Grub Street: The absolute best Chinese restaurant in Chinatown (NYC)

Grub Street (by Hannah Goldfield):

For six weeks, the editors of New York Magazine and Grub Street are publishing a series of definitive lists that declare the absolute best versions of 101 things to eat, drink, and do. The idea that there is “no good Chinese food in Chinatown” has prevailed for quite some time now; it’s an argument that’s been put forth by our own Adam Platt. It’s true that if you’re looking for Chinese food that will expand your mind and thrill your palate, you’re much better off trekking to Flushing or Sunset Park, or even other parts of Manhattan. It’s also true that there’s a certain brand of Cantonese food — made bland, sweet, and gloppy to cater to a certain American sensibility — that dominates in Chinatown, or at least most people’s idea of the neighborhood, and some of it is genuinely bad. But there are dozens and dozens of restaurants in the neighborhood — with new ones opening regularly and old ones changing hands. Not all of them are Cantonese, and some of them offer food that is very good — plus a whole lot of atmosphere. Herein, five of the absolute best full-service Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, right now.

The Absolute Best

1. Royal Seafood
103 Mott Street, nr. Canal St.; 212-219-2338

It’s a good idea to call before making plans for dinner here; though they don’t take reservations, except for large groups, the entire place is often bought out for banquets. Even when they’re not closed for a private event, you might find yourself an unwitting participant in one, since they often rent out half the dining room for weddings and the like, bisecting it with a curtain. But what could be more fun than eating festive, family-style Cantonese standards — like the really excellent off-menu lobster you’ll see on almost every table, hacked into shell-on pieces, then lightly fried in batter and strewn with ginger, scallions, and garlic — while listening to the joyous sounds of celebration from the other side? It’s an institution, as integral to the fabric of the local community as it is welcoming to outsiders, with cheerful pale-pink tablecloths, friendly but efficient service, and plenty of delicious non-lobster dishes, too, including the addictively crispy, caramelized fried Peking pork chops; a steamed half-chicken, served with the requisite salty scallion-ginger-oil condiment; and full dim sum service on weekends. For a similar but calmer and less exciting experience, Oriental Garden offers many of the same dishes in a much smaller dining room, which makes, especially, for a refreshingly non-hectic dim sum destination.

2. Spicy Village
68 Forsyth St., near Hester St.; 212-625-8299
Spicy Village, formerly known as Henan Flavor, is a definition hole in the wall: a narrow sliver of a space that lets in almost no natural light, with just half a dozen tables. Food arrives, for the most part, in Styrofoam, but that does little to detract from its fantastic flavors, imported from China’s Henan province. Jagged-edge hand-pulled noodles show up in bowls of rich, steamy lamb or beef broth bobbing with brisket or fish balls, and again dry-sautéed with egg and tomato or dense, pungent black-bean sauce. Perfect steamed pork dumplings come a whopping 12 to an order, for just $5 — almost nothing on the menu is more than $6. An important exception is the $13.75 Spicy Big Tray Chicken, beloved by Danny Bowien and Mark Bittman; it’s a mess of juicy dark-meat bone-in chunks and tender quartered potatoes enveloped in a dark, satisfyingly beer-based braise, flecked with Sichuan peppercorns and cumin and fennel seeds. It’s best ordered with a side of those hand-pulled noodles, and/or a couple of “pancakes,” arepa-like doughy rounds with crisp exteriors that come plain or stuffed with minced pork or egg.

3. Great New York Noodletown
28 Bowery, nr. Bayard St.; 212-349-0923

Ask a celebrity chef for her or his favorite places to eat in Chinatown, and you are likely to get New York Noodletown among the responses. Open daily until 4 a.m., it has a reputation for being nothing more than a place to fill a drunk stomach cheaply, and it’s true that the grimy-tile-and-fluorescent-light atmosphere is probably best appreciated (read: ignored) under the influence, but the food is also much better than it has to be, no matter your mental state. There are noodles, of course, in soups topped with juicy slices of roast pork, chicken, or duck, or served in a room-temperature tangle drizzled with a tangy ginger sauce that will make the back of your throat tingle pleasantly, plus a scattering of shredded raw scallion (it’s the dish David Chang credits as the inspiration for the chilled ginger noodles on the menu at his Noodle Bar). And when in season, soft-shell crabs are salt-baked to a deeply satisfying, light-as-air crackle.

