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Dec 21, 2006 03:48 PM

Outstanding Chinese (Cantonese) BBQ houses in Manhattan (long)

Okay, I admit I've only lived in NYC for a year and a half, but I just can't find the same type of Cantonese BBQ here that I grew up with in Toronto. In Cantonese, I believe these restaurants are referred to as "siek SUE-yeh" -- meaning "late-night BBQ"; the type of place you can go for a quick, cheap, informal meal that -- depending on whether or not you order from the BBQ counter -- is served within seconds, at any time of day or night.

I refer to Toronto's Cantonese BBQ scene as it's my gold-standard for this cuisine. There are a number of dishes that are readily available here but I don't consider of the same quality or flavour as I have found at home. I've experienced BBQ houses in HK and Guangzhou, I find Toronto comparable, sometimes even better. I'm not sure why.

Soy-chicken (SIeu-guy) at home is juicy, tender, not too salty, and is served with a side of that amazing green onion/ginger/vinegar garnish. Here, it is tough and the chickens are just too big, so an order ends up being only one or two pieces, as opposed to a smaller half-bird. And nobody seems to know what I'm talking about when I ask for the onion/ginger garnish.

BBQ pork (cha-sieu) here is overcooked, not fatty enough and TOO DAMNED RED. It's like every restaurant goes crazy with the red food dye. As far as I'm concerned, cha-sieu should be deep reddish BROWN, and should be served straight from the tub of this reddish brown sauce, with the occasional one hanging in the window, still dripping. I'm not sure what gives the sauce its dark hue, it looks to be a mollases or brown-sugar type of addition (the sauce, however, has only the slightest hint of sweet).

Roast suckling pig (yuu-juu, I think) is, I admit, a rare item that is only served for special occasions (or if you order in advance), but I haven't found a place for it yet. There are a number of places in Toronto that -- if they're having a busy lunch-hour -- will come around with plates of yuu-juu, offering it as a 'special'.

You can find regular roast pig (sieu-yhok, I think) easily, but I'd like to find a place with high enough turnover that you can order from a dried-out pig that hasn't been hanging in the window all day.

And don't get me started on green-vegetables (choi). I ordered "shun-yeong gai lan" (Chinese broccoli with garlic) and the waiter brought me a plate of freaking BROCCOLI with garlic. I asked him "don't you have any gai-lan?" to which he replied "oh, you have to go to Chinatown to get that". Admittedly, I was in Chelsea at the time.

So, I guess I'm asking this: can someone recommend a Cantonese BBQ restaurant in Manhattan with:

- a good selection of fresh, window-hung BBQ;
- good broth for noodle-in-soup (tong mien);
- a choice of Chinese greens (dau-mieu/gai-lan/choi-sum)
- an authentic Hong Kong BBQ house feel

I know it's out there, I just haven't found it yet. Suggestions?

Thanks, Hounds!

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  1. Where have you tried? Have you tried NY Noodletown, Bowery and Bayard?

    1. I -unfortunately- cannot help you with your search, but I would like to thank you for the information regarding what one should seek out in a Cantonese BBQ restaurant.

      Do you know any additional backround regarding these houses in HK?

      Best Regards.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kare_raisu

        Thanks for the kind words, I'm flattered!

        From what I've learned (not being Chinese but having lots of Chinese friends), BBQ houses are viewed as kind of like after-the-bar-and-club food, open late (or even 24 hours). In HK, you and your buddies look at each other at the end of the night and say "siek SUE-yeh!" and everyone nods their heads madly in agreement and tears off to their favourite BBQ house, which always have large communal tables so you can go with 10 people and easily get a table without waiting.

        kenito799's reply is intersting, as noodle houses usually specialize in noodles, BBQ houses in, well, BBQ. It sounds painfully obvious, but usually you can't have the best of both worlds in one restaurant. I was reading some of the 'best noodle' postings, I'm curious if some of these places with house-made noodles serve great BBQ too.

        Broth is a big factor. Some people don't go to a particular restaurant simply because they don't like their broth. Broth is a tricky balance, as you have to keep it steaming all day. If you don't add enough water throughout the day it gets too salty, if you add too much it's like dishwater, and if you don't skim enough it gets too fatty (or if you skim too much you lose flavour). And time of day is important, because by the end of the day it's been worked on for hours and hours and is probably at its tastiest and richest state (which is how I like it). A good noodle house can keep their broth consistent throughout the day, but that means that either one guy has to work it for the entire shift, or everyone who mans the 'tong-station' has to work the soup the same way.

        Damn, I'm hungry now.

        1. re: agraham

          it's just called noodletown--it's not a noodle restaurant. I don't know why it is called that. it is open till 4am, as are many spots in Chinatown and Flushing. You might find the late night BBQ you seek by seeing what's open at 3am some night on a walk through Chinatown. I have been to various Cantonese restaurants in Flushing and Manhattan with Cantonese-heritage friends but I don't know enough about the scene to know which place will most closely match the Hong Kong-via-Canada style you are looking for.

