Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Monday, January 24, 2011

15 degrees outside at lunchtime; probably the coldest day this winter. I was determined to go to a new place and I went into Fay Da Bakery, 83-85 Mott Street. As with many other Chinatown bakeries, it serves sweet and savory food, eat-in or take-out. I had a roast pork sticky bun ($.95), a chicken sticky bun ($.95) and a baked roast pork bun ($1). They were all sub-par, but the tea was very hot and the chocolate mousse cake ($2.95) was passable.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Today's newspaper reported:
"Justice [Clarence] Thomas said that in his annual financial disclosure statements over the last six years, the employment of his wife, Virginia Thomas, was 'inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions.'”
Financial disclosure:Hard -- Constitution:Easy.

The big sign over the small restaurant below street level at 21 Eldridge Street says "Young City Fish Balls." Once inside, the menus and the business cards announce, more prosaically, Yung City Corp. Ultimately, I went away without fish balls, but I had the best single, low-priced dish in Chinatown to date, Foo Chow won ton soup ($1.50). The medium-sized bowl had a mild clear broth, nice and hot on this cold day, crowded with small, delicate won tons, the wrappers almost transparent and the fillings no bigger than an original plain M&M. This was very different from the conventional won ton soup. My Chinese language skills remain weak, but maybe Foo Chow means "very different from the conventional."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today, it is snowing for the sixth time since Christmas. It’s a pretty sight from my office on the fifth floor of the courthouse or from our seventeenth floor love nest at Palazzo di Gotthelf. However, since my lunchtime wanderings are conducted at street level, I’m curbing myself today and heading to a nearby, reliably familiar joint. Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, downstairs, was a near-ideal choice. The weather kept it relatively empty, which allowed the waiters to be particularly attentive. I got chop sticks without asking, I got mustard without asking and the tea (in a glass) was refilled spontaneously. Best of all, I asked for chow fun Singapore style, while the menu only offered chow mei fun (vermicelli) Singapore style, and the waiter never hesitated to comply.

The dish itself ($7.60, 10 cents more than the chow mei fun) was wonderful. Chow fun Singapore style is one of the finest treyfe dishes imaginable, right up there with a bacon cheeseburger, a dish that far exceeds the acceptable bounds of Kosher cuisine. It contains shrimp and pork strands along with egg and chicken, scallions and yellow onions cooked with curry powder, leaving the noodles pliant but dry. My chopsticks were clicking along like an old Royal typewriter.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We had 11" of snow yesterday, arriving in two waves. As a result, today was pretty quiet as schools were closed, the federal courts next door were closed, city buses suspended through the morning rush hour. Many intersections had two to four feet of slush at the curb stymieing progress. However, Galloping Grandpa Alan set off at lunchtime to find a new spot and came up with a winner. Full House Café, 97 Bowery, does not correspond to any image that its name seems to convey. Rather than looking like a casino or a saloon out of the Old West, it is starkly modern, bright and roomy. It has two levels of seating, street level and a balcony above. I sat downstairs in one of the eight very large booths, party of six no problem. The bench portions of the booths were framed by columns of lavender light, lavender for City College, not violet for NYU. There was no touch of the color red to be seen anywhere in the restaurant. Unfortunately, the dramatic interior was somewhat spoiled by four flat-screen monitors on the walls, two showing pictures of dishes from the menu and two playing MTV Chinese-style. They were high enough up the tall walls that you could keep them out of your vision.

Most important, the food was excellent. Full House features dim sum ordered from the menu. I had assorted sea food dim sum ($7.95), eight pieces, steamed, in four different shapes, crescents, cylinders, triangles and tubes crimped along the side. I also had fried chicken on skewers ($3.75), grilled, not deep-fried. Go and enjoy Full House with a charming companion so that your eyes don't wander up to the TV sets.

Friday, January 28, 2011

It was July 28, 2010 when I tried to have lunch at Xe Lua Vietnamese Restaurant, 86 Mulberry Street, waited much too long to be served and walked out. However, with the Year of the Tiger soon ending and the Year of the Rabbit approaching (on Boaz’s birthday this year), I felt it was time to take stock and end any lingering resentments not connected with the Republican Party. This time the restaurant was only half full and I received immediate attention. I ordered at 1:29, received a pot of tea at 1:32, and my food at 1:37. I put down my chopsticks at 1:49.

