Soup Buns Slipping at Joe's?
- Jimmy Z. Dec 5, 2000 09:39 AM
I hadn't been to Joe's in a while, not since before they opened their mid-town branch, so I was very excited for my visit last night. I had been slightly put off by a non-chowhound (though still semi-trusted friend) who told me that after a recent visit he thought the soup buns at Grand Sichuan Int. (on 9th ave., much less!)were just as good, if not better. Now, let me say this, I really think Grand Sichuan skimps on the soup in their buns which immediately puts them at a disadvantage. Still, I must admit that I, too, thought Joe's was sub-par last night. Good, but not great. The buns just seemed to lack the deep flavor they've had in the past. Has anybody else felt this way? Next time, I am going to Goody's.
After a 'soup bun hit and run' at Joe's, we moved on to the salt & pepper squid and the jumbo shrimp in black bean sauce at Kam Chueh (thanks Jim!), then picked up a late night snack to go - - roast pork from New York Noodletown. Ahhhhh! Redeemed on both fronts.
i love the soup buns at the china town location but since moving to an office around the corner from the mid-town location, i have ordered in the soup buns on a couple of occasions. ordering in was my first mistake. i don't know how it does it but those bamboo containers that the buns are served in keep the buns at the perfect temperature (slightly less than scalding) for the entire meal. getting them in the plastic take out container really does them a disservice.
so, i'm not sure if it is just the fact that i've gotten them to go the past three times or that i've gotten them from the midtown branch but i am sticking to dining in house at the chinatown branch from now on.
The key to soup buns is never getting them delivered, they just are too delicate to withstand the trip - I've eaten the midtown in-house Joe's soup buns on several occasions, and found them quite delicious - maybe not quite on a par with Chinatown but a great workday lunch treat nonetheless. Other Joe's midtown dishers (Shanghai fried noodle, for example) stand up to delivery and surpass any of the mid-west 50's delivery options (other than Wu Liang Ye) by a million miles....
I was actually rather relieved to read this assessment, as I was a bit a'feared that there was somthing tongue-numbingly wrong with either me, or the rest of New York City.
My name is Kat, and I'm a juicy bun junkie.
Ever since that first, fateful slurp at Shanghai Tang about a year and a half ago, I've been a slave to the soup dumpling. As such, I've considered it my sacred duty to assess the quality of xiao long bao anywhere I see them offered. I've sampled buns from Evergreen, Sweet 'n Tart, Double Star, New Green Bo, Moon House, etc., etc., in the hopes of parallelling the palate scalding perfection of that first experience. I'd have to run a side by side comparison (a virtually impossible feat, as there are few that weather delivery successfully, and immediate consumption is paramount), but I'd say that several have given Shanghai Tang a run for the money.
Joe's Shanghai didn't even come close.
I'd been holding off on Joe's Shanghai (Chinatown) the whole time, figuring that after all of the critical laud, and recommendations from a trusted chow-pal who'd led me to soul-satifying congee (frog & abalone at Congee Village) and a life-changing lamb stew (Phoenix Garden), that their soup dumplings would be the absolute apex of my search, the paragon of, uh, bun-ness, the end of a long and juicy road. I was so disappointed. This afternoon, my poor, misguided friend was almost proprietarily proud as the baskets arrived, and he gave a quick usage demo to the uninitiated in our crowd. Moment of truth for me--a nip and a slurp and...eh. There was nothing *wrong* per se. The texture was mechanically sound, but pedestrian, the broth rich-ish, but not particularly memorable, the crab/pork ball just sorta...meaty.
If I'd had Joe's Shanghai's juicy buns first, would I have considered them the benchmark for all others? Perhaps--if I'd bothered seeking them out after I'd only had them there. I'm not really sure if I would have.
So why does Joe's praises continue to be sung in the soup bun arena? Have people stopped searching? Were they formerly better and have gotten lax? Are people just believing critical and word of mouth hype which may be no longer deserved? Is my sense of taste flawed? Please help me understand.
Meanwhile, I'll just be off in the corner here still digesting my Chinese bacon & preserved vegetables from round about lunchtime. Ugh.