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Jun 14, 2007 01:18 PM

Why don't you eat in Chinatown?

Chinatown is certainly growing in size, and certainly people have their faves (Joe's Shanghai, Peking Duck House, Noodletown, etc) but it doesn't seem that there has been a "hit" in Chinatown (a place with broader appeal) for a while. What is it that keeps you from trying the 100 other restaurants in Chinatown, or going more often? Pet peeves, gripes, xenophobia, let 'em fly...Or what's missing?

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  1. joe's shanghai hasn't been good for maybe 11 years, peking duck house hasn't been good for much at all, noodletown has some appeal, but its been outpaced by so many other restaurants, all of which show evidence of new visitors and new favorites, but also quality that isn't a flash in the pan. Local media features plenty of guides to chinatown (TimeOut, NYT, PR from the Explore Chinatown/Taste of Chinatown) which point out emerging restaurants (flower almond bistro, amazing 66), recent favorites (moon house, shanghai cafe, yeah shanghai deluxe, chanoodle, new green bo, singapore cafe) as well as old standbys (golden unicorn, ping's, nyonya, new malaysia, and even wo hop, etc.) on top of all the random vendors and casual places (various dumpling stands, pho and banhmi vendors, dessert shops and bakeries). and the above is by no means an exhaustive list, or even a definitive or hallowed list, I could go on and on and there'd surely be many other additions and subtractions to some of the places mentioned.

    out of all this, what makes you think that people are afraid to eat in chinatown? the area has recovered well since 9/11 and the new publicity initiatives come out of that new funding. restaurants have turned over but due to its expansion, folks are actually headed out to the eastern part now, while the western border hasn't changed. I'm not sure that any restaurant category needs anything with broader appeal (McDonald's, perhaps?); all of the establishments would certainly want to grow their clientele but not in a way that requires them to change anything in order to attract a different kind of audience; the one they have is fine. walk through chinatown during any meal-hour or even an off-hour (not to mention the weekends, which are amazingly packed) and and you'll find the sidewalks bustling, lines long and restaurants full; what further proof do you need?

    there are so many different types of diners (tourists from out of town/country, people who actually live on Division, Eldridge or Canal, local new yorkers familiar with the area, intrepid chowhounds, zagat-exclusive elitists, students, outer-borough families who haven't been to chinatown in years) and so many different options; Chinatown is almost a utopia of a dining destination representing dozens of different countries and hundreds of styles; why must there be a homogeneous representation out there? those which attempt to cover all the bases fail (Sweet and Tart for example) but who needs an "asian" applebees anyway?

    I don't think Chinatown is lacking anything and will just continue to offer the greatest density and variety of eating in any area of new york city.

    6 Replies
    1. re: bigjeff

      I disagree re: Peking Duck House. There are cheaper places. Their Peking duck (except for China) is some of the best I have had. I

      1. re: financialdistrictresident

        For Peking Duck House, its not a matter of price, but of the experience. Sure, plenty of people like it because its the "cleanest" place in Chinatown, but that doesn't mean anything for me. I had to ask for the duck soup that usually comes from places like Tai Hong Lau and Ping's and other places with good peking duck, and the rest of the meal was terrible; I ate there and ordered maybe 5 other dishes for our group of 4 and all of it was extremely generic food. Its not so much more expensive, but I just didn't like the fake chi-chi attitude I got from the restaurant.

        1. re: bigjeff

          Appreciate your perspective. We never get the soup either . . . . Maybe because all Westerners eat there? I don't care about clean I've been to Peking (I mean Beijing) and Hong Kong. Sometimes the frayed/dirtiest looking places are the best. I've only had good experiences at Peking Duck House so far (but only order the duck when I go). Maybe I should try the peking duck someplace new.

          1. re: bigjeff

            I haven't been in a few years, but I still crave the veggie dumplings at Peking Duck House... they are fantastic!

            1. re: harryharry

              Thanks, harry harry. Maybe I'll have to try something besides the duck starting w/dumplings!

        2. re: bigjeff

          Actually business is still suffering with the closing of factories in chinatown.

        3. I'm not sure I'd like to eat in a Chinatown restaurant that shoots for "broader appeal". I eat there at least 3 times a week and never in the same place twice in a row. I also read a few 'hounds who try most every place, identify the cuisine by region, then I'll follow up on their recommendations. And since I live within walking distance, I almost never visit to Joe's Shanghai or Noodletown or any of the more popular joints, unless it's to accompany a friend with a specific craving (after all, Goodies delivers xiao lung bao and soft shell crabs ;)

          The question is-- are there any restaurant's that you never get to visit because you get "intercepted" by another on the way there? Lol.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bokkyo

            bokkyo, love the last sentence. perfect thought!

