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new pork chop shop in Chinatown: Wah Ji

didactic katydid Nov 5, 2008 06:52 PM

we spotted a new pork chop shop on Allen Street right near our school, so we had a lunch date on Monday to check it out (Wah Ji Pork Chop Fast Food at 7 Allen Street).

The restaurant was very small, very clean, and completely empty when we entered. New wooden counters, nothing dingy, and two very nice ladies behind the counter.

I got the basic: pork chop over rice ($4). My lunchmate gave it a bit of a twist by getting the black pepper pork chop over rice (also $4). We saw them lift the chops out of marinade and dip them straight into the fryer. Within a couple of minutes they were served up to us over generous helpings of rice and a scattering of chopped preserved vegetable.

The chops themselves were huge and meaty, with a fine band of fat but not so much that it eclipsed the meat--I was definitely surprised by how they weren't just the standard Chinatown piece o' fat you'd normally get. The flavor was also delicious. My lunchmate thought his black pepper sauce was good, but a bit too sweet and preferred mine, and while I liked them both, I preferred mine, too--the flavor of the pork was really brought out by the marinade, which had a complex array of flavors (star anise? coriander? cinnamon? not sure).

also, for $2, I got a popcorn chicken appetizer which was a very nice surprise--sizeable, actual strips of chicken (not just Chickie-Knobs (tm) of who knows what), with crispy friend basil leaves. The chicken excited my lunchmate the most--he said next time he'd just get that plus a scallion pancake for a quick, light lunch.

 
 
  1. l
    Lau Nov 6, 2008 03:25 AM

    ohhhh that looks like xiang su ji, which is the popcorn chicken u get in taiwan....i love that stuff, im excited to try this place

    1. g
      Greg Nov 6, 2008 05:06 AM

      It sounds like a cleaner version of Excellent Pork Chop House on Doyers. If you've eaten there before, how do they compare?

      -----
      Excellent Pork Chop House
      3 Doyers St, New York, NY 10013

      9 Replies
      1. re: Greg
        didactic katydid Nov 6, 2008 07:46 AM

        haven't checked it out--that's a bit outside the orbit of my school, but maybe I can squeak over there on a longer-lunch day.

        1. re: didactic katydid
          s
          Simon Nov 7, 2008 09:37 AM

          i recently happened to re-visit Excellent Pork Chop House...it was really underwhelming...old-tasting rice, bland soup, and small mediocre pork chop...i'd had a solid meal there in the past so perhaps it's heading downhill...

          thanks for the tip on Wah Ji...i'll try it soon...

          1. re: Simon
            l
            Lau Nov 7, 2008 12:40 PM

            i dont think the pork chop at excellent pork chop house is very good...in fact most of their food is ehh

            the thing they do well are some of their soups...in particular si sheng tang (4 god soup), which hling found (thank you) and I like some of their chicken and spare rib soups (fairly similar) and also get a side of lu rou fan (rice with pickled veg and ground pork), some of their apps are ok as well

        2. re: Greg
          DarthEater Nov 6, 2008 10:18 PM

          I tried this place last week and its pretty good. The pork chop was juicy but I still prefer Excellent pork chop house and their preserved vegetables. However, I do like the fact that Wah Ji gives you a complimentary house soup with your order.

          1. re: DarthEater
            didactic katydid Nov 7, 2008 05:54 AM

            I didn't get a soup! Maybe it's a promo they're doing only sometimes? Did you get it to go? (we ate in)

            1. re: didactic katydid
              DarthEater Nov 7, 2008 10:14 PM

              Yep, got it to go. It was during dinner hour at 6pm. Some places in chinatown only serve soups during prime time. I'm not sure if that the case here.

          2. re: Greg
            bigjeff Nov 25, 2008 06:03 AM

            ya excellent pork chop house really isn't that good; I'm used to a pork chop with more than just the marinade, maybe a light dusting of flour or cornstarch; the standard for me was 2000-era Laifood "66" in Flushing on Union Street; big meaty, fatty chop, plenty of 5-spice, great crust, etc. will give it a whirl, esp. for $4.

            1. re: bigjeff
              bigjeff Jan 1, 2009 10:47 AM

              just stopped in yest. for a curry roll (4pc) and popcorn chicken (salt-pepper chicken). the curry roll was bad; basically samosa filling in a mini spring roll shape; the popcorn chicken was heavy w/ MSG but delicious nonetheless. the place got overrun with spipky-haired adolescents at one point; everyone seems to like the pork chop over rice. also, name is Hua Ji, not Wah Ji.

              1. re: bigjeff
                didactic katydid Jan 11, 2009 06:51 PM

                They...changed the spelling on the sign? That's weird.

          3. r
            randumbposter Nov 25, 2008 02:12 PM

            I didn't find the pork chop to be huge and meaty. I found the meat portions to be quite small. Might have to ask for an extra porkchop for 2 bucks next time. That being said, the food is pretty good. It's better than the excellent pork chop house and that other place san chia or something. The funny thing with the excellent pork chop house is that I've actually gotten good porkchops from them, other times I've gotten stale flavorless crap. I like the excellent pork chop house meat sauce a bit better though. Has anyone tried the wah mei, the place where mei wah used to be ?

