Saturday, March 14, 2015

Where Am I?

Monday, March 9, 2015
The New York Times reports today that the examination for prospective New York City taxicab drivers has changed to emphasize knowledge of safety over geography. The paper provides an interactive test of local geography to accompany the article, so you can figure out how to get to Carnegie Hall.

"[Florida Department of Environmental Protection] officials have been ordered not to use the term ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting." This policy went into effect after George Orwell took office as governor in 2011.

New Kim Tuong Restaurant, 83 Chrystie Street, takes the place of 83 Kien Tuong Restaurant (March 24, 2011). The small space was crowded with Chinese customers; the 5 two tops and the 6 four tops were all occupied. I shared one of the larger tables. A long food preparation area along the right hand wall takes about 1/3 of the floor space. The furniture looks newish, but otherwise I can’t really distinguish the new from the old. By chance, four years later, I ordered exactly the same dish, Kien Tuong chow fun, with the same name, but now one dollar more at $6.50. It contained, chicken, pork, broccoli, scallions and bean sprouts cooked with a generous serving of the wide, thick noodles. Looking at my past notes, I found the dish to be much tastier this time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 has a fascinating graphic on "The Changing Nature of Middle-Class Jobs," contrasting employment in 1980 and today. The overarching conclusion is that the middle-class occupations that declined most were male dominated, such as, machine operators and production supervisors, while those that grew were often female dominated, such as, registered nurses and health technologists.

On the other hand, it is reported that "[t]he number of hedge funds hit new heights last year, and the amount of money flowing into the funds was the highest since before the financial crisis. Even so, hedge funds’ performance lagged the broader stock market." So, your kid should go to a fancy Ivy League college, get a job playing with other people’s money, produce mediocre results, and command a salary that could buy the whole block that your grandfather lived on.

The courthouse steps were covered with people and equipment when I walked out to meet Michael Ratner for lunch. Fake lawyers, fake reporters, fake cops and fake crooks were hovering around as real people operating cameras, reading scripts, applying makeup, testing lighting and sound, holding clipboards, worked among relatives of the producers as they set up the next scene for the pilot of a television series tentatively titled "Doubt." As always, I marveled at the number of people needed to get an image on a screen.

There was one interesting touch that may require watching this episode, if it ever airs, in order to understand. A bicycle rack was temporarily set up at the curb along Centre Street, with several bicycles in position; not CitiBikes, but real bikes used by messengers or otherwise athletic people. At first, I thought that this was transportation for crew members, but, as I left work later, I saw the rack and all the bikes being loaded onto a truck with other props and equipment. So, as Chekhov said: "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there." 

Lunch with Michael is always enjoyable, but not long enough to catch up on his trips to Florida, Burma, Colorado and Mexico since I last saw him. He knows how to retire. On the other hand, I know how to order at Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, where we had the quintessential Chinatown lunch, won ton soup for Michael, egg rolls, shrimp in lobster sauce and pork fried rice, all shared. The good news/bad news is that Wo Hop’s portions are so large that we had no room to order more of their fabulous food.     

Time Out New York recently published a list of the "100 best New York restaurants." I’ll offer it to you with the understanding that it isn’t.
For example, neither the Four Seasons nor Wo Hop makes the list. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Last night, on the way to our tax accountant, I passed by the Park Avenue Liquor Store, known for an excellent selection of single malt Scotch whiskeys. It was closed, empty. One of my classic bits of New York trivia was about to disappear: "What do the Park Avenue Liquor Store and the Park Avenue Synagogue have in common? They are both on Madison Avenue." Sadly anticipating this hole in my repertoire, I almost missed the new store at the corner of Madison Avenue and 39th Street, a larger, brighter Park Avenue Liquor Store, still safely situated on Madison Avenue.

Happy Tea Time, 98 Walker Street, just opened, connected physically, if not operationally, to Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen next door. The space, almost a cube, contains 4 two-top tables, each with a chair, opposite a cushioned bench, and a small, L-shaped ledge with four stools. Even with two beverage coolers, the space seems almost barren. A little life is added by two large photographs, roughly 3' x 5', over the cushioned bench; one shows the Seine at night, crossed by six lighted bridges, the other taken on the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge, looking over to Manhattan.

Happy offers teas hot and cold, and banh mi, the signature Vietnamese sandwich, in nine versions. All the sandwiches are $5 except for the vegetarian at $6, an example of less is more. I had the Banh Mi Ga, grilled chicken, with shredded carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts and hot peppers, on a hot, plump baguette. Unfortunately, the usual tangy, sweet and sour, lime-based dressing was in very short supply. In all, the sandwich was filling, but dull.

Thursday, March 12, 2015
Wah Kee, 150 Centre Street, was the first restaurant that I visited when I started this (ad)venture on January 4, 2010. It later became Red Square Café (July 26, 2011). Then, it morphed into Maid Café NY, featuring Chinese waitresses poorly imitating naughty French maids (September 16, 2013). Now, it has changed into Uncle Mike’s Café, staffed by Chinese people, serving a limited menu of hamburgers, chili and Caesar's salad.  Nothing east of Suez.  So, there was no reason for me to eat there and include Uncle Mike in my list of Chinatown chefs.


  1. Popeye's is IMHO the best fast-food in the known universe. Their spicy chicken, accompanied by dirty rice and coleslaw, is worth a detour.

  2. I loved Park Ave Liquor when I worked on 41st Street and Madison Ave. They were always spot on with their recommendations of wines and spirits.

  3. Is there anyone out there who knows of one Chinese restaurant in the Boynton-Delray-Boca area that serves edible food?

  4. Monte,
    I esteem Popeye's as well. Their biscuits, not in the British sense, are great.


    You have my condolences at the loss of Chinese food as a result of your move to Florida.


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