Chinatown recs for Chinese parents?
I'm in Manhattan working for just a month, but my parents have decided to come visit me from semi-rural California for a few days. They're Chinese (dad is Cantonese and mom from Taiwan) and definitely not adventurous - they want Chinese food. I would like to take them to Chinatown for several dinners and let them have all sorts of regional cuisines since they can't get that at home, but I haven't gotten a chance to explore Manhattan Chinatown yet because of the job. Any suggestions? I'm planning on Joe Shanghai and Cantoon Garden from my reads here on the board, but would like to hear other possibilities (Congee Village? Great NY Noodle? Supertaste? Others?) The main issue here is that my mom is pretty fastidious, so although my dad and I have no problem eating great food in dirty little joints or roaming to different places to get a special dish here and there, my mom would hate it. I'm not able to take them to Flushing or any of the other boroughs. Addresses or intersections would help immensely - no "near (landmark building/bridge)" directions unless they get more specific. Thanks!
Once again, thanks for the recs. Although I agree Flushing would have been a great idea, as I mentioned in my OP, I didn't want to take them there, mainly because none of us have ever been to NYC on our own and getting lost in some borough isn't the best way to spend time with my aging parents (and my mom doesn't have a lot of patience nor stamina).
My parents ended up ditching for the first two days and went down to Chinatown for lunch. They ate both times at Shanghai Cafe, 100 Mott St. (the second time because they didn't know where else to go, which serves them right for not waiting for me!), so the following is what they told me. Interestingly, they got lost trying to find it since they didn't have the address the first time, and the locals they spoke to for directions kept directing them every which way (I'm not sure how this confusion happened, since between them my parents speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Taiwanese, and Fukienese). They finally reached their goal after about an hour of wandering up and down Canal, Walker, and assorted street branches. They very much liked both the pork and crab XLB, although the other dishes they felt were so-so. The first day they had, in addition to their pork XLB, the Shanghai wonton soup (eh) and jou cai sui jao, which my mom found pretty good but my dad felt was exactly as good as my mom's homemade ones, when he was hoping they'd be better. The second day with their crab XLB they got a plate of pig's ear, which my mom said wasn't particularly tender or delicate (she said that the pieces should have been cut more finely). They also got xiao nian gao, which was too salty and the nian gao "just not done well" (they couldn't clarify this part). They ended up not finishing the latter two, and the waiter was pretty brusque about it, demonstrating the long line of people in the store as in a "how could you finish it? Everyone else likes our food!" motion. So I think they would agree with the general board consensus that the quality of Shanghainese cuisine in Manhattan isn't that great.
I finally got to go with them to Chinatown this Saturday. We headed to Red Egg, 202 Centre St, for dim sum since my mom was interested in the "interesting" dishes that Red Egg was said to have. So curiously enough, when they discovered no carts, my parents proceeded to mark off exactly the same dishes they always get at Rice Bowl in Sacramento. At my urging, they decided to get a few more dishes that they've never tried in dim sum before. The resulting list of 9 included standouts such stuffed tofu (soft tofu cups filled with shrimp - we had expected deep-fried puffed tofu, so this was a very well-received surprise) and steamed fish ball (great texture and flavors with the cilantro). The other dishes, such as the chicken feet, shrimp dumpling, and dumpling with assorted seafood and dou miao, were pretty good, although the shrimp rice roll skin could have been more delicate and the filling in the"hometown style savory triangles" (ham sui gok - I don't know the Mandarin pinyin for it) should have been more salty to illustrate the salty-sweetness that makes this dish so great. The one miss was the scallop radish puff - the texture was pretty loose and sloppy, and the flavors were a muddle.
For dinner we ended up in Cantoon Garden, 22 Elizabeth St. I don't know if there is a super-secret Chinese menu here, but my parents didn't get one. We ordered the fish maw and egg drop soup (excellent!) as well as pea pod stems, walnut shrimp (I have a sweet tooth) and clay pot casserole with mixed seafood and tofu. The walnut shrimp was pretty good with great shrimp although a little heavy on the mayo. We were a little surprised with the rest, though - the stir-fried pea pod stems were literally just that, very little salt and no garlic which would have brought the flavor out more (is the use of garlic in stirfried pea pod stems not a given?) We were also taken aback by the clay pot casserole with the use of deep fried puffed tofu, when soft/silken tofu would have gone so much better with the seafood. The fish in the casserole was the best thing in it, but the squid was pretty tough. Perhaps we should have ordered something else?
So that's it. But I'm going to try to explore on my own a bit with the rest of your recommendations. Thanks so much!
