Good Chinese in East 20s
Can anyone recommend a good Chinese that delivers in the above area?
Home's Kitchen on 21st between Park and Broadway is indeed serviceable given the relative dearth of neighborhood options. Also worth considering is Jess Bakery over on the far East end of 23rd Street. It's a real chinese bakery that also serves sandwiches and some simple sauteed meat, vegetable, and noodle dishes, but don't expect anything earth-shattering. I occasionally come across recommendations for Chinese Merch and Noodles 28, but I find both places to be overly scattered and inconsistent.
22 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010
221 E 23rd St, New York, NY 10010
Chinese Mirch serves Chinese/Indian fusion cuisine. I think they're the best in the city at what they do. (I was hugely unimpressed with Tangra Masala in Queens.) An imprecise description of the food would define it as a blend of Szechuan and Indian. It's not for everyone but I think it's terrific.
meinNYC, your post inspired me to go home and order chinese food last night. I'm not sure where you live, but I live right near 28th and 3rd.
Szechuan Gourmet is on seamlessweb.com and they delivered my dinner last night. SG is probably the best szechuan restaurant in manhattan. People may argue about it's rank, but they can't argue that it's definitely ONE of the best. Check them out on seamless or delivery.com.
I'm pretty sure that Szechuan Gourmet won't deliver South of 23rd St., but if the OP lives above this demarcation line then it's a terrific option. It's certainly worth a call to see how far South and East they're willing to deliver.
If Bob Martinez vouches for Chinese Mirch then I'd say it's worth a shot. I recall several disappointing lunch deliveries from a few years back, but I'd love to revisit their menu as it offers a nice departure from the usual.
21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018
Thanks for the kind words. Our last visit was this past July and we were really happy with our meal. We had -
* Steamed chicken momo's. These were well made but unremarkable. What pushed them over the top was the 4 dipping sauces served on the side.
* Mirch 65 - Chicken spiked with curry leaves & red hot chiles. Plenty of zip with nicely balanced heat.
* Crispy Szechuan Lamb - twice cooked crispy meat, tossed with red & green chiles. Plenty of lamb flavor plus a nice blend of spices. Not overly hot.
* Basil Chicken - shredded white meat, broccoli & fresh basil stir fry. Middling heat, great flavor.
Pictures here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/64756738...
Service, as always, was very good. The space is narrow but comfortable enough. If you arrive on the early side you'll get seated by the front window which is very pleasant. The crowd is 90% Indian, primarily in their 20s and early 30s. We've been about 6 or 7 times and the place is always crowded. Unless you're seated next to a particularly noisy group the noise level is moderate.
re: Bob Martinez
Great pics Bob! Now I'm hungry! What's the predominant flavor in the szechuan lamb dish? Is it a cumin-heavy preparation like you'll find at most of the city's sichuan restaurants? If so, which restaurant's style does it most closely resemble?
I can't say no to a flavor-packed basil chicken dish. In fact, I think I'll be saying yes to the one at Chinese Mirch the next time I'm in the neighborhood.
"What's the predominant flavor in the szechuan lamb dish? Is it a cumin-heavy preparation like you'll find at most of the city's sichuan restaurants?"
Good question. I don't remember it being especially heavy on cumin but my memory is hazy beyond that. I need to get back myself.
Comments on the board run about 70-30 on the favorable side. The flavors can be a bit unusual and that's not to everyone's taste. As is standard for Mirch places the dishes fall into the "wet" or "dry" group. Make sure you select from the dry side. It's only dry in the sense that it's not heavily sauced. The "wet" dishes tend to be bland and uninteresting. Ask your server If you're in doubt as to which dishes fall into which group.
If you're going you'll need a reservation. Luckily they're on Opentable.com so it's really easy to book the time you want.
