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Jan 5, 2001 08:31 AM

new green bo report

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went to new green bo last night, having finally located it... right under my nose on a block of Bayard I am on all the time. the butcher on the the other side of the street is really excellent... I should right another post about that...

we entered with slight trepidation, because the place was full of gweilo... maybe jim's recent recommendations have put everyone on the scent...

my companion had food panic, and didn't want the yellow fish soup, or okra puffs, crispy eel, or the interesting looking pork tendon... so we stayed with "safer" choices.

we started with shanghai wonton soup... this was really excellent, and quite different than wonton soup in your usual new york chinese restaurant, even some of the better cantonese type places. First, the broth was intense, probably had more than just chicken, but chicken with beef and/or pork. very strong, but not salty... there were some shredded pickled vegetables, shredded omelette, and 10 outstanding wontons... but not your usual chinatown wontons... incredible pale wontons... with chopped leek and pork... they remind me of the shrimp/leek or pork/leek dumpling soup at sweet and tart...

next we had aromatic beef. the beef reminds me of sliced cold pot roast with aromatic sesame oil. it was fatty in spots, but not too much, just perfect... some tendony and fatty bits to give it a little variety. a very large helping. we both liked it a lot. I would have liked more sesame oil/sauce. we solved that by eating the slices from the bottom, which had been sitting in it.(Next time I want the boneless "pigs legs" which I assume are pigs feet - they looked very good at another table)

we also had "braised meatball with vegetable" - these were those big pork meatballs - half a dozen. I don't know what they add to make them so smooth - maybe they have rice flour in them? They were served in a light soy sauce/stock braising... around an enormous, very artfully arranged circular pile of the mini-bok choy... also braised. This dish was enough for three people...

the only screw-up, was the vegetable we ordered on the side. we wanted water spinach - and they were out of this and the regular spinach as well (odd since its in season). the waiter recommended the bok choy in garlic sauce, which we ordered, and it was delicious. The problem was this was the same bok choy as was in the meatball dish... a little disappointing... I would have gone for a different dish if I'd expected them to be the same.

One thing I also noticed was the rice. The rice was excellent. Not cheap rice like in so many less expensive places in Chinatown. Very plump short grain rice, a little sweet, no broken grains, just the right stickiness.

All in all everything was excellent, service helpful. Much better than Joe's or the Shanghai place on Division street. We'll go back.

An oh how I wish I worked within walking district of chinatown...

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  1. In no way, shape, or form can I take credit for discovery of or popularity of New Green Bo. I was the last critic in NY to find out about it (I was tipped, by the way, by Lynn Kane, who loves their crab with egg sauce, a dish none of the critics seem to mention).

    As has been discussed elsewhere, proportion of ethnic outsiders/insiders in a restaurant is not necessarily a barometer. In fact, if it's filled with gringos eating good stuff rather than tourist dishes (take a look), that means the chowhounds have found the place and it's probably great!

    But here's the thing I've been rolling around in my mind all month. Can't get to the bottom of it. I find New Green Bo tremendously...FUN. I'm not sure why that word applies. There are other restaurants with food as good or better, but I don't find them "fun" to eat at necessarily. It's not even a word I use much.

    I can think of some factors: as I've said, the service totally ROCKS (waiters totally respect gringos who know the cuisine--they pick up on it FAST, it's not a struggle--and will steer you to the good stuff; and they're human and funny and sincere and genuinely love their restaurant), any place with good soup dumplings (shoot, any dumplings at all) ratchets up on the fun index, and the good range of options on the menu helps. Also, Shanghai food is much more haimish than Cantonese, and feels more like "home" to me.

    But still, the word "fun" is stuck in my brain and I'm not sure I understand how it applies. The above-mentioned factors don't totally add up to that, so I'm missing something. Anyone else out there share this weird impression?


    5 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff
      Alice (twin)


      Yes, Jim, 'fun' makes good sense to me. (This is Lynn's twin, Alice, by the way - identically 'obsessed' with good-food!) My most recent excursion to Green Bo was during jury duty. It was a gloomy, rainy day and I was on my own. Not feeling particularly festive or even that hungry, I immediately headed over to Green Bo. Because, for some reason, it always feels 'upbeat.' And as soon as I sat down, my spirits lifted. The greeting was welcoming, the food, intense and wonderful. Normally, I enjoy a bit more 'ambiance'in a dining experience (not fancy, just 'cozy'), but somehow that doesn't matter at Green Bo. The place feels homey and the enthusiasm of the servers makes you feel they are genuinely glad you're there. (And what fun to see the waiter's face light up when you order something 'authentic.') Yup, it IS a fun place!

      1. re: Jim Leff
        Christine Bridges

        I thought I read someplace that New Green Bo is owned by the same folks as the old 4-5-6 Restaurant of many years ago. As I recall, that was also a very friendly place. Maybe that's the key--just nice people!

        1. re: Christine Bridges
          Dave Feldman

          Didn't Say Eng Look = 456?

          1. re: Dave Feldman

            I always believed so - do you remember, there were actually 2 separate restaurants - one on E. Broadway facing the square (about where Goodys is now), and one a bit up the Bowery - at this point, I cant remember which had which name but I believe they were under the same ownership.

            1. re: jen kalb
              Dave Feldman

              Yes, Jen, on all counts. Sometimes, when the East Broadway location (generally considered to be the better restaurant) was full, they would send folks to the Bowery, especially large groups.

              Amazing how long it has been since I have even thought about the seaweed wrapped fish. I haven't eaten it in more than twenty years, probably, but I remember exactly how it tastes.