4. Big Wong King
67 Mott St., nr. Bayard St.; 212-964-0540

There is something deeply comforting about Big Wong King, which serves up top-notch versions of many Cantonese standards, but is an especially good place to get a warm bowl of perfect congee, topped with roast duck or salted pork and chopped thousand-year egg, and best ordered with a giant fried cruller for dipping. It’s hard to imagine a better breakfast. They also do a mean steamed rice crêpe, flecked with tiny dried shrimp and scallions and drizzled in soy sauce — or, for a full on carbfest, get the one that comes wrapped around slices of that same fried cruller. To top it off, the service is a thing of wonder, with waitstaff moving around the room in a seamless ballet, delivering and removing plates and pouring tea and water with an efficiency that could be studied in business school. Depending on what you order, you can be in and out of here in 20 minutes. Which is not to say you’ll want to be; the late-’70s décor, which includes a wood-paneled wall with a groovy round doorway that divides two dining areas, is part of the charm.

5. Wonton Noodle Garden
56 Mott St. nr. Bayard St.; 212-966-4033

There is no shortage of wonton soup in Chinatown — it’s on the menu almost everywhere — but it’s nice to know that one of the very best versions is at a place so named for it, sometimes also referred to as New Wonton Garden, due to a change in ownership. A big corner of the dining room is devoted to the soup’s making, with a huge vat of deep golden, intensely umami broth (if the flavor comes from MSG, they’re using it masterfully) simmering at all times. Poured over a nest of thin egg noodles and a handful of neatly wrapped wontons filled with juicy pork and perfectly crunchy shrimp, it makes a filling, excellent meal, but there are plenty of other things on the menu to supplement, from classic roasted meats to Cantonese-style lo mein, served with a side of broth.

NYC to welcome ‘Year Of The Monkey’ with Lunar New Year Festival

Fireworks over the Hudson River for the Chinese Lunar New Year on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. (Credit: CBS2)

CBS New York/AP:

 New York City will be celebrating the Lunar New Year with a five-day festival early next month.

The Year of the Monkey Celebration” runs from Feb. 6 through Feb. 10.

The festival, presented by the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, is hosting a myriad of events, including the “The Fantastic Art China” exhibition at the Javits Center, where traditional and contemporary Chinese artworks will be showcased.

Environmental conservation efforts for monkeys in China also will be highlighted.

A Hudson River fireworks display set to the music of Oscar and Grammy Award winner Tan Dun is scheduled for Feb. 6.

The Empire State Building is also planning a light display for Feb. 6 and Feb. 8. And the New York Philharmonic’s 5th Annual Chinese New Year Concert will be held at Lincoln Center on Feb. 9.

Last June, Mayor Bill de Blasio made the Lunar New Year an official public school holiday. An estimated 15 percent of New York City school children celebrate the Lunar New Year.

ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and Panda Express, America’s favorite Chinese restaurant, are joining together to celebrate Chinese New Year

Broadway World:

ABC‘s “Fresh Off the Boat” and Panda Express, America’s favorite Chinese restaurant, are joining together to celebrate Chinese New Year and encourage viewers and guests alike to join in on the celebration. Panda Express restaurants across the country will display special branded “Fresh Off the Boat” Chinese New Year Posters and table tents featuring the Huangs.

To see how the Huang family celebrates Chinese New Year, viewers can watch “Fresh Off the Boat” when it returns with an all-new episode on Tuesday, February 2 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EST).

