Friday, April 30, 2010

Seventeenth Week

Monday, April 26, 2010
Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street sits on top of Hop Kee sharing the same address. It is a sister to Shanghai Asian Cuisine where I ate 3 weeks ago. It turned out to be a good choice, although I went there because it was close to the courthouse and the drizzle I found on the street was not visible from the window of my office on the fifth floor, so I went without an umbrella. The restaurant is only a couple of months old and still looks fresh. There are 5 booths along one wall which caused me to reflect on the absence of booths in Chinatown restaurants, but the presence of booths in Indian restaurants throughout Manhattan. Why is that?
There were also 7 tables for four, 2 for one and 2 round tables that could hold eight. The tables and chairs were a dark-stained wood with black leather(like) upholstery. Three large, illuminated photographs of food replaced the usual pictures of the Li River, but they were easily ignored.
The menu included dim sum to order as well as a variety of dishes with Shanghai in their name. Given the weather, I ordered Shanghai Won Ton soup ($4.95) and a scallion pancake ($2.25). The soup was good, the Won Ton especially tasty with a filling that tasted like shredded chicken and spinach rather than the customary pork and leek. The scallion pancake rates special notice; it had been fried to a crisp, but just so you could break it apart, not pull it apart.
Service was uneven, however. As soon as I sat down, the waitress came to take my order, before I had opened the menu. Once I decided, though, I was left alone giving me plenty of time to reconsider without anyone approaching me. This treatment was not reserved for me alone; three Chinese women at the next table waited as long for someone to give them a check. Maybe all customers look alike.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I’ve waited for a special occasion to return to Oriental Garden Restaurant, 14 Elizabeth Street, which gets a favorable mention in the Michelin Red guide to New York. A visit from Michael Ratner is certainly special and we sat down to several dim sum dishes, shrimp/pork steamed dumpling and sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf, before ordering jumbo shrimps in black bean sauce, a regular main course ($18.95). This consisted of 9 jumbo shrimp in a pungent, but not overly salty, black bean sauce, stir fried with onions.
Besides the one woman rolling around the relatively small room with steamed buns and dumplings, waiters bring dim sum from the kitchen as you order them from the menu. We had a different shrimp/pork bun rolled in shredded wheat, fish dumpling (more like a fish knadl), crispy chicken roll and a green pepper slice stuffed with shrimp. The dim sum totaled $20. Jasmine tea was served. Oriental Garden is probably a better choice at dinner. The dim sum was good, but quite compared to nearby restaurants, notably Jing Fong next door, which had seemingly endless choices.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I took the day off to run errands and it gave me an opportunity to see an artistic renaissance on upper Broadway. After a hiatus of several years, Citarella’s, the long-established fish/meat/gourmet market, next door to Fairway, has returned fish art to its window. A sloping board the width of the window is covered by raw fish and shellfish arranged in a almost-symmetrical pattern. Bordered by bright green greens (bright greens? bright green salad greens?), there were five different types of whole fish, salmon steak, salmon filet, filet of sole, swordfish steak, two sizes of fresh shrimp, scallops, and oysters pleasingly arrayed. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. It’s a visual treat without an admission charge. Bring your own tartar sauce.

Thursday, April 29, 2010
Sun Sai Gai Restaurant, 220 Canal Street, at a distance, might be a terrible choice. Sitting at the intersection of Canal Street and Baxter Street, it is probably passed by more people than any other restaurant in Chinatown. Canal Street, where about a half-dozen subway lines stop, is empty of Chinese restaurants from Broadway to the Bowery. Jewelry and souvenir shops occupy most of the space along with banks and cellular phone stores. Foot traffic is very high; homeboys, local workers and tourists make it impossible to stop and smell the roses.
Up closer, you see that the big sign over the storefront gives as much space to Vietnamese as Chinese. The restaurant has the alternate name of Nha Hang Tan The Gioi (missing accents over every vowel), which we all know translates into "Service Cave of the Spreading, Fragrant Rose-Apple Tree." Service cave probably means eating establishment in the vernacular. The menu, too, puts Chinese and Vietnamese (languages) side by side, although the food is definitely Chinese. Maybe this was enough to keep hordes of tourists out in spite of the location. On one side as you enter the smallish space is a bakery counter with sweet and savory items for takeout only. On the other side, amid the typical hanging ducks, ribs and chickens, 3 cooks prepared lunch.
I ordered Beef Yi Mein ($6.50) after learning from the waiter that Yi Mein is a long noodle, similar to Lo Mein that is fried and then boiled, the opposite of pan fried noodles. This gives them a wrinkly finish. The beef was good, but the thin brown sauce was so bland that I gave it a few hits of soy sauce and Red Devil sauce, conveniently on the table. Even with those touches, the only lasting impression left by the dish were spots on my tie and shirt.

Friday, April 30, 2010
Wrong twice in 24 hours. New Hon Wong Restaurant, 244 Canal Street is a second Chinese restaurant on Canal Street and has even more people walking by it than Sun Sai Gai, one half block away. New Hon Wong, between Lafayette and Centre Streets, sits opposite an exit from the #6 line uptown, connected underground to the J, M, Z, N, Q, R and W lines. With that, it was not bulging with tourists; about ½ the customers were Chinese. Its menu focuses on soups, meat over rice, noodles and notably includes egg foo yong, a dish I’ve come to appreciate in my second half century. Because I was in a hurry, I ordered baby shrimp fried rice ($6.50) and was quite satisfied. The rice was fried, but not greasy; egg and baby shrimp were in evidence. The portion was medium-sized, ample. The rent on that very busy location kept their generosity slightly in check which was OK because I was on the subway headed to Century 21 to shop for striped ties about 30 minutes after I left my desk.

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