            1. re: bigjeff

              Thanks bigjeff! In fact, it happened today-- I finally convinced my Hunanese lunch buddy to try triple 88 dimsum/88 palace inside the East Broadway mall. Although he did agree, on the way there there was some chowdrama and eventually we ended up in his favorite, Golden Unicorn. I guess he's just retaliating because yesterday I did the same last minute and switched to Vegetarian Dimsum instead of House of Vegetarian. :D

          2. A lot of the best Chinese food is now in Flushing, Queens. There are big spaces there where restaurants can do bigger things. There are also some wonderful little restaurants in the Chinese section of Park Slope, Brooklyn. So one reason that some people might not go to Chinatown is because they don't have to go there to get great Chinese food.

            11 Replies
            1. re: inuksuk

              do you mean Sunset Park in Brooklyn? The area has been chinese/asian for many years, and is certainly opening up with new types of restaurants, but being an outer-borough destination (o horror!) it is missing an audience that would otherwise want to get out there and enjoy some of that grub. chinatown remains the most accessible as a destination, but its great for queens and brooklyn residents to have all of these nexuses available to them. I do think the Flushing surge is wonderful, for sure.

              1. re: bigjeff

                Oops, yeah, I mean Sunset Park. Three months away from Brooklyn and it's all starting to blur. And no, there are not too many destination restaurants there yet but if Sunset Park is on the line between wherever you are and Chinatown more and more people are going to take the short route to good Chinese food. Especially if they want to drive and park.

                1. re: inuksuk

                  So far I am very unimpressed with Sunset Park but I hold out hope...Flushing is so far from me now while Sunset Park is doable.

                  1. re: NancyC

                    if you live even further out, apparently there are some great places out in Bensonhurst, which is slowly getting populated with Chinese folks. Supposed to be a dim-sum palace out there which is the best in the city. And not to mention in Sunset Park, there is some 2nd floor dimsum palace which is supposed to be quite good as well (Pacficana). I actually haven't explore as much of Sunset Park as I like, but its about a 10 block stretch or so along 8th Avenue and when I went, it was absolutely bustling with activity so I assume there must be something there worth eating.

                    1. re: bigjeff

             that summer's here I should really take some time for some slow strolling around the area to familiarize. I've been 3 times, all sort of spaced out and each time only had dim sum, but each time it was pretty bad. I haven't tried the place you mentioned though, will check it out!

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        world tong is probably the bensonhurst-area place you're thinking of. it can be inconsistant, and you have to go very early to avoid uncomfortable crowding, but when it's on it's sublime and even when it's off i think it's better than most places.

                      2. re: NancyC

                        There are actually some great places in Sunset Park. I haven't posted about many of them, however. Agree that the dim sum is generally pretty bad, but I'd like to try Pacificana.

                        1. re: Peter Cuce

                          I found Pacificana to be unimpressive, though I think there's free parking in the adjacent garage, if that's enough of a draw. I still think Gum Fung in Flushing is the best Dim Sum I've had in a long time - well worth the trip.

                          1. re: foodluvngal

                            ok if the free parking isn't enough of a draw, how about the fact that they have a website? if you wait for the second image to keep rotating on that homepage, it even cycles through to a kitchen shot; pretty funny.


                            glad to hear queens still holds it down. and if you do get out to flushing and want to try a newer place, head to the renovated Ocean Jewels, across from the main entrance of the Flushing Mall. It used to be another banquet-type place before, and has nice dim sum as well.

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              we liked the dim sum at pacificana, although it wasn't exciting if that makes any sense. still, things were fresh and the staff were friendly and helpful.

                  2. I live by Chinatown. I shop and eat there regularly. It is a good value (sometimes even cheap). I buy my roast duck at Kam man. And there is Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - red bean and ginger are my favorites.

                    1. I wish there were more variety of restaurants like in Flushing. They need to think outside of the Cantonese-Shanghai box. I would KILL for a good Yunnan restaurant, for example. I like wandering around Chinatown but I just can't stand Canal Street, particularly on the weekends.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lucybobo

                        Agree Canal Street, Chinatown, Little Italy the whole area on weekends is the worst! I try to go on weekdays. Want I go back to school next week, that option will be gone .