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Does a Chinese restaurant exist in Manhattan that doesn't drown its dishes with brown sauce, black bean sauce or other jarred glop?

I've tried so many Chinese restaurants in Manhattan and other boroughs but most seem to insist on drowning the food in soupy sauce. Basic dishes with pork, beef and vegies seem to swim in sauce even though I ask for very little. The same goes for canned vegetables that are included as "fresh" - canned corn, water chestnuts and slimy mushrooms. Again, if I don't ask for these ingredients to be eliminated, they're thrown in as fillers.

Can you recommend any restaurants in Manhattan that serve tasty Chinese food? Thanks.

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  1. Yes. In fact if someone asked me to recommend a restaurant that DID drown its dishes with glop, I couldnt think of one. One good place: Amazing 66.

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/430895

    13 Replies
    1. re: Brian S

      I think the gloppy stuff is what expat New Yorkers in California refer to as New York style Chinese food. I think gloppy and canned stuff is typical of neighborhood Americanized Chinese food, which you don't get at the authentic Chinese places in Chinatown, but can easily run into in most other parts of town.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        Thanks Brian S. & Chandavkl for getting this topic rolling. Yes, I've been to many Chinatown restaurants as well and with Chowhound friends from Hong Kong. I've never been impressed with any that much except for some noodle dishes which, as you know, is not the extent of good Chinese cuisine.

        By the way, I've had what you refer to as "New York style Chinese food" in London, San Francisco & LA. Same ole glop. This ratio just can't be because I pick losers if that's how they cook the stuff with shortcuts - jarred sauce & canned ingredients

        Looking forward to some great suggestions from other Hounds.

        1. re: Beau711

          maybe if you give some color as to where you are going to get this generic american chinese food, we could come up with better. At a minimum, the places I go to that dont serve that kind of food is Wu Liang Ye, Grand Sichuan, Szechuan Gourmet, NY Noodletown.

          1. re: ESNY

            Actually, if you order from the "American" menu at Grand Sichuan (General Tso's, etc.) you get pretty much what the OP has described.

            1. re: ESNY

              Ny noodletown serves glop as well!

            2. re: Beau711

              I'll second Brian S's recommendation of Amazing 66, pretty authentic food.

            3. re: Chandavkl

              i agree with chandavkl , real chinese food isnt gloppy, maybe some of the noodle places in chinatown will glop you if you order those kind of dishes. But the gloppy stuff is more in those old neighborhood and take out places. Try 30 Pell St. they are authentic , they also have dim sum in the day time

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                This is an interesting suggestion. There is no 30 Pell St, but at 28 is a spiffy new expensive restaurant that, when I passed by last night, was hosting a huge, elaborate banquet. That restaurant is called Delight 28; it's in the space where the always-empty Hay Wun Loy used to be. At 34 is a restaurant where Danny Ng's used to be. I always assumed the place went downhill when Danny Ng left... but maybe it didn't. So which of these two do you like?

            4. re: Brian S

              Hi Brian, Egads, I'm shocked! Did you actually write this in another post:

              Wo Hop - Worst meal...I ordered squid in black bean sauce, which I love. And out it came, squid floating in lake of brown glop, like flotsam on the muddy banks of a fetid bayouI ordered squid in black bean sauce, which I love. And out it came, squid floating in lake of brown glop, like flotsam on the muddy banks of a fetid bayou."

              Written beautifullly and humorously but I still can't believe Mr. Brian S, the man who never encountered a gloppy sloppy dish finally was introduced to 'brown glop.' Welcome to the club.

              1. re: Beau711

                In the context of Brian's many other posts on New York Chinese food, his Wo Hop ordeal sounds like the exception that proves the rule - the rule being that if one chooses the right restaurants and orders the right dishes, it's quite easy to avoid being served "brown glop."

                1. re: squid kun

                  Yes. In part because of this very post, I decided to go to a restaurant where I knew I would be served brown glop, just to try it. I sympathize with you a lot more because of this.

                  1. re: squid kun

                    Hi squid kun, "if one chooses the right restaurants and orders the right dishes, it's quite easy to avoid being served "brown glop."

                    Thanks for your response but I've said it before and I'll say it again: the onus should not always be on the individual diner. If a restaurant is good, the majority of dishes it cooks will be good.