Agree with CalJack, try Jess Bakery. There are some definite misses on the menu (all rice dishes, and soups), but the noodle selection is excellent, and they have dim sum treats like roast pork buns, egg tarts and congee that are very hard to find in the Midtown area... well, anywhere north of Chinatown basicaly. Here is my recent review for http://restaurantbrat.com
Jess Bakery is a neighborhood standout in an area of town where the lousy Chinese restaurants more commonly specialize in dishes like General Douchebag’s Extra-Greasy Moo-Shu Sweet-and-Sour Chow Fun Egg-Drop MSG Wontons. Oh, and also broccoli – always with broccoli. Broccoli everywhere. Broccoli with beef, broccoli with chicken, broccoli in my bloody bubble tea. Quit with the broccoli already. Why must all every meal include broccoli? Why this crazy broccoli infatuation, oh silly Americanized Chinese food brethren? But enough about my disdain for the Panda Expresses of the world. Jess Bakery bucks the trend, with a nice selection of cheaply priced dishes that are difficult to come by outside of Chinatown. Most are a notch up in authenticity and quality than the aforementioned plastic Chinese sludge that proliferates Murray Hill.
Before I had ever stepped foot in Jess Bakery, I was already ordering from the place with such regularity that I was on a first name basis with the lady who picked up the phone. I used to wonder if she was the namesake Jess in question. But then one time I heard a brusque gentleman in the background distinctly refer to her as “EY!!” I knew he was referring to her because she responded with a resounding, “YAHH?!?!” That little exchange satisfied my curiosity. I did in fact finally visit Jess Bakery in person one dark winter night to get a bowl of congee. EY recognized my voice, and I was as impressed with her skill at vocal recognition as I was at the irrefutable proof of the uniquely beautiful and instantly decipherable timbre of my own voice. Physically, Jess Bakery isn’t much to marvel at, a little shack on a gritty street with a few rows of glass pastry display cabinets. This review has to be based on delivery, as that comprises the vast majority of my interactions with the restaurant. These days, phone lady and I are pretty friendly when I dial in. I call her EY, she calls me “AH, IT’S AGAIN YOU! From apattmen 1A… A like ‘Apper’”. It works out well.
It always amazes me how complicated it is to locate a restaurant that serves a simple bowl of congee. Rice and water, it’s not rocket science. Yet Chinese restaurants overlook this humble peasant comfort food with a regularity approaching ignorance. As a result, congee around midtown is a rare commodity (as a simple “Food” search on Menupages or Seamlessweb with a Midtown parameter will testify), and while Jess’s version isn’t the best, it will suffice for hungover mornings on which a trek to Chinatown is simply too arduous. In true Chinese style, the Beef Congee features chewy slices of meat tenderized to the point of near-rubberiness. This isn’t filet mignon, but it will do. The Salty Pork Congee with Century Egg is a decent-enough rendition, studded with translucent, brownish bits of gelatinous preserved egg and a smattering of minced pork chunks. It tastes like home. It tastes like comfort. Not all is 5-star perfection: the texture of Jess Bakery’s congee is sometimes too runny for my liking, and occasionally when you catch them on an off-day the porridge can be a little bland. No big deal, I usually squirt some Sriracha or use a little soy sauce for flavor enhancement when this happens. Truth be told, these irregularities are not a dealbreaker for me, I find it hard to fault something I keep going back to again and again. Perhaps it’s subconscious (and I’ll admit, congee is not everyone’s breakfast dish of choice), but I cannot help myself. Jess Bakery is on my speed-dial, in large part due to the mere presence of congee on the menu.
While on the topic of comfort food, Jess Bakery’s Fried Ramen Noodle selection is also something one would be lucky to find anywhere else. Oodles of supple, starchy goodness, with sweet onions and crunchy celery chunks. The noodles in question are of the college dormroom variety, not of the artisanal hand-pulled sort – but when seasoned that well and topped with such delicious meat, its pure street food gold. I like mine with Soy Sauce Chicken, and appreciate that I can specify white or dark meat when ordering (I always opt for the latter). Again, as with the congee, let’s remember that this isn’t Per Se, and inconsistencies appear here and there. The meat alternates between silky smooth deliciousness on most occasions and, every once in a while, bony chunks of nothingness – a roulette game with smaller stakes. Occasionally I will order the Ramen with Malaysian-Style Curry Chicken, an suitable proxy to the curry chicken of my hometown Singapore. Not as spicy as it is savory, less viscous than Indian curries, yet just as satisfying in flavor. Meat and potatoes with a heady twist. I recently found out the owner of Jess Bakery descends from Malaysia – that explains a lot.