Episode:
“Year of the Rat” – The Huangs are getting everything in order to celebrate Chinese New Year with their family in Washington, D.C. But a mix-up with their plane tickets forces them to spend the holiday in Orlando. Scrambling to find other Asians to celebrate with, they stumble upon the Asian-American Association of Orlando, which is hosting a less than authentic interpretation of a Chinese New Year celebration.

chinese-learning-kit

To encourage learning about the history and traditions surrounding Chinese New Year and share ideas to help consumers join the celebration, Panda Express created a special website, CelebrateCNY.com.

The site features an animated video about the 15-day festival, activities for kids and special classroom curriculum for teachers. Other site features include an app that helps visitors send New Year’s greetings through virtual red envelopes, a guide to find your Chinese zodiac sign and information on special in-store offers for February 8, the first day of Chinese New Year.

More than six million students have learned about Chinese New Year through Panda’s education materials since 2007.

Inside one of New York’s finest Chinese restaurants located in the Waldorf Astoria

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 4.57.46 PMNext Shark (Laura Dang):

A new, glitzy Chinese restaurant has opened its doors in the renowned Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan, New York, and the food looks fantastic. The restaurant, La Chine, is in the running to be one of New York’s finest Chinese restaurants, according to Luxury Travel Magazine.

la-chine-semi-private-dining-table
La Chine was a collaborative effort of Waldorf’s culinary director, David Garcelon, and executive chef, Kong Khai Meng.

Garcelon hand-selected a team of international chefs including famed Chinese culinary master Jereme Leung. The culinary director said:

“It was our primary focus to develop La Chine as a must-visit destination for high-end foodies, experientialists, New York City locals and international visitors alike.”

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Soho House Interview: Chef May Chow and Little Bao (Hong Kong)

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Soho House: 

Chef May Chow pairs traditional ingredients from Hong Kong with Western cooking techniques to create her stuffed, steamed buns – fans queue around the block for the slow-braised pork belly bao, served with leek and shiso red onion salad and hoisin ketchup.

We sat down with Chow to find out more:

Q: Where’s the best place to eat in Hong Kong right now and what is your favorite dish on the menu?

A: I love The Chairman because of my favourite dish, which is steamed crab with aged Shoaxing wine, chicken oil and flat rice noodles.

Q: How did you get to where you are today and who inspired you?

A: I had a very singular vision about the kind of food I wanted to cook and who I wanted to be very early on in my career. I have to thank Matt Abergel (owner of Hong Kong’s Yardbird) because without his guidance during my restaurant development, Little Bao wouldn’t have been possible. He was honest when he believed something wasn’t good enough and I trusted his opinion.

Q: Tell us about Little Bao and the inspiration behind it.

A: Little Bao is my life translated into a restaurant. It takes inspiration from the best of both Chinese and American culture but most importantly it’s a place to have fun – so expect good food; loud, upbeat music and great cocktails.

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Q: How has your background influenced your cooking?

A: I grew up in a traditional Chinese family and I’m influenced by Chinese culture. When I moved to the US, I was influenced by the freedom of speech and, of course, the food. My cooking draws on both cultures and I love taking traditional ingredients and putting an original spin on them.

Q: What made you decide to open your own restaurant and how did you go about launching it, finding funding and finding the perfect venue?

A: I always knew that I wanted to be a restaurant owner because I felt I had a story to tell through food. The opportunity came when I was offered a booth at a market. The response was great and I started to daydream about opening a restaurant.

I developed a business plan and gained financial support from my family and friends. We scouted for a Hong Kong location for over six months and I ended up taking over a space that was occupied by a hideous Thai restaurant. That was the first right decision I made because it was in my favorite neighborhood in Hong Kong.

Q: Have you ever faced any sexism in the industry?

A: I’m such a positive and happy person that I don’t feel that I’ve ever felt discriminated against, especially in a city like Hong Kong. I am quite an empowered woman and I generally see sexism as ignorance but I don’t experience much of it.

Q: What advice would you give to other pop-ups who are looking to launch their own restaurant?

A: I started as a chef working in restaurants, so my story is slightly different because I already had a basic understanding of the DNA needed for a successful restaurant.

