Friday, February 4, 2011


Monday, January 31, 2011

It seemed much colder than 29 degrees when I went out for an abbreviated lunchtime, having spent part of it on-line considering suitable offerings for a three-year old Thomas-the-Tank-Engine afficionado. Yet, I still had the time and energy to break new ground, as it were. The sign for Shun Wei Restaurant, 45 Catherine Street, says Chinese Food to Go, but two small tables and four chairs invited me to enter. Shun Wei is classic hole-in-the-wall Chinese take-out. Its proximity to Chinatown is incidental. It could be found in any downscale urban neighborhood, and it would be a benefit to the neighborhood.

I ordered roast pork egg foo young accompanied by fried rice, won ton soup and tea ($6.75). Mustard and soy sauce were served in little plastic packages. The tea, along with the soup and the brown sauce for the egg foo young, came in a plastic container of the sort that Fairway uses for whitefish salad or olives. Two hands were needed to drink the tea, made with a Lipton’s tea bag. That being said, the food was hot, made to order, tasty and filling. What more can you expect from a neighborhood joint if you pretend that Chinatown is far away?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Having braved freezing rain, icy sidewalks and slush-clogged intersections to get to work this morning, I was ready to face my V-phobia at lunchtime. I went to Vegetarian Dim Sum House, 24 Pell Street, the last of the Chinatown V joints for me to try. The restaurant itself, medium-sized, was fairly attractive, not over-decorated. A scroll painting, about one foot high, ran 18 to 20 feet along one wall. Smaller art works were well-placed. However, the bulbs in a few of the contemporary-style sconces were out, leaving the restaurant a little dim and gloomy. A waiter was potschkeing with one fixture as I left, so the next visit might be in a brighter setting.

The menu had a lot of those mock meat and fish items, which never satisfy, except for my memory of a divine vegetable cutlet at Rappaport’s (a lower East Side dairy restaurant, closed maybe 30 years). I ordered from the dim sum menu, spinach dumplings ($2.95), mini spring rolls ($2.95) and sweet and salty dumplings ($2.95). The spinach dumplings were fat, filled with chopped or shredded vegetables. The spring rolls had an extremely crispy wrapper around the vegetable filling. Both were very good, and good bargains. I really had no idea what the sweet and salty dumplings would be. They were three pillowy, football-shaped, greasy, mushy, sweet and salty tasting things. Take it from me, chocolate-covered pretzels wrote the book on sweet and salty. Asher’s Chocolates, headquartered about 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia, is a reliable source for real chocolate-covered pretzels and graham crackers too, found in Fairway and Zabar’s.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Boaz.

While Chinatown resounded with bursts of fireworks, the pounding of drums stirring up the evil spirits and the pitter patter of dragon feet chasing off the evil spirits, in celebration of the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit, I actually ate lunch in midtown with Stanley Feingold and company. We had intellectual fireworks, but no soundtrack.

Today, Zagat’s released its list of the 8 (lucky number) "top" Chinese restaurants in New York City. It designates them as top, because of their voting popularity, not to be confused with best. Only 2 of the 8 are located in Chinatown, that is the original Chinatown in lower Manhattan, now 1 of 3 in New York City. The two are Oriental Garden (April 27, 2010) and Nice Green Bo Restaurant (March 29, 2010). Of the other 6, I can endorse only, Shun Lee Palace, 155 East 55th Street, and Phoenix Garden, 242 East 40th Street, which used to be in the alley connecting the Bowery and Elizabeth Street, where Ed Koch had a stroke eating lunch. While Shun Lee Palace is a grand establishment, expensive, and tony, its food keeps pace. Two others, Tse Yang and Philippe do not warrant my patronage. The New York Times says of Tse Yang, "Expensive and pretentious Chinese food for people who would really rather eat with forks and not be bothered by bones." Philippe has not been reviewed by the Times, but a contributor to recently wrote, "what you really crave after the meal is a couple of cigarettes to eradicate the taste in your mouth." Even more persuasive is the 45 minute wait at Philippe for Peking Duck costing $75.

I have not revised my top Chinatown 8 since last year (March 24, 2010), at the midpoint of my initial quest for Heaven on Earth, but I’ll offer it as counterpoint to Zagat’s. I promise to have an updated version soon.

1. Wo Hop downstairs, 17 Mott Street is the quintessential Chinatown joint. Down a steep flight of stairs into a crowded space where you share a table with a stranger. Fabulous fried noodles with mustard and weak duck sauce (maybe you should bring your own) are given to nibble. The very standard Chinese food is just what you expected. And it’s cheap.

2. Peking Duck House, 28 Mott Street is the place to go for (you guessed it) Peking duck, but at lunch by myself I had beef with orange flavor, the single best main course I’ve eaten so far.

3. ABC Chinese Restaurant, 34 Pell Street had great beef chow fun. A large portion with lots of beef and that edgy, oily, smoky flavor to the wide noodles that places it second only to America’s Favorite Epidemiologist’s lukshen kugel as the Noodle Supreme.

4. Joe’s Ginger Restaurant, 25 Pell Street served a scallion pancake that left all others behind. After pan frying, it must have been deep-fried briefly to give it a little crunch. Yet, it wasn’t greasy, messy. It was really a treat.

5. Dim Sum Go Go, 5 East Broadway not only solves my dim sum dilemma, that is, how not to eat like a pig eating alone when they give you 4 things on a dish and you want to try several things and you grew up eating for the starving children of Europe, but offered a high-quality olio (very handy crossword word along with oleo and Oreo) of tastes, colors, and shapes.

6. Fried Dumpling, Mosco Street. You get more dumplings for one dollar then there are seats in this minuscule joint on a hidden street.

7. 69 Bayard Restaurant, 69 Bayard Street has its walls and part of its ceiling covered entirely by US dollar bills adding up to at least a thousand dollars. The food, classic Chinatown Cantonese Chinese is also very good.

8. Jing Fong Restaurant, 20 Elizabeth Street is enormous, a whole city block long able to hold several weddings or bar mitzvahs at once. 15 women roll dim sum carts around while you can get ten hot foods served from chafing dishes and/or order from the menu. I had very good dim sum, discounted Monday through Friday. Go with a lot of people even if you don’t intend to marry them.

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