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Chinatown: 456 Returns

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456 is back! 456 was a well-regarded Shanghainese restaurant with a famous Chef from Ningbo 宁波 that must have closed down more than 20 years ago. The new, five month-old 456 is serving up 沪菜 Hu4 Cai4 or the specialties of Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

Stopped in for a quick visit and there is plenty enough going on here to assure many more visits. The kitchen is in the basement and is bustling with activity.

Small h is right about their solid XLB. A steal at only $0.61 cents each. Also sampled were a delicious and huge slab of Pork Shoulder in Honey Sauce, traditionally prepared Preserved Vegetable with Soybeans and Tofu Skin and a suggested special of Fish served Two Ways.

Service was efficient and prompt.

456 Restaurant
69 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013

Tel: 212-964-0003
Fax: 212-964-3476

All major credit cards accepted. Open everyday from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. (They close at 11:00 pm on weekends.)

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456 Shanghai Cuisine
69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. how does it compare to shanghai cafe

    1 Reply
    1. re: AubWah

      Haven't been to Shanghai Cafe in five weeks. The 456 menu seems to have more American-Chinese fare like General Tso's and Beef with Broccoli. The key here is to focus in on the traditional Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu dishes. The XLB were excellent. Smaller than the Shanghai Cafe's version but thinned skin and juicy.

      -----
      Shanghai Cafe
      100 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

    2. They're doing delivery via Seamlessweb - menu here: http://456restaurantnyc.com/

      7 Replies
      1. re: sgordon

        And they are lightning fast, even to me, out here at the edge of the world.

        1. re: small h

          Damn, damn, damn. 456 no longer delivers to me via Seamless, probably because ALL YOU PEOPLE have overwhelmed them. Do you not understand how difficult it is for me to get decent Chinese food out here in the hinterlands? Move on to the next big thing already, and give me back my vegetarian duck and steamed mushroom buns. I've been ordering from 456 since 11/10, noobs! It belongs to me!

          Eh.

          1. re: small h

            are you in financial district?

            1. re: AubWah

              No, the unfashionable lowest and east-est area of the Lower East Side. If Congee Village abandons me also, I'm doomed.

              1. re: small h

                are you close to WD-50 and Katz's Deli and Lombardi's???

                1. re: kevin

                  I can walk to Katz's & WD-50 in 15ish minutes, and I would if I a) ate pastrami or b) had way more money. Lombardi's is more of a trek.

                  1. re: small h

                    ah, hence, way far down in the lower east side.

      2. hmm interesting, will have to try

        3 Replies
        1. re: Lau

          http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/din...

          1. re: erica

            Thanks, erica. Sam must be getting some of his info from his mother! And CH!

            Edit:

            She's a better writer.
            http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/about/...

            1. re: erica

              ah nice article

          2. Has anyone been by since the Sifton review? If so are they packed? I've noticed that NYT reviews have less sway these days than they used to, but this is a renewal of a sentimental favorite for a lot of people, of course.

            5 Replies
            1. re: buttertart

              Yes, this place does hold a lot of sentimental value. My parents, both now deceased, and my family used to eat at the original incarnation quite often.

              My sisters and I returned several months ago and though the food was ok. It was very clean, but not much flavor. I don't remember all that we ordered except that there was a casserole dish, XLB, Shanghai rice cake and scallion pancake.

              1. re: gloriousfood

                Interesting, thanks for the input. There's always Old Shanghai if 456 is packed with Sifton followers (if such he has).

                1. re: buttertart

                  no thanks I'll stick to Shanghai cafe they are the true masters of Shanghai cuisine in Manhattan

                  1. re: AubWah

                    To each his own.

              2. re: buttertart

                "If so are they packed? "

                They were today, at around 6:30, when I popped in to pick up a take-out menu. Every table was full,
                with about 10 people waiting.

                I'll add that this was on a day when - probably due to the holiday weekend - Chinatown was about two-thirds full compared to a normal Saturday.

                On another note, I'm down for the eel with chives.

                p.

              3. Will definitely pay it a visit...if it's anything like (or even half as good as) the old 456, it should be a nice meal. It was one of my favorites in Chinatown many years ago.

                5 Replies
                1. re: The Professor

                  I recall its original name was "Say Eng Look 456."

                  1. re: penthouse pup

                    That's the one!

                  2. re: The Professor

                    There were two similar spots. Say Eng Look (Cantonese for 456) was at 5 East Broadway. Then there was 456 which was at 1 East Broadway.

                    1. re: scoopG

                      It was 5 East Broadway ...

                      1. re: scoopG

                        Say Eng Look was @ 5 East Broadway
                        Had main floor and upstairs dining
                        Kitchen in the back of the main floor and basement as stock room

                        Sister restaurant, 456 was @ 2 Bowery
                        Had main floor and downstairs w/ sub basement housing prep stations refrigerator and pantry.

                    2. We had a brilliant lunch there on Saturday (at about 2:30, friends had waited for a table for 20 minutes - it WAS packed and remained so all through the time we were there).

                      Their soup dumplings are the best I've had in ages, small and full of soup, filling lightly seasoned and loose as it's supposed to be.