The first step is to develop a detailed business plan and have legitimate solutions for all the questions that crop up. How do you make sure there is consistency in your service, food and experience? Have you developed your service manual? How will you make sure food and drink cost is controlled? Where is the best location for your target market? Who is your target market? Who is your competitor? What is your PR and marketing strategy? What music should you play? How much funding do you need?

Most importantly, though, listen to the people who will provide you smart insight.

Q: How do you think the London food scene measures up to Hong Kong?

A: Both Hong Kong and London have great food scenes but I think while Hong Kong offers the best of every type of Chinese cuisine, London has a bigger array, from great modern British food like St. John and Gordon Ramsey to fantastic Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. London also has a wonderful farmer driven open market that Hong Kong doesn’t have.

First We Feast: 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

All photos by Clarissa Wei, unless noted otherwise 

All photos by Clarissa Wei, unless noted otherwise 

First We Feast:
From pierogis to samosas, dumplings are a universal dish, embraced by cultures around the globe. But no one values the seemingly endless variations of texture, size, and fillings quite like the Chinese.

In fact, the earliest recording of the dish can be traced back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD-220 AD) in China. The legend states that a man noticed that peoples’ ears were suffering from frost bite. He decided to make a dish in the shape of an ear to cure the cold—hence its current iteration. The first dumplings had lamb, chili, and herbs inside, and their soothing qualities quickly gained currency across the country.

Due to mass immigration waves, Los Angeles has continued to carry the torch for Chinese dumpling tradition. What sets the dumpling culture apart here is sheer variety—you can fine representatives from Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu, Tianjin, and beyond. There are even variations that were invented in Los Angeles, like the hui tou potsticker. If you’re going to judge the merits of Los Angeles’ Chinese cuisine, dumplings are a good place to start.

Broken down by region, here are First We Feast‘s 10 essential dumplings to understanding L.A.’s varied repertoire.

1. GIANT SOUP DUMPLING AT WANG XING JI

giantsoupdumpling Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 140 W Valley Blvd, San Gabriel (626-307-1188)
Website: N/A
Region: Jiangsu

Wang Xing Ji (also known as Juicy Dumplings) makes food inspired from Wuxi in the Jiangsu province. Known affectionately throughout the country as the Land of Fish and Rice, the region is know for dumplings that are sweeter and commonly stuffed with fresh, pulverized crab because an abundance of crustaceans during certain months of the year. Wang Xing Ji is a soup dumpling specialist known for its softball-sized dumplings that require a boba straw to extract the liquid.

2. BEIJING PIE AT BEIJING PIE HOUSE

meatpie Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 846 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park (626-288-3818)
Website: N/A
Region: Beijing

The dumpling in question is called a xian bing—a pan-fried disc stuffed with heavily spiced pork and assorted aromatics. This is a Beijing meat pie and is arguably the most addictive stand-alone dish in greater Los Angeles area. Pies come flying out of the kitchen in plates of four. Pair the dish with their cucumber salad, and if you have a hankering for more carbs, Pie House does wonderful zhajiang noodles—cold noodles with thin cuts of cucumber and a dollop of fermented soy beans.

3. SICHUAN WONTON AT CHENGDU TASTE

wontonchili Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 828 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra (626-588-2284)
Website: N/A
Region: Sichuan

The Sichuan wonton is called hong you chao shou. Hong you means red chili oil, and chao shou means ”folded hands,” a reference to how the dumpling is formed, and how—during the cold months in Sichuan—folks would fold their hands across their chest for warmth. The wonton is usually served as an appetizer and the skin is delicate—bordering on translucent. Chengdu Taste, the Sichuanese king of Los Angeles, undoubtedly serves the best rendition in town. It’s stuffed with ground pork, and served over with a light chili oil infused with the potent Sichuan peppercorn—a notorious spice known for its lip-numbing after-effect.

