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Chinatown suggestions Please!

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Party of 7 - not particularly adventurous in the food department - looking for fun, clean, GREAT food, with a menu that wouldn't be too out of the box for their comfort levels. After reading some of Brian's old posts - I suppose I need to stipulate that I am referring to the original Manhattan Chinatown.

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  1. Congee Village

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    Congee Village
    100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

    1 Reply
    1. re: gutsofsteel

      Oriental Garden
      South China Garden
      Ping's

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

      Oriental Garden
      14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

      Ping's
      22 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

    2. All of the above, plus Amazing 66 (if it's still good - I haven't been for a year).

      1. Please listen to me.

        Congee Village is not good enough.
        Oriental Garden you will unnecessarily pay an arm and a leg.
        Ping's has not been good since 2000.

        The answer to your riddle is, as sgordon suggested, "South China Garden" located at 22 Elizabeth Street. However you should disregard this English translation and instead refer to the restaurant as Cantoon Garden, its real English name. The "South China" nonsense is just silly.

        Here is what you order- I would get more than 1 order of these.
        Lobsters with XO sauce. You get 2 lobster for $25 in the most delectable sauce.
        Peking Pork Chops
        Fried chicken with garlic sauce
        Hot Stuffed Peppers
        Maybe salt baked squid
        Maybe Sea bass with tofu casserole
        Maybe minced baby bok choi with garlic.

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        Congee Village
        100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

        Oriental Garden
        14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

        4 Replies
        1. re: AubWah

          Also, I recommend their Tangerine Beef. I would ask for it crispy. The first time I got it there, it was absolutely perfect! The second time, they didn't cook it as long, so it was good but not great, but still worth having.

          That said, it's an old, lived-in room, so bearmi may be right that this crowd needs to go to Oriental Garden and pay for the privilege. Pity.

          1. re: AubWah

            What's in a name? That which we call Cantoon
            By any other name would smell as sweet.
            So Cantoon would, were they not Cantoon call'd,
            Retain that dear perfection which they owe
            Without that title.

            I would actually posit that their "real" English name would be the one they wish to go by. After all, who are we to insist their English name isn't what they want it to be? I mean, if they wanted to keep the name "Cantoon Garden" the sign would still say "Cantoon Garden" - wouldn't it?

            But all that aside... yes, they're cheaper than Oriental Garden. But OG is, IMHO, better, particularly when it comes to fresh seafood - if you're primarily going for land critters, though, I'd agree and say might as well do SCG.

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            Oriental Garden
            14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

            1. re: sgordon

              id recommend south china garden / cantoon garden as well. here is my original post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/589457

              i'd recommend:
              - lobster in xo sauce
              - steamed garlic crab over ho fun
              - fried stuffed peppers
              - salt baked squid
              - peking pork chops
              - crispy whole chicken w/ garlic (you can get just a half
              )- snow pea leaves with crab sauce

              also there is a dish that is not on the menu (it's only written on the wall in chinese), the waiter recommended it. it's called huang long yu liang shi (yellow dragon fish cooked two ways), here are the characters 黃 龍魚兩食 (if you print it out the waiters will know exactly what you want). they will take two of the fishes (they are the better quality fish that they don't use for most of the dishes) and cook a soup where they boil meat, tofu, vegetables and then separate it so you get a dish with all the stuff they boiled and then the soup, this part is really only about the soup, you will be a very nice light fish stock, i recommend putting a little white pepper in it. Then you will get small boneless chunks of fish sauteed in a very light sauce with vegetables. it is an excellent dish

              btw their actual real name is yue jiang chun can guan which means literally cantonese river spring restaurant, but really means pearl river (famous river in china) garden restaurant

              as others said OG is a much nicer restaurant, it's been a long time since i've been there for dinner so i cant opine on their dinner quality (never go there for dim sum, it is some of the worst dim sum ive ever had)

              1. re: Lau

                Yeah, I only do OG for dinner - not dim sum. I wouldn't say it's The Worst, but it's not their specialty and there's certainly better in the area. Getting Dim Sum (or Peking Duck, for that matter) there is a bit like ordering sushi in a Japanese restaurant known for ramen or vice-versa - usually one thing is really good, the other an afterthought.

          2. Since you have mentioned "not particularly adventurous", "fun" and "clean", although I like the other recommendations here, I think Oriental Garden might be a good choice. I also think you might want to try Peking Duck House.

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            Oriental Garden
            14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

            Peking Duck House
            28 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

            1. I realize there are only a few of you here offering your advice - but it certainly seems an agreement for OG or SCG. Thanks so much - also the suggestion of Peking Duck House reminds me of how much I enjoy that - and that is always a fun thing to share with others! I will look to see if OG or SCG has Peking Duck to order - I remember (many moons ago) that some places required an advance order.

              hmmmm - so I was considering the opportunity to save some $$ because we'd probably be ordering more land stuff and go to SCG but I just spoke with both places and OG does Peking Duck SCG doesn't. So I think OG will be the place for us.

