and relaxed feel to it with minimalist decoration and nice exposed brick walls. It’s a great place to have dinner with friends. The service has always been pretty good and everyone is nice. Also, be aware that there is usually a wait on Thursday-Saturday night.
Here’s what I’ve tried:
Pickled Green Papaya Salad:
This is shredded green papaya with warm shredded chicken, herbs and chilies. I was hoping this would be similar to the Thai papaya salads or even the Vietnamese papaya salads. However, I found this dish to be a bit too bland. It didn’t have any of the spice or the tart and sweet flavors of a normal papaya salad. This was a bit of a dud for me. 6.75/10
This was hen of the woods mushroom, frisee and mint salad. This was the other dish that I wasn’t crazy about, it was better than the green papaya salad, but I didn’t think there was too much too it. It was pretty similar to most other salads you get. Mind you it wasn’t bad, but just nothing special. 7/10
This was charred eggplant that was served cold with sawtooth herb, crushed peanuts and chilies. The eggplant was cooked nicely and was tender. It had a bit of spice to it and was a little sweet and tangy as well. I think I would’ve liked it better if it was served warm, but overall it was a decent dish. 7.5/10
Fried Potato Balls:
These were fried potato balls spiced with Yunnan spices and served with a soy-vinegar. These were really nice; they were nicely crispy, but weren’t greasy at all. The soy-vinegar sauce was the perfect complement to the fried potato balls. Overall, I thought these were great. 8.25/10
Tea Smoked Duck:
This was sliced cold tea smoked duck breast served with house pickled cucumber and salted peanuts. I actually don’t like tea smoked duck that much; it’s alright, but it’s not something I go out of my way for. However, I enjoyed it here. It’s much more delicate and lightly flavored than most tea smoked duck. The duck breast meat was nicely tender and it almost tasted more like a French dish than a Chinese dish. Overall, it was a solid dish. 8/10
Ham Rice Cakes:
This was Chinese rice cakes (nian gao) stir fried with chilies, tomato and pea shoots. I’m generally not the biggest fan of nian gao, but I got them because a friend likes them. These were pretty decent though. The tomato went surprisingly well with them and the slight tart flavor from the tomato gave it a nice tangy flavor and tasted good with the ham. It wasn’t really spicy at all and was generally a pretty simple dish, but not bad. 7.5/10
Stir Fried Mushrooms:
This was a variety of mushrooms stir fried with sawtooth herb, ham and peppers in a soy sauce. I love mushrooms, so this was a good dish for me. It tastes just like it sounds, but the flavor of the mushrooms pairs nicely with the saltiness from the soy sauce. Overall, a solid dish and tastes great with some rice. 8/10
Lamb Meatballs Shao Kao:
They have a shao kao section which means BBQ in Chinese and in particular is referring to BBQ skewers. In many places in China, particularly Northern China, skewers are a very popular dish. I’m not sure how prevalent they are in Yunnan (or not), but given that these chefs went to Beijing and Shanghai to train, I’m not surprised they picked these to put on their menu. These were lamb meatballs on skewers grilled and dusted with cumin and chili powder. The meat is perfectly cooked and the cumin and chili powder give it really good flavor. These are definitely one of the “must order” type dishes here. 8.5/10
Spicy Pork Shao Kao:
This is the same as the previous except with really juicy and tender pieces of pork with the perfect amounts of tender fat. These are really good as well and maybe the best dish here. 8.5/10
Crispy Whole Shrimp:
This is whole butterflied shrimp with salt, chili, lime and fried lime leaf. The shrimp is really nicely cooked and is nicely tender. The combination of salt, lime and chilli is a good one for this dish. It’s a pretty simple dish, but it’s excellent. Also, try eating the fried lime leaves, it sounds weird, but they’re tasty. 8.5/10
Steamed Market Fish:
I can’t remember what kind of fish it was, but it was a white fish filet served with seasonal mushrooms, Chinese chives in a Shaoxing wine sauce that I’m pretty sure had some soy sauce in it. The sauce is similar to the sauce that the mushrooms were in. The fish was light and clean tasting with no fishiness whatsoever. The sauce was really nice and paired well with the fish. Overall, this was a nice dish. 8/10
Chinese Sausage Fried Rice:
This was fried rice with Chinese sausage, seasonal mushrooms and Chinese greens. This was pretty straight forward fried rice. I love Chinese sausage so that was good; the rice had good flavor as well. However, it didn’t have enough wok hay, which is the smoky flavor that you get from cooking food in a wok at a very high temperature and it also wasn’t fluffy enough. That said overall it was a tasty dish. 7.75/10
Ma La Fried Chicken:
This is a special that is on the chalkboard. However, they’ve offered it every time I’ve been here. The chicken is crispy on the outside, but really nicely tender on the inside. It’s also not greasy whatsoever. The flavor is very ma meaning it has a lot of the numbing flavor and it is also la (spicy), but not crazy spicy. I like this dish a lot and its definitely another “must order” type of dish. 8.5/10
Overall, I enjoyed this restaurant a lot and while it has its hits and misses, the hits are very good and it’s become one of my favorite restaurants in the Lower Eastside. I highly recommend checking it out.
79 Clinton St (between Rivington & Delancey)
New York, NY 10002
The term “Americanized Chinese” conjures up thoughts of cheap take-out food featuring gloppy sauces, unidentifiable fried meats and fun names like General Tso’s chicken and moo goo gai pan. However, while many “foodies” may act like it’s a sacrilegious, for many it has a nostalgic quality about it and I have many friends who really like having this type of food from time to time. That said you’d be hard pressed to find someone who really thinks of this type of food as cuisine that you would go out of your way for. The problem is that mentality this has created this idea that this is actually what Chinese food is like (i.e. basically cheap, greasy food). Besides the fact that saying “Chinese food” is kind of ridiculous because it’s literally like saying European food, it’s really created this stigma that people can’t get over and to a certain degree it’s created this self-perpetuating cycle because many restaurants think that’s what customers expect.
This has finally started to breakdown as people have become more educated on Chinese food via the media and as authentic Chinese food has become more readily available. However, in terms of Americanized Chinese, I did not grow up eating Americanized Chinese food and it holds no nostalgic quality for me and most attempts to make fusion Chinese food have generally been awful in my experience. So is it possible to make good Americanized Chinese food? I think the answer is yes as places like Mission Chinese are making great food that is not authentic Chinese, so it truly is Americanized Chinese.
The restaurant is a tiny space on Orchard and looks like a take-out joint up front and opens up into a small room with fluorescent lights in back. The wait times are ridiculous at 2-3 hours at peak times and so you constantly see lines out the door. However, luckily I live close enough to get take-out from here and I just call in my order and pick it up 20-30 minutes later. I haven’t actually eaten in the restaurant since I don’t want to wait, so it’s tough for me to comment on service.
Here’s what we got:
Thrice Cooked Bacon:
This is one of the signature dishes. Its chunks of bacon stir fried with rice cakes, tofu skin, bitter melon, chili oil and fermented black bean. It tastes exactly as it sounds and was surprisingly quite ma la (numbing and spicy). I’d read that this place makes stuff quite ma la and it did live up to its reputation. I liked the tofu skin and rice cakes as well; they provided a nice textural balance to the dish. Also, as a word of warning this dish is quite salty although it’s salty in a good way. Overall, this was a very good dish. 8.25/10
Kung Pao Pastrami:
This was another signature dish. Its chunks of pastrami, which I believe they get from Katz’s, stir fried with peanuts, celery, potato and chili oil. This was also quite ma la although more la (spicy). It was also a bit of a salt bomb since pastrami itself is quite salty, but it tasted really good with rice. It had decent wok hay, which is the smoky flavor you get from stir frying in a very hot wok. Overall, this was another very good dish. 8.25/10
Stir Fried Sweet Peas:
These were individual peas, pickled ramps and chili oil. I thought it was a really well prepared dish as I found the flavor of the sauce to be excellent and was also again nicely ma la. However, I thought I was ordering pea pods and I don’t really like sweet peas, so while I thought it was a very good for a sweet pea dish, I don’t really sweet peas so it’s hard for me to be really constructive on this dish. If you like peas you should try this dish. 7.25/10
Fresh Tofu Poached In Soy Milk:
This was interesting, it was tofu in a bath of soy milk with spicy fermented bean paste (dou ban jiang). The tofu was just regular tofu and the soy bean milk was quite milky in flavor probably more so than usual. It was actually quite a light and refreshing dish, which was a nice contrast to the other dishes. The dou ban jiang was salty and spicy and the fermented flavor went well with the dish. Overall, I thought it was a reasonably tasty dish and a good compliment to the other dishes. 7.75/10
Mapo Tofu with Pork Shoulder:
This was the last signature dish and was probably the most normal tasting dish in that it tastes reasonably similar to an authentic version of mapo tofu. It was quite ma la, oily and salty. I’d say that it was probably a little more salty than normal, but not in a bad way. The pork shoulder was different since you normally use ground pork, but I liked that a lot because the pork was pretty decent quality. The other thing that was different is that they use a more firm tofu as opposed to a silky tofu. I liked the tofu, but I prefer silky tofu. Overall, this was very good and definitely worthy of being a signature dish. 8.25/10
Beijing Vinegar Peanuts:
These were roasted peanuts in the skin with smoked garlic, anise and rock sugar in black vinegar. I was hoping these would be more similar to the ones at BaoHaus which I really like. However, these were just so so, they just tasted like regular roast peanuts in some vinegar. 6.75/10
Stir Fried Pork Jowl and Radish:
Jowl are the cheek and are similar to pork belly or thick cut bacon. This dish was jowl stir fried with fermented black bean, shiso and mint. I could see where they were going with this dish, but this was one of the duds for me. I felt like it was just a bunch of ingredients put together, but they didn’t meld well. In particular I thought the shiso and mint were totally out of place with the black bean. So while it was an okay dish, it wasn’t something I’d go out of my way to order. 6.75/10
This is just rice with barley in it, but for some reason I found it particularly tasty. It was cooked very nicely, slightly al dente and the barley gave it a slight bit of flavor and it tasted great with the other food. 8/10
Overall, I enjoyed Mission Chinese a lot and I have a lot of respect for what Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint have done.