I am a big fan of Jess’s Roast Pork and Roast Duck Flat Noodle Soups, hearty quarts of comfort and warmth, with egg, beansprouts and Chinese cabbage. The soups do not taste like the MSG-laden seawater used at lesser Chinese holes-in-the-wall. They are rich and fatty, cloudy with flavor, with just the right amount of saltiness and a hint of sweetness in the aftertaste from the vegetables. Nothing is overdone here, and a nice noodle to broth ratio is usually maintained. Jess Bakery features roast pork and duck (and soy sauce chicken) in a number of forms, and for the most part, their renditions are superb. Their Roast Pork is tender and just slightly crunchy, in the manner that is unique to pork among meats. Basted to a sexy bright red, the flavor compares well to the best Chinatown has to offer. Aside from the understandably child-sized portion of Roast Pork you would get with your flat noodle soup, order half a pound more (or a whole pound if you must) separately to go with your meal. Avoid the suspiciously named Old Buddy Flat Noodle Soup, a neon orange aberration that tries too hard to be everything at once – unfortunately the ambition is not matched by the execution: the tomato-based soup strangely manages to be both bland and sour at the same time, there isn’t nearly enough shredded chicken in the dish to compensate for the heap of pickled vegetables, and while the dish is branded as spicy, it isn’t. It’s terribly unimpressive.
Skip the rice selections at Jess Bakery and stick to the noodle dishes – I have found the rice dishes (including all the Fried Rice dishes) to be distinctly average; no better than at any dime-a-dozen Chinese takeout joint. Jess has a selection of soups as well, that are probably a pass unless one is absolutely dying for a shot of cornstarch-enriched liquid starch. Hot and Sour Soup is virtually undrinkable (thick, gelatinous, bland) and Egg Drop Soup is bright yellow to look at, and tastes like raw egg going down. Many thanks to the Americanized Chinese food movement for the ubiquity of these nasty dishes.
To accompany your main course, the Pork Dumplings (steamed or pan-fried) at Jess are decent, if not outstanding. The skins are much too thick, and the filling always arrives a little tough (if that is imaginable with what is essentially minced meat). These weaknesses are in part mitigated by a tangy chili vinegar dip, which one would do well to submerge each dumpling in fully, as if conducting a pool baptism. However, the Roast Duck Sandwich is a gem. Each slice of fatty duck is glazed with a delectable hoisin, and paired with crisp lettuce between toasted-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bread, this dish could feature on the menu of a more stylish, expensive restaurant–say, a Double Crown or a Hurricane Club–with nary a hoot. House Special Hong Kong Toast is similarly tasty, except instead of duck, the sandwich features slices of ham, a decadent fried egg and mayonnaise. It is a delightful spin on the more traditional egg-salad high tea favorite, and really only a smidgen worse for your blood pressure. Each bite oozes unctuous yolk and a strangely comforting briskness from tomato and lettuce – basic and balanced.
Of course, Jess bakery ultimately is a bakery too, so go wild if you are a fan of Chinese pastries and reside (as most of Manhattan does) far from Chinatown. I tend to only order Chinese pastries when I can actually see what I’m getting (written descriptions of Chinese food in English, I’ve learned, are misleading), so I steer clear of some of the more uniquely labelled items (what on earth is a “Dragon Ball”?). The more straightforward items, such as the Roast Pork Bun (Cha Siu Bao) and the Egg Tart (Dan Ta) are solid renditions, if not as fresh as their downtown equivalents – a result, perhaps, of slower turnover.
Jess Bakery has kept me satisfied and happy on many a lazy weekend. It is rare to find Chinese takeout of such quality and authenticity North of Broome Street. Delivery service is exceedingly quick, credit cards are accepted, and when the food arrives, everything is packaged neatly in separate paper bags inside a larger plastic bag. Bubble tea aficionados, fret not, your plastic cup is well taken care of – no spills or leaks to expect here. Quick and easy, convenient and addictive. Maybe I’ll stop by again after work today to check out the selection of baked goods and say hi to EY in person for the second time.