      2. Great report, Andrew, thanks!

        "we also had "braised meatball with vegetable" - these were those big pork meatballs - half a dozen. I don't know what they add to make them so smooth - maybe they have rice flour in them? "

        this dish is actually called (yes, in English) "Lion Head". I'm not sure why. The binder is traditionally tofu, I believe. Yes, this dish should be made with the tenderest cuts...often from the throat.

        "the only screw-up, was the vegetable we ordered on the side"

        waiter was not entirely wrong with this...their bok choy's the best in town, and eminently recommendable. But it IS a bummer to have a repeat from another dish, of course. You could have remedied it by asking for the side dish bok choy to be done with foo yee. For what its worth, it's a very rare Shanghai waiter who rememebers that the Lion Head comes with bok choy (for your info, it ALWAYS does). But I suspect you didn't have the older guy with the glasses and the round face, who I consider the best waiter in Chinatown.

        "One thing I also noticed was the rice. The rice was excellent. Not cheap rice like in so many less expensive places in Chinatown. Very plump short grain rice, a little sweet, no broken grains, just the right stickiness. "

        they care!


        1. When I was growing up in Manhattan, my dad used to take me to a Shanghai restaurant called Say Eng Look that he had been going to since the early 1960's. You can imagine our shock and grief when SEL closed. But then we discovered New Green Bo, which was opened by the same folks as brought us Say Eng Look, and we were overjoyed. So let me make some suggestions to the less intrepid as a way of enjoying some of the Bo's more interesting options.
          The most important recommendation is the Yellow Fish. At Say Eng Look it was called Green Fish, and make sure that you get the fish wrapped in seaweed. It is light and crispy and served with a whole pile of MSG on the side, dip away.
          Next, the Salt and Pepper Baked Squid. This is a crispy delight with a background flavor of hot pepper that is exquisite. Try dipping it in the hot chili oil you will find on your table.
          Other favorites are the steamed tiny buns, best here, the double sauteed sliced pork, and my dad loves the puff with black mushroom. Enjoy!

          10 Replies
          1. re: Allie

            I think thats salt and ground up szechuan peppercorn you are dipping that fish into. I remember, good dish.

            1. re: Allie

              You're way ahead of me Allie. I was about to note the yellow fish myself (and it shows you really are an insider there). It's called on the menu something like "yellow fish with dried seaweed", which is a scary title for a most friendly dish (essentially fish sticks plus 7 billion years of evolution). Whoever wrote the menu has no flair for marketing!

              And both you and Jen Kalb are half's salt, pepper AND msg (those allergic to msg should never dip anything in a small dish that looks like salt in a chinese restaurant!).

              They have great yellow fish soup, too...lotsa yellow fish stuff.

              Great to hear some of the history. thanks for posting! Post about more places! And send your dad!


              1. re: Jim Leff

                a little off thread, but what is a yellowfish anyway?
                I assume, since it is sold here, it some species with which we are familiar used to substitute for one in china...

                1. re: andrewreibman

                  It is not actually a yellowfish, it is some sort of whitefish wrapped in seaweed, which, according to the restaurant, appears yellow, and according to me, appears green. At Say Eng Look, the precursor restaurant, yellow fish was the same whitefish wrapped in bean curd, while green fish was the seaweed wrapped fish. The fish with wrap is then fried, but lightly, so it comes out crispy, almost like tempura, but without all the crumblies. I urge you to try it, no matter how disturbing fish wrapped in seaweed sounds to you.


                  1. re: Allie
                    andrew reibman

                    Thanks for the info...

                    Do you mean whitefish, as in the sea trout like white fish that often gets made into smoked fish?

                    Fish wrapped in seaweed scare me? Methinks not.
                    Only my dining companion gets food panic, not me.
                    I've never had food panic in my life, short bluets or locusts ground with crab that I saw on one of the PBS adventure documentaries....
                    I'm the one pushing for the tete de veau as the thing to eat in the Les halles thread.

                    I as more inquiring as to what type/species of fish it was... And whether it was a fresh or a dried fish...

                    I'll have to order it and find out.

                    1. re: andrew reibman

                      Hope someone else with the esoteric knowledge in chinese foods chimes in, but yellowfish is frequently seen in northern and inland cuisine chinese restaurants - and you can find it frozen in Chinatown stores. I dont remember that the fish flesh is particularly yellow. At one time I speculated that it might be a river or freshwater fish, because of the Chinese regional cooking where its used, but truthfully, Im not at all sure.

                      I believe the link below is to a picture and scientific name for this fish.


                      1. re: jen kalb

                        Thanks for that link, jen! I used it to look up yellowtail (as in sushi), since I'd been wondering for a long time exactly what I'd been eating with such pleasure all these years (now I have to get up the courage to check & see if it's endangered).

                        1. re: jen kalb
                          andrew reibman

                          what a great site. thanks for the pointer jen.

                          it seems to be also called a croaker. and it looks not that much different than an atlantic type croaker, which are always available and cheap in chinatown fishmarkets. wouldn't surprise me if they use local croakers...

                          1. re: andrew reibman

                            Yes Jen, thanks for the info. I've been wondering a long time what a yellowtail looked like. I guess someone figured out a name change might make this baby more appealing to an English-speaking audience.

                2. re: Allie
                  Richard Halpern

                  I also made the transition from the old Say Eng Look to New Green Bo. The one dish in particular that I was thrilled to see surviving at New Green Bo is their Bean Curd Potage which we used to call thick bean curd soup at the old restaurant.

                  It's a very thick, dark soup, chock full of broken up soft bean curd, redolent of sesame oil. Eating it at New Green Bo is like old times at Say Eng Look. That soup alone makes the restaurant for me.