154 Orchard St (between Stanton & Rivington)
New York, NY 10002
Pok Pok Phat Thai is one of Andy Ricker’s restaurants. I wrote about the predecessor when it was called Pok Pok Wings and specialized in chicken wings, which you can see here. However, it changed this year and now focuses on pad thai because apparently the kitchen was too small and was making it difficult to cook the wings properly (the kitchen is tiny). I’m not going to give too many details about the restaurant because I already did in the original review.
Here’s what we got:
Phat Thai Ruam (Pad Thai with Shrimp and Pork):
This is supposed to be the authentic version of pad thai. Its rice noodles cooked in rendered pork fat with tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar, peanuts, dried tofu, dried shrimp, preserved radish, egg, garlic chives, bean sprouts and chili powder. You can choose it plain, with shrimp, with ground pork or with both. I got the version with both shrimp and ground pork. It’s much drier and less sweet than the sloppy sauce-y Americanized version. The flavors are a bit subtle although it’s not bland by any means. The various condiments were all quite good and definitely make the dish better. Overall, while I’m no pad thai expert, I found the dish to be pretty tasty and a little extra fish sauce and chili powder definitely kicks it up a notch. 7.75/10
Kuaytiaw Khua Kai (Stir Fried Rice Noodles):
This is wide rice noodles stir fried in rendered pork fat with chicken, cuttlefish, egg and green onions. According to their website this is a Bangkok Chinatown specialty, which makes sense since kuaytiaw is actually a Chinese word for noodles in the Hokkien / Teochew dialect (粿條 guo tiao). Southeast Asia has a ton of Chinese influence (mainly Hokkien, Teochew and Cantonese) and Thailand has a substantial Chinese population, which you can read about in this Wiki article. This is somewhat similar to char kway teow which is a common dish in Singapore and Malaysia. Anyhow, it tastes just like it sounds. I liked it a bit better than the phat thai as it had a bit of the smoky “wok hai” type of flavor that you get from cooking food in a very hot wok. Overall, I liked this dish and thought it was good. 8/10
Hoi Thawt (Mussel Broken Crepe):
This is a starch-y broken crepe with steamed mussels, eggs, garlic chives and bean sprouts served with Shark Sri Racha sauce. I’m almost certain that this dish was taken from Teochew Chinese as it tastes very similar to the oyster omelette / crepe you find in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and certain parts of southern China. Although I’d say it’s more similar to the Taiwanese version. Anyhow, it’s sort of starchy, but with lots of crispy bits, egg and mussel and topped with the tangy slightly spicy sauce. I thought this was shockingly good; it actually tastes very similar to what you get in Asia. In fact, this is the only time I’ve had this dish done well in the US. I’ve even gone back three times in total to make sure the first time wasn’t a fluke. This is the dish that is worth coming here for. 8.75/10
Overall, I enjoyed this place a lot and it’s definitely a good spot to check out if you’re in the neighborhood.
137 Rivington Street (between Norfolk & Suffolk)
New York, NY 10002
Lake Pavilion is a huge new Cantonese restaurant located in Flushing, but not in downtown Flushing as it’s much closer to the Long Island Expressway in a small area that seems to turning into a 2nd area in Flushing with a lot of Chinese restaurants. Note that you will need a car to get here or have to take a bus from downtown Flushing. Another option would be to take a Chinese black car which will get you here for $24-25 from Manhattan.
The restaurant used to be called Palace Diner, which was an old school American diner type of place, but the exterior has changed from looking like a run-down diner to almost looking like some casino with super gaudy blue florescent lights lighting up the outside. The restaurant is deceivingly big and has to be one of the biggest restaurants in Flushing. It’s been completely renovated into a typical Chinese banquet type of place and everything is new, clean and bright. We sat in the main room, but there are many private rooms and also a fairly sizeable second dining room as well.
The service was quite good; they were attentive and surprisingly nice. I will caution that many of the servers spoke little to no English as several times someone from our table asked for something in English and got a blank stare. However, if you don’t speak Chinese then the good thing is that the entire menu is translated into English with lots of pictures with the exception of a very small specials menu that was on the table, so any which way you should be fine.
Here’s what we got:
Winter Melon Soup:
This was a standard version of the soup, but it was good and perfect during a cold winter night. The soup was nice and light and I thought the ingredients such as the crab, chicken, winter melon were all quite fresh. Overall, this was a nice rendition. 7.75/10
This turned out to be the surprise of the night. They brought a whole Peking duck to the table and carved it up in front of us, then made the buns for us and also brought us back a plate with a very large amount of extra duck meat. This is Cantonese style Peking duck meaning it’s actually a roast duck and you eat it in mantou (steamed white buns) instead of pancakes. The duck skin was nicely crispy and the meat was perfectly tender and really tasted great in the buns with hoisin sauce and spring onions. The leftover duck meat was great as well; I kept eating it with rice and hoisin sauce. This is definitely the best Peking duck I’ve had in New York. 8.5/10
Sizzling Black Pepper Steak:
We ordered this because I saw a lot of other tables ordering it. I thought this was one of the duds of the night. The steak while fine was a little drier than I like and I prefer a stronger flavored black pepper sauce although the sauce was fine overall. 6.75/10
Snow Pea Leaves with Crab Claw Meat Egg White Sauce:
They do a nice rendition of this dish here, the snow pea leaves were fresh and the sauce while standard was well executed. 8/10
Stir Fried String Beans:
This was another standout dish for me. These string beans had good wok hay which is the smoky flavor you get from cooking at a wok at a high temperature, but only chefs who know what they’re doing can get this right. The pork sauce was also really nice and not overly salty like a lot of places do it. This was definitely a good dish. 8.25/10
Eggplant and Sparerib Casserole:
Along with the Peking Duck, this was the other star of the night. It was a typical casserole consisting of eggplant and cut up spare rib swimming in brown sauce with some vegetables. The brown sauce was excellent; it wasn’t gloppy or bland like a lot of places make it. It had a great savory flavor and really tasted good with rice. The eggplant and spare ribs were both perfectly cooked. This was probably one of the best casseroles I’ve had in NY. 8.5/10
They have an extensive list of expensive sea fish, which I wanted to get, but one of my friends really likes flounder and wanted to get it as it was on most tables. Flounder is not my favorite fish, I usually get it fried if I do, but we got it cooked traditional Cantonese style where it’s steamed first and then hot oil and soy sauce are poured over it. They did a good job and the fish was very tender and the sauce was good. It has a very slight fishy flavor which is why I dinged it a little bit, but overall this was good and I definitely want to come back and try some of their higher end fish. 7.75/10
Peking Pork Chops:
This was the other dud of the knight. The sauce was fine, but they screwed up the batter as it came off the pork chops (it should be firmly stuck to them) and hence ended up being a little soggy. 6.75/10
Crab Sticky Rice:
The sticky rice here is different than the version at Imperial Palace / East Lake, which you can see here (http://www.lauhound.com/2012/03/imperial-palace-east-lake-seafood-restaurant-my-favorite-chinese-restaurant-in-new-york/). It was much more sticky and heavy being more similar to the sticky rice you get in a zong zi (Chinese tamale) or nuo mi ji / lo mai gai. It was flavored very nicely as the crab gave it great flavor and the crab meat was actually delicious as it had retained a lot of its flavor. The rice also contained a lot of crispy ham and peanuts as well. However, the peanuts were the downfall as texturally they were too hard for the dish and the flavor of roast peanuts is too strong and overpowered the crab. If they replaced the roasted peanuts with soft boiled peanuts I’d probably take make rating of this dish up to an 8.25/10. 7.75/10
Salt and Pepper Squid:
We almost didn’t get this dish because they forgot to write it down and the lady was like it’s too much food already, but then a friend came late, so we ended up getting it anyhow and I’m glad we did. The squid was really tender maybe the most tender version I’ve had in NY and the salt and pepper batter was quite good although South China Garden’s batter was better, but the squid was so tender that I’d call it a wash as to who’s version is better. I’m glad they make a good version because Imperial Palace’s version isn’t good and they are my go to Cantonese restaurant. 8/10
Red Bean Soup:
This was given as a free dessert at the end of the meal. It was standard, but quite good. 7.75/10
Overall, I enjoyed my meal here and this is definitely one of the best Cantonese restaurants in New York right now.