              29 Replies
              1. re: smilingal

                I would be highly skeptical of ordering Beijing Ka Ya at a Cantonese place. It's sort of like ordering Canard a l'Orange at a Neapolitan-style restaurant or ordering pastrami and kosher dill pickles at a Southern-style restaurant in the South. Why don't you order Cantonese-style roast duck, instead?

                1. re: Pan

                  Is that sliced roast duck - or more of a presentation involved?

                  1. re: smilingal

                    Sliced roast duck. It's not a multi-course meal like Beijing roast duck.

                  2. re: Pan

                    I agree... OG is more of a Cantonese restaurant... For poultry, you might also want to try the "Crispy Fried Chicken" or "Salt Baked Chicken".. These dishes are usually popular at Cantonese restaurants and they are not too "out there" for folks who are not adventurous.

                  3. re: smilingal

                    Please let us know how you like OG. I think they get busy on weekends so you might want to make a reservation. Honestly, although their food is really good, I think SCG might be a little too "authentic" for your party (it might be a "cultural shock" for them) but I think OG should be ok. If you want to save some $$, make sure you ask for prices of "Specials" at OG. Some of their seafood dishes can be quite expensive for Chinatown standard. I once ordered a Dungeness crab for about $50. It was pretty good but you might want to be specific in asking about prices (for example, if the waiter says "$25 per pound for crabs", then ask "how many pounds do those crabs usually weigh". By doing that, you can figure out the approximate cost.. otherwise, it will be a guessing game until you receive you bill!), if you are watching your budget.

                    Btw, last time I walked by I noticed that OG only takes American Express.... (and only for charges of $60 and above).. not sure if they have changed this policy but something to keep in mind if you are planning to visit. Enjoy!

                    1. re: bearmi

                      Last time I was at OG I'm pretty sure I paid by credit card - and I don't have an Amex. Could be mistaken, though.

                      1. re: bearmi

                        yes - thanks for the heads-up - I called - and they only take American Express.

                        1. re: bearmi

                          Hi there - just got back from our theater and chinatown dinner. Show was Terrific - hurry to see In The Heights before it closes - but I have to say I was not overwhelmed with Oriental Garden. It was good - We were certainly able to discern a better quality of food but given the cost it certainly didn't merit the bill. For seven of us the bill was $215 before tip. I felt that was high for Chinatown prices as I remembered them to be. The steamed dumplings (the combo) was delicious, the beef satay good, the fried shrimp good, the fried chicken pockets ok, and the stuffed spicy peppers were also just ok. Peking duck was good (nice because you can't always get that every place), the general tso's chicken excellent , the beef chowfun just ok, the crab in garlic sauce which unfortunately I didn't inquire the price (market price) so it was my own fault to be surprised with the $45 charge! was also just ok - in fact we even left a few claws over. I've had better from the local take-out places at 1/3 of the price! And I just re-read bearmi's post as I was typing this and regretted that I hadn't refreshed my memory before going today. Oh well!

                          1. re: smilingal

                            yea if thats the stuff you are going to order its silly to go to chinatown at all when you can get the same stuff near wherever you live for a fraction of the price

                            1. re: smilingal

                              I mentioned that it probably wasn't a good idea to order Beijing Roast Duck at a Cantonese restaurant, though I note you said it was good. (How many courses did they give you, by the way? Did they give you a course of duck soup and a course of duck skin, for example?) If you had asked, I would have also suggested you wait until you're at a Malaysian or Indonesian restaurant before ordering Satay. And General Tso's Chicken, although I take your point that it was excellent, is an American-Chinese dish. So, more or less as AubWah says, I would have ordered differently if I had gone to Oriental Garden (more seafood, in particular). But then again, it's been a long time since I've gone to Oriental Garden, because I'm quite content with South China Garden. I don't think that $215 before tip for 7 people is out of line, though. Oriental Garden is probably the most expensive restaurant in Chinatown, and you're talking about just under $31/person plus tip, so under $40/person total.

                              1. re: Pan

                                I agree. That is not expensive. Ordering General Tso's Chicken makes me think the OP and party are more inclined to American-Chinese food tastes.

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  yes, as I had said in my initial post, most of the family we took are not particularly adventurous and they prefer more mainstream dining.

                                  1. re: smilingal

                                    That's fine smilingal - but Brian was such an adventurous explorer in NYC (especially Chinese) when he lived here. Perhaps because you invoked his name, there was hope that a walk on the wild side was in order! No one surpasses the Chinese in the near infinite variety of tastes, textures, presentations and styles.

                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      Yes, when you go for the Americanized favorites at a good authentic Chinese restaurant all bets are off. Some may actually do a bang up job at their version of sweet and sour pork or kung pao chicken, but others just don't make the effort or don't have a clue.