I had beef stir fried with chilly (sic) curry sauce ($10) and a side of fried rice ($3). While the rice was a rip-off, the beef was excellent, cooked with lots of purple onion. I never tasted the curry, but the chilly sauce was hot and sweet, in a wonderful balance. The power of forgiveness worked again.

BULLETIN - I may start skipping lunches in order to save enough money to buy a piece of the New York Mets. Stay tuned for further details.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snow Job

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.
Incidentally, these ruminations may now be found at, a service of the American Bar Association Journal. This will allow my many lawyer friends to wander the highways and byways of Chinatown vicariously with me and record it as billable hours.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Miserable weather. Snow overnight turned to icy rain during the morning commute, then cold rain until late afternoon. I slogged through the slush to Shanghai Asian Manor, 21 Mott Street, probably the second closest Chinese restaurant to the back door of the courthouse, for hot and sour soup ($1.75) and Shanghai lo mein with mixed meats ($6.95). It’s still two blocks away, but is a reliable source of good soup buns and dumplings, well prepared noodles, and other comforting dishes. You’d have to destroy Columbus Park and two large Chinese funeral parlors to bring Shanghai Asian Manor closer, so we’ll leave well enough alone.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The matrimonial judges of New York County and their staff have monthly brown-bag lunches. I’m invited today to hear a talk about valuing marital assets. Maybe we will decide who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I walked many blocks as I made an indirect path to Nam Son Vietnamese Restaurant, 245 Grand Street. A surprising sight was the change on the Bowery, above Grand Street, an area that was home to close to two dozen lamp stores. If you expected to spend more than $20 on a lamp or lighting fixture, that’s where you shopped. We bought the lighting fixtures for both bathrooms in Palazzo di Gotthelf there and the track lighting for the very versatile den/bedroom/media room/study. When Mother Ruth Gotthelf needed to replace her table lamps, it was to the Bowery I went. I shopped there for halogen bulbs sometime last year. Since then, I observed today, several of the lighting stores have closed or are in the process of liquidating/moving/closing. One building, at the corner of the Bowery and Broome Street has been leveled. While it’s possible that the newcomers will be the kind of boutiques and boites that have emerged on or near Orchard Street (once the home of discount shopping on the lower East Side and the World), I’m betting that I’ll soon have a new supply of Chinese restaurants.

Oh, back to lunch. Nam Son is medium-sized, nicely decorated with faux bamboo. It was near full without the feel of being crowded. Patrons were Vietnamese, not Vietnamese and mixed groups. I had Bun Cha Gio ($6.50), 6 small spring rolls cut in half, over vermicelli and lettuce. It was very good, although the vermicelli was effectively lo mein, another sign of the decline of older immigrant groups on the lower East Side. As a typical Vietnamese restaurant, Nam Son had almost every imaginable utensil in buckets on the table and 4 sauces.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yuen Yuen Restaurant, 61 Bayard Street, is on a busy street and is easily ignored because of its tiny size. It has six tables, comfortable for two, sometimes crowded with four people. The Chinese customers seemed to order off the fluorescent pages pasted on the wall. I used the menu and ordered spare rib chow fun with black bean sauce ($5.75). The large portion contained onions, green and red peppers, bean sprouts and black beans cooked in a brown sauce with the noodles and small chunks of spare ribs. It was very well-prepared and a good deal for the money, but soupier than I like my chow fun. I had to switch from chopsticks to fork to spoon to get to the bottom of the plate, but it was fun if messy.