60-19 Main St
New York, NY 11367
Great NY Noodletown probably the most well known restaurant in Chinatown and generally is a pretty famous restaurant. It’s been around for a long time and was here far before I arrived in New York. The restaurant specializes in shao la (Cantonese BBQ), congee and various simple dishes. I’ve been meaning to write about this restaurant for a long time as I feel like my blog wouldn’t be very comprehensive if I didn’t report about this place.
The restaurant looks like most other Cantonese BBQ restaurants in NY; its run down, kind of dirty, has no décor to speak of and has BBQ meats hanging in the window. However, you will notice when you walk in that it’s noticeably more crowded than other restaurants. You often have to wait for a table on the weekends and there is usually a line of Chinese people getting BBQ meats or food to go. Another thing you will notice if you go late enough is that it’s a late night spot that lots of drunk people come to after partying.
Here’s what we got:
Pork and Thousand Year Egg Congee (Pi Dan Zhu Rou Zhou):
Congee is one thing that Manhattan’s Chinatown does very well. I actually find the congee here to be fairly similar to what you get in Hong Kong. Congee is rice porridge that you make by cooking rice with a lot of water until it turns into porridge. I was actually wondering how they came up with the name congee since it’s nothing like that Chinese word for congee (zhou in Mandarin or juk in Cantonese) and according to this Wikipedia article it’s actually derived from a Tamil word. Anyhow, the congee here is very good, it has good thick consistency and nice flavor although congee by itself is fairly plain, but I’ve heard some people may add some chicken stock or lard for flavor. I prefer to get it with pork and pi dan which is a black preserved egg, which has a creamy flavor if you’ve never had it before. Also, I prefer a decent amount of white pepper and a little chili oil in my congee for flavor as well (it’s always sitting on the table). Overall, it’s simple dish, but it’s done very well here. 8.5/10
Beef Congee (Niu Rou Zhou):
This is the same thing as the other congee except it has nicely silky tender beef in it. 8.5/10
Fried Crueller (You Tiao):
You tiao is a long fried donut that is a standard accompaniment with congee. You take it and dip it in the congee and it’s delicious. The you tiao here are decent, but they are pre-fried, so they’re not nearly as good as a freshly fried one. 7.25/10
The first picture has roast pork, soy sauce chicken and roast duck (from left to right) and the 2nd picture is roast pork. Here are reviews of each:
Soy Sauce Chicken (Jiang You Ji / See Yau Gai):
This is roast chicken covered in a dark soy sauce. This is one of my favorite shao la (Cantonese BBQ) dishes. The chicken is very tender and the skin is very flavorful and pairs really nicely with the soy sauce. The version here is quite good although it can be a little inconsistent. One thing to note is that Chinese people like their meat tender and I’ve found some Americans can find the texture of the skin to be too slippery and dislike it. Overall, they do a pretty decent job on this dish. 8/10
Roast Duck (Kao Ya):
This is roast duck that they pour a semi-sweet soy sauce marinade on it. It’s got good flavoring, but it can be inconsistent as sometimes I find it can be too dry sometimes as I like my duck to be really tender and juicy. 7/10 when it’s off, 7.75/10 when it’s on
Roast Pork (Cha Shao / Cha Siu):
Cha siu literally means “fork roast” in Chinese; the reason they call it that is because you skewer a long piece of pork and then roast it in a special cylinder shaped oven. The marinades can vary, but generally it contains honey, soy sauce, five spice powder, hoisin sauce and some people use this stuff called hong fu ru, which is a fermented bean curd. The flavors can be quite different ranging from very sweet to barely sweet at all. Also, the reason it’s red on the outside is because they use food coloring. Cha siu is literally one of my all time favorite foods when I was a kid I used to refuse to eat the other food and just wanted cha siu with rice. When done right it’s tender, juicy and has a great sweet flavor. Anyhow, the cha siu at Noodletown is extremely inconsistent. When it’s on its actually quite good, I’d say you might even consider it maybe an average type place in Hong Kong, but when it’s off its dry and not good at all. It’s totally luck of the draw as to whether it’s going to be off or on unfortunately. Also, just so you can see here’s a link to the best cha siu I’ve ever had in Hong Kong. 6.75/10 when it’s off, 8.25/10 when it’s on
Ribs (Pai Gu):
These are prepared in the same marinade they use for the cha siu, so it’s a bit sweet and salty at the same time. They are pretty good, not as tender as the cha siu, but reasonably tasty nonetheless. 7.5/10
Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab (Jiao Yen Ruan Ke Xie):
This dish has become perhaps their most famous dish; I believe it was written up in the New York Times actually. It’s a soft shell crab battered and fried in a typical Cantonese style salt and pepper batter. It’s nicely crispy on the outside and the salt and pepper batter goes really well with the soft shell crab. It’s well deserving of its reputation and definitely a really tasty dish assuming you like soft shell crab. 8.5/10
Salt and Pepper Squid (Jiao Yen You Yu):
Same thing as the soft shell crab except with squid. This is a favorite Cantonese dish of mine so I almost always get it when I come here. South China Garden (RIP) had the best version, but now that they are closed I find Noodletown to have the best version in New York right now. The batter here is good, the only thing is that I find their squid isn’t quite as tender as I like, but overall still quite good. 8.25/10
Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (Jie Lan):
This is a standard dish, which tastes exactly as it sounds and they do it well here. 8/10
Flowering Chives with Beef (Jiu Cai Hua Niu Rou):
This is another signature dish. Its flowering chives which I believe are called garlic chives in English stir fried with beef, carrots and ginger. It has decent “wok hay”, which means wok air basically and it’s the flavor you get from cooking food in a wok at a very hot temperature which effectively smokes the food. The beef is very silky and smooth and the garlic chives have a nice crunch to them and good flavor. I think this is one of the best dishes here. 8.25/10
Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup (Xia Ren Yun Tun Mian):
While wonton noodle soup sounds like it should be an easy dish to make it’s actually very difficult and I would say that it’s somewhat akin to Japanese ramen in that sense. In Hong Kong people take it pretty seriously and you have lots of restaurants that specialize in it and people are very particular about it. I think the hardest part to get right is broth and I’ve never really found anywhere in the US that can get it right unfortunately. That said within in New York, Noodletown probably is one of the better versions in NY. The noodles are pretty decent, but be aware that the noodles in wonton noodle soup are very springy and some people find them almost too springy. The wontons are decent, they’re reasonably well made although I think it’d be better if they used better quality shrimp. The broth is decent although it doesn’t have the complexity a really good version has and I also find it has a little too much alkaline flavor. It has an alkaline flavor because you need to use alkaline salts in order to make the noodles. Fyi, the best version is Shifu Chio in Flushing which you can see here and I’d also say Noodle Village does a decent version as well. 7.5/10
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce (Yu Xiang Qie Zi):
I ordered this randomly once, it’s your typical eggplant in garlic sauce, but they definitely made it on the sweet side. The sauce wasn’t gloppy, but I thought it was too sweet. 6.75/10
Overall, it is an enjoyable restaurant and definitely one of the better restaurants in Chinatown although their BBQ meats are inconsistent.
28 1/2 Bowery
New York, NY 10013
Given that people thought the first post I wrote about mooncakes, which you can see here and the fact that I realized a lot more bakeries in make their own mooncakes than I originally thought, I decided to try a few other bakeries.
I’ll get right into it since I already wrote a lot about mooncakes in the first post.
Koi Palace is obviously not in New York, it’s in Daly City, California and it maybe the most of famous Chinese restaurant in the U.S. I happened to be in Napa for a wedding, so I decided to stop by for dim sum (which I’ll be writing about soon since I’ve been there twice this year) and also picked up a mooncake. They had three kinds: purple yam with birds nest, mixed nuts with smoked ham and white lotus. In hindsight, I should’ve bought all three, but I only bought the mixed nuts with smoked ham and white lotus. So this was definitely the best mooncake of the mooncakes I’ve tried in my mooncake tasting this year. The exterior was nice and not overly oily. The filling was nicely moist and the flavoring was quite good. You could really taste the smoked ham, which sounds weird since it’s a dessert, but it went quite well and the mixed nuts gave it a nice texture. Also, the egg yolk was not dry either, which was good. Overall, this was as good as any of the good brands from Asia. I’m not sure if you can get them delivered to you, but these are probably worth it. 8.25/10
This is one of the bakeries that I frequent somewhat regularly and I’ve written about before. I tried their white lotus seed with one egg yolk. The exterior was fine, but I found the filling to be too dry and the egg yolk to be too dry as well. The flavoring was decent, but nothing special. Overall, I found it to be a bit disappointing. 6.75/10
This is a popular bakery in Chinatown that is much nicer than most bakeries in Chinatown. I actually haven’t really eaten much from this bakery, but I notice that it’s usually quite busy. They had a big sign advertising their mooncakes (it’s only in Chinese), so I decided stop by. These mooncakes weren’t actually made at the bakery, but I believe they were made exclusively for them by a bakery in China. These were pretty decent, they tasted very similar to Lung Moon’s, but the egg yolk was moister; the filling was nicely sweet with a good white lotus seed flavor. Overall, it was a pretty decent mooncake. 7.75/10
Overall, I don’t the bakeries in New York really stack up against the well known Asian brands, but it’s good to know that you can get at least a decent mooncake at places like Lung Moon and New Wing Wah.
