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Manhattan with 8 year old lover of Asian foods

Hello! My 8 year old daughter and I are visiting Manhattan next weekend, and looking for where to eat (maybe we'll hit a museum or two, but truly, the foods the thing). I've asked her what she wants to eat, and aside from doughnut plant and pickles, she is insisting on Asian food. We live in Charlottesville, which has borderline decent Japanese food, but pretty terrible Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese food. I'd love some recommendations on where we should go, bearing in mind that her palate is sensitive to spice. I'm looking for something memorable, and we are both fairly adventurous, though she refused intestine and tongue when we were in Italy, so perhaps not too adventurous...

Thanks so much!

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  1. Dim sum - a place with carts rolling around will be more memorable but the Manhattan places with carts are not as good as the Manhattan places where you order off the menu. I've had OK dim sum at Jing Fong and Oriental Garden (I'd avoid Golden Unicorn & Ping's), but greatly prefer either ordering off a menu (Chinatown Brasserie, Red Egg) or going to Flushing, Queens (higher quality).

    Sietsema of the Village Voice is fond of a dim sum place with carts, Royal Seafood, 103-105 Mott, FKA Oriental Pearl FKA Dun Hua Seafood. I've not been, though.

    BTW, you can still do Sichuan if you want. I'd go to Grand Sichuan St Marks or Chelsea and order eggplant with garlic sauce (I think they can make it non spicy), cold cucumber in scallion sauce, and smoked tea duck.

    I'd also do:

    Lanzhou style Hand-Pulled Noodles (some places make the noodles by hand in plain view):
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/492376

    Great New York Noodletown (if she isn't turned off by the display of meats in the window), their roast duck and pig are really good:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/678367

    A-Wah (rice in a claypot is a little interactive in that you have to mix it up yourself):
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/702145

    Or Noodle Village also for rice in a claypot and shrimp wonton soup.

    -----
    Great New York Noodletown
    28 Bowery, New York, NY 10013

    Noodle Village
    13 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

    Oriental Garden
    14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

    Golden Unicorn
    18 E Broadway, New York, NY 10002

    Jing Fong
    18 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

    Red Egg
    202 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

    A-Wah
    5 Catherine St, New York, NY 10038

    Royal Seafood Restaurant
    103 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

    6 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      If you're up for Sichuan, I'd recommend Lan Sheng on 39th St between 5th and 6th. Asian inspired (but not really Asian) momofuku ssam bar has amazing food.

      -----
      Lan Sheng
      60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

      1. re: rose water

        Does Lan Sheng have good quality non-spicy dishes? I was recommending Grand Sichuan based upon my familiarity with the menu and the non spicy dishes there (whereas I don't think the nonspicy dishes I've tried at Szechuan Gourmet are anything special).

        -----
        Szechuan Gourmet
        21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

        Lan Sheng
        60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

        1. re: kathryn

          I've never been to Lan Sheng but couldn't agree more with you on Grand Sichuan vs. Szechuan Gourmet.

          1. re: kathryn

            Don't know if you'd think they were special or not, but I enjoyed Lan Sheng's cold cucumber in scallion sauce, the sauteed pea shoots with garlic, and the sauteed green beans with ground pork (and really enjoyed their spicy fare, including dan dan noodles, and their chicken with capsicum). I can't really compare to Szechuan Gourmet, which I know many on these boards love (I've only eaten there once, years ago, and wasn't blown away).

            -----
            Lan Sheng
            60 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

          2. re: rose water

            Lan Sheng pales in comparison to Szechuan Gourmet in both quantity of dishes offered and quality of taste.

            -----
            Szechuan Gourmet
            21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

            1. re: scoopG

              Szechuan Gourmet is arguably the best Chinese restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, and it has a nice decor too. (OK, I would agree that dan dan mian is better at La Sheng, but that's about it). The problem is that Sichuan food is usually hot and sometimes oliy, but the staff is very knowledgeable and should help you choose.

              The idea is not to to try to dumb down their famous spicy dishes, but to choose from great non-spicy ones (well, you can order one more spicy dish for comparison). Off the top of my head:
              (i) steamed striped bass with minced pork;
              (ii) braised dou miao with garlic (I never had a better rendition outside of Asia);
              (iii) tea-smoked duck;
              (iv) tofu wraps with mushroom and bamboo shoots (an appetizer);
              (v) braised bai cai with ham and scallops;
              (vi) stir-fried beef with scallions and sweet miso.
              As you can see I eat there often :)

              -----
              Szechuan Gourmet
              21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

        2. Vietnamese:
          Sau Voi for takeout bahn mi, Thai Son for caramel pork and fried calamari.
          Japanese street food (not sushi):
          Village Yokocho or Kenka (free cotton candy!) both near Astor Place.
          Congrats on having a great young dining companion: I was an impossible picky eater as a child.