I think of cherries as summer fruit. After all, the cherry blossoms bloom in late March, early April in Washington, DC. However, cherries have been on sale widely in Chinatown for over four weeks. Prices never exceeded $5 for 2 pounds; today, I took a position at $3 for 2 pounds.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Year 2 Week 2

Monday, January 10, 2011

Quote of the week from Judge J.W. Quinn, Province of Ontario Family Court, Bruni v Bruni (November 29, 2010): "Despite the involvement of Niagara Family and Children’s Services, Ms. Katz [the psychologist], Mr. Leduc [the attorney for the children] and the court, the parties repeatedly have shown that they are immune to reason. Consequently, in my decision, I have tried ridicule as a last resort."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It would be an exaggeration to describe Lee Chung Café, 82 Madison Street, as modest. The very small space looks like a street coffee wagon that has lost its wheels. The counter on the left holds baked goods in plastic wrap. Opposite is a cooler for soda. In between are eight small, square-topped tables pushed together with no room to spare. The menu is a plain computer-printed sheet with machine-added yellow highlighting on about half the items. A handful of dishes are noted as Coming Soon.

On the other hand, Lee Chung is the only place where I’ve seen any reference to Myanmar cooking. Three soups were listed as Myanmar Fish Broth Noodle Soups and I ordered the basic model ($4.00). In case this wasn’t enough to keep me going, I asked for Fried Fish Balls on a Stick ($1.50), "too." I didn’t mind and wasn't surprised receiving two sticks of fried fish balls, five to a stick, about 1" diameter, lightly fried, closer to quenelles than gefilte fish. The soup was equally appetizing, a large bowl of hot, opaque broth with cilantro, a little onion and little fried clusters of something. There were lots of vermicelli and two hard-boiled egg halves (in turn, half a Marx Bros. line).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Too cold and snowy to go far, so I had a very good plate of chicken in curry sauce over chow fun noodles at Wo Hop upstairs.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don’t stop to read this; go immediately to C&L Dumpling House, 77 Chrystie Street (the name of Second Avenue below Houston Street). C&L is the best deal in Chinatown. Its dumplings (5 for $1.25) are as good or better than those at Fried Dumpling or Tasty Dumpling, and its premises are bright and airy, with room to seat 16 or so people. Its menu, unlike the other guys, is large (11" x 16") with 64 hot dishes. I had, in addition to the dumplings, a scallion pancake ($1) and Flat Noodle w. Peanut Butter Sauce ($2). My total bill was under $5 and I had more than enough to eat. The scallion pancake was closer to a warmed scallion bialy than the crispy creature I enjoyed at Shanghai Café last week, but it was very good and very filling. The medium portion of noodles, fettucine, not chow fun or vermicelli, had a mild peanut flavor; it was well-prepared but could have been more peanutty. No item exceeds $5.50 (Rice Noodle in Taro and Duck Soup – just a coincidence Marxists), and 50 dishes are under $5. Hurry, hurry.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hop Shing Restaurant, 9 Chatham Square, is brand new; it opened today. While there were floral tributes, there was no sign of dragons, so I’m not sure whether the evil spirits had been properly dispelled when I entered. Dragons, however, seemed to be the only ones not crammed into the medium-sized rectangular space. I had to wait several minutes to be seated, needing to throw an occasional elbow or hip to maintain my position against aggressive avaricious Asian octogenerians.

I was seated at the table closest to the front door, furthest from the kitchen. I was initially concerned because the wagon ladies were rarely able to work their way through the crowd with their dim sum. Fortunately, the waiter was able to retrieve just about any of the 18 dim sum items listed on the menu from warming ovens in the front of the restaurant. I had 3 deep fried dumplings, 1 medium sticky roast pork bun (I saw some giant ones later), 3 beef balls, and shrimp rolled in rice noodles. The quality was average, but that’s not disappointing because it means average Chinatown food, not average Rte. 46 strip mall Chinese food. Now, here's the best part. The whole meal cost six bucks. Welcome Hop Shing. I enjoyed not spending much money with you.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Welcome 2011

Thank you, Joe. I had a productive and rewarding year, because of your efforts.

For the statistically-minded, I ate lunch at 117 distinct Asian restaurants in Chinatown in 2010, walked out on one after ordering and took out food from one market that had no seating.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Red Egg, 202 Centre Street, opened in 2008 as a Peruvian-Chinese restaurant. That idea seemed to go nowhere, because today it is a Chinese restaurant with dim sum at lunch and some feeble attempts at contemporary hipness. Its brochure describes itself as "a modern version of the traditional Chinese teahouse," but it comes closer to a 1950s Florida or California motel with space-age lighting fixtures, a leather(like) banquette and a narrow wall with mirrors in slats.