          Styles of Chinese food and restaurants adapt to the communities they arise in...the Cantonese places in Toronto may very well represent a style that was developed there by people who came from southern China or Hong Kong 100 years ago, or 50, or 10. The Cantonese population of Manhattan Chinatown has been established for over 100 years. Recent immigrants to Chinatown have tended to be from Fujian. In Flushing, there are lots of people from Taiwan as well as other parts of China. The most authentic Chinese places in Flushing, serving recent immigrants food in non-English speaking settings, don't serve Cantonese BBQ as you describe it...check out some of the Outer Borough threads on the amazing Chinese food experiences out there.

      2. I can't recall the names of most places I've been (I know, if I want to be a chowhound I have to start keeping track), but I've been to a few in Chinatown and Chinatown-East (the non-touristy Chinatown), Soho, LES and of course that one in Chelsea.

        Is NY Noodletown a BBQ as well as a noodlehouse?

        8 Replies
        1. re: agraham

          yes, they have stuff in the window. give the baby pig a try. Crunchy skin. the wontons in soup are also good. They definitely have dao miu (spelling? the chinese vegetable), chinese broccoli, etc.

          1. re: kenito799

            Yeah, I'm seeing some other posts highly recommending it.

            I've become somewhat obsessed with the quality of shrimp wonton, the shrimp have to have that fresh, ever-so-slight *crunch* to them when you take the first bite. That means the shrimp were cooked properly.

            1. re: agraham

              I like the shrimp wontons at Noodletown, and they may conform to your description. Get some shrimp wonton soup and see what you think of it.

              1. re: agraham

                Here's a discussion of Hong Kong-style wonton on the San Francisco board, if that helps folks to understand what you're looking for.

              2. re: kenito799

                dou-miao, or pea shoots, is the word.

                1. re: bigjeff

                  Yeah, dow-mieu is the shiznit when it comes to greens. Insanely overpriced in restaurants, though. I don't know how 50 cents worth of greens can be sold for $8.99. If you want to keep the price down, try ordering choi-sam, which is sort of like gai-lan, only a bit more leafy. It's usually half the price of dow-mieu, for some reason.

                  I also stay away from oyster sauce, and order it SHUN-yeung, which is simply tossed with oil and (sometimes LOTS of) garlic.

                  1. re: agraham

                    My guess is that the price differential is at least partly in the preparation of the pea leaves. Ideally you'd cull the vegetable by hand, getting rid of the stringy little threads and hard stems. Mrs. Chandavkl fusses when she does that at home.

                    1. re: agraham

                      hilarious, and true. I got ripped off at big wong once, I think $13.95 for a platter; it might have been out of season and at least, it was all tender parts so sure, you have to pick through it. but love that choi-sam for sure. Mooncake Foods on Watts St. has a very salty, flavorful preparation, but excellent. when it comes to greens, its either plain garlic, or with fermented bean paste, sometimes called fu-zhu, I think.

              3. There are many reliable places in Chinatown, but not in Chelsea or anywhere else in Manhattan. Our family favorite is:

                Big Wing Wong Restaurant
                102 Mott St, New York 10013
                Btwn Canal & Hester St

                1 Reply
                1. re: censorone

                  Big Wing Wong is also where my family (we are Cantonese) go for the stuff you're looking for. It's cheap and the cha-sieu is great.

                2. I don't know if there are any places in NYC as fine as those you long for in Hong Kong, but I've seen quite a few places with pork etc hanging in the window. I've never tried any of them.

                  On Bayard St: Noodletown, New Big Wang, and Hsin Wong.
                  Hoy Wong on Mott near Canal
                  There is (or was) a place on Henry St near Elizabeth.
                  213 Grand on Grand St, and OK 218 across the street.
                  Kim Tuong 83 Chrystie

                  The NY Times did an article on Chinese barbecue (but not like you described)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Brian S

                    Im not sue if it's Big Wing Wong or Hoy Wong, but there is a bbq place on Mott between Canal and Broadway (closer to Canal) that's half-basement level that has pretty good BBQ pork. You need to tell them that you don't want a piece that's too lean. Apparently, a couple of my friends (who grew up in Chinatown) say that's where the Chinese go to all the time for BBQ pork(not NY Noodletown). Don't think it's a late night joint, though. New York's Chinatown closes quite early compared to Toronto's. Loved going to Swatow at 1 AM.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      how can you go between canal and broadway when they intersect? any clearer address than that? corner of mott and canal perhaps?

                        1. re: designerboy01

                          Sounds like Hoy Wong. You go down a few steps, and it is close to Canal.

                          1. re: Brian S

                            My bad -- I meant Canal and BAYARD.