Koi Palace: 365 Gellert Blvd Daly City, CA 94015; (650) 992-9000; https://www.koipalace.com
Double Crispy Bakery: 230 Grand St (between Elizabeth St & Bowery) New York, NY 10013; (212) 966-6929
New Wing Wah Bakery: 246 Grand St (between Bowery & Chrystie St) New York, NY 10002; (212) 941-1924
Right now is a major Chinese holiday called Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhong Qiu Jie 中秋節); the actual date this year is September 30th, but it’s celebrated for a few weeks coming up to it. There is a long story associated with the holiday, but I’ll leave you to read this Wikipedia article to find out more about that. The reason you probably know about this holiday (assuming you’re not Chinese) is that people traditionally eat mooncakes at this time and right now if you go into any Chinese bakery or supermarket you will notice mooncakes everywhere.
Most mooncakes you will find here are imported from places such as Hong Kong, China and Malaysia, but some of the bakeries in Chinatown still make their own. I decided that it would be interesting to go try a few of the bakeries that are well known for their mooncakes, so that’s what this post is all about as I’d rather have a fresh mooncake than one that had to be imported.
Mooncakes are one of those things that you will tend to find that people either love or hate. I really like them, but I’ve had friends compare them to fruitcake in that it’s some weird traditional dessert people eat at a certain time of year, but no one likes them. Also, I’m writing about Cantonese style mooncakes, which will have a sweet filling generally made from lotus seed paste, red bean or winter melon paste. They can also contain salted duck egg yolks, melon seeds and mixed nuts and dried fruits. Other provinces in China have their own version of mooncakes, but I grew up eating Cantonese style mooncakes and that’s what’s readily available in NY, so that’s what I’m writing about. You can read this Wikipedia article about mooncakes to learn more about the various regional versions.
The three bakeries I tried were Kwong Wah, Lung Moon and New Golden Fung. I also bought one Hong Kong brand from Hong Kong Supermarket, which I thought was Wing Wah 榮華(a very famous HK brand), but it was the wrong brand. I was in a rush and saw the characters 榮華 in the name and just bought them, but I later realized that it wasn’t Wing Wah and was actually Grand Fortune. I should’ve known better since the box was so cheap at $15 for 4 mooncakes. Oh well, next time I’ll get the right brand. If you want to read more about Wing Wah, here’s a Wikipedia article.
For all the mooncake I tried, I got white lotus seed with one egg yolk.
The filling was extremely smooth, which was weird because while it’s supposed to be smooth this was just too smooth; it was also quite heavy, oily, not that sweet and tasted strongly of the lotus seed. The egg yolk was a little dry and didn’t have great flavor. The crust was fairly thin and a bit on the oily side. Overall, I thought it was fairly mediocre and not worth the calories. 6/10
The filling’s texture was exactly how it should be; it was smooth, but still had some texture. The flavoring was quite good; a nice lotus seed flavor that was much better than Kwong Wah and also sweeter than Kwong Wah, but I’d say that it was “normal” sweetness for a mooncake. The egg yolk was a bit on dry side, but nicely salty which I really like against the sweetness of the mooncake. The crust was nice and not too oily or thick. Overall, I thought this was a surprisingly pretty respectable mooncake and worth trying. 7.75/10
New Golden Fung:
The filling had a similar consistency as Lung Moon, which was good. It was sweeter than Kwong Wah, but not as sweet as Lung Moon and the lotus seed flavor was by far the least pronounced of the three to the point where it was almost undetectable. The egg yolk was very salty and too dry. The crust was quite crusty, which while not normal I kind of liked. Overall, it was a decent mooncake, but unremarkable mooncake that I found to be a little too plain as the lotus seed flavor was non-existent. 7/10
The filling was a quite dry with an odd chemical-y flavor that overpowered the lotus seed flavor. The egg yolk was very small and not salty enough. The crust was a little dry and rather thick. Overall, these were terrible, one of the worst brands I’ve ever tried, definitely do not buy these. 4/10
Overall, Lung Moon was definitely the best and the only one I would recommend trying. However, I still would default back to the Foh San brand of pandan flavored mooncakes that I’ve been buying for the last two years, which you can find at most Malaysian restaurants in NY.
Also, if you happen to have any recommendations I’d love to hear about them!
Kwong Wah: 210 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013; (212) 431-9575
Lung Moon: 81 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10013; (212) 349-4945
Golden Fung Wong Bakery: 41 Mott St (between Pell St & Bayard St) , New York, NY 10013; (212) 267-4037
Hong Kong Supermarket: 157 Hester St, New York, NY 10013; (212) 966-4943
When I heard that Liang’s Kitchen opened in Flushing, I almost immediately went there. Liang’s Kitchen is originally from the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles, which is where most good Chinese food in LA is located. However, over time they expanded and have several branches in LA, a branch in Irvine and a couple branches in Northern California. I’ve eaten at the one in San Gabriel and the one in Irvine, which is fairly close to where my family lives. It’s generally been good dependable Taiwanese food, so I was quite excited to hear they had opened a branch in Flushing as good Taiwanese food has become somewhat difficult to find here.
Liang’s Kitchen actually isn’t straight up Taiwanese food; it’s supposed to be a take on the food that came from the migration of mainland Chinese to Taiwan. Many of these Chinese were military families who were part of the Kuomintang, some of whom intentionally moved to Taiwan in the 40s and some of whom fled to Taiwan in 1949 when the KMT lost against the Communists. Taiwanese food traditionally is southern Fujian food, but you will also find a lot of northern Chinese, Sichuan and other Chinese regional dishes as well. This is partially a function of the influence these military families had on Taiwan’s food culture. Last time I was in Taiwan I watched a documentary about these communities that surrounded or were on military bases where Chinese from a given province would all live together and then cook their regional food as part of community gatherings; the one I watched was about group of 30-40 families from Hunan that had kept cooking traditional Hunan dishes even generations after the original immigrants came.
The restaurant is located in the basement of the Best Western Hotel. It’s a brand new space; quite clean and reasonably nice. The walls have blown up pictures of their food, old pictures of Taiwanese military families and pictures of the chef and Liang family. This location isn’t on their website yet, but they have pictures of the CEO (Ivan Liang) and the new head chef, so I’m pretty sure that it’s an authentic location. The servers were reasonably nice and they speak English, so you shouldn’t have a problem if you don’t speak Chinese. However, certain appetizers and the entire main dish menu are only written in Chinese, so that will be sort of an issue. I’m going to write the characters of dishes we ordered that were on the Chinese only menu so that you can order them.
Here’s what we got:
Stewed Tofu (Lu Dou Fu Gan Si):
Lu wei is a type of Chinese cooking common in southern China, where you braise meats or tofu in a master stock made up of soy sauce, spices and other ingredients. This is actually smoked tofu that is stewed in a lu wei sauce. The version here was just okay, I didn’t think the lu wei sauce they used was flavorful enough, so while it tasted alright it was nothing to write home about. 7/10
Seaweed (Liang Ban Hai Dai Si):
This is a cold dish of long thin strips of seaweed tossed in sesame oil and mashed garlic. It tastes exactly how it sounds. The version here was decent, but not great. 7/10
Stir Fried Corn and Shrimp (Yu Mi Xia Ren 玉米蝦仁):
This is a very Taiwanese home cooking type of dish. It’s a simple dish with corn, shrimp and diced peppers stir fried with sesame oil and salt. The corn and shrimp were both very fresh and they were also generous with the amount of shrimp they gave. This version was quite good and I enjoyed it. 8/10
Beef Tendon Noodle Soup (Hong Shao Niu Jin Mian):
Hong shao is another type of braising that is common in Chinese cuisine and it’s very common for the beef to be stewed in this manner for beef noodle soup in Taiwan, which is actually the national dish of Taiwan. This dish is pretty hard to get right as the beef and broth require a lot of skill and hard work to get right. The beef tendon was surprisingly good; it was very tender and flavorful, definitely the best beef tendon I’ve had in NY beef noodle soup (although the rest have generally been pretty bad). Unfortunately, the noodles were overcooked so they were kind of mushy although they tasted fine. The broth was decent; I wouldn’t say it was great or anything, but it had decent beef flavor and the pickled vegetable tasted good. Overall, it’s probably one of the better Taiwanese style beef noodle soups in NY although just decent on an absolute basis. 7.25/10 (8/10 for the beef tendon, 6.5/10 for the noodles and 7.25/10 for the broth)
Beef Pancake (Niu Rou Jia Bing):
This is a scallion pancake that is lathered with hoisin sauce then thinly sliced beef and cucumbers are layered on top and it’s wrapped into a burrito. I love this dish and Liang’s Kitchen is known for it. The scallion pancake was good; it was freshly fried and not oily although I do prefer it to be a little thinner. The beef was pretty decent and tasted nice with the hoisin sauce. Overall, the version here was pretty good. 8/10
Wontons in Hot Oil (Hong You Chao Shou):
This is an example of that military influence as this is a Sichuan dish that you can find at any Sichuan restaurant in NY. The sauce was nice; it had good tasting hot oil and a slight sweetness to it. However, it’s less spicy than any of the Sichuan places. The wontons were good as well with very thin skins and nice filling. The only problem was that if you leave the wontons in the sauce for too long they start to fall apart because the skins are so thin. The wontons are definitely better than most of the Sichuan places and the sauce was quite good, but it depends on whether you want it to be as spicy as the Sichuan places or not. 8/10
Shacha Beef with Water Spinach (Sha Cha Niu Rou Kong Xin Cai 沙茶牛肉空心菜):
Sha cha is a sauce that is made of soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chillis, dried fish and dried shrimp. The dish consists of sliced beef sautéed in a sha cha sauce put over boiled water spinach (kong xin cai). I thought it was pretty good although could’ve used a little more salt. 7.5/10
Five Flavor Steamed Pork (Wu Wei Bai Qie Rou 五味白切肉):
This is steamed thin slices of pork served with thinly julienned ginger and a sweet bean and garlic sauce. This turned out to be the best dish and the surprise of the night. The pork slices were very tender and they tasted really good with the ginger and bean sauce. I definitely recommend ordering this. 8.5/10
Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji 三杯雞):
This is a very typical Taiwanese dish consisting of chicken on the bone cooked in a sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil (hence the three cups) and it also has sugar, basil and ginger in it. The version here was a little different because it’s not sweet at all, but the sauce still tasted pretty good. The problem was that there was not enough meat, it was mainly bones. I have no issue with the meat being on the bone (some people don’t like that), but there was so little chicken that the dish ended up being very small even though it looks big. I think Gu Xiang’s version is better than this one. 7.5/10 (could’ve been higher if they gave more chicken meat)
Pork Chop Rice (Pai Gu Fan):
I got this to go for my girlfriend. Taiwanese pork chop rice is a staple dish in Taiwan; it’s a pork chop that has been pounded thin and is fried in a sweet potato flour batter and five spice (wu xiang fen). It’s usually served with condiments of lu rou (stewed ground pork sauce), suan cai (pickled mustard greens) and lu dan (stewed hard boiled eggs). However, here they only gave a very small amount of lu rou, no suan cai and instead gave another pickled cabbage that had red chilis and Chinese sausage in it and also pickled daikon. The pork chop was excellent maybe the best version I’ve had in NY or at least on par with 66 Lu’s next door which most people consider the best (although I think their quality has gone downhill a bit). It was tender, crispy, wasn’t oily and had good five spice flavor. The pickled vegetables and lu dan were good as well. The only problem was they gave you no lu rou, which I love. It also came with a nice light seaweed soup that was pretty good as well. 8.25/10
Overall, I enjoyed my meal here and this is definitively some of the best Taiwanese food in New York now. I hope that the quality stays good as Chinese restaurants in NY have this tendency to start strong and then fade.