                    The huge menus in the majority of Chinese restaurants in Manhattan remind me of the menu tomes given to customers in Greek-style diners. Pages and pages of dishes with hardly any description; chicken prepared 20 ways, Italian dishes all served in gloppy tomato sauce. I wish the trend would reverse itself. At least in the various Grand Szechuan restaurants they are starting to print a separate list of customers' favorites. This is a big help.

                    Gone should be the days when all Chinese food we knew was Moo Goo Gai Pan, Beef & broccoli, egg foo yung, egg rolls and yaka mein soup. There are some great Chinese chefs out there and some have arrived in the States after the demise of the Chinese Exclusion Act so the choices are now more varied. Yet, unfortunately, somehow we're stuck in a time warp and still being offered dishes our grandparents loved. These restaurants can do better - let's stop putting the onus on the so-called ignorance of diners.

                    1. re: Beau711

                      But the beauty of Chowhound is that we can find places that just have a few good dishes, or maybe only one, and let others know about them.

              2. Can someone defile glop/gloopy? I have always been under the impression that the hallmark of really good chinese are flash fried/stir fried ingredients, stir fried again, with the addition of a good quality broth/stock that is either reduced with thickeners or thickened with a starch slurry. Which turns out a nice (gloopy) saucy texture. Maybe you've been eating good chinese food all this time and not realized it? Or maybe you've just been to all the bad places. I can't tell from your post. The canned ingredients seems to be an entirely different problem.

                7 Replies
                1. re: E Eto

                  Dear E Eto - gee, I thought I had already defined glop/gloppy in my original post. Basically, too much sauce from a jar or can - white sauce, brown sauce, hoisin and black bean sauce.

                  I've eaten in some of the best and also some of the worst restaurants in Manhattan, but nowhere else do I find such a profusion of jarred sauces like in Chinese restaurants. Many professional interviews that I've read over the years seem to always refer to gloppy sauces when writing about Manhattan Chinese restaurants.

                  In my view, Chinese food is good when it contains wonderful fresh ingredients and fresh vegies - like those sold at Chinatown markets - not the canned stuff. Another is respect for natural flavors and for texture. I don't want to spoon out the sauces which drown the flavors and make the food mushy. Is it so time-consuming for good chefs to make their own sauces and not to take shortcuts with canned Oriental vegies as those found in Asian markets?

                  I'm sure you meant the comment 'maybe you've been eating good Chinese food all this time and not realized it.' as a joke. Duh. No, I know when something is good. That's why I consider myself a true chowhound.

                  It's ironic, the same people who decry Little Italy restaurants just love Chinatown, the neighborhood right next to it, where Chinatown offers its own form of mediocre food. I'll probably be flamed for such a comment but then again, where are all the CH recommendations for good Chinese restaurants??? I challenge Hounds to offer a few and list their favorite dishes without the usual standard recommendation to take the subway to Queens.

                  1. re: Beau711

                    Can you name specific restaurants/dishes that you have tried, just to get a context of how extensive your disappointment is?

                    1. re: jdream

                      I used to like 20 Mott and really like their salt-baked shrimp and sweet & sour porkchops (which to me tasted like what good ribs should taste like.

                      I've tried Pings, Joe's Shanghai (only like those famous soup dumplings) Sweet & Sour Tart or something like that name, Wo Hop, Oriental Garden, Peking Duck, Goody's and many more in Chinatown too numerous to remember. I'm also not talking dim sum - only about regular lunch/dinner entrees and not soups or noodles.

                      Outside of Chinatown, I've tried most of the Grand Szechuan restaurants but I don't care for spicy food with hot peppers, Wu Liang on 2nd Ave (too much 'tude) David K's, and many generic neighborhood spots that aren't worth talking about.I don't know how many times I've asked for a plate of steamed Choi Sum with a little oyster sauce and garlic and have been met with incredulous stares from the server. "We don't serve that here," they say outside Chinatown. Then there's the tradition of handing out two menus - one to Caucasians and one to Asians. Ridiculous. They don't do that in other ethnic restaurants. Hey, I can eat unusual dishes with the best of them so don't assume anything by my face or complexion, thank you very much.

                      1. re: Beau711

                        Try Grand Sichuan again. They also have non-spicy staff on the authentic part of the menu. On the second avenue location you can get stir fried fish (the exact description of the item escapes me right now) or Lotus roots, for example. No glop, and very tasty.

                    2. re: Beau711

                      Can you be a little more specific about these jarred sauces? I don't know what you're talking about.

