Eight is a lucky number to many Chinese. Addresses, hotel rooms, floors in buildings, dates with eights are prized. So, it is appropriate that I offer 8 half-time picks in the order experienced now (as of March 26, 2010) that I have been to 39 Chinese restaurants:
1. Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street is the quintessential Chinatown joint. Down a steep flight of stairs into a crowded space where you share a table with a stranger. Fabulous fried noodles with mustard and weak duck sauce (maybe you should bring your own) are given to nibble. The very standard Chinese food is just what you expected. And it’s cheap.
2. Peking Duck House, 28 Mott Street is the place to go for (you guessed it) Peking duck, but at lunch by myself I had beef with orange flavor, the single best main course I’ve eaten so far.
3. ABC Chinese Restaurant, 34 Pell Street had great beef chow fun. A large portion with lots of beef and that edgy, oily, smoky flavor to the wide noodles that places it second only to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist’s lukshen kugel as the Noodle Supreme.
4. Joe’s Ginger Restaurant, 25 Pell Street served a scallion pancake that left all others behind. After pan frying, it must have been deep-fried briefly to give it a little crunch. Yet, it wasn’t greasy, messy. It was really a treat.
5. Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway not only solves my dim sum dilemma, that is, how not to eat like a pig eating alone when they give you 4 things on a dish and you want to try several things and you grew up eating for the starving children of Europe, but offered a high-quality olio (very handy crossword word along with oleo and Oreo) of tastes, colors, and shapes.
6. Fried Dumpling, Mosco Street. You get more dumplings for one dollar then there are seats in this minuscule joint on a hidden street.
7. 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street has its walls and part of its ceiling covered entirely by US dollar bills adding up to at least a thousand dollars. The food, classic Chinatown Cantonese Chinese is also very good.
8. Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth Street is enormous, a whole city block long able to hold several weddings or bar mitzvahs at once. 15 women roll dim sum carts around while you can get ten hot foods served from chafing dishes and/or order from the menu. I had very good dim sum, discounted Monday through Friday. Go with a lot of people even if you don’t intend to marry them.