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.