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Congee Village...fine, authentic, but blah.

Jim Leff Feb 11, 2007 09:46 AM

Just injecting my two cents, fwiw...

Went to Congee Village with a group last night for first time in a few years. Quite the ambiance....this is not, if you're an American-born Chinese, your father's Chinese restaurant.

We had a decent survey of a bunch of standbys.

My impressions were extraordinarily consistent across all ten or so dishes. All were fine and competent and within the bounds of that slippery term "authentic". If this were Duluth or Spokane, I'd be thrilled to have this restaurant around. And, in sharp contrast to trend, the check was a pleasant surprise (usually I wonder how such cheap items could have aggregated so high; here, I wondered how such expensive items could have aggregated so low....$21/person with tax and tip). But nothing was great and nothing had real soul. Every single dish would have been twice as good if we'd eaten it, instead, at Fulleen's Seafood on Division Street.

The congee (we got it with ginger and squid...and, yes, I know it's a silly order at dinner) was the best item. Deep fried frog also nice. Rice pot with sausage dismayingly cursory and blah. Snowpea leaves very nice and fresh. XO Sauce with Sea Clams and Snap Peas surprisingly dull. Short rib sizzling platter was hasty (and skimpy meat portion amid lots of greasy stir fried vegs). Steamed bread app with condenses milk for dipping was luxurious. Scallion pancake texturally intriguing. Beef chow fun shiny, rubbery, unexciting. House special roast chicken just not quite there (especially stark contrast to Fulleen's). Nothing was all the way quite there. It was a pretty frustrating dinner....again, competent, but never quite cresting into deliciousness. The only really botched dish was that XO Sauce with Sea Clams and Snap Peas, which was "XO Lite". Like everything else here, a lack of integration was the main criticism.

Oh, and no House Soup. Unforgivable. I live for House Soup (no, it wasn't cuz we'd had congee...the congee was just one serving for one person in our party who insisted he wanted it....so they owed us House Soup!).

ciao

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    Eat Well Feb 17, 2007 07:21 AM

    Must agree with you on this report, so close to delicious, but not quite., although you neglected to mention perhaps the standout of the meal, steamed bread with condensed milk for dipping, understated pure genius, why didn't we order more? Why am I not eating some of this at this very moment?

    J

    1 Reply
    1. re: Eat Well
      l
      Lau Feb 17, 2007 08:32 AM

      mantou with condensed milk are so damn good

    2. csw Feb 17, 2007 09:04 AM

      Chinese restaurants are never consistent with offering soup and tong shui so you have to speak up and ask your waiter.

      1. Brian S Feb 17, 2007 09:18 AM

        I've never been disappointed by Congee Village. It's always been good, and reliably so. But I haven't been there in several months. So I'm hoping that you caught them on an off night and not on the beginning of a permanent downhill trend. That would be a shame.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Brian S
          p
          Pan Feb 17, 2007 06:32 PM

          I had perfectly good delivery recently. Sorry you guys had a disappointing dinner, but until I have a meal there that I find less than satisfying, I won't change my views on the place. And I also had a delicious meal at Congee Bowery a few weeks ago.

          1. re: Pan
            l
            Lau Feb 17, 2007 11:53 PM

            like bowery congee quite alot surprised more people dont talk about it

            only knock is that for a "congee" place i cant believe they dont serve youtiao

            1. re: Lau
              c
              ChrisZ Feb 18, 2007 05:11 AM

              I enjoy the congee on bowery a lot as well. Have to say the biggest knock I have for the place is the consistency. I have been there at times when it is blow you away fantastic and others when you leave feeling like the alpha dog did after his recent experience

        2. pinkylechat Feb 19, 2007 09:59 AM

          Went to Congee Village years ago & thought it was overrated too. I am Chinese, and am quite discerning about my congee, one of my fav foods growing up in HK. The congee at CV was nothing to write home about at all. So there, they broke Cardinal Rule # 1 already. Congee at Congee Bowery wasn't stellar either, as I remember. Unfortunately, every place doused tons of MSG in their congee, a real shame. It's supposed to be simple peasant fare, but slow-cooked, and just ever so flavored by meats, seafood, or just plain salt. Of course, fried cruellers make the whole meal that much more satisfying. Why can't any restaurant get this right?! No one seems to make a decent non-greasy fried crueller either.

          3 Replies
          1. re: pinkylechat
            l
            Lau Feb 19, 2007 10:50 AM

            try the place next to excellent dumpling house on lafayette, it used to be called new wing wong, but they changed the name its something similar...their congee is solid (much better than bowery congee or congee village) though their you tiao that is not much different than other ctown places

            1. re: Lau
              Chandavkl Feb 19, 2007 12:40 PM

              It's now called Wing Huang, after originally being Wing Wong and then New Wing Wong. It's at 111 Lafayette.

            2. re: pinkylechat
              emilia Feb 19, 2007 01:17 PM

              totally agreed! i have dreams of the yo tiao (fried cruellers) of my childhood -- slightly crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside, and not dripping with grease. melts in a deliciously soggy way when dipped into congee. i've yet to find one here at the chinese restaurants that doesn't make me feel super heavy afterward and leave a big grease stain on the napkin.

            3. s
              Sweatshirt Guy Mar 4, 2007 06:25 AM

              Never been wowed, never been disappointed at the village. A solid 7.

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