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.

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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.

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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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Every major player in Silicon Valley, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, has been going to this Chinese restaurant

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Next Shark (by Melly Lee):

Silicon Valley is known for a multitude of landmarks, including the garages Apple and Google were started in, the Facebook campus, and the IBM Almaden Research Lab. The one landmark, however, that perhaps garners the most universal praise from the best and the brightest of the area is Chinese restaurant Chef Chu’s.
MellyLee-ChefChu-001Started by Lawrence Chu in 1970, Chef Chu’s has been the go-to place for the Bay Area’s tech elite, celebrities and politicians. Tennis superstar Serena Williams, platinum-selling artist Justin Bieber and former Intel CEO Craig Barrett have all frequented Chu’s establishment. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs also used to be a regular before he became a recognizable tech titan.

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He’d come in here as a nobody,” Chu told Mercury News in a 2012 interview. “He’d wait 45 minutes to get a table and all of a sudden he’s on the cover of Time Magazine. I was busy making a living. I didn’t know who he was.”

In the mid-1980s, when then Secretary of State George Shultz needed to hold an emergency meeting with other high-ranking officials in the Reagan administration, he held it at Chef Chu’s.

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Even though he’s been in business for 45 years, the 72-year-old Chu still goes to work with seemingly the same passion and drive he started with. He’s frequently in the kitchen helping the staff and tries greeting every single customer that walks through the door.

Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo once said: “No restaurant has had the longevity of Chef Chu’s for either quality of the food or popularity with the valley’s movers and shakers. It’s as vibrant and lively as it’s ever been.”

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Most recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become a regular at Chef Chu’s. Chu tells NextShark: “Mark Zuckerberg comes in here all the time. Him and his wife Priscilla came here last Sunday. Their parents too, they moved from the East Coast.”
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Even with all the celebrity attention, Chef Chu believes in one core philosophy when treating customers: “Whoever comes in here, we should treat them the same. For a simple reason: they all pay the same price. Whether they’re an engineer, doctor, governor.

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Aside from his restaurant, Chu has published three cookbooks, started a catering business, and created his own cooking classes.

His first job was as a busboy at Trader Vic’s, a Polynesian restaurant in San Francisco.

He recounts: “In the restaurant, we worked so hard and I found out that I loved restaurants. It’s very famous as well. I was there; I met all celebrities there. I was a busboy, waiter, bartender. Then I told myself, one day I want to do something like this. Maybe not a busboy, but I want to do something of my own.
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At the time, he was trying to woo his future wife, Ruth Ho, who was then a PhD student at Stanford University. He’d often joke to her that he was also a PhD: poor, hungry and determined. Chu successfully wooed not only his future wife, but also his future father-in-law, who was a successful entrepreneur.

I told the father that I had a dream. I said I want to open fast food Chinese restaurants in America. The father liked me. They all liked me in a sense, but they never asked my education. They only said, ‘This guy is 25 years old and has a dream.’

MellyLee-ChefChu-012It was in 1970 that Chu decided to follow through on his dream of starting his own restaurant, opening his first fast-food Chinese restaurant in a space that used to be a small laundromat between a beauty salon and appliance repair shop.

Six months later, he took over the beauty salon’s space in order to expand his venture into a sit-down restaurant. Three years after that, with money he saved over the years and from an investment from his father-in-law, Chu purchased the entire complex and completely renovated his restaurant, including the installation of a state-of-the-art kitchen.

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Although by then a successful restaurateur, Chu wanted to be a chef and worked tirelessly to learn from the chefs he hired at his restaurant, perfecting his culinary skill through practice and trial and error.

I worked my butt off. I collapsed in my bed every day. I cooked for 20 years in the kitchen.”

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After his father’s restaurant was closed down by the health department, Chu went to college for two semesters to learn how to properly run a restaurant in order to make sure the same fate wouldn’t befall his own restaurant. To this day, Chu takes cleanliness and hygiene at his restaurant as one of his top priorities.

Personal hygiene is very important. That’s 24 hours every second, every minute of the job. When you decorate the plate, everything on the plate should be edible. You cannot just put a flower there because it looks good. Everything on the plate should be edible.”
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Initially, Chu wanted to open a chain of Chinese restaurants all over the country but he eventually decided to just focus on one. At 72, he’s still learning and regularly travels to Asia to discover new culinary secrets.

People always ask me why I have only one restaurant. ‘Why do you work at 72? Why don’t you hire people and open two or three restaurants?’ The type of restaurant that I run is totally different than the type of restaurant that you run. It takes a lot of hard work but ultimately you must be a leader.

You have to have a great team behind you. For them, it is just another job. For me, it is my life. Most people work for me 20 to 30 years and retire. Why? They knew that they could trust me and that I would not let them down and that I was passionate. You have to demonstrate that you are a true leader.

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Chu is not the only successful person in his family. His middle son, Jon M. Chu, is a successful director who has helmed films like “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and “Step Up 2: The Street.” His other son, Larry Chu Jr., has joined his father in the kitchen and plans to take over the restaurant someday.

Since Larry joined me [it has] allowed me to cut about 50% of the worry.

Most people [say], ‘Chef Chu, you should retire. You have all the money in the world.’ I’m coming here [because] I’m proud of what I do. I’m making history. I believe my philosophy, my method. I trust my instinct. I trust my burning desire that we put 100 percent in the business and don’t stop improving. I don’t say change for the sake of change. Don’t stop advancing. Don’t stop because the world is running, the world is changing.

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Massachusetts dumpling restaurants face off in federal court

WESTON, MA- 01/06/15 --Steamed Pork and chive dumplings For sunday Arts and Cheap Eats (in Food section): pls go to Dumpling Daughter in Weston (globe staff photo :Joanne Rathe section:arts food quick bite reporter: topic: 14cheap)
Steamed pork and chive dumplings from Dumpling Daughter is just one of 41 dishes its owner says a former employee stole for the menu of her restaurant.

There’s a restaurant battle heating up outside Boston.

Nadia Liu Spellman, owner of Dumpling Daughter in Weston, is up in arms over the opening of a restaurant in central Massachusetts that she says is “virtually identical.”

Dumpling Daughter opened in 2014 on Center Street in Weston. In 2015, the suit alleges, two of its employees left and promptly opened their own restaurant, Dumpling Girl, in Millbury.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, accuses Dumpling Girl’s owners “of several civil infractions, including misappropriation of trade secrets, unjust enrichment, trademark infringement, unfair competition, and false advertising,” according to The Boston Globe.

Spellman told the Globe:

“Pretty much everything you see in the restaurant and on the menu, I put together with my mom … It’s a very personal venture for me. It’s not just me, it’s my family — this restaurant carries on my family’s name. This concept, this food we serve, it’s been a longtime dream of mine. So I felt very strongly about it.”

Of the 52 of the items on Dumpling Girl’s menu, “41 are identical or virtually identical to menu items from Dumpling Daughter,” according to legal filings in the case.

The design of the menus is strikingly similar:

Takeout menu at the Dumpling Daughter:

10/07/15: Weston, MA: One side of the takeout menu at the Dumpling Daughter restaurant in Weston Is pictured. (Globe Staff Photo/Jim Davis) section:metro topic:08dumplings

Dumpling Girl’s takeout menu:

A Dumpling Girl employee denied the accusations, telling the Globe: “We are totally different” before hanging up.