          -----
          Sau Voi
          101 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013

          Thai Son
          89 Baxter St, New York, NY 10013

          Kenka
          25 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

          Village Yokocho
          8 Stuyvesant St, New York, NY 10003

          3 Replies
          1. re: pessoa

            I'd say that Yokocho is a little more kid appropriate. At the very least it doesn't have a stern warning about the "vomit fee" and "broken glass fee" on the menu like Kenka!

            1. re: kathryn

              lol I'm pretty sure they started that vomit fee from my friend who probably also broke the toilet in the bathroom that same night. does 1.50 mega mugs are dangerous.

            2. re: pessoa

              I love Kenkas but I dont think Kenka is a good suggestion, for an 8 year old. the food is not great and it can get quite crowded and loud. You can probably go in and give the hostess a dollar for the cotton candy machine outside.

              -----
              Kenka
              25 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

            3. Hey I have spent alot of time in C-ville and the chinese food really is horrible. One of my favorite stories is years ago we ordered delivery from Asian Express to a friends apartment and some of the food was so bad I tossed it off his balcony into the woods. Later I saw a stray cat approach the food, smell it, and move on without eating any. For a casual meal let me suggest Great NY Noodletown in chinatown. Fantastic traditional hong kong style roast meats and soups. For a more upscale meal I suggest Cantoon Garden at 22 Elizabeth Street. The twin lobster special is a great treat at $25, tons of meat. Get it with XO sauce. If you want something more central, try Szechuan Gourmet on 39th street.

              2 Replies
              1. re: AubWah

                Isn't Cantoon Garden now known as South China Garden?

                -----
                South China Garden
                22 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                1. re: kathryn

                  Yes.

              2. Given that you're comparing to Charlottesville, if you don't want to go downtown, Cafe Evergreen has a dim sum brunch/lunch with the rolling carts on Sundays. Not spicy, nice space. Admittedly, this isn't the chinatown ambiance/social experience, but that said, a surprising number of asians and asian-americans frequent this restaurant. It's on 1st Ave. & 69th St. I think it gets the whole medical/scientist/researcher crowd from Memorial Sloan Kettering, NY Cornell Med Center, & Rockefeller University who work and live in the neighborhood.
                http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/...
                You're a quick crosstown bus ride to any of the museums from there.

                -----
                Cafe Evergreen
                1288 1st Ave, New York, NY 10021

                1 Reply
                1. re: Jane A.

                  what about the quality of the dim sum?

                2. Joe's Shanghai (Chinatown) for soup dumplings, Pell Street
                  Saigon Bakery for bahn mi, summer rolls, Grand St/Mott St
                  finish with cannoli at Ferrara on Grand Street
                  OR
                  Il laboratorio del gelato, orchard street

                  -----
                  Joe's Shanghai
                  9 Pell St, New York, NY 10013

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: Chuck Lawrence

                    Il Laboratorio closes early (5pm or 6pm?) and isn't a good after-dinner spot.

                    I like the freshly filled cannoli at Rocco on Bleecker more than the ones I've had in Little Italy.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Il Laboratorio closes at 6pm but the OP said nothing about after dinner. Both it and Little Italy are of close proximity to Chinatown, and may be of interest to an 8yr old. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard is another possibility, with flavors not found in Charlottesville.. Then again, the kid might not like ice cream or sweets!

                      -----
                      Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
                      65 Bayard St, New York, NY 10013

                      1. re: Chuck Lawrence

                        for dessert with asian flavors I would do Spot, they just updated their menu and I have heard good things. Kyotofu is also good asian dessert place. If you decide to go to Spot you can also get bahn mi at Baoguette, though I haven't had bahn mi in awhile and am not sure which is best, but i do enjoy the bahn mi there (everything else is eh). You can also check out Xian famous foods which is near by.

                        -----
                        Kyotofu
                        144 W 18th St, New York, NY 10011

                        1. re: daffyduck

                          Caution about Xian: Most of their stuff is very spicy and more or less oily. Can be fairly salty, too. And the only non-spicy item I've tried so far (the lamb soup) was not very interesting, just lamb broth and some lamb, but not much taste, really.