                                      1. re: Chandavkl

                                        i actually find that most less adventurous eaters are usually quite pleased with real chinese food as long as you order correctly. I've taken some people who are very difficult to eat with to South China Garden and my regular order has made them big fans of the place.

                                        stay away from ordering offal, odd seafood (things that aren't straight fish or clams or something like that), strong sauces (like something that has something that is fermented in it) or anything gamey (such as lamb or rabbit etc) and you'll generally be fine

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          very true

                              2. re: smilingal

                                Awww.. similingal, I am sorry to hear about your experience. Now looking back, I think you might have been better off going to Peking Duck House on Mott Street. For about the same price, you can get some pretty decent Chinese American dishes and not having to overpay for the crab.

                                I hope you will keep trying other places in Chinatown and not give up on it. Over the years, I have tried many places and found a few that I like so I hope you will do the same. I am sure eventually you will find a "go to" Chinese restaurant in NYC, whether in Chinatown or not.

                                1. re: bearmi

                                  oh please, it has been eons ago - but in college days we certainly had our "go to" several places - boy has the area changed since then! But thanks - it was still a fun experience! I know that OG was supposed to be among the priciest - but I am wondering if Chinatown prices, in general, have caught up with regular restaurant prices or is it still considered to be cheap eats?

                                  1. re: smilingal

                                    its still cheap eats for the quality of food. when i have dinner with my gf at cantoon or shanghai cafe we get stuffed with the best stuff for $40 including tip at shanghai and about the same at cantoon

                                    1. re: smilingal

                                      its still very cheap, look at this meal i had at south china garden: http://www.lauhound.com/2010/11/south...

                                      this was $25 / person w/ beers (in fact i think we had 2-3 beers per person)....at most restaurants in manhattan considering the type of food we ordered (lobster, crab etc) this could easily cost 2-3x per person what it costs in ctown

                                      1. re: smilingal

                                        If you think about how much you paid at what's probably the most expensive restaurant in Chinatown and compare it to how much you'd pay at the most expensive restaurants in, say, Tribeca, the East Village, the Village, the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Midtown - I think I've made my point. :-)

                                        Plus, OG's pricing is really exceptional for Chinatown.

                                        1. re: smilingal

                                          Chinatown is "cheap" because over 60% of the Chinese who live there are foreign born and have less then a high school education. 50% only speak Mandarin, Fujianese or Cantonese. Wages are 50% lower than the regional New York average and fully 20% live in poverty. For more information on this check out:

                                          Kwong, Peter and Dusanka Miscevic. "Chinese America: The Untold Story of America’s Oldest New Community." W.W. Norton and Company, New York; 2005.

                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            Yes, neighborhood economics makes the food in New York Chinatown cheaper than anyplace else in the US that I've seen. Not to say that every restaurant in Chinatown necessarily caters to low income diners, but with perhaps 300 restaurants in the area competition is fierce and most restaurants can't fight the overall pricing structure. And besides the locals there's a constant stream of Chinese workers coming in and out from all over the eastern half of the US for a day or two, whether to find a new job at one of the employment agencies, to attend a wedding (Chinese living elsewhere like to come to New York to get married), or just to hang out on their days off. Since these workers are of the same economic class as many of the locals, there's the same need for economical dining.

                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                              Kwong and Miscevic would argue that any Chinatown in the USA suffers the same issues. Undocumented workers also helps to ensure that wages and prices are well below market rates.

                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                Yes, but Manhattan Chinatown is the most extreme. My guess is that there's a larger flow of new working class immigrants there as opposed to other North American Chinatowns. 5 dumplings for $1 is unheard of in Chinatowns outside of New York.

                                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                                  in Toronto Chinatown Dundas and Spadina area i had a great bahn mi for around $2.50 much less than the current going rate in NYC? Speaking of which all Ba Xuyen sandwiches are now $4

                                                  1. re: AubWah

                                                    $2.50 is the going price in LA Chinatown, too, which is heavily Vietnamese influenced. Is there much bahn mi Manhattan Chinatown?

                                                    1. re: AubWah

                                                      little saigon in orange county trumps NYC chinatown craziness for prices....my favorite bahn mi place you can get sandwiches for basically$1.25 if you order 3 (its a deal) and the quality is excellent, so much better than anything we have here

                                                      you can get a 7 course beef dinner for $12-13 per person etc etc....the viet food is amazing too

                                                      1. re: AubWah

                                                        The Banh Mi in Toronto's Chinatown are much smaller than the ones in NYC like Banh Mi So, Banh Mi Saigon and Baoguette. I could probably eat two of the former, while a single of the latter leaves me satisfied or stuffed. The Banh Mi in San Jose, CA are also smaller and cheaper. When I moved to NYC and had Banh Mi here for the first time I was surprised by how large and filling it was.

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

                                    2. Try Joe Shanghai but the chinatown one is better than the others around NYC