            2 Replies
            1. re: randumbposter
              didactic katydid Nov 28, 2008 10:49 AM

              weird how everyone's having different experiences--my foodie friends and I work right nearby and have gone here a bunch and they don't even order the pork chop anymore because it's too huge for lunch.

              oh, but one guy DID get (not very good) soup the other day, thrown in for free with his meal...seems like it's random when you get it.

              1. re: randumbposter
                i
                itsbeckyyxp Jan 1, 2009 08:50 PM

                i grew up on wah mei or mei wah or whatever its called now! (the one on hester, right?) i LOVE their chicken leg rice! i tell them to add some extra sauce and yum yum in my tum tum alllll night :)

              2. Chandavkl Dec 3, 2008 07:31 PM

                For those of you keeping score, this is the former Kingdom of Pancakes and 3 Wang Kitchen locations. Nothing is over $4 and lots of stuff around $2. Food is good--don't know how they do itl.

                1. didactic katydid Dec 14, 2008 12:12 PM

                  on friday I got a lunch buddy and we ordered 1 order of pork chop/rice ($4) plus one extra pork chop ($2) and then split the rice, so we basically got rice + pork chop for $3 each. best deal ever!

                  1. c
                    chet steadman Jan 3, 2009 08:45 AM

                    I checked this place out last week. The pork chop was a tad too fatty and the chicken was sliced way too thin (there was more batter than chicken). It also seems that they raised the prices a tad.

                    I didn't dislike my meal by any stretch--it was tasty and inexpensive--but for the price I'd much rather go to Apolo on Delancey and get a chuleta with fried rice and maduros for less. Split an order of crackling chicken for a much more substantial version of what I got here.

                    1. didactic katydid Feb 26, 2009 07:13 PM

                      well, it's true--they've changed the sign and menus to say "Hua Ji", not "Wah Ji" anymore. weird. I wonder if it was a misprint and they demanded new ones to be made for free or something.

                      and they did up the price--$4.50 for a pork chop now (still $2 for an extra chop, I think). still delicious.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: didactic katydid
                        c
                        chet steadman Feb 26, 2009 07:53 PM

                        have you tried apolo on delancey? it may be under new management (i'm not positive), but if their food is the same then i would submit that their pork chop is tastier and a better value--$7 or so for 2 pc pork chop with fried rice and maduros.

                        1. re: chet steadman
                          p
                          Pan Feb 26, 2009 10:58 PM

                          Where on Delancey, and what else do you like there? Is it Dominican?

                          1. re: Pan
                            l
                            Lau Feb 27, 2009 03:35 AM

                            apolo is one of those cuban-chinese restaurants...its pretty far down delancey, i think its at clinton

                            i haven't tried it, but i noticed it

                            1. re: Lau
                              c
                              chet steadman Feb 27, 2009 04:37 PM

                              yup--it's right at the base of the bridge, just east of clinton.

                              but as i said earlier, i've heard that management has changed since my last visit.

                        2. re: didactic katydid
                          Chandavkl Feb 27, 2009 08:17 AM

                          It's very common for a Chinese restaurant to be sold or otherwise reorganized and the name to be tweaked ever so slightly. For example, Mei Lai Wah became Mei Li Wah and Wing Huang the noodle place on Lafayette used to be Wing Wong (same pronunciation). So I'm sure something is afoot with the new name.

                          1. re: Chandavkl
                            l
                            Lau Feb 27, 2009 09:04 AM

                            yeah that is true, but i went to this place fairly soon after this post and the name had changed to hua ji...pretty weird it changed that fast

                            1. re: Lau
                              didactic katydid Apr 23, 2009 07:04 PM

                              yeah I was confused by the rapidity.

                              there's a laundry across from Sugar Sweet Sunshine on Rivington that was named "Liu's" for a long time, and one day, in the dark of night, they switched to "Lau's", stealthily papering over the "i". We only noticed because my roommate's name is Liu and she pointed it out, but only after she stared at it for a full minute wondering if she was crazy all the times she'd seen it in the past.

                              I dunno, even with the price increase this is still a great place for me to spend 4.50 and get a big lunch only 5 minutes' walk from my work.

                        3. e
                          ExFlexitarian Feb 27, 2009 09:12 AM

                          Anyone know of a place to get Macanese style fried pork chop on a roll?

                          1. didactic katydid Apr 27, 2009 04:25 PM

                            young chow fried rice ($4.50) + 4 curry rolls ($2). nothing special but very solid (definitely not the gross Chinatown garbage that proliferates).

                             
                            1 Reply
                            1. re: didactic katydid
                              didactic katydid May 3, 2009 03:43 PM

                              marinated ground pork over rice ($4.50) + fried pork dumplings. the ground pork is awesome--full of cubes of tofu, chunks of fat-ribboned pork belly, etc.

                              the dumplings are fine, but subpar compared to local dumpling shops like Prosperity or even Super Taste. they're small, unpleasantly crusty, and just average.

                               
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