At Cantoon Garden, I think some of the "secret Chinese menu" dishes are written in Chinese only and taped to the walls. You can check them out next time you are there.
There is a way of preparing pea pod stems (pea shoots) called "qing chao dou miao" (清炒豆苗) or "purely stir-fried pea shoots" where no garlic or seasoning (other than salt or maybe MSG) is used.. that's probably what you guys have ordered at Cantoon Garden. In Taiwan, we are more used to stir-frying vegetables with garlic but sometimes pea shoots can be prepared without any garlic for people who want to savor the scent of pea shoots. In other words, to taste the "original flavor" (原 味) as some Chinese say.
so in manhattan, i agree with most of the posts above:)
- cantonese seafood: Cantoon Garden, this is my favorite restaurant in manhattan ctown, i highly recommend (i think all chinese will appreciate this type of food); here is my review: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589457?tag=boards;topic-589457
- cantonese (general): Amazing 66 as other posters suggested
- cantonese bbq: i personally like NY Noodletown (all bbq, flowering chive dishes, jook / zhou / congee and salt baked squid), but alot of people will go with big wong...either way you can't go wrong, but these are more quick lunch type places as opposed to a nice sit down dinner
- sichuan: I also agree that szechuan gourmet is definitely the best sichuan restaurant in manhattan; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/459240
- cantonese snacks: stop by mei li wah for some steamed roast pork buns (cha siu / cha shao bao) and coconut buns (gai mei bao / ji wei bao) and also some coffee tea (yin yong / yuan yang cha
)- shanghainese: while I think the quality of manhattan shanghainese is low, I'd agree with other posters that you should go to shanghai cafe if you must go; i personally think their xiang gan rou si is excellent if you like that dish; here is a quick review: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560064?tag=search_results;results_list
- dim sum: while I highly recommend going to flushing, in manhattan, I'd go to Dim Sum Go Go, Red Egg (recently tried and it was good) and 6 chatham square restaurant (it can be streaky, but its quite good when its on)....btw all 3 are off the menu ordering (which is how i prefer dim sum as its fresher
if you mom is a stickler about cleanliness, I'd generally stay away from the fuzhou places as they are rather unkept (although that doesnt mean the food is bad by any means)
Other than that, I REALLY recommend going to flushing (the LIRR takes 15 minutes) and you'll upgrade the quality of your chinese food immensly:
- cantonese seafood: Imperial Palace; this is my absolute favorite chinese restaurant in NY; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/543625
- cantonese seafood / general: their garlic crab and garlic chicken is the best in NY and its generally an excellent restaurant; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/454983
- sichuan: spicy & tasty and xiao la jiao (little pepper) are both excellent, among the best sichuan food ive had in the US; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589204
- dim sum: id go to either Jade Asian or Perfect Team Corp (both are much better than manhattan dim sum); http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/496839
if you need more recs in flushing, feel free to ask and I can give more
Glad you enjoyed Red Egg...i've only been there (repeatedly, addictively) for their 4-8pm dimsum happy hour (i've never gone on a Sat/Sunday nor have i sampled the regular menu -- except maybe for fried oysters one time when i was a little bit drunk)...but the happy hour dimsum has been consistently very very good...
Did you go for happy hour or at another time?
hands down ..especially if they enjoy seafood...
14 Elizabeth St., New York, NY 10013
nr. Bayard St.
talk to the waiter about what you would like as some of the best items arent listed on the menu...they are very nice..and like talking about the different options the restaurant offers..its not the cheapest chinatown experience but for us any way consistently the best
I'd skip Joes Shanghai and head to the Shanghai Cafe at 100 Mott Street. Joes does have its many admirers on this board though. Here are some other threads/recs:
Amazing 66 at 66 Mott Street - Cantonese Family Style
Two "best Fuzhou" restaurants:
Other favorites, in alphabetical order include:
Big Wong King at 67 Mott Street, 10013. Best Cantonese style BBQ Roast Pork.
Fuleen Seafood at 11 Division Street, 10002.
New Chao Chao at 111 Mott Street, 10013.
Yogee Restaurant at 85 Chrystie Street, 10002 Cantonese
Best Chinatown Restaurant:
Szechuan Gourmet - I have to agree with Pan in that I think it is the best Chinese restaurant in Manhattan.
Also if you're going to Shanghai Cafe go next door and check out Dining Room Management Group for Cantonese food at 102 Mott St. (Apparently these guys don't realize the restaurant can have a fictitious name.) Besides being one of the better Cantonese restaurants in Chinatown, they're open almost all day, from early in the morning for jook, noodles, etc. to extremely late at night (something like 3am). They're probably best known for their Cantonese chicken, but I like the fish cake with saifun and pumpkin.