Saturday, March 20, 2010

Eleventh Week

Monday, March 15, 2010
After a weekend of historic wind and rain, today is just murky, overcast, damp. A lot of "Law and Order" support vehicles are parked in the vicinity, but there is no sign of filming at the courthouse. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be discovered.
69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street, is a must for any visitor to Chinatown. First, it is a temple of classic Real Chinese Food. There’s nothing on the menu that a Brooklyn-born Chinese food eater hasn’t had many times before. Even without any fried noodles, the waiter put a dish of mustard and a dish of duck sauce in front of me just after he served me tea in a glass which was frequently refilled. Because of the weather, I wanted soup and I ordered a large bowl of Won Ton soup. The broth was rich and flavorful before I stirred in some mustard to give it a kick. And, this was really Won Ton soup with ten fat Won Tons floating in there. Regular utensils were provided on an occasion where that little soup ladle was needed. So, I had to switch between soup spoon and fork to deal with the Won Tons. Staying in the classic mode, my other dish was pork fried rice the way it’s supposed to be, that is fried. I had some regret that I didn’t order something to go with it, but the portion was enormous and I could not finish it even without adding sweet and sour chicken or shrimp egg foo yong. I paid $9.20 for an amount of food ample for two people at lunch.
However, that’s only half of it. While I have commented on the interior of restaurants, I have not used that as an incentive or disincentive to patronize them. Unlike a certain member of my family whom I esteem above all other humans, I am not lured into a restaurant because it appears "cute" from the outside. But, 69 Bayard Restaurant has an interior that you must see. All the walls, it is smallish, are covered with US dollar bills, many of them signed or even graffitied. That has to amount to hundreds of dollar bills, maybe a thousand or more. With all the vertical space taken, they are now being affixed to the ceiling. In some spots, foreign currency overlays George Washington. What a decor!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
America’s Favorite Epidemiologist made a presentation to the NYC Department of Health this morning located nearby. Then, we met for lunch at Duane Park Restaurant & Lounge, formerly Duane Park CafĂ©, but never Chinese, and then had a romantic interlude with Shelly Zorfas, our tax accountant.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
A beautiful day in the neighborhood. Temperature in the mid 60s and a clear, blue sky.
Shelly not only gave us good financial advice, but as a frequent follower of these writings, he had a restaurant recommendation, Big Wong Restaurant, 67 Mott Street. It is quite popular and not just with CPAs. The medium-sized space, divided between a front and a back room was very busy and most people were sharing tables of all sizes. The crowd was almost evenly divided as well, Chinese folk eating congee, the rice porridge that has never interested me, available in 12 varieties here, and us others. Aside from congee, there was a pretty conventional lunch menu to choose from. Dishes using the glazed ducks and ribs hanging in the window; noodle soups, lo-mein, chow fun and pork/beef/chicken/shrimp over rice. I had chicken with black bean garlic sauce over rice. It was a hearty portion, freshly cooked with onions, red and green peppers, but weak on the black bean and garlic tastes. Nevertheless, for $4.75 complete with a glass of tea, it was a good deal.

Thursday, March 18, 2010
Maybe even nicer weather than yesterday, so I strolled a bit before lunch and wound up north of Canal Street at Yong Gee, 104 Mott Street. I was attracted by its big, yellow awning touting Peking duck. The restaurant is large with cooks in the windows in large spaces on both sides of the entrance. The rest of the kitchen is either upstairs or downstairs, because the waiters were constantly fetching dishes from two dumbwaiters near the back of the restaurant. The absence of the main kitchen on the same level allowed the restaurant extra room. The customers were almost all Chinese seated at dark wood, highly polished tables in chairs that were entirely wrapped in yellow cloth, something you might expect at a mob-run catering hall.
Half a Peking duck was $15.95, not a bad deal, but I passed on it this time (although I forgot that today is my eighth anniversary of working in the court system and such a treat was deserved) and ordered crispy fried chicken with garlic sauce, a very good choice as it turned out. There was no actual garlic sauce, but the half chicken cut into one-inch pieces was covered with bits of toasted garlic, garlic, green onion, and red onion. I’d like to have seen the chicken while it was still alive, because it was almost all breast, white meat with a small polkie (drumstick or leg). Service was good, but I fault Yong Gee slightly for not giving me water and charging $.80 for a bowl of good-tasting white rice. The chicken itself was a good deal at $10.99, tea included of course, and really should be shared by two normal people.

Friday, March 19, 2010
To get to almost all locations in Chinatown from the courthouse, you have to go through, around, or by Columbus Park, a delightful spot I’ll write about another time. On this warm, clear day, the park was full of people from four generations and as many continents, but I quickly noticed a group of teenage girls wearing white-trimmed royal blue uniforms – shorts, singlets and high socks – bearing the name Stuyvesant in white. They were the girl’s lacrosse team to whom I volunteered, "In my days at Stuyvesant, we didn’t have girls or lacrosse." As Ken Klein pointed out to me the next day in shul, by remarkable coincidence, lacrosse was the answer to a particularly-obscure clue in the Friday crossword puzzle (New York Times).
Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant, 9 Pell Street, is related to Joe’s Ginger at 25 Pell Street or not. Shanghai’s business card lists several related restaurants from Flushing, Queens to Tokyo, Japan without mentioning Ginger. However, Ginger’s web site and New York Magazine indicate that Ginger is a spinoff of Shanghai. All agree that Shanghai in Flushing is the senior institution.
Shanghai on Pell Street is at least three times larger than Ginger down the block and was bustling with activity today. Almost all the tables were round with room for 8 or more people, occupied by random groups or singles seated as space became available. Although the famous soup-filled dumplings appeared on almost every table I skipped the dumplings, which I enjoyed at Ginger, but ordered a scallion pancake and cold sesame noodles. The scallion pancake at Ginger was a special treat and cold sesame noodles are a personal favorite. The results, however, were disappointing. The scallion pancake was ordinary, not in the same league as its brother/cousin/nephew up the block, and the noodles, served in a big portion, tasted slightly sour. The sesame sauce gave no hint of the nutty flavor that should be at its core. On the way back to work, I saw a girl with a hooded, red Stuyvesant cheerleading sweatshirt and I thought back to Steve Breitkopf, a cheerleader of my vintage, now a successful engineer. Mr. Gioberti, the fabled shop teacher, used to call him Dummkopf. In our days, Stuyvesant T-shirts and sweatshirts were generic, in other words, not specific to a sport or activity. A choice of color was as far as it went. Athletes received a Big S with their sport embroidered on it, but nothing more. Is that right, Gil?

1 comment:

  1. I had no Chinese food in Columbia. Good to see that you were productive in my absence. 10 Pell Street has gone throgh several versions over the years. You forgot, or they omitted, a cold appetizer of beansprouts, gratis.