I have a friend visiting NYC from Stockholm, and she wants to go out in Chinatown for dimsum and also for dinner. I know the question has been asked a million times, but where?? Cost doesn't matter, but want lots of ambience -- the real deal!
Could you clarify "ambience." Typically we think of that as tablecloths, subdued lighting, peaceful quiet etc. But you also ask for the real deal, so perhaps I'm thinking you mean authentic Chinese restaurant ambience, which is often totally the opposite--fluorescent lighting, noise and bustle. Which one?
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You could try a variety of Chinatown experiences. A few that I like:
-- Xi'an Famous Foods for the hole in the wall experience. Only two seats there, so be prepared to take out and eat in the 88 East B'way mall. All the soups I've tried have been wonderful. It's well known for the lamb 'burgers' (actually stewed lamb or pork on flatbread) and cumin lamb noodles.
-- Red Egg or Dim Sum Go Go for more modern styles of dim sum. Red Egg is also a good place to go for cocktails. They have a happy hour with dim sum items are half off and cocktails are two for one.
-- Bubble tea (especially taro) and egg custard tarts on just about every corner. I personally really like the tarts at the Manna House Bakery on Mott St.
Note that Xi'an Famous Foods can be hard to find. It's not IN the 88 East Broadway mall itself, but rather, one of the storefronts that's part of the building that houses the mall. It is actually located on Forsyth between East Broadway and Division, across the street from the Mayor Hotel. Don't go inside the mall!
Also, is you friend looking for cart based dim sum? Or are you OK ordering off a menu? Both Red Egg and DSGG are menu based (IMO quality is higher at the non-cart places.)
Dim sum in Chinatown Manhattan is disappointing at best, especially if your guest is familiar enough with dimsum to ask for it. Chinatown Manhattan does better with soup dumplings and Fujianese, Shanghainese cuisine.