                          1. re: Pan

                            Yeah that's true. I've only been to the flushing location which has pictures of their dishes making it easy to see which items are spicy (i'm not sure if the east village has the same) Since the OP daughter is 8 yrs old I assume she cant eat that much. what i had in mind was a little mini east village asian walking tour, first stop by Xian for a lamb burger (i find the pork one dry), then walk over to Baoguette for a bahn mi (tell them you don't want it spicy), and head over to Spot for dessert. Spot is not skimpy on their portions even though it's dessert tapas so I think this would be enough food especially with an 8 year old. But if you're still hungry you can head over to Momofuku Noodle bar.
                            Also I know you said no Japanese but if you never had takoyaki I love Otafuku which is right around there. My friend told me the cheese ones are insane but I've never tried them, they always seem to be out of cheese when I go.

                            -----
                            Momofuku Noodle Bar
                            171 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003

                            Otafuku
                            236 E 9th St, New York, NY 10003

                            1. re: daffyduck

                              A lot of food professionals and educated consumers consider Baoguette a joke, so why bother in a city with so many offerings? I would go to Banh Mi SSo. 1 Saigon at 69 Broome St instead. It's not thrilling, but it's a good option.

                              Momofuku is a great suggestion. You should also go to Baohaus on Rivington for a interesting taste on Tawainese street food (specifically, gua bao).

                              Grand Sichuan is good for Manhattan, but nothing like the SIchuan I had in Shanghai much less Flushing, Queens. The Ma Po Tofu just does not compare, but is adequate.

                              Eddie Huang of Baohaus also runs Xiao Ye at Orchard St and Houston, a sit-down joint which is reputedly very good. Has anyone been here?

                              http://turntableskillets.wordpress.com

                              -----
                              Xiao Ye
                              198 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002

                              1. re: NewYorkNewHaven

                                Do you like the mapo tofu at Szechuan Gourmet? It's much better than the GS version (but I think GS has better dan dan mien and wontons in red oil). Note to the OP: all of these dishes I just listed are spicy.

                                -----
                                Szechuan Gourmet
                                21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

                                1. re: NewYorkNewHaven

                                  I think Baoguette is OK for an inexpensive, tasty sandwich in the neighborhood (not as a place to travel far to), but I've preferred Banh Mi Saigon in the past.

                                  -----
                                  Banh Mi Saigon
                                  198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                                  1. re: NewYorkNewHaven

                                    Despite (of maybe because of) the higher price, I think Baoguette tastes better than Banh Mi So or Banh Mi Saigon. The ingredients used seem to be of higher quality. I always stick with the original Baoguette sandwich, though.

                                    -----
                                    Banh Mi Saigon
                                    198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                                    1. re: Humbucker

                                      I usually have the chicken, catfish, or "Sloppy Bao." I also like the papaya salad and some of the other appetizers and sometimes get bun bo.

                                      1. re: Pan

                                        But, really, if the OP wants the best banh mi, Chinese of varying sorts, pho, etc. the city has to offer she should go to the outer boroughs. So, are you willing to do that? Flushing is only a 30 minute 7-train ride from GCT and well worth the trip.

                                        1. re: NewYorkNewHaven

                                          The best banh mi is found in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Lots of discussion on the outer boroughs board...

                                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                                            I didnt know that the best banh mi is in sunset park brooklyn, is the best pho also there too?

                                    2. re: NewYorkNewHaven

                                      Banh Mi So 1 and Saigon Bahn Mi are both leagues better than Baoguette.

                                      1. re: MVNYC

                                        I found the pork at Banh Mi Saigon gristly and tough compared to Baoguette. Both places are much skimpier with the pate (my favorite part of banh mi) than Baoguette. I really hate to admit that I like Baoguette the best since it's pricier and more corporate feeling, but it's just too good.

                                        -----
                                        Banh Mi Saigon
                                        198 Grand St, New York, NY 10013

                                        1. re: Humbucker

                                          I found the opposite to be true. The meats at baoguette lacked taste and were pretty bland overall. Way toned down compared to Chinatown or Brooklyn options. The bread also lacks the nice crustiness that one likes in the sandwich.

                          2. re: Chuck Lawrence

                            I'd skip the long touristy lines for soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai and head straight for the XLB at the Shanghai Deluxe Cafe at 100 Mott Street.

                          3. If she's really sensitive to spice, you should go for Cantonese and Chao Zhou/Teochew cuisine. I'm not sure why kathryn didn't mention Dim Sum Go Go among the good dim-sum-to-order places (no carts). I think it's reliably good, except for buns, and more consistently good than any other dim sum house I've been to in Manhattan, except for Chinatown Brasserie (which I haven't been to in a few years but which was fabulous both times I did go). Red Egg is a clear #3 to me, because while they have some very good items, more of the things I've had there than at Go Go have been pedestrian. I'd recommend all three over any of the big eating halls with the carts, though.