On the other hand, the food was good. Red Egg offers a lunch menu, but I ordered dim sum, ticking off my choices from a list. There are no rolling carts, so everything seems to be cooked to order. I had 3 medium-sized chicken-scallop sticky buns ($3.75), 3 crispy seafood dumplings ($4.50), deep-fried, but not greasy, and a scallion pancake ($4.50). Service was friendly, English not a challenge to most of the staff. The meal was pricey and I left with room for more. Red Egg is not preferable over Dim Sum Go Go or one of the dim sum giants such as Golden Unicorn or Jing Fong, but it probably would delight your friends who don’t like Chinese restaurants.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Yi Hao Chinese Restaurant, 1 East Broadway occupies the space of the Funhouse (January 27, 2010), which closed not long after I visited and stayed empty for months. Newly-painted with a blue-gray ceiling, pink trim matching the linen on the large round tables occupying half the room, and bright chandeliers, the new restaurant was visually attractive. Even better was the ability to communicate with the non-Chinese-speaking public, which I exclusively represented. Only one large table was occupied by a happy Chinese group, but the restaurant seemed busy with take-out and delivery orders. The menu is extremely conventional, showing no regional or exotic specialties. Judging by the menu, Yi Hao seems aimed at tourists even though most round eyes do not cross the Bowery onto East Broadway. I have a feeling that a secret handshake brings an alternate culinary reality into play.

The lunch deal was pretty good, $5.95 for a main dish, white, brown or fried rice, and egg roll, soda, bottled water or soup. I had boneless spareribs, very chewy, but digestible, with good vegetable fried rice, and a smallish, unexceptional vegetable egg roll. The dinner specials repeat the lunch specials for 2 dollars more.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cha Chan Tang, 45 Mott Street, is new and has a very attractive interior. From the street, it looks like a bakery/tea shop/coffee bar, but it has a complete menu. One long wall is exposed brick. The back (short) wall has a photo mural of Hong Kong. The wall I sat against,opposite the brick wall, held four flat panel video displays, about 36 inch diagonal. They were each showing live street scenes from Hong Kong (in the middle of the night) with brilliant clarity. The images of the storefronts of Burger King, Starbucks and McDonald’s looked as if they were across the street, not separated by a continent and an ocean.

The restaurant also had a partial room divider made of stacked, white cups and saucers and a chandelier made of empty soda bottles, both well-executed design elements (as I’ve learned to say from HGTV).

I ordered fried rice noodles with satay beef ($7.50), which was called satay beef chow fun on the bill. Since the frying was stir-frying, not deep frying, the latter name seemed more accurate. The dish had onions, red and green peppers cooked in a thick sauce with the beef and noodles. The food was good; service was efficient and friendly. I wasn’t bothered when I was given a fork to use, because, contrary to normal Chinatown practice, chopsticks were by request. Even the many Chinese customers were given forks at first. The only detraction was the blender used to make fancy coffee drinks and smoothies. The motor was probably taken from an ill-maintained Harley-Davidson and overwhelmed any attempt at conversation. Keep Cha Chan Tang in mind as a good place to end a relationship.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mott Pho Banc Restaurant, 157 Mott Street needs to spruce up a bit. The lighting is a little dim, probably to cloak the dinginess of the walls and floors. Otherwise, this is a very good joint. The tables are white marble, a mixture of circles and rectangles. The chairs are bamboo and rattan, a very tropical look. Typical of a Vietnamese restaurant, all the utensils and a handful of sauces and condiments are sitting on the table.

I ordered chicken salad ($8.75) and I mistakenly chose large over small, because large was enormous. Two Alans probably would have been satisfied sharing the large salad, although maybe a couple of spring rolls just in case. The salad contained shredded chicken, cabbage (green and purple leaf), celery, carrots, onions, peanuts, mint, lettuce, cilantro in a sweet, vinegary dressing. I left some over.

