Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fifth Week

Week Five
February 1, 2010
On a bright, clear day, little wind, mild temperature for the season, I went to Three Ocean Seafood Restaurant, 53 Bayard Street. Three Ocean has a bright, elaborate new sign, pennants and a Grand Opening sign in front. It’s small/medium size with pink tablecloths on small rectangular and big round tables. Everything looked pretty new except the menus which seemed beat up, as if they substituted for paddles in a recent Ping Pong match. They menus were quite diverse not only featuring seafood (enough to sway me from ordering chicken my intention regardless of where I landed) and parts of animals not usually consumed at any seder I’ve attended, the parts or the animals. The place was busy, all Chinese folk but me.
I ordered Chilean sea bass with teri-yaki sauce, a gesture of conciliation with the Nanking rapists by the chef, no doubt. It’s like seeing all those Mercedes taxicabs in Jerusalem. The fish was tasty and more expensive than the noodles, soups and dumplings I usually eat. I was only bothered that the generosity of spirit demonstrated to old enemies by the chef did not extend to me. I was charged 75¢ extra for a bowl of white rice.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Amazing 66 Restaurant, 66 Mott Street. A very attractive interior, freshly-painted something between parchment and key lime pie without the food coloring. Pale lacquered wooden tables and chrome chairs with yellow leather (or leather-like) backs and seats. Along the walls, there were insets holding tschotschkes behind wooden grills.
The menu had some interesting, but not necessarily intimidating items, such as seafood cooked in a hollowed-out pumpkin for $36. I ordered Amoy mei fun, the very fine noodles cooked with about ten items, animal and vegetable. The portion was huge; I left over about one fourth. The noodles were bland, lacking that slightly burnt, oily flavor of chow fun, but the added ingredients were ample. Besides Singapore mei fun, the curry-flavored dish, they also served Tai Pan mei fun for three dollars more than the others ($7.95), so it must contain chocolate or some other precious ingredient.
My change was $1 short, but they corrected that quickly. Maybe they didn’t realize that I once taught algebra. The other customers were mostly Chinese including a group of great-grandmothers (remember America’s Favorite epidemiologist is a grandmother) carrying bags and bundles. These ladies would definitely have taken home the onion rolls from Ratner’s on Delancey Street.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 [ Happy Birthday Boaz ]
Great N.Y. Noodletown, 28 ½ Bowery. A small place with two cooks working in the window, chopping cooked chickens, ducks and ribs as they are ordered. The tables have glass tops with the menu underneath the glass for your reading convenience. Every table had hot sauce, 2 types of soy sauce (very salty and saltier), salt and pepper, and chop sticks. The chairs were solid dark wood of a familiar-looking Chinese design. However, where joints worked loose, repairs were made with silver-gray duct tape. About 2/3 of the patrons were Chinese.
I ordered soup with noodles, won ton and roast pork. The bowl was small, but contained far more solids than liquid. The won ton were stuffed with shrimp. Tea was served in a glass like my father used to drink it (a glezzeleh tay), although Great N.Y. Noodletown did not use old yahrzeit glasses. The tea was refilled without asking. Not a bad deal for $5.75.

Thursday, February 4, 2010
Delight 28 Restaurant, 28 Pell Street.
Somewhat deceptive from the outside where only one window looks out on the street, but inside a very large space in two rooms. Either room was larger than any restaurant I’ve visited so far this trip, although I know there are big spaces such as Triple 8 in Chinatown. The other surprise was the almost exclusive serving of dim sum to the many patrons, 95% percent Chinese. I had chicken in mind for lunch, roasted, fried or barbecued, but once inside I decided to be delighted with dim sum. I was seated at a large round table across from a Chinese couple who were later joined by two friends. The tables were covered with white cloths and were set with chop sticks. Very hot tea was served in a metal pot.
At first, the women pushing the dim sum carts ignored me unlike the rush Dean and I experienced at Ping’s. On reflection, I don’t think I was discriminated against on ethnic grounds. I was seated with my back to the flow of the carts; all the pusher ladies could see was a broad back, easily taken for a well-fed broad back. With my back towards them, I couldn’t make eye contact or gesticulate in a universally meaningful way that I was hungry. Also, the others at my table were schmoozing, not eating, so the ladies rolled on by them without giving me a chance to see what was under all those lids on the carts. The actual number of possibilities had to be two dozen or more. There was also a menu, but it consisted mostly of noodles and rice dishes, no roasted, fried or barbecued chicken, at least not for lunch.
The drought ended, however, and I had four dishes, each with three or four pieces. Two were steamed and two were fried. All were very good, except the fried items were not hot which is not the way my mother would have served them. With tip about $11 and next time I’m facing the on-coming traffic.

Side trip – On the way back to work, I stopped in Kam Man, the wonderful market at 200 Canal Street. Japanese dried abalone is up to $798 per pound, but if you are only going to your in-laws, you can bring the South African at $298.

Friday, February 5, 2010
I went north of Canal Street, following the spread of Chinatown in that direction, and went into Jobee Chinese Cuisine at 3 Howard Street. Now, forgive me for some nostalgia, but my first summer job at age 14 or 15 was on Howard Street, one block north of Canal. There was a sporting goods wholesale business that hired a lot of kids as shipping clerks, inventory clerks and such. I recollect that my brother and some of his friends from our old neighborhood in East New York worked there before. My friend Melvin Rockowitz and I were hired for the summer along with random other teenagers. I managed to get fired after a few weeks, because I screwed up some filing. Specifically, I was asked to file purchase orders by city of origin; in retrospect, this might have tied to salesmen’s territories.
Most customers were teams, professional, amateur, college and high school which gave me an extensive knowledge of the names of obscure institutions – have any of you ever heard of Pestalozzi-Froebel Teachers College? It’s real. Imagine the Pestalozzi-Froebel fight song. In any case, filing was a good, clean assignment and I got right into it. However, the boss fired me, because I misfiled a purchase order from the (then) Baltimore Colts. "B" right? Baltimore with a B. No! The Baltimore Colts business office was in Annapolis, Maryland and I hadn’t noticed, or took the B for granted. After a few days at home, I went back and asked the boss for forgiveness and was rehired.
Howard Street is still a dump and I was surprised to see any restaurant there. Jobee is easily ignored. It looks rundown from the outside and strangely-configured inside. Almost half the main room is taken by a bar. I later noticed a backroom set up for music performances. Maybe I had come upon one of the hot downtown clubs, that I never go to, in its daytime guise. I was the fourth customer, but soon eight young men and women, Gen Y for sure, sat down at a big table. I had them pegged, probably a group of Europeans (until I heard them speaking English), mid-westerners then, probably Pestalozzi-Froebel grad students on a break visiting New York. Economy, or blogging, seemed to be the only reason to enter Jobee. I ordered chicken curry with brown rice and got a vegetable egg roll and hot and sour soup with it for about $7. Tea was served in a metal pot, but was made with a tea bag. While I ate, another half dozen or so Chinese customers came in.
When I got up to leave, I had to confirm my insight, my analytic ability, my deductive powers, so I went over to the group of kids. "May I ask, where are you guys from?" "Around here, we work around the corner."

No comments:

Post a Comment