4. SHENJIANBAO AT EMPEROR NOODLE

shenjiangbao Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 800 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-281-2777)
Website: N/A
Region: Shanghai

While Emperor Noodle is marketed as a noodle joint, their specialty is really the shenjianbao. Invented in the 1920s in Shanghai, the shenjianbao has become an iconic breakfast snack of the region, usually served outdoors on street carts. Stuffed with pork, it has a thicker skin than most dumplings. It is first steamed in a huge bamboo steamer and then pan-fried on the bottom before getting a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

5. WONTON NOODLE SOUP AT SAM WOO

wontonnoodle Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 937 E Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-286-3118)
Website: N/A
Region: Guangdong and Hong Kong

Fragrance is the key to a good wonton noodle soup, and the fortified broth from Sam Woo—an institution that has been open for over three decades—takes days to make. You can ask them to throw a piece of roast duck on top if you’re extra hungry, but the dish by itself is enough to satisfy. The wonton, stuffed with pork and shrimp, is served with egg noodles imported straight from Hong Kong.

6. CRYSTAL SHRIMP DUMPLING AT LUNASIA DIM SUM HOUSE

lunasia4hagow Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 239 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena (626-793-8822)
Website: lunasiadimsumhouse.com
Region: Guangdong and Hong Kong

It is said that the xiajiao, or har gow (in Cantonese), makes or breaks a dim-sum chef. Traditionally, a har gow is supposed to have ten or more pleats. The wrapper is made with wheat and tapioca and worked until it becomes translucent. Lunasia’s version is epic—they manage to tuck in at least three large pieces of shrimp without breaking the chewy, delicate wrapper. We recommend dipping this in sweet soy sauce, mustard, or sambal chili.  (Photo:The Minty Musing)

7. THE RETURN DUMPLING AT HUI TOU XIANG

huitou Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 704 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-281-9888)
Website: huitouxiang.com
Region: California

Hui Tou Xiang takes the guo tie, a traditional potsticker, usually oblong in shape, and sealed both sides. They call it the hui tou—which means “to return” in Mandarin—to symbolize their desire for customers to return. The dish is pan-fried on all sides and meticulously fried to a juicy crisp. A single order will get you eight pot stickers. Be sure to pair it with chili sauce. (Photo:Hui Tou Xiang)

8. GLUTEN-FREE DUMPLINGS FROM PEKING TAVERN

glutenfreedumpling Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 806 S Spring St, Los Angeles (213-988-8308)
Website: tooguapo.com
Region: California

Dumplings are extremely difficult to make gluten-free, but the owners of Peking Tavern knew that if they wanted to open a dumpling house in the heart of Downtown, they needed to appeal to Angelenos’ finicky eating habits. Months of recipe testing paid off: You can barely taste the difference (though the gluten-free variations are a little bit gummier). We recommend getting them pan-fried and stuffed with beef. Pairing them with a small shot of the Chinese spirit baijiu. (Photo: Peking Tavern)

9. SWEET GLUTINOUS RICE BALLS AT EMPEROR NOODLE

tangyuan Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 800 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-281-2777)
Website: N/A
Region: All over China

These sweet rice balls (tang yuan in Southern China, yuan xiao in Northern China) are traditionally stuffed with sesame paste or ground peanuts. It’s a common dish on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year. The roundness of the rice ball is indicative of a complete circle of harmony within the family. Emperor Noodle in San Gabriel serves a beautiful version spiked with sweet rice wine and dried osmanthus flowers.

10. TIANJIN BAO AT TASTY NOODLE HOUSE

tianjinbun Our 10 Favorite Chinese Dumplings in Los Angeles

Address and phone: 827 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel (626-284-8898)
Website: N/A
Region: Tianjin

Tianjin is a coastal city in northern China known for an abundance of seafood and dough. The Tianjin bao is a thick doughy bun, made with yeast so that it rises slightly. The remarkable quality about this dumpling is that it’s able to hold quite a bit of juice without turning soggy. Each bun fits perfectly in the palm of the hand. Pair it with a dash of black vinegar for an extra kick.

Mrs. Pound, a Hong Kong fusion diner hidden behind a Chinese stamp shop front