Service was efficient; there was no language problem as I kept repeating "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh."

Friday, January 7, 2011

The snow that has been falling since at least six this morning did not deter me from seeking another new (to me) restaurant in order to complete a perfect week of new restaurants. I had to walk more than a quarter of a mile to reach Shanghai Café, 100 Mott Street, but it was worth it both for symmetry and sustenance.

The room itself was interesting, with six wooden booths lining one wall, the kind of booths that you find in John's Pizzeria on Bleecker Street. The ceiling contained two large frosted glass panels behind which were long, twisty neon tubes. Other much smaller neon panels were on the walls. It felt like Dan Flavin had a hand in the design of the place.

I ordered a scallion pancake ($2.25) and Shanghai won ton soup ($4.95), and was very pleased with both items. The scallion pancake was crispy and flaky from frying. The large bowl of soup – I’m not sure whether it was Shanghai soup with won tons, or soup with Shanghai won tons – was hot, a clear broth with tiny slices of scallion and fine slivers of chicken. The won tons were somewhat different than the usual; that must be the Shanghai factor. They were more tubular than round and the ratio of filling to wrapper favored filling, a feature shared with Victoria’s Secret.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Horizons

The ethical rules for a law clerk/court attorney in New York State courts are essentially the same as those for a judge. We cannot accept outside employment that involves or appears to involve a conflict of interest. Our right to free expression is somewhat curbed regarding active cases, wherever litigated, political candidates and public policy. However, I have found a niche where I might apply some of my skills within the ethical limits of my position.
As of January 1, 2011, I am forming Grandpa Alan’s Global Internet Communications Enterprise (GAG-ICE) with the following mission:
GAG-ICE will produce written messages that are grammatically correct, free of spelling and typographical errors, and read as the work of a person educated in and comfortable with the English language. This service will be available to the likes of Dr. Gary Adams, Coordinator, Obama’s Foundation; Mrs. Maria Cristina Gamboa, Regional Auditor, Banco De Oro Universal Bank of the Philippines; Todd Garvin, Microsoft Wealth Distribution Scheme; Mrs. Rachael Habib, the widow of a Ugandan banker; Mr. Kenneth Gram, Online Games Director, Swiss-Lotto Netherlands; Chief Jeffrey P. Scott, Honorable Paymaster General of the Republic of Nigeria; Madam Joy Williams, a Nigerian widow seriously ill with cancer; Mr. Michael Morgan, UN Officer; Mr. Adams Smith, Claiming Manager of the National Lottery Promotion, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Mrs. Stella Ethan, a Christian; Robert S. Mueller III, Director, FBI; Mr. Mohamed Issaka, an auditor with African Development Bank; Mrs. Carolyn A. Taylor, Promotions Manager of Euro Millions Online Promotions; Miss Grace Jagael, a 21-year old university student from Abidjan-Cote D’ivore; Ming Yang, branch director of an unnamed bank; Prof. David Bowen, Diplomat from United Kingdom; Mr Abdallah Damiba, head of foreign exchange and account reconciliation department, Bank of Africa, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Dr. Foster Brown, Coordinator, Obama’s Foundation and United Nations Barrister Amenyi Laurent; Mrs. Marbel Bohiri, a widow in Mali seriously ill with cancer; Prof. Madya Dr. Rozainee Taib, Recruitment Officer, Global Sources; Sir Sandy Crombie, Fund Manager Partner, Standard Life International; Senator David A. B. Mark, Committee on Foreign Payment, Lagos, Nigeria; Mrs. Julie Fryer, Lottery coordinator; Mr. Iain James Mackay, Non-executive Director of Hang Seng Bank Ltd, Hong Kong; Dr. Richard Adams, UK National Lottery; Princess Favour Johnson, a 21-year old girl from Liberia; Thomas Lang, Public Affairs Director, Diamond Bank PLC; Ahmed Khan, a solicitor at law; Mrs. Tatiana Gavril, a seriously-ill cancer patient; Mr. Daniel Thompson, Director, Fedex Shipping Company; Ms Jennifer Eze, computer scientist with Central Bank of Nigeria; Mrs Latifa Abdelaziz, a 46-year old widow in Morocco seriously ill with cancer; General Jon Wells, United Nations; Mr. Saami Omar, Auditor, Banque Atlantique, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Mrs. Manuela Monteiro, Director of Online Lotto, the Netherlands.
These are just some of the kind folks offering me access to great wealth as a result of my good fortune or someone else’s ill fortune (often as a result of an African airplane crash). However, as I struggled with the many errors in usage, grammar, syntax, and spelling their messages contained, I realized how much I could assist them as they go about their good works. Thus, I have established GAG-ICE, incorporated in the Republic of Cape Verde, to compose, edit, rewrite and/or distribute such generous offers. In addition to the services offered to our clients, GAG-ICE has abundant Investment and Franchise opportunities, which you will learn about immediately upon our receipt of
• Your Name
• Your Address
• Your Telephone Number
• Your Social Security Number
• Your Mother’s Maiden Name
• Your Primary Banking Institution

