Monday, March 22, 2010
After 5 days of beautiful weather, we reverted to cool and drizzly this morning. Columbus Park which teemed with people on Friday was empty when I passed by on my way to Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth Street. Only an open-sided pavilion at the north end of the park was populated with (Chinese) men squeezing their card games and real Chinese checkers onto the stone railing surrounding the pavilion. I was reminded of urban parks in Beijing and Shanghai that we saw almost 2 years ago. They were very popular, understandably given the population density. However, admission was charged, unlike Central Park or Prospect Park. So, I offer this tip to my Republican, freedom-loving friends: When the government starts charging plain folks to get into Obamaparks, we will be under the yoke of socialism. In other words, fight for freedom, fight for the public option.
Jing Fong is no ordinary Chinese beanery as you can tell immediately from the two-story escalator leading into the one-block long restaurant. It is huge, in the style of Hong Kong restaurants, with 3 enormous crystal chandeliers. The two ends and the middle of the restaurant, opposite the entrance, have large stages decorated in pink with 3-foot high entwined hearts made out of "pearls" the size of baseballs on the backdrops. It looks like the room can be broken up with sliding walls to hold up to three simchas at a time. In China, if fact, we went to one restaurant where two wedding parties were being held even while it remained open for lunch.
Jing Fong concentrates on dim sum at lunchtime; at least 15 women rolled carts through the vast interior. A menu was also on the table to order from the kitchen and, something I had not seen before, there was a 20-foot long table with 10 chafing dishes serving other items, buffet style. I thought, at first, that this was for the convenience of the waiters who operated apart from the cart brigade, but a host explained this option to me. However, by then, I, my imaginary playmate and my guilty conscience were stuffed with the 3 baked pork buns, 4 bacon-wrapped shrimp, 2 chicken mushroom blintzes and a plate of sticky rice that had come rolling up to me. This was a mere subset of the untold dozens of things on wheels.
Best of all, the host (my host) told me that Monday through Friday lunch has special prices not just for large-boned, secular Jews. The four dishes, all generous portions, cost $9.80 total including the Obamataxes that are being used to secretly fund libraries which will bar all works approved by the Texas State Board of Education.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Dunhuang Seafood Restaurant, 103-105 Mott Street.
I went in expecting, well, seafood, but found myself in another largish dim sum restaurant, at least through lunchtime. At night, Dunhuang Seafood Restaurant is a predominantly seafood restaurant. It was about 1/4 the size of Jing Fong with only 3 or 4 women rolling carts around at a time. However, they were quick and there was no lag between plates and baskets being thrust upon me. The room had 7 chandeliers, but they were only about 2 ½ feet across compared to the 2 behemoth and 1 leviathan lighting fixtures at Jing Fong. Three flat screen television sets were on the walls, all showing the same Chinese language program, Beijing Larry King, less than half his age, shirt and tie, no coat and dark red suspenders, appearing to interview one guy who might have been a relative of Tiger Woods on his mother’s side.
The tables were generally set for 4 people and were almost all taken with at least two people making for a noisy crowd, 90% Chinese. I joined a pleasant fellow who informed me, among other things, that one could request different teas rather than the house standard jasmine with lunch.
My first dish was fish balls which resembled both quenelles or gefilte fish (la même chose), followed by 5 fried shrimp rolls, 4 inches long and ½ inch diameter. For a moment, I forgot what I ate yesterday and accepted baked pork buns and sticky rice to complete my repast. Next time I’ll try the chicken feet.
Total $13 including tax.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I had lunch in midtown with the estimable Stanley Feingold and a group of CCNY alums who gather every few months. See http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/20/education/20EDUCATION.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=stanley+feingold+city+college&st=nyt
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Shanghai Kitchen, 67 Bayard Street is very small, not more than 10 feet wide, holding 7 tables with room for 4 people and 1 round table for 8. While I was there, 4 or 5 tables were occupied, but it felt almost empty possibly because the customers, Chinese and others in groups of two or four, were pretty quiet. The tables and chairs are blond wood (or a facsimile) and long mirrors on the walls give it a somewhat open feel. There are two signs made of bright-colored paper listing specials, but written in English as well as Chinese, a rarity. The kitchen is in the basement and the food arrives by dumbwaiter. Even a small kitchen would take about half the available space at ground level.
I ordered Shanghai chow fun, a dish I had not come across before. Shanghai, south of the Mai Song Dee San line, is considered rice country in contrast to the colder, drier northern noodle country. It turned out to be chow fun with mixed ingredients, shrimp, beef, tiny squid, vegetables. The good-sized portion had that near-burnt oil taste that I expect in my chow fun (except Singapore chow fun with its curry flavor) and was very good. Using only the red plastic chopsticks provided instead of the fork also available, I cleaned the plate. It cost $6 including tax.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Yee Li Restaurant, 1 Elizabeth Street
This is at the corner of Bayard Street, occupying a smallish medium space, you know, not a largish medium space or just a medium space. The kitchen was in the basement, allowing the most room for the 18-20 tables of all sizes. The food rode up on a dumbwaiter, the second day in a row that I saw this. It was busy with a mixed clientele, that is some of them and some of us. At the next table, I recognized several members of the court’s computer support staff, but I avoided hassling them. In fact, if Yee Li had a bar or desserts, I would have sent something over to them.
As you enter the restaurant, there is a collection of fish tanks holding lobsters, crabs and big swimming guys. I had no intention of disturbing any of them; I actually had beef in mind. However, the lunch menu focused on soup, congee, noodle and rice dishes, so I ordered Singapore chow mei fun, very fine noodles, with curry flavor, pork, egg, shrimp, onions, scallions. The portion was large and the dish tasty. A small bowl of hot and sour soup came with it, unasked. $7 covered it.
As I walked back to court, I couldn't help but feel the excitement as Chinatown prepares for Passover, which starts Monday night.