Friday, November 23, 2012

New Restaurants, Old Memories

Monday, November 19, 2012      
First, I must report an error of a sort. Last week, I commended the Fuzhou won ton soup at So Go Cafe (no accent), 67A East Broadway, which I have visited several times since it opened in 2011. However, walking by today on the other side of East Broadway, I noticed that the sign above the restaurant now reads Shu Mei Café. So, add one to my list and change your list of destinations, that is if the name is more important than the address in finding the joint. The soup remains the same.

Panda Dumpling House, 67A Eldridge Street, open 5 months, sits on a corner, lacking a few feet in height to make a cube. The walls facing the street are glass, floor to ceiling. The back wall has the kitchen and serving counter. Another wall has a ledge and stools, which are also along one glass wall. Finally, one small round table sits by itself in the large available floor space. Modest fairly describes the operation. Except for wooden chop sticks, everything came on, in or with paper or plastic.

The menu, however, ran to 60 items, predominantly dumplings and buns. I had hot and sour soup ($1.50), a fried leek dumpling ($1.50) and a beef pancake ($2). The soup was ordinary, but genuinely hot and sour and helped against the chill. The leek dumpling was an ellipse, about 7" long and 4" at its widest point. It was filled with chopped leeks, onions and egg. It tasted good and the price was right. The beef pancake was actually a wedge-shaped sandwich, the bread split and (filled would overstate it) containing slices of cold beef, shredded carrots and lettuce, vaguely more Vietnamese than Chinese. One side of the bread was sesame seed-encrusted. The quality of the bread made the skinny contents less important, and it was satisfying in all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
My father died forty years ago today, only 69-years old. He had a heart condition that today would probably be conventionally treated and his life extended 10 years or so. If I was able to, I would not simply add those 10 years to his life, but rather, I would bring him back for days and weeks throughout these 40 years, a sort of greatest hits tour for a man who was thoroughly devoted to his family. This would allow him to experience the award of a doctorate to my brother, his granddaughter’s college graduation, my law school graduation, my second marriage, and an array of delightful great-grandchildren. As fantasies go, this is a pretty good one.

Egg rolls are a staple of any traditional Chinese meal (by New York standards). Nom Wah Tea Parlor, 13 Doyers Street, at what was the center of fierce Tong wars over 100 years ago, has a unique egg roll ($3.95 for 2). It really tastes of egg. Instead of the conventional hard fried shell, Nom Wah’s egg roll seems to be a thin, plain omelette rolled around the filling, then deep fried. This results in a multi-layered wrapper, with only the outside layer crispy. It needs a touch of hot mustard, as all egg rolls do, in my opinion, but it deserves space in our banquet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The gift-giving season is upon us, even before Thanksgiving. This morning, my periodontist gave me a gift – the gift of knowledge – the knowledge that I have to have at least three teeth pulled and replaced by implants. He is a dear man; he has been treating me for about a decade. I’m happy to insure that his grandchildren will be able to attend the best private schools in the vicinity. Maybe my grandchildren will be invited to play dates with his grandchildren. Maybe someday my grandchildren will even understand why Grandpa Alan was never able to buy them a pony.

Cutting Board, 53 Bayard Street, is a brand new restaurant. Its name and much of its menu belie any connection to its location in the middle of Chinatown. Its web site describes the cuisine as "Chinese style Japanese-Italian food." But, everything listed on the menu, even fried crispy calamari, tri-color pasta salad, and seafood Fra Diavolo, is identified in English and (I think) Korean. Familiar Asian dishes (mostly Japanese) appear as well, earning Cutting Board a place at our table. The restaurant is in a long narrow space, completely new inside and out. The right side is occupied by the kitchen behind a glass wall, with four stools on a counter facing the kitchen. Opposite is a long wall of exposed brick. There is one small round table, one four-top table and four two-tops in the front room. I never looked into the backroom, but they certainly need more room for diners if it is to support itself.

I ordered crispy rock shrimp ($6), which came with a vinegary cole slaw, potato salad and popcorn, yes popcorn. The shrimp were covered by a spicy mayonnaise, not entirely crispy but good. Now, I don’t know how to distinguish rock shrimp from large shrimp, jumbo shrimp, butterfly shrimp or tiger shrimp.  For that matter, they might as well have been prawns. With the admonitions of my periodontist fresh in mind, I ordered more food to give my teeth some last happy days. I had “classic beef curry” ($6) over rice with a fried egg on top, a nice touch. Together, there was more than enough food even for me. I suggest two people order three dishes of this type. Service was good; my tea cup was constantly being refilled, and they served a small dish of tangerine pudding free at the end.

Thursday, November 22, 2012
Thanksgiving Day and 49 years since the Kennedy assassination. I was walking into a classroom at Cornell to teach a freshman section of Government 101 (American government) at 2 in the afternoon that day, just as the news was breaking all over the world. What do you say to your young students under those circumstances?  I didn't quite babble, but I didn't make much sense either. I went home and stayed in bed almost the entire weekend except for attending services conducted by the Newman Club. I saw absolutely nothing of the weekend's events including the funeral, because John Stanley and I had no television in our apartment. In conjunction with the Vietnam War and Watergate, I believe that this country got knocked off the rails. Everything makes a difference, but that trifecta changed the spirit (for lack of a better word – suggestions welcome) of this country until who knows when. If Nate Silver is to be believed, maybe the young people are turning the page.

America's Best Thanksgiving Meal Preparer a/k/a America's Favorite Epidemiologist did her usual great job. The 14 relatives and friends thoroughly enjoyed themselves, even the two (you'll pardon the expression) vegetarians. When Boaz told me that he was not going to eat turkey because he was not used to it, I asked how old he was. He quickly told me 4 3/4.  I explained that in 4 3/4 years, I understood that he only had time to become familiar with a small number of things. But, in the future, new things will be popping up all over the place and he should be ready to give them a try. He agreed to eat some turkey. By the way, he loves scallion pancakes.   



  1. Interesting food for thought...especially the idea of bringing your father back for the high points. My father also died 40 years ago this year, at age 53 from medical problems that are routinely treated these days.

  2. Why is the food prepared by America's favorite epidemiologist not getting the same detailed commentary as that of Chinatown's chefs?


  4. I used to eat one of these every month for 15 years. The spleen sandwich was delicious.