                      1. re: E Eto

                        If you visit a large Chinese supermarket like the one on Canal Street, Kam something or other, you'll know what I'm talking about. They sell large industrial-size bottles/cans of soy sauce, plum, hoisin, black bean, sesame, peanut, chili, and oyster sauces that I remember off the top of my head.

                        Amoy is a brand I've seen that is also sold commercially as well.

                        Once I walked into a neighborhood Chinese kitchen by mistake. Guess what I saw? Large bottles of some of the ingredients listed above. Shortcuts like this are what I'm complaining about. And then to add insult to my palate, half the bottle seems to be poured on various dishes.

                        Ha ha - it's like this quaint Bed & Breakfast I stayed at in New England. They stated the yogurt was 'homemade'. Yeah, right - I walked into their small kitchen to ask for more sugar and guess what I saw? Huge containers of Dannon lemon and vanilla yogurt. Homemade - yeah right from the container...

                        1. re: Beau711

                          A recipe for Oyster Sauce has been split to the Home Cooking board:

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/435706

                  2. I think it's based on which dishes you order. For instance, many Hounds enjoy Grand Sichuan, and I'm in love with their Aui Zhou chicken, which is a dry stir-fry of spicy chicken and bamboo. But I've also ordered non-Sichuan dishes there (crispy tofu) that have turned up in swimming in glop (and wasn't crispy).

                    The stir fry dishes that E Eto describes are generally Cantonese style dishes, which tend to have thicker and sweeter sauces. Since many restaurants in Chinatown are Cantonese, maybe the trick is to seek out other regional styles?

                    Also, many restaurants have an English menu of Westernized stuff and a Chinese menu for the authentic fare.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Gluttonous Prime

                      I will have to respectfully disagree with the comments on Cantonese dishes:
                      - stir fry is a cooking techniques used in almost all kinds of Chinese cuisines, and it is not specific to Cantonese cuisines. Peking, Shanghaiese, and Szechuan cuisines all have plenty of stir fry dishes. Each cuisine may have different sauces (in terms of flavoring and ingredients), but the stir fry that E Eto mentioned isn't specific to Cantonese cuisine, it is simply how most stir fry sauces / dishes are done.

                      - While some Cantonese dishes are heavy in sauces, most of the authentic Cantonese dishes are not. What you usually get in Manhattan Chinatown is the neigborhood style Cantonese food which tend to be quick (hence a lot of stir fry), and heavy in sauce. In real Cantonese cusines (the more refined style) usually utilize a lot of fresh ingredients (esp. seafood which is alive right before cooking), and hence a lot of the dishes use very light sauce to accentuate the real flavors of the ingredients instead of masking it. More high end restaurants like Oriental Garden offers more of this type of dishes (e.g. steam fresh fish with scallion and ginger, steam fresh shrimps, giants scallops with garlic and vercimille, etc.) but the offerings are still limited due to lack of ingredients and highly skilled chefs. Think of having Cantonese or Chinese food in Manhattan to having American food at say Westville. It is authentic food but it isn't EMP or The Modern. There are definitely more choices in the West Coast (in my experience), but in the Chinatown in NYC there is no EMP of Chinese food yet.

                      A lot of the suggestions are actually the better Chinese or Cantonese restaurants exist in NYC, but while they are authentic, they are certainly not the refined style of Cantonese cuisine.

                      1. re: kobetobiko

                        I must agree that you're right. I have had great Cantonese dishes, including steamed cod with ginger, steamed clam soups, scallion lobster, etc. Just never in New York Cantonese style restaurants. Much apologies about the blanket statement.

                    2. if you're looking to order standard take-out staples general tso's/orange/hunan/szechuan meat dishes and noodle dishes-- the best places i've tried are SHUN LEE and JOE'S SHANGHAI. they take it easy on the sauces and both deliver uptown.

                      otherwise try these places in chinatown for some more authentic dishes XO (Taiwanese), SUPER TASTE (Noodles) and CONGEE VILLAGE (Cantonese)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: khy201

                        I just dropped into Super Taste today ... It hit the spot and, of course, not a glop in sight.

                      2. Beau, I know exactly what you're talking about and feel your pain. When people in LA ask for "NY style Chinese," I send them to Americanized places where the dishes swim in sauce. Unfortunately, most of the drier offerings I found in NYC tended to be the spicier szechuan dishes, which it sounds like you don't want.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: a_and_w

                          a and w - you're right on-target about what I don't care for. Thanks for understanding and not being condescending.
                          Beau