Eating Until the End

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Great Blizzard kept me within the bounds of our upper West Side love nest. With no newspaper delivery, I didn’t even set foot in the hallway all day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

English doesn’t make it through the door at Chinatown Snacks Inc., 26 East Broadway. After the name appears on the sign outside, it disappears. The menu is entirely in Chinese. When I saw that everyone (Chinese) at the 8 small tables was eating noodle soup with stuff in it, it simplified my choices. Soup was a good idea on this post-blizzard day, so I asked the waitress for soup with chicken. Well, she hasn’t gotten to animals yet in her English vocabulary lessons. Several customers, inspired by the sight of me flapping my arms and thrusting my beak forward, tried to interpret, but no chicken for the soup. Pointing to other tables, I was able to order plain soup with noodles ($3). This proved very satisfactory. The large bowl had very hot soup and lots of very thin rice noodles, mei fun. I did not put any of the six sauces that were on the table into the soup, because it had a pleasant mild taste of its own. On the way out, I noticed that the cook up front had containers of a dozen or so items that could be added to the basic broth. Since most appeared to be of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" variety, I didn’t feel that I missed out. None, after all, looked like chicken, that is the outside of chicken.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

If you look very carefully at the sign that extends over the triple-wide storefront at 195-199 Centre Street you can read Lunch Box Buffet. But, well before you try to discern this faded patch, you will see 5-Combination written in very large, still clear letters, several times. This is a bigger sister to the joint on Division Street, which I visited on September 14, 2010. For $4.50 I got a choice of 5 dishes, from about 50 set out cafeteria-style. If you wanted white rice, it would substitute for one dish. Soup is also included, but I passed, recalling how flavorless it was at the other place. I chose two chicken dishes, one maybe chicken dish, one roast pork dish and one egg roll, which might have been put to better use as a doggie toy. The place was very busy with Chinese, Latinos and tourists looking for cheap food. I was merely gathering data.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jup She, the Korean Plate, 171 Grand Street, is at the corner of Baxter Street, just across from the wonderful Edwardian baroque building that used to be Police Headquarters. This is apparently the only Korean restaurant in Chinatown and it holds its own. Only about one third of the 50 or so customers were Korean. A cup of smoky tasting tea, a small dish of marinated shredded carrots, a small dish of kim chi and two slices of cold omelet were put down even before I ordered. The lunch menu was easily navigated. For $12.95 you got a stew (soup), a main dish and white rice. Miso soup instead of the more complex stews saved one dollar. I had seafood Soon Du Boo, a very peppery soup with lots of creamy tofu, onions, scallions and one complete shrimp, head to toe. This soup (stew) was served bubbling in a cast iron bowl which kept its temperature very hot. My main course was Dok Bulgogi Special, pieces of marinated chicken breast, stir fired with onions, scallions, carrots in a slightly sweet sauce (I chose mild over spicy). I haven’t had Korean food in at least 25 years and today it was a good choice for my last lunch in 2010.

By the way, if you can’t get enough of legal gourmands, check out