                      Their "Ningbo Fried Two Delights" is fantastic - the fish was wrapped in tofu skin and fried, giving it a brilliant, brittle crispness (I love this preparation...), and the pork was lightly battered, with a tangle of slivered hot pepper, scallion, and fried garlic on top. Oh my goodness.

                      The eel in brown sauce is excellent here, I haven't had it that beautifully prepared since Taipei.

                      The bean curd sheets with fresh soybeans and pickled veg is one of the best in the city.
                      Sautéed watercress was perfectly done as well.

                      The fish head casserole was the dish I personally liked least, but my more adventuresome table companion loved it. The broth was a bit sharp with vinegar and there was cilantro in it. Seemed more Fujian than Jiangsu to me (the bar was set really too high by a version in a slightly viscous broth tinged with tomato my Shanghai émigrée English student in Taipei made for us one New Year's).

                      The woman who was overseeing service is from Taipei as is our very nice waitress, incidentally.

                      -----
                      456 Shanghai Cuisine
                      69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: buttertart

                        Thanks for the review, buttertart.

                        I'm intrigued by the fish head casserole. Was it a huge dish? Everytime I had this in China, the fish head was humongous and took a couple of people to finish it off.

                        As for the eel, was it just a red-braised eel preparation? Were there any accompanying vegetables in this, or was it just eels? I've been looking for a good version of this dish for a while.

                        And how do the tofu sheets with soybeans and pickled vegetables compare to Tang Pavilion's rendition?

                        Were any of the dishes noticeably sweet-tasting? I have issues with Shanghainese / Jiangzhe restaurants drowning dishes in sugar. How was the sweet and savory balance at 456?

                        -----
                        Tang Pavilion
                        65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                          - It was a huge dish (in a large dosenabe pot) - there were 4 of us and a lot was left.
                          - The eel was with yellow leeks and not as sweet as usual redcooked dishes.
                          - The tofu sheet dish was very savory but not as refined as Tang Pavilion's version. Delicious, though.
                          - This was one of the least sweet Jiangzhe meals I've ever had. If you're looking for the savory side, 456 is for you.

                          1. re: buttertart

                            That's great, thank you! I'm very happy that 456 leans more on the savory side. I'll definitely go check it out.

                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                              I'd suggest going at an off time during the week, if possible. It was PACKED. We had a table near the front and people were crowding in like mad. At one point it was like trying to eat on the 6 train.

                              1. re: buttertart

                                Where the fish dumplings, just pure fish and veggies, no pork in there?

                                How are their prices, do they take credit cards?

                                And most importantly, do they gots a website?

                                1. re: kevin

                                  Prices are reasonable. No website. All major credit cards accepted. Open everyday from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. They close at 11:00 pm on weekends.

                            2. re: buttertart

                              I was just there last night and had the eel and fish head dishes, plus the Eight Jewel Rice.

                              I was surprised by how meaty the eel was. It was not at all similar to the yellow eel I grew up eating. It was still a pretty good dish, just not what I expected because of the texture difference of the eel.

                              I was disappointed by the fish head dish; it was my least favorite dish of the night too. I thought that compared to the milky, intensely flavorful broth of a proper fish head soup, the broth here was watery, by that I mean, it tasted like water. What in the world did the restaurant do to the fish stock left from braising the fish head anyway? It didn't taste like the stock made it to the broth at all. I also wasn't a huge fan of the mung bean (?) flat noddle things.

                              The Eight Jewel Rice was great. In the really old days, my family used to eat a version of this dish for New Year's. It was sticky rice steamed with various dried fruits like jujube, raisin, etc. and finally, a nice and thick osmanthus syrup was poured on top. The portion was rather large though, probably a good idea to share it among at least 3-4 people.

                              The service was quite good. When my boyfriend and I arrived, the only table available was a tiny two-top. The hostess sat us there and apologized about the cramped space. As our dishes arrived, it was very apparent that there was no way on earth our tiny table could hold all of the dishes. The fish head soup alone took up all available space. Luckily, a number of tables had finished eating and left by then. Our waitor immediately cleared the 4-top that just freed up behind us, set it up, moved everything to the new table, and apologized for the inconvenience. They were really nice and accomodating to us, all in all.

                              -----
                              456 Shanghai Cuisine
                              69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                        2. Aside from the Eel are there any other stand out seafood dishes to try?

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: MsAlyp

                            The fish fried in tofu skin is brilliant.

                            1. re: buttertart

                              is it just fish and fried tofu skin?

                              or is there pork in there?

                              accessible to the subway, within 3 blocks or so???

                              thanks.

                              1. re: kevin

                                Get both the Yellowfish Fried in Seaweed and Yellowfish Fried in Tofu Skin. They will combine both into one platter. No pork present. Not within three blocks of the subway, more like 5-6.

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  I remember the fish fried in seaweed, which, in the mid-70's we always called "little green fish." Too bad Sifton made it seem so unappetizing. It was always good in the old days, though I remember it best at Say Eng Look, across the street.