                            I definitely second the recommendations for Great NY Noodletown. Get barbecued items, such as roast duck or/and pork, congee or noodle soup (I've been disappointed with the freshness of the shrimp wontons lately but recommend most anything else), side dishes such as the beef stew, the ginger-scallion lo mein, or/and dishes with Chinese chives or pea shoots.

                            If you want to try Chao Zhou food, go to Bo Ky (two locations) or Chiu Chow. If you go to Chiu Chow, my favorite noodle soup there is the chicken curry one, but it's spicy, so not for your daughter. They also have good duck. Bo Ky has loads of soups, a much wider selection than Chiu Chow, and everyone has their favorites. I like the ones with several different kinds of balls (shrimp, beef, fish).

                            I also second the suggestion of one of the Grand Sichuans. You could actually get a somewhat spicy dish as one of the items and see whether your daughter can handle it a bit, as long as you get other things that are mild. The Smoked Tea Duck is excellent, and so are the cold asparagus or cucumber dishes (or get the similar cold jellyfish dish if your daughter is adventurous enough, and tell her it is pleasantly chewy and not slimy like jelly). The Sichuan Wontons with Red Oil are not as spicy as they sound because the sauce is not pure red oil but a mixture that includes red oil. If you decide to go, I'll look over the latest version of the menu and make more recommendations. I know the shredded potato is excellent, but I think at least the St Marks location discontinued the sweet potato, which was very good. They still have the Pumpkin with Ginger and Scallions, which is worth getting.

                            -----
                            Dim Sum Go Go
                            5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

                            Chinatown Brasserie
                            380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                            Red Egg
                            202 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Pan

                              You know, I've posted questions to various forums over the years, and NEVER gotten such a glorious response! Thank you so incredibly much for all your ideas (and the good laugh about Asian Express). We are by no means limited to just Asian food, and would be happy to partake of other foods. Though truly, I'm wishing now our trip was a month, as we won't even make a dent in this list.

                              Not to be greedy, but I am wondering if anyone has suggestions for Thai or Malaysian? I'll read over the suggestions more closely to see if I missed any...

                              1. re: mdamiani

                                The thing is, good Thai food is mostly very spicy, and if you go to a really good Thai restaurant and tell them to tone down the spice, they are likely to tone down the rest of the taste, too. That sort of thing has happened to me at the original Wondee Siam (if you go there, the best things are on the "Secret Thai" menu, but I don't think your daughter can handle the things I've had there). Malaysian food mostly should be quite spicy, too, but usually isn't in New York. I think you could probably have a good, relatively mild meal at Laut (and I'd recommend sticking with Malaysian items there because those are their specialties), although the best Thai and Malaysian restaurants are really in Queens, and if you want to know about those, post to the Outer Boroughs board.

                                -----
                                Wondee Siam
                                792 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019

                                Laut
                                15 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                                1. re: mdamiani

                                  For Malaysian, try Laut. Nasi lemak (coconut rice), roti canai and chicken rice are not spicy. For a lot of dishes, the spicy sambal is served on the side, anyway, so you can control the amount of heat your daughter gets.

                                  -----
                                  Laut
                                  15 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                                  1. re: duckie

                                    In Malaysia, Nasi Lemak and Roti Canai are spicy. In New York, it's just about impossible to get Roti Canai with really spicy sauce, but there are some other places outside of Malaysia where you can get that; I did in London's Chinatown last August.

                                    Anyway, you're right, in this context. Laut makes their Malaysian food rather spicy for me, but that's because I speak Malay with the waitstaff and they know me and my taste.

                                    -----
                                    Laut
                                    15 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                              2. Laut was going to be my recommendation for Thai/Malaysian food but I see someone beat me too it! They were just awarded a Michelin star too, so you know they're good. ;)

                                Your daughter may also like Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue–both fun, Asian-inspired places.

                                -----
                                Fatty Crab
                                643 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

                                Laut
                                15 E 17th St, New York, NY 10003

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: loratliff

                                  A Michelin star? Really? That's astonishing! Laut is good, but no way is it good enough to deserve a Michelin star - I had much better Malaysian food more cheaply in a hole-in-the-wall in London's Chinatown last summer - and if they gave it one, that just confirms to me how little they understand Southeast Asian cuisines.

                                2. Oh, I also like Noodle Bar on Carmine Street. It's a good, slightly fast food-ish Asian place, but it's cheap and great for a quick lunch.