133-51 39th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED**
I’ve tried two other places trying to find a good Manhattan-based replacement for South China Garden, which you can see here and here. Although I liked both, I didn’t think either of them were replacements. However, I found a decent replacement in Danny Ng’s.
Danny Ng is a somewhat well known Chinatown Cantonese chef / restaurant owner that used to run Danny Ng’s on Pell Street, which closed and then later re-opened at its current location on Bowery just south of Canal. Amazing 66 and Sing Kee have some affiliation as well although I’m not sure if it’s actual ownership or the chefs just used to work at Danny Ng’s.
The restaurant is located on the ground floor in a weird space below the now defunct Golden Bridge, which was located above it on the 2nd floor. It’s set back between two staircases and the restaurant has no windows, so keep your eyes peeled as it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking. It’s typical Chinatown décor in that there isn’t much although it seems relatively clean. The clientele was almost strictly Cantonese Chinatown local type families. The servers were reasonably nice and seemed to speak Chinese and English, so I don’t think communication should be much of a problem.
Here’s what we got:
Pork Bone Soup:
This was given as complementary soup. It was a simple soup made from boiling pork bones with seasonings, but it was executed nicely as you could tell they didn’t cut corners and the soup was boiled properly so that you could taste the pork flavor. It was clean, light and not too salty. 7.75/10
Roast Chicken with Preserved Cabbage:
This was typical Cantonese style chicken although I believe it is fried and not roasted as the English name says. The skin was perfectly crispy and the meat was tender and juicy. They topped it with minced preserved cabbage (mei cai 梅菜), which was very good, giving the chicken a nice salty and pickled flavor. It all went together very well and I thought they did a really good job on this dish. 8.5/10
Sauteed String Bean with Minced Pork:
This was a standard version with string beans sautéed in oil with minced ground pork, but it ended up being the only weak dish of the night. I prefer this dish with black bean in it, I also like my string beans a little more tender and thought it wasn’t dry enough and therefore didn’t get the good wok hay that you get when you make this dish well. Wok hay is the somewhat smoky flavor you get from cooking in a wok at a very high temperature, which good Chinese chefs get. 6.75/10
Baked Lobster with Cheese:
This is a house specialty that sounds kind of weird, but I heard that it’s good from some friends and the waiter also recommended it. Its fried pieces of lobster in a light cheese batter. The result looks sort of ugly actually, but tastes pretty good. The cheese is mild tasting and goes pretty well with the lobster which was nicely fresh. It’s little hard to explain, but everyone thought it came out pretty decent. 8/10
Pan Fried Chilean Sea Bass:
I asked the waiter for a fish recommendation and he recommended this. It’s a filet of Chilean sea bass that was breaded, fried and then topped with a thicker sweet soy sauce. The outside was very crispy, but the meat was very tender. The sauce on top was almost like a teriyaki sauce, but not quite as sweet or thick. It was different than I was expecting, but everyone at the table thought this was quite good. They also gave you French fries with the dish, which was kind of weird. 8.25/10
Peking Pork Chops:
This is an old school Cantonese classic that I really like. It’s simply fried pork chops in a sweet and sour sauce. The downfall of this dish is either the batter is too thick and oily or the sauce is too gloppy or too watery. However, the version here was one of the better versions I’ve had in a while as it had none of the downfalls that I just mentioned and was really pretty addictive. 8.25/10
Steamed Dungeness Crab with Sticky Rice:
This is the dish that I always get at Imperial Palace / East Lake, which you can see here. I was quite interested to try it since I barely see it in the city. The flavor of the rice was pretty decent with a nice crab flavor. However, the texture was definitely not as good as Imperial Palace / East Lake where it’s very al dente; it was mushier here. Also, they didn’t put enough of the fried garlic and scallions on top so while it tasted good it wasn’t quite as flavorful as Imperial Palace / East Lake. Overall though I thought it was tasty and worth ordering, but a notch below Imperial Palace / East Lake’s version. 7.75/10
Green Bean Soup:
This was complementary dessert soup. It was the typical sweet green bean soup with tapioca in it. It was pretty decent. 7.5/10
Overall, this was a very satisfying meal as the execution on the food is definitely a notch up from other restaurants in Chinatown and this is a good replacement for South China Garden.
52 Bowery, Ground Floor (between Bayard St & Canal St)
New York, NY 10013
Hop Shing was the second place I tried to in my search to find a replacement for South China Garden. My first stop was Oriental Garden, which you can see here.
Hop Shing is an old restaurant located in Chatham Square that was originally known for its super cheap dim sum and good cha siu bao (pork buns) when I first came to NY. They later changed the name to Chatham Restaurant, closed down for a while a few years ago, re-opened under new management I believe and reverted back to the old name of Hop Shing. My friend’s dad knows the owners of the restaurant and told us that it’s good for dinner if you know what you’re ordering, so that’s how I decided to try it.
Despite closing down a few years ago the restaurant hasn’t changed much and looks just the same as it did many years ago. It’s typical old school Chinatown decor meaning very little décor, bright white lights and run down. There is counter up front where they have various dim sum in steamers and in back there are the tables and booths for sitting. The clientele is mainly old Chinatown locals. The staff is also super old school and some of them only really speak Cantonese; their Mandarin or English is pretty poor, but they are nice.