                                  1. re: DavidinNY

                                    So there was some mention of rudeness of waitstaff. When I go to Chinatown I don't expect stellar service, especially when I can't speak their language etc. I have to say though the rudeness here was a bit excessive. The waiter was what I would consider very hostile. He got our appetizer order wrong and refused to switch it or do anything. Got angry when i asked for water, he brought water half way through the meal then only one glass when there was four of us. little stuff like that. That said I would still go back and the food was good, reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was nice (linens on tables,etc).

                                    I had scallion pancakes (ordered ones with beef and egg as suggested but this is the app. waiter messed up and refused to do anything about) which were really nothing great at all. Best they were average.

                                    The soup dumplings were good- not a lot of broth BUT very flavorfull and the skin was great- finally ones thin skinned!

                                    I then had salt and pepper pork which was fresh, nicely seasoned and perfectly crisp.

                                    next time the tofu skin fish for sure!

                                    -----
                                    456 Shanghai Cuisine
                                    69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                    1. re: DavidinNY

                                      Here's a photo of the Fried Yellowfish Combo (Seaweed & Tofu).

                                       
                            2. How many orders of XLB would you get for 2 people who really love XLB? Looks like they are small enough, we may want two orders?

                              I was thinking Fried tiny buns, XLB, and the garlic eggplant for dinner tonight.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: kathryn

                                2 should do it.

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  Yes, two orders of XLB's! Kathryn, I'd suggest skipping the Fried Tiny Buns with Pork (生煎包). Eight per order and they are huge! Great on their own or for use in mopping up the juices of heartier dishes.

                                  Why not opt instead for one of their Cold Dish Combo appetizers? You can select two ($9.95), three ($14.95) or four ($18.95) of their 12 cold appetizers.

                                  1. re: scoopG

                                    Any favorites among the cold dishes?

                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      My husband isn't te biggest fan of cold meat starters, sadly.

                                      1. re: kathryn

                                        How about picking two among these then?

                                        Spicy Cabbage
                                        Seaweed in Garlic Sauce
                                        Braised Bamboo Shoots
                                        Shanghai Kao Fu
                                        Vegetarian Mock Duck
                                        Jellyfish

                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          I recently had the Braised Bamboo Shoots and Vegetarian Mock Duck combo. Their Spicy Cabbage is excellent. Freshly pickled with a good crunch. (Have some photos to put up when I get around to it.)

                                        2. re: scoopG

                                          Went there with my friend from Shanghai. He was skeptical because he heard there were too many "americans" there "or quai loh", however when we got there most of the clientele was Chinese. We had the crabmeat soup dumplings which were excellent. The tiny buns were good, fried only on the bottom it seemed and steamed on top. The pork belly stew pot with baby white bamboo shoots was delicious. The rice cake noodle dish was great. Oh, we also had a cold dish of jelly fish, which was good, no different than anywhere, Else. . The service was excellent. My friend gave it his thumbs-up. I also gave it the thumbs-up.

                                          -----
                                          456 Shanghai Cuisine
                                          69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                        3. re: kathryn

                                          Tonight we had two orders of pork soup dumplings (XLB), one order of fried tiny buns (sheng jian bao), and the spicy cabbage.

                                          Liked the spicy cabbage, maybe it was a little too vinegary for me, but the Sichuan peppercorns were nice.

                                          The XLB were decent but felt way too small. The meat to soup ratio seemed off to me. I wanted there to be more soup and less meat inside the dumpling. The soup itself felt a little underseasoned and less flavorful than, say, Nan Xiang, although it had the lightness of Nan Xiang. Better than average and not too heavy but I'd pass on these a second time.

                                          We actually LOVED their fried tiny buns (sheng jian bao). Fluffy, a little crispy, lots of scallions and sesame seeds on top. I burnt my hands and tongue eating these but absolutely did not mind. I am now on a sheng jian bao quest!

                                          Overall, it was a good dinner, with decent service for the grand total of about $22-23 before tip. Not too shabby!

                                          -----
                                          456 Shanghai Cuisine
                                          69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                          1. re: kathryn

                                            Maybe the tiny fried buns were not tiny after all! Forgot to mention you can see them in the basement making the XLB.

                                            1. re: kathryn

                                              I think the juice-meat ratio of xlb is a matter of taste. I thought the ones here were very good, though not clearly superior to others I've had (which are not superior to these). Actually, my favorite xlb's were the old ones at Excellent Dumpling, which weren't soup dumplings at all, just pork, but were wonderful. Now they've added liquid, and I miss the old ones (though the taste is not so different).

                                          2. Having had several meals here I think if you stick to the Chef's Specials, Dim Sum and Cold Dishes you will be able to feast very well. My only clunker so far has been the String Beans, Eggplant and Broccoli in a Basil Garlic Sauce. No evidence of garlic nor basil in the cloyingly sweet sauce. Their sheng jian bao are the best in Chinatown - watch out when biting into them as juice will spurt out. Their pork XLB are juicier than the Crabmeat and Pork ones. Have also enjoyed a Whole Steamed Yellowfish with Ginger and Scallions (photo did not turn out.)

                                            Slideshow:
                                            https://picasaweb.google.com/10044644...

                                            -----