Friday, May 21, 2010

Twentieth Week

Monday, May 17, 2010
Sweet Spring Restaurant, 25A Catherine Street
What a nice name. I needed a little cheering up as I tried to cope with two major losses over the weekend – the Mets being swept by the Florida Marlins and the end of Law and Order, the original Law and Order, the real Law and Order. Unfortunately, when Lennie Briscoe was enforcing the Law, or was it the Order?, in the early days, I rarely saw an episode because I was still in my bachelor, no TV days. Once I plighted my troth to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist, however, I not only inherited two wonderful adult children, but two television sets as well. Now, I am catching up with hundreds of stories ripped from the headlines. In the future, as I walk up and down the steps of the majestic courthouse at 60 Centre Street, I’ll remember the assaults, press conferences, and asparagus castings that occurred there once upon a time in TV Land.
Sweet Spring sits on the corner of Henry Street, occupying many times more space than it needs for the three tables it holds. Behind the counter are four people, three cooking. Sweet Spring is a dumpling joint, akin to Fried Dumpling and Tasty Dumpling, with a large take-out business. I ordered four lightly fried pan dumplings, shredded pork and chives ($1.25), and one pork choy, a large pan fried dumpling ($1) which, if it wasn’t fried, would have been a steamed sticky bun. They were all very good. Washed down with a traditional Diet Coke, I went away better prepared to begin the healing process.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Yummy Noodle, 48 Bowery, seems to promise a lot. It sells pretty good T-shirts for only $15. There is a miniature Ping Pong table, with rackets and ball, hung vertically on one wall. The wallpaper is made up of anime or manga scenes. My spiky-haired waiter wore a T-shirt saying Chinatown Gang Wars 1978. Yummy Noodle’s web site is well-designed and relatively sophisticated and a framed picture of a scallion pancake sat on the attractive dark wood table. I ordered it immediately ($3) and it was good, but not great as I might expect from a three dollar scallion pancake. Things did not get better. The first cup of tea was warm, not hot. When I drank it quickly, the refill was no hotter, so I has to ask for hot tea. I ordered salt-baked chicken over rice ($4.50), but, in spite of my careful enunciation to my hip-looking waiter, I got boiled chicken over rice. I let it go because I was looking forward to dinner with Jay Stanley, who is spending the day in New York trying to preserve our civil liberties. Even at $4.50, the portion was small, so I didn’t miss much.
On the way back to work, I went into New Kam Man (I think I’ve been calling it Kam Man), 200 Canal Street, joining Century 21, Russ & Daughters, Jacques Torres, Syms Fairway and Zabar’s in defining NYC as the retail shopping capital of the world. While I spent some time contemplating the lovely tins of Belgian chocolate-covered cookies, as I always do, today, I made a purchase in the housewares section, in the basement, overflowing with tea services, rice cookers, bamboo dumpling steamers and sake cups. I bought dirty chop sticks. Not food-encrusted chop sticks, but lust-inducing chop sticks. Now, to find a recipe to go with them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
America’s Favorite Epidemiologist turns into Bubbe the babysitter for the day and I accompany her in order to protect Boaz from bad influences. Lunch was falafel, a tribute to his mother. I tried to cover it in chicken fat in tribute to my mother, but Mustafa at the counter would not allow it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Canton Kitchen, NYC at 171 Hester Street. I was reminded of the repeated comment that Chinatown has one large kitchen dispensing food through an assortment of storefronts when I ordered crispy fried chicken with garlic sauce ($10.95). I had a dish of the same name a few weeks back at Yong Gee, just around the corner, which turned out to be one of my favorites. It was a very large chicken breast with a crispy skin, cooked intact and cut into one inch slices, sprinkled with toasted garlic bits. Expecting more or less the same, I got instead fried, breaded chicken pieces served in a slightly tangy sauce which they must call call sweet and sour chicken when they add pineapple chunks or General Tso's chicken when they put too much broccoli on the plate. I wasn't thrilled. And, I concluded that there isn't one kitchen servicing Chinatown, but one menu printer.
Lunchtime was not a total loss. Canton Kitchen NYC was comfortably airconditioned on a warm afternoon and, while the smallish place had patrons coming in and out, I was left alone to do most of the crossword puzzle.

Friday, May 21, 2010
I’ve enjoyed eating at 88 Palace, 88 East Broadway, in the past, but today I sought it out with a purpose. 88 is one of the luckiest numbers in Chinese superstition and, tonight, the Mets begin a weekend series with the Yankees at CitiField. I have tickets for tonight and Sunday night and I had to enlist whatever forces I could find to produce a successful weekend.
88 Palace is up one flight, the escalator was not running, in a building that sits under the roadway of the Manhattan Bridge. The ground floor is taken up by 20 or more shops and booths offering jewelry, candy, phone cards, groceries, cellular telephones, and clothing. The restaurant is about 1 block long by ½ block wide, full of Chinese people and very noisy. Much of the large space is lost, however, to the staircase and escalator that emerge in the middle of the floor plan. This also is an obstacle to observing the entire operation. Only as I was leaving did I see three dragon/phoenix pairs hung on the walls and a very large illuminated photograph of the contemporary Shanghai skyline. I could not see all the wagon ladies because of the obstructed sight lines. Oh, didn’t I say that 88 Palace serves dim sum at lunch and does so very well.
I was seated at a table with a Chinese lady, eating alone, who was somewhere between 60 and 85 years old. She had six or seven dishes in front of her, but I silently swore not to compete with her. Eventually, she asked for containers to take about one half the food home with her. Unlike me, she was not returning to a kosher kitchen.
I had shu mei (4 pieces), shrimp balls rolled in boiled rice (3), corn and chicken dumplings (3) and (superior) triangular, baked roast pork buns (3) at a total cost of $8 (tax included, ignored or discarded). I was told that prices are higher on Sunday. For a weekday, though, it was a particularly good deal.
Let’s go, Mets!


  1. Fortunately, I just finished a big Sunday night Chinese supper and could read your blog without wanting to jump on a plane for NYC. Although paying $30 for the delivery of so-so meal for two, I'm not sure I made the best choice.

  2. I look forward to Dr. McMullen's return to the US from Scotland assuming he will spend enough time in New York for us to attack Chinatown properly.