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Oct 16, 2006 02:33 AM

On Chinatown's fringes, a mystery meal

On the gritty eastern fringe of Chinatown, I found a restaurant with no English menu at all, but the Chinese menu had literally hundreds of dishes I've never seen. It looks like the humblest soup shop, with a few rickety tables and a wobbly stools. Concealed in back, an elegant dining room. I went in and ate in the soup shop. The owner seemed nervous to see me, but when she saw I could read a few Chinese words, she became very helpful, even showing me raw ingredients of dishes I asked about.

I ordered something with the same characters as one of my favorite casseroles. Imagine my surprise when out came a pizza! Oh it wasn't a pizza, but that's exactly what it looked like and for a while it fooled me. Then I realized that what looked like dough was really egg and I thought it was an omelet. But it wasn't. The egg was only a decorative fringe. The rest was a flat disc made of celery, chives and baby oysters bound together with a viscous slime so thick you had to cut it with a knife. That doesn't sound delicious, but it was. I'll be back. Lots of stuff on the menu I'm eager to try. I saw two dishes with pig intestines, two with goose intestines, six with frog. I don't even know if it's Cantonese or Fujianese. (I'd guess the latter.) Who knows what I'll get next?!?

Good Good Taste
13A Market Street

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  1. Sounds like a great discovery, Brian.

    I'm not sure I understand the connection between the soup shop and the "elegant restaurant" in back. Were both functioning? Did the long menu seem to be for both places?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dave Feldman

      Both were functioning, both had the same menu. But the elegant place... reached by a passageway in the rear... was full. (It had only a few tables) So I ate in front.

    2. The pancake you describe sounds like Taiwanese-style oyster pancake. It's an acquired taste. The viscous slime you refer to is made from rice flour. It could be Taiwanese...

      3 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        Thank you! Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I've just checked out photos of Taiwanese oyster pancakes, and they look similar to what I had. I thought it was delicious.

        1. re: Brian S

          Which could very well be Fujianese, since Taiwan and Fujian borrow a lot from each other, due to their proximity.

      2. i'm very intrigued by this.....thanks for the info!

        1. Brian,

          Want a free dinner? Unfortunetley my gf and I have yet to have the opportunity to learn Chinese but would kill for food as authentic as what you have described. Let us know and we'd be happy to join you and pay for the tab!

          4 Replies
          1. re: wingman

            Thank you so very much! Unfortunately, I just don't know enough Chinese! My Chinese is rudimentary and I don't recognize any dishes on the menu, except for one or two. What you could do is this: The takeout menu has all the dishes, in Chinese, so you could take one and get some of it translated, or get a takeout menu somewhere else that has English translations and try to find similar dishes. That's what I have been doing; I have a collection of almost a hundred takeout menus. The problem (and pleasure) is the dishes here are unique.

            1. re: Brian S

              Wow, I wish I could read Chinese, too. Would there be any way someone can get a menu, scan it, and post it on the boards? There has got to be more than a few fluent Chinese here.

              1. re: Brian S

                You can take the menu and translate it on bablefish.

                1. re: Brian S

                  Brian, do you have a copy of the menu that you can scan so that we can take a look at it? Sounds delicious!

              2. I went back tonight (the next day after my last visit) and I'm glad I did. This time I ordered one of the few dishes I recognized, fish head casserole. It was the same as any other place, better prepared, but with one delicious twist. Instead of the usual forgettable fish broth, this fish head was swimming in a dark Shaoxing (I think) wine sauce so rich that, had I looked younger, they probably would have asked for proof of age. I feel drunk, but that's probably just because it tasted so good.