213 Grand Street Gourmet Restaurant -- Chinatown
- Brian S Nov 10, 2006 02:08 AM
From the street, 213 Grand Street Gourmet Restaurant looks like the kind of place no gourmet would ever enter, even if he were starving. A few cooked chickens hang forlornly in a window, a sign in English proudly announces "BBQ and Homecooked Dishes", a dingy takeout counter offers chow mein and fried rice. But walk in, past that counter, and you'll see a back room with red wall hangings and chandeliers. There's a long English menu, another menu only in Chinese, and waiters fluent in English.
I went in, the only customer, though I did see a guy walk in and buy a soda. I ordered chicken casserole from the Chinese menu. I've had this dish many times before, and what I got was one of the best I've had. Not quite the best, but the best in quite a while. Lots of meaty chicken chunks, mushrooms, a few onions and scallions, all in a rich brown bubbling broth.
I ate every bit and walked into the warm November night. Over on Mulberry Street, the outdoor tables were full. "Is this New York or Miami?" exulted one shirtsleeved diner. Five minutes ago, I thought, I was in Hong Kong.
213 Grand Street Restaurant
213 Grand St. (that's where they got the name)
A few blocks east on Grand is another restaurant that's a lot like 213 -- little takeout counter in front, more elegant dining in the back. There's even a waterfall flanked by plastic palm trees. The menu has rarely seen stuff like braised duck topped with assorted meat, and chicken with ham and vegetables, also conch and chicken with XO sauce. I ordered a fish head casserole. It came with a curry sauce -- not Malayan Chinese style, but more like Japanese mustard-yellow. And it was made with salmon. It was quite good. I prefer the regular style fish head casserole but this was a nice change.
290 Grand St
213 Grand Street Gourmet used to get a lot of comments on this board, perhaps 3 to 4 years ago, when most of the people on the board who commented on Chinatown restaurants were fan kwei. In fact based on the multiple mentions, it rocketed to the top of my Chinatown places to visit. And while 213 Grand Street, as well as Lok Sing and OK 218, are quite good, with dozens (hundreds?) of places yet to try in Chinatown, I can't afford to go back anytime soon.
But is there anything else as good as 213 Grand and OK 218 that's also this far NORTH? I ask because my workplace is on Houston near Bleecker, and some of us went to Jazzi Wok (formerly Funky Broome) recently for lunch. It was great, but now they're closed for renovations. I need some other great Chinatown options that are an easy walk, i.e. as far north as possible.
Anybody been to Dragon Gate at 92-96 Elizabeth St.? That's a little further, but I notice they have some really interesting and peculiar lunch specials like Preserved Meat Rice Casserole, Pond Fish (?), Baby Crab with Ginger & Scallion, Mustard Green w. Black Mushroom, Sauteed Udon Shanghai Style, and Pork Stomach w. Finger Pepper (?!). I might have to check this one out, but something else a little closer to the office would be great.
Congee Bowery, 207 Bowery near Spring St.
Lok Sing, mentioned above, and Congee Village are also north of Grand. I liked Jazzi Wok.
I've never eaten at Dragon Gate but I've noticed that years ago their chef got writeups in the Engligh-language press. But he's very likely moved on to another restaurant.
re: Brian S
Thanks Brian! Ooops, I should've specified as far north and *west* as possible, considering that our workplace is located on Broadway. Lok Sing might not work b/c it's probably too far east for some of my co-workers, who walk at a more leisurely pace than I do. (When it's just me, I'll race to virtually any location north of Canal, but eating with friends is more fun.)
Congee on Bowery has a great location for us, but isn't that one a little expensive, at least compared to other Chinatown lunch offerings? I had the impression it was the "upscale" version of Congee Village, which, BTW, I tried once and didn't like much (maybe it was an off-night).
I haven't been to Congee Bowery but I believe the menu is similar in price to Congee Village, where I have eaten too many times to remember. There they have lots of casseroles and "sizzling platters" for $9.
I haven't eaten a lunch offering in Chinatown since the day about 8 years ago when I had one in my then favorite restaurant. The dish I ordered was, when you got it full price at dinner, served carefully prepared, each ingredient cooked separately, but the lunch special was cooked all together, and was a big glop. I told the waiter, and he said, what can you expect? If you pay $4 at lunch you don't get the same labor as when you pay $10 at dinner.
re: Brian S
Yeah, that happens sometimes, but some places serve tasty lunch specials. It's a risk certainly. Usually a good lunch special is a relatively *simple* dish rather than something with a lot of components like what you describe. Jazzi Wok had some really wonderful simple chicken dishes on its lunch special menu.
Today a Taiwanese co-worker took me and another friend to Shanghai Cafe on Mott (this was way further south than we usually go) and we got some cheap noodle dishes which were very good. I'd never been there before. I really liked the #68 -- noodles with meat sauce. Nothing fancy or complex, but tasty, and a very sizable portion. Although, for all I know, it could be even better at dinnertime. Actually though, now that I think about it, that was something really cheap off their regular menu, rather than a lunch special. Anyway, my Taiwanese friend ordered some udon noodle dish which was excellent (although I can't compare it to other udon-serving establishments b/c I've rarely experienced udon in the past). And the other co-worker got a pork dish over rice which was also very good.
We also shared some good soup dumplings. The Taiwanese dude firmly believes this place has the best soup dumplings in C-Town, way better than YSD or other places on that street, and Shanghai Cafe's been consistent over the years, he says. Personally I can't judge it vs. other places b/c I haven't had soup dumplings in a really long time. I liked these a lot, though. The soup itself was fantastic, even if there wasn't a ton of it; the meat wasn't as tasty, but still good.
Now that I look back, I see there's been some arguments on this board about all this in the past:
Not looking to revive any arguments, so lemme specify that **your mileage may vary**.
Oh, and I'm not averse to a $9 or $10 lunch occasionally. It's just that we're all habitual cheapskates, and C-Town makes it easy.
I went back for lunch today, Sunday. Quite a few people were eating in the back, and the takeout area was jammed with a steady stream of customers, most getting duck or chicken. Now I know why there were just a few forlorn birds in the window last time... the rest had sold out!
I ate a casserole ($10) of fish fillets coated in batter, cubes of roast pork, mushrooms and dofu. It was enormous, but so good I ate it all.