Here’s what we got:
Pork Bone Soup:
This was a complementary soup made from boiling pork bones. It was light and had a nice pork flavor; it tasted good with some white pepper. Overall, it was pretty good. 7.75/10
This is an off the menu item; my friend called to special order it. It’s a very simple preparation; you get fresh whole shrimp, steam them and dip them in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, green chili and green onions. If it’s done right the shrimp should be sweet and complimented by the saltiness of the sauce. The shrimp they used here are smaller than what you normally get, but they were fresh and sweet and the sauce was great with them. Overall, this was quite good although I do like slightly bigger shrimp for this dish. 8/10
Lobster in Ginger and Scallion:
My friend told me the lobster dish to order here is the Sichuan style version which is spicy and has eggs and pork in it, but they were missing some of the ingredients that day, so we got the lobster with ginger and scallion. The lobster was pretty good and was cooked pretty decent, but I prefer XO sauce as it has more flavor. 7.5/10
Oxtail in Pumpkin:
This was listed on the as a special on the wall in Chinese only. Its oxtail cooked in a brown savory sauce and put inside of a pumpkin. The oxtail was reasonably tender and the sauce was tasty, but I liked the pumpkin better as it was really tender and tasted good as a sweet contrast against the savory sauce. Overall, it was decent, but not great. 7.5/10
This was similar to peking pork chops (jing du pai gu) except instead of fried pork chops, it’s with steak and onions. I liked this as I love the sweet and sour sauce they use and the steak was nicely tender and flavorful. Overall, this was one of the better dishes of the night. 8.25/10
Salt & Pepper Pork Chops:
These are pork chops deep fried in a salt and pepper batter and topped with fried garlic, diced green onions and green chili. The batter was a bit on the heavy side although it wasn’t too oily and the saltiness of the batter was good. The meat was nicely tender and it all tasted pretty good together and could’ve gotten a higher rating if the batter was a little lighter. 7.75/10
Fried Stuffed Tofu:
This is tofu that is stuffed with minced shrimp paste, battered, fried and served with the same sauce that was used in the steamed shrimp I posted on earlier. The version here was quite good, the batter wasn’t oily or too thick and the shrimp paste was good. It tasted great with the sauce. 8.25/10
Sauteed Snow Pea Leaves:
This is just snow pea leaves sautéed in oil and garlic. This was standard version although I thought it was a little under seasoned. 7.25/10
The fish was cooked in the standard Cantonese preparation where you first steam the fish then pour hot oil and soy sauce over it before serving. This type of preparation is one of my favorite ways to eat fish because it’s flavorful, but still allows you to taste the flavor of the meat. It was pretty decent even though flounder is not one of my favorite types of fish. The meat was tender and didn’t have any fishy or muddy flavor. 7.75/10
Beef Chow Fun:
I don’t usually order this dish as I only like getting it if it’s a place that really knows how to cook it, but one of my friends likes it, so we got an order. It ended up being pretty decent as it wasn’t too oily and had decent wok hei, which is the smoky flavor you get from cooking in a wok at a high temperature. If you’re craving this dish, the version here is not bad. 7.75/10
Stuffed Eggplant and Peppers in Black Bean Sauce:
This is purple eggplant and green peppers stuffed with a minced fish paste and the cooked in a black bean sauce. I’ve always loved this dish and tastes just like it sounds. The version here was quite good, not as good as SCG, but still good. 8/10
Overall, I enjoyed my meal here although I don’t think it was a replacement because the food is a little different than South China Garden as it’s somewhat less seafood centric and simpler food, but overall the food was consistently good and worth checking out.
9 Chatham Sq (between Mott St & Worth St)
New York, NY 10038
I’ve been searching for a “go to” restaurant for family style Cantonese food in Manhattan as a replacement for South China Garden since it unfortunately closed. In Flushing, I go to Imperial Palace / East Lake Seafood, which you can read about here. However, since I live in Manhattan and can’t make it to Flushing as often as I would like, I’d like a place like South China Garden where I can get reliably decent Cantonese.
I started my search by trying Oriental Garden, which has been recommended to me several times. It’s known for having fresh seafood and being a little more expensive than other restaurants in Chinatown.
The restaurant is a typical Chinese banquet hall type of setting although it is definitely a little cleaner and nicer than most other Chinatown restaurants. The service was fine and they definitely speak English, so language is no issue. The clientele was interesting as it was probably 80-85% non-Chinese on a Saturday night, which was sort of surprising. Also, the prices around probably anywhere from 30-100% more expensive than other restaurants in Chinatown, but part of that is a function of them priding themselves on having fresh seafood.
Here’s what we got:
Steamed Scallops with Garlic and Vermicelli:
This was a special on the menu. It was fresh scallops steamed in the shell topped with minced garlic, scallions and vermicelli noodles. The scallops were fresh and sweet and the garlic and vermicelli complimented them well. However, I had to take off some of the garlic because it was too strong otherwise, but besides that this was a well prepared dish. 8/10
The waiter recommended this as a tofu dish. It was a typical preparation where the tofu is fried and then braised in a light brown sauce. The tofu was served with a spongy white vegetable that I couldn’t identify and some green vegetables. The sauce wasn’t gloppy and was decent, but it was a little too light handed flavor wise and was a bit on the bland side. 7.25/10
Country Style Lobster:
This was also recommended by the waiter. It was lobster sautéed with eggs, spring onions and pickled vegetables in a slightly dark salty sauce. The lobster meat was nicely fresh and sweet, but I wasn’t crazy about the seasoning. The eggs and pickled vegetables were good, but the overall seasoning seemed a little bit on the bland side even though it didn’t look bland at all. 7.25/10
Peking Pork Chops:
This was a typical preparation of fried pork chops in a sweet and sour sauce. These were nicely fried and the meat was good. The sauce was decent, but was a little too watery and didn’t stick to the pork chops well although it still tasted good. 7.5/10
Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves in Egg White Crab Meat Sauce:
I almost always get this dish and the version here was good. I liked the sauce and the snow pea leaves were cooked nicely. 8/10
Fried Garlic Chicken:
This was fried chicken with minced garlic, scallions and soy sauce. The version here is decent, but not great. The skin wasn’t crispy enough and I thought the non-dark meat pieces weren’t quite as tender as they should be. However, overall it was still tasty enough. 7.25/10
Sautéed Broccoli Stems:
This was a very simple preparation of broccoli stems with oil, salt and garlic. It was pretty decent although not amazing. 7.25/10
This was one of the things that I looking forward to here given their reputation for having fresh seafood. I told the waiter I wanted a good ocean fish. He picked this fish out, which I’m forgetting exactly what kind it was right now. He did a good job; the fish was fresh and didn’t have any bad fishy flavor. It was cooked in the typical Cantonese fashion where you steam the fish then pour hot oil and soy sauce over it very quickly. Overall, this was quite good and probably the best dish of the night. 8.25/10
Overall, while the quality of their seafood was a little better than South China Garden the chef is less skilled in terms of how the food was prepared, seasoned, cooked etc. So I’d say I prefer SCG over OG, but that said it is probably one of the better restaurants in Chinatown. Also, as a side note, do not go here for dim sum, it’s awful.
14 Elizabeth Street (between Bayard St & Canal St)
New York, NY 10013
As a preface to this post, here’s a short lesson on the demographics of Chinatown. China is a huge place and has many different provinces with dialects as unintelligible to each other as English and Spanish. Manhattan’s Chinatown primarily has two different types of Chinese people: Cantonese people from Guangdong province and Fujian people mainly the city of Fuzhou in the Fujian province. Originally Manhattan’s Chinatown like most other Chinatown’s in North America was almost solely Cantonese, but overtime it’s slowly being taken over by Fujian people, which is quite unique among Chinatowns. The heart of the Fujian part of Chinatown is on Eldridge Street and parts of East Broadway.
Fu Zhou Cuisine is a typical Fujian restaurant on Eldridge in that it is a hole-in-the-wall that serves cheap Fujian xiao chi (literally translates to “small eats”). These restaurants line Eldridge and East Broadway and they all serve fairly similar dishes such as fish balls, noodles and dumplings among other things.
I’ve tried several of these places and generally have been a little underwhelmed by them, but I happened to try Fu Zhou Cuisine recently and decided it was definitely worth noting. The restaurant has about zero décor as it’s just a bunch of tables with an open kitchen. While there isn’t much service since you order at the counter and then sit down, one of the ladies who runs the place is really nice. This is a pleasant surprise because at most of these Fujian places the people are very gruff and the atmosphere is sort of serious even if you speak Chinese.
They’ve totally translated the menu into English, so you will have no issues with language. I’ve included a picture of the menu, the one dish that is not translated says yu tang, which means fish soup.
Here’s what we got:
Wheat Noodles with Peanut Sauce (Ban Mian): This is a very typical Fujian xiao chi dish. It’s a simple dish consisting of peanut sauce, soy sauce and diced scallions over wheat noodles. It tastes similar to sesame noodles you may have tried before. It’s a pretty tasty dish assuming you like peanut sauce. 7.5/10
Dumplings (Shui Jiao): This is why most people come here. These are steamed dumplings stuffed with pork and scallions and served with a semi sweet chili soy sauce. These are made very well, the skins are excellent not too thick or thin and the pork and scallion stuffing is quite flavorful and I like the sweet sauce they give you. These are some of the best dumplings in Chinatown. 8.5/10
Fish Balls (Yu Wan): Fujian fishballs are unique in that they stuff them with pork. The version here is pretty decent as they didn’t have the commercial rubbery texture that you get from factory made fish balls. However, the flavor is a little more bland than really good fishballs, which I think is a function of how Fujian fishballs are made rather than Fu Zhou Cuisine’s fishballs being lesser quality. Overall, these are pretty decent, but not amazing. 7.25/10
Wonton Soup (Bian Rou): The Fujian refer to these very thin delicate wontons as bian rou, which means “flat meat” in Chinese. It’s wontons with very thin skins in a light soup. There is a Fujian dish where they pound pork until it becomes very thin and use that as the wonton wrappers and I’m honestly not sure if these are them or not as the wrappers are very delicate and the name would suggest they are, but I should ask them next time. Anyhow, the wontons here are really good, they really delicate and tasty, but the soup has been inconsistent as it can be too salty. Overall, it’s worth trying if you’re there. 7.75/10 (8.5/10 for wontons, 7.25/10 for the soup, could’ve been a higher rating if the soup was a little less salty)
Overall, this is a place worth checking out if you happen to be in Chinatown and want some dumplings as these are definitely some of the best dumplings in Chinatown.
118 Eldridge St (between Grand St & Broome St)
New York, NY 10002
I previously wrote a post about Shabu Tatsu asking why shabu shabu is so difficult to find in NY? Since then I’ve been on a kick to go find it in Manhattan, so besides Shabu Tatsu, the other place that is known for it is Momokawa.
