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Oct 5, 2007 06:50 AM

Visiting Chinese foodies; lower and upper East

Hi friends. Boston hound here. I am hoping to get some recommendations for an upcoming visit to New York.

I will be the primary guide around Manhattan for two Chinese friends--major foodies--for about four days. Our activity will center around the lower East side (32 and 5) and the upper East (the Met, vaguely).

I am loathe to take these folks for Chinese food, as good as it may be, because they have access to such wonderful things of this type at home. Also, I think the American "fine dining" experience would turn them off, even if the food is wonderful.

One other criterion: my Chinese foodie friends seem turned off by the custom of waiting for any amount of time without real food on the table (bread and rolls don't really count for them). They appreciate the constant barrage of small dishes that typify the Chinese dining experience, so I am seeking non-Chinese restaurants that also value this kind of constant service approach--lots of courses, lots of small dishes. I imagine a good tapas place could fit the bill, but I am wondering if there are other types of cuisine/restaurants of this type within the orbits of the areas I have described that I haven't thought of. I imagine Korean food will be involved, but I am particularly interested to look beyond East Asian. I am looking for lunch places as well as dinner places. As far as price goes, moderate would be best with a couple of upper moderate to low expensive meals thrown in.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

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  1. A tasting menu sounds like it'd be a good idea for you. WD-50, Blue Hill and Annisa have great ones, IMO. People seem to either love or hate wd50, tho, so perhaps you don't want to take that gamble.

    A buffet might also be a good choice. Hopefully other Hounds can suggest some good ones, since I don't really know the buffet scene around here.

    As for cuisines, French and Italian are probably good, but I've found that my friends from mainland China don't particularly like Indian or Mexican food.

    (For the record, I don't think there's anything particular to Chinese dining culture that makes waitng around for the next course uncomfortable. Keep talking and drinking and you ought to get through the intermissions just fine.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: cimui

      Thanks for the suggestions. I think tasting menus will be absolutely on the right track, so I will check these out.

      (By way of clarification, I wasn't citing a nervousness about conversational or social awkwardness that lies between moments of food service; this of course is situational and not something I am concerned about. The complaint that I am citing is based more on the kind of experience one expects when going to a restaurant to dine. In my experience, a good percentage of my Chinese friends (from China) find the custom of being served a small appetizer followed by a long period of waiting around for a large entree to be a lousy way to eat out. Also, this can be mistaken for bad service by folks unaccustomed to the rhythm of American dining, which can put the host in an awkward situation.)

      1. re: East Cambridge Hound

        Ok, I understand--tho I do think that visitors to the US like to visit to experience some cultural differences. The non-threatening ones, in any case. =)

        It's a little untraditional, but perhaps you could ask for the appetizers and main courses to be brought out at the same time. Or just inform the wait staff that you're in a hurry and you don't want a long wait between courses.

        For small plates, look into Kefi on the UWS. The food (Greek) is excellent and prices are moderate for NYC. The downside is that Kefi doesn't take reservations and chances are you'll have to wait around at the bar in the front room for a bit.

        Flor's Kitchen in the West Village might also suit you for a very casual, inexpensive meal. My favorite way to dine there with friends is to order a wide array of non-entree items (many different kinds of arepas and empanadas, ceviche, tostones and other sides) and a pitcher of sangria. It gets a little messy, but you can even cut each of the arepas and empanadas up into several small pieces so everyone can sample everything. (Not entirely unlike mooncakes or dim sum, right?) The non-entrees are much better than the entrees, actually.

        Another idea is to go to a steakhouse or barbecue joint where you order lots of sides for the table and no appetizer. There's a communal dining element to it and no wait (except the initial one) for food. They might enjoy the barbecue, especially, as something distinctly American that also sounds familiar notes in its similarity to char sui meats.

        I'm sorry I don't have more suggestions for you re: tasting menus. As much as I like them, I usually don't have time to do the full experience. I know there've been some recent threads on the subject, though, so a search might give you some good leads.

    2. Before I put out any ideas, I just want to ask a few questions to get more understanding pf your criteria:

      - When you said lower East side (32 and 5), what is 32 and 5 (32th St and 5th Ave?)? Because if that's the case it is not lower East Side in NYC location reference (more like Midtown).
      - Are you Chinese foodie friends from China or from Boston? Or are they familiar with American food? Are they up-to-date in the American dining scene? (I know you mentioned that they are foodies, but I am not sure if they are foodies for Chinese food only or in general...)

      1 Reply
      1. re: kobetobiko

        Yes, our location is 32nd St. and 5th Avenue, so midtown.

        My Chinese friends are coming from China, and though the dining scene in Beijing is increasingly cosmopolitan, it is quite different from the scene in a city like New York. They are not particularly familiar with American food.

      2. one of my favorite authentic chinese restaurants is the " Grand Sichuan Eastern" between 55th and 56th street on second avenue. here's there website:

        you wont be disappointed.


        kiosk realty

        1 Reply
        1. re: kiosk realty

          I think they will enjoy that since they are from china. It will be a disapointing experience in America.

        2. Not sure what you have planned by now, but why not take them to St. Marks? Somewhere like Oh! Taisho or Yakitori Taisho is cheap, but also a unique and fun experience for them. Also, thought about taking them out to Shake Shack for a nice juicy burger in the park? Good luck!

          I like to eats.

          1. I often have business associates from Hong Kong who ask for recommendations and they prefer Korean to the Chinese food in the city. Since you'll be staying at 32nd and 5th, right in Koreatown, you might as well check it out.

            Seoul Garden is great for Kalbi, bul go gi, jap chae and soon doo bu (their bi bim bap is pretty good too). they're generally pretty quick the everything and the small dishes come out as soon as you order.

            There are a few places to get korean style fried chicken too...worth checking out. Try Bon Chon for that.