Momokawa is oddly located just off Curry Hill in a weird unmarked building where you have to go downstairs into a basement and then back upstairs into the small dining room which is above the street level. It used to be an all you can eat Japanese yakiniku place, but that place burned down and Momokawa opened up in its place.
Momokawa specializes in shabu shabu and sukiyaki much like Shabu Tatsu, but you will find a wider array of other mainly appetizer type dishes here as well.
The restaurant is tiny with enough space to probably fit about 20 people. The service is generally decent and everyone has been nice when I’ve been there. The crowd is mainly Japanese with random others thrown in as well.
Here’s what we got:
Homemade Tofu: This was nice clean tasting homemade tofu, nothing revolutionary, but solidly good. It tasted good with soy sauce and diced green onions. 7.75/10
Satsuma Age (Homemade Fish Cake): I really like homemade fish cake versus commercially made fish cake, the taste and texture is so much better. The version here is excellent. It’s got a soft, but slightly spongy texture and the fish cake is slightly sweet and having salty soy sauce compliments it really well. 8.5/10
Simmered Kabocha Squash: Japanese kabocha (winter squash) is awesome when made right. It’s usually steamed and then put in a light soy sauce. The kabocha should be soft and slightly sweet and the light soy sauce pairs with it perfectly. It’s simple, but for some reason most people can’t get it right. The version here was decent, but not excellent. It wasn’t quite soft enough and I’d prefer if they provided a little more sauce for flavor. 7.25/10
Edamame: Typical edamame, but they were cooked correctly and not overly salty. 8/10
Ginger Pork Rice Bowl: This was simple sautéed pork in a slightly sweet ginger sauce with diced green onions on top of rice. The pork was cooked well and the sauce was decent. I thought it was pretty decent although not amazing. 7.25/10
Miso Soup: Normal miso soup, nothing too different about it, but still tasty. 7.5/10
Pickled Cabbage: They gave pickled cabbage on the side, it was a salty pickle. It was pretty decent. 7.5/10
Gindara Saikyo (Miso Marinated Black Cod): I always like miso marinated black cod. The cod is tender and buttery and the slightly sweet miso paste compliments it nicely. The version here was cooked nicely. 8/10
Berkshire Pork Sukiyaki: Sukiyaki is a dish consisting of thinly sliced beef or pork which is slowly simmered with vegetables, tofu and glass noodles in a casserole in sauce / broth made up of soy sauce, sugar and mirin. The version in restaurants is a bit different than what I grew up at home eating. At home you put everything in the casserole and then eat it. However, in restaurants they put oil in a shallow skillet where you cook the raw meat and other ingredients in and then dip the meat in raw egg. They don’t put nearly as much sauce / broth in and I’d consider it more of a sauce as it’s more concentrated. While I like the version at home better, this is still very tasty and I’d recommend trying it. 8.25/10
Beef Shabu-Shabu: The version here basically tasted exactly the same as Shabu Tatsu, so I’m not going to re-write the whole thing, but you can read it here. (sesame sauce 7/10, ponzu sauce 8.25/10, vegetables and noodles 8/10, beef 8.25/10)
Overall, I think this is a pretty good and definitely underappreciated.
157 E 28th St (between Lexington Ave & 3rd Ave)
New York, NY 10016
**THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED (OR MOVED)**
Dragon beard candy is a fairly rare Chinese candy that surprisingly is found here in Manhattan’s Chinatown. A while back I’d seen this cart around a couple of times, but I figured that it went out of business because I only saw it a few times and it’s not really a Cantonese or Fujian candy, so I figured it just never got any traction. However, that seems to not be the case as it seems to be permanently located in a fish and vegetable market on Grand between Chrystie and Bowery.
Dragon Beard Candy:
Dragon beard candy looks like a bunch of white cocoons. Typically, it’s one of those things that I’ve found to be more of a novelty than something I craved, but I can respect someone who knows how to make it since I think it’s sort of a pain to make and has a very short shelf life. It’s made up of sugar, maltose syrup, ground peanuts and coconut. The sugar and maltose syrup is melted and pulled into fine strands, which is sort of similar to cotton candy, but finer. The interior is filled with a mixture of ground peanuts and coconut shavings. I found Yao’s version to be quite good, actually better than most other versions I’ve had. The strands are delicate and very fine and I liked the ground mixture in the inside. I enjoyed them enough to buy them more than once. Here’s a Wikipedia article about them. Overall, it’s pretty good and definitely worth a try. 8/10
If you’re in Chinatown, I’d suggest dropping in and giving it a try as it’s definitely not very easy to find even in Asia and it’s pretty tasty.
Grand Street between Chrystie and Bowery (located inside the market on the corner of Grand and Chrystie)
New York, NY
There are probably a couple things I need to clarify about the title of this post.
First, Imperial Palace actually has two branches. Both of which have the same owners, Chinese name (Dong Hu meaning East Lake), logo, food and menu. The only difference is that they are a few blocks apart and have different English names (East Lake vs Imperial Palace). I believe Imperial Palace is the original location as it’s more well-known and also more crowded.
Second, when I say that it is “my favorite Chinese restaurant” it’s kind of like saying it’s “my favorite European restaurant” because China is a huge country with many different types of cuisines, people and dialects that are as unintelligible to each other as English and French. However, at the end of day Imperial Palace / East Lake would be where I want to go if you said you can only choose one Chinese restaurant to go to. With that in mind, as I’ve said before, I’m admittedly biased towards southern Chinese cuisine (most areas Shanghai and south including Singapore / Malaysia and Taiwan) and in particular Cantonese cuisine is my favorite type of Chinese food.
So what is Cantonese cuisine? Cantonese cuisine is from the Guangdong province on the southern coast of China and it’s where Hong Kong is located even though Hong Kong is technically a special administrative region. Because Guangdong is located along the ocean and has a semi-tropical climate, it has a fair amount of everything you want to cook with such as fresh seafood, vegetables, produce and meat. In America, Cantonese cuisine is probably most well known for dim sum, the BBQ meats you see hanging in the windows in Chinatown, wonton noodle soup and chow fun among other things. However, Cantonese cuisine has a huge breadth of types of dishes, more so than any other Chinese cuisine I’ve come across including huge amounts of seafood, meats, desserts, dumplings, noodle dishes, baked goods and too many others to name. Also, the food is actually supposed to be light, fresh and should emphasize the freshness of the ingredients, which has sort of been lost in a lot of American Chinatowns where you will find the food to be somewhat heavy handed and greasy. When done right I find Cantonese cuisine to rival any cuisine in terms of its complexity and flavors.
East Lake / Imperial Palace are known for their family style Cantonese food and in particular are known for their crab rice, but they have a host of other signature dishes that you will see on most people’s tables (most of which I’ll show you). The service is usually pretty good and I find the waiters to be reasonably nice and should have no problems with communication. I’d recommend coming here with at least 4-5 people preferably more like 6-10 because you’ll be able to order more dishes to share.
Here’s what we got:
Winter Melon Soup (Dong Gua Tang):
Winter Melons are a type of big non-sweet melon that is used fairly often in Chinese cuisine. By itself it doesn’t taste like much, but it has a nice texture in soup. The version here had chunks of winter melon, chicken, scallops and a green vegetable that looked like bitter melon, but wasn’t bitter at all. The soup was excellent; it was light and flavorful without being too salty. The ingredients were all quite good too with in particular the chicken was nicely tender. Also, I recommend putting a dash of white pepper in it. 8/10
Fried Chicken with Sauce (Cui Pi Zha Ji):
This is a typical Cantonese preparation of chicken. The chicken looks like it’s a rotisserie chicken, but it’s actually fried. The skin is crispy and flavorful, while the meat is juicy and tender. The sauce they give you tastes like a mild chili sauce that is not spicy and is very slightly tangy. This is a signature dish that you will see on most tables and it is very good here. 8.5/10
Cumin Lamb Chop:
This is an odd dish to be a signature dish because lamb is one meat that is not that common in Cantonese cuisine. It is lamb chops that have been dusted in cumin that are fried and served topped with sautéed red and green onions and golden fried onions and coconut. The meat is very nicely tender and unlike the Sichuan and northern Chinese versions of this dish the cumin flavor is not very strong. The saltiness of the seasoning, the slight cumin flavor and the flavor of toppings particularly the red onions come together really nicely in this dish. 8.5/10
Snow Pea Leaves in Crab Claw Meat Egg White Sauce (Xie Rou Pa Dou Miao):
This is sautéed snow pea leaves that are covered in a sauce made of egg whites and crab claw meat. Snow peas leaves are similar to spinach, but better and the sauce is a lighter sauce that allows you to taste the snow pea leaves more than anything else. I don’t believe this dish is on the menu, but you can order it easily and you will see it on quite a few tables. 8/10
Fried Stuffed Tofu in Dried Scallop Sauce:
The dish is tofu stuffed with shrimp, battered and fried then covered in a light brown sauce that has dried scallops in it. The tofu was perfectly fried where it was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside without being greasy at all. The sauce was savory and flavorful without being gloppy or overly salty; it was the type of subtle flavoring that is classic Cantonese done right. This was an excellent dish. Fyi, I think the English name might be a little different than what I wrote, but it’s close to this. 8.5/10
Garlic Fried Lobster (Bi Feng Tang Chao Xie):
Bi feng tang is a type of typhoon shelter and refers to a specific type of Hong Kong style dishes that you can read about here in my post on Canton Gourmet. This was chopped up lobster that is fried in a garlic batter topped with fried garlic, onions and chili. Surprisingly, I’d say their version may have been better than the last time I had it at Canton Gourmet (it’s their signature dish) as it was lighter and less greasy. The batter was nicely flavorful and the meat was tender and sweet. Overall, this was quite good. 8.25/10
Peking Pork Chops (Jing Du Pai Gu):
These are basically sweet and sour fried pork chops. The pork chops were slightly crispy and nicely tender. The sauce was good, it was sweet and wasn’t too gloppy although it was pretty watery in texture and I think I prefer my sauce with a little more starch, but it was a good rendition of the dish nonetheless. 8.25/10
Crab Rice (Pang Xie Nuo Mi):
This is the dish that most people come here for. It is sticky rice that has been steamed in a big steamer with a whole crab that has been cut up. The juices of the crab run into the rice and flavor the rice. It is then topped diced scallions and golden fried garlic and onions. Because the rice is steamed it has a wonderful al dente texture that I love and it nicely savory from the juices of the crab. The condiments pair perfectly with the subtle flavor of the rice and give it some necessary saltiness. Some people mistake this dish to be about being about the crab, but to me it’s all about the rice. The crab hasn’t been seasoned much and has somewhat been drained of its flavor by having all of the juices run into the rice, so it’s all about the rice for me. This is a great dish. 8.5/10
Cantonese Style Steamed Fish (Qing Zheng Yu):
The typical Cantonese preparation of fish is to get very fresh fish, steam it and then pour hot oil and soy sauce over it with julienned spring onions. When done correctly, it is probably my favorite preparation of cooked fish because it allows you to taste the quality of the fish, but at the same time give it a slight kick up in terms of flavor. I saw this fish going to another table and it looked very good, so I asked our waiter about it. He told me that it was a more expensive ocean fish that costs $25 per lbs and said it was much better than the regular cheaper fish. We got a 2 pound lbs fish and he was right; the meat was very fresh tasting without any fishy or muddy flavor and the flesh was tender, but still has some texture to it (i.e. it wasn’t mushy). I unfortunately forgot what the name of the fish was, but if you ask them and tell them you want a good fish I’m sure they can direct you to it. This was the surprise of the night as I have been trying to find a decent rendition of this dish for years to no avail and this was very good. 8.5/10
Red Bean Soup (Tang Shui):
They gave us a complimentary tang shui (literally means sugar water) that was red bean soup. This was a good version, the soup was flavorful and had some thickness to it (I don’t like it when it’s too watery). They also put tapioca in it and definitely used some orange rinds as you could taste a slight citrus flavor. Overall, it was pretty good. 7.75/10
Overall, this is a great restaurant and definitely worth checking out. Also, for everyone mourning the loss of South China Garden, Imperial Palace / East Lake is a replacement for you as I think the food is a bit better than SCG.
East Lake Seafood:
37-17 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
13613 37th Ave
Flushing, NY 11354
Essex Street Market is one of my favorite places in the Lower Eastside. It’s a closed air market with all sorts of mom and pop vendors. This is something that you do not really find in Manhattan, it’s very unique and reminds me of something you might find in Asia or Europe.
There are several vendors here such as Shopsin’s (restaurant), Roni Sue’s (chocolate shop) and Saxeby Cheesemongers (cheese shop) that serve great product and I plan on writing about all of them over time. However, my first post is going to be on Boubouki, which is probably my favorite vendor in Essex Street Market.
Boubouki is a tiny stall that is basically just a kitchen that is probably 10×10 at biggest. The owner is the only employee and she specializes in various Greek pastries. She is very nice and you can tell how much care is put into all of her wares and everything is baked fresh daily.
Here’s what I’ve tried:
This was a savory pastry made of phyllo dough filled with chopped spinach and feta cheese. The phyllo dough was nicely crispy and the filling was great, the combo of spinach and feta went really well together. I got it reasonably fresh and I’d imagine this would be really amazing straight out of the over. Overall, while this was a simple pastry it was really good. 8.5/10
I really like pear desserts, so this was something I knew I was going to like. It’s a simple cake with pears baked into the bottom of it and powdered sugar on top. I thought the cake would be dense, but instead had a wonderful spongy consistency that was very moist and slightly crispy on the outside. It was sweet, but not overly sweet and the pear and powdered sugar paired perfectly. This was one of the better pastries I’ve had in a long time. 8.75/10
While I like baklava, it often ends up being a very sweet, sticky and heavy mess (maybe I just don’t know where to buy it). However, the version here is different. While it is sweet from the honey, it’s not too sweet and the honey is nicely liquid-y and not a sticky mess. The phyllo dough was so good; it was light, flaky and delicious and the ground nut mixture was delicious as well. This was probably the best baklava I’ve ever tried. 8.75/10
The cookie was nicely crunchy, the chopped almonds complemented it well and the powdered sugar was the perfect complement to the cookie. While it was very simple, it was quite good. 8/10
This was not your normal American carrot cake. It was more like banana bread except with carrots. It had a spiced flavor similar to normal carrot cake, but it was lighter and not as dense. I thought this was excellent. 8.5/10
Overall, I really like this place and I’m looking forward to trying more of her pastries.
120 Essex Street (between Delancey and Rivington)
New York, NY 10002
There are a few places in Chinatown that I would classify as “local restaurants” because they are filled with mainly Chinatown locals (meaning they are Chinese and are from Chinatown) and they are usually pretty good. Places like Poon Kee, Yuen Yuen and South China Garden fall into this genre. Wah Fung #1 Fast Food is also one of these places and although I’ve been there before for some reason I’ve never written about. So last weekend while I was picking up some food for lunch, I decided that I needed to write about Wah Fung.
Wah Fung specializes in shao la, which is Cantonese style BBQ. I believe it originally started as a street cart many years ago, but became so popular that they eventually opened up a small restaurant. Actually, “restaurant” is probably the wrong word because it’s more like a take-out stand that happens to be inside.
When you walk inside the area by the window is occupied by the owner who stands with a cutting board chopping meat. He offers 4 types of meats: roast pork (cha shao / cha siu), soy sauce chicken (jiang you ji / see yau gai), roast duck (kao ya) and roast pig (huo rou / siu yuk). Further inside there is a woman (who I believe maybe his wife) who has a cart that has steamed rice rolls (chang fen / cheung fan), fish balls (yu dan) and fried thin rice noodle (chao mi fen). There is also one very small table with two seats, but that is it. The place is tiny and can barely fit that constant amount of people waiting for food, so there is usually a line forming outside.
Combination Plate With Sauteed Cabbage Over Rice:
I ordered the combo platter with 3 meats and because there were so many meats in this platter I’m going to break this down meat by meat. The sautéed cabbage while typical was quite tasty and paired nicely with the meat and rice. This platter is also ridiculously cheap at $4.50 and it could easily feed two people.
Roast Pork (Cha Shao / Cha Siu):
Wah Fung is known for their cha siu. Cha siu is a type of Cantonese roast pork. Cha siu literally means “fork roast”, the reason being is that pieces of pork are skewered on long forks and then roasted in an oven. The meat is seasoned in honey, five spice, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and red fermented bean curd. Also, red food coloring gives it its distinctive red coloring on the outside. This is literally one of my favorite foods ever, when I was a kid I used to just eat plates of this with rice, wouldn’t eat any of the rest of the food my family cooked and was totally happy. Normally, you see this hanging in windows, but at Wah Fung its sitting is metal steam plates filled with sauce. The marinade sauce here is excellent; it’s sweet, salty and generally good tasting. The meat is tasty although it should be a bit more tender. In Hong Kong, when you have really good cha siu, its melt in your mouth tender. While it’s tender at Wah Fung, it’s not as nearly tender as it should be. Although overall it is quite tasty and I think I might ask him to pour even more sauce on it next time. 8/10 (7.75/10 for the meat, 8.25/10 for the marinade)
Roast Duck (Kao Ya):
The meat was nicely flavorful, but skin wasn’t as crispy as I prefer. Also, it was a little leaner than I prefer, I like my duck a little more on the fatty side. Overall, it tasted good, but wasn’t amazing. 7.75/10
Soy Sauce Chicken (Jiang You Ji / See Yau Gai):
The chicken was a little disappointing. It had good flavor, but was too dry. There are better soy sauce chickens in Chinatown. 7.25/10
Fish Balls on Steamed Rice Rolls (Yu Dan Chang Fen):
The fish balls were definitely homemade and had good flavor and texture. The chang fen (steamed rice crepe) was nicely cooked and tender. The sesame sauce and soy sauce were also quite good. I should’ve asked them to put on some hot sauce, but overall this was quite good and pretty comparable to Poon Kee, which has been my gold standard in Chinatown. 8/10
Overall, this place is solidly good and it has to be one of the cheapest places in Manhattan. Their roast pig (huo rou) also looked good, so I’ll be back to try that soon.
79 Chrystie St (between Canal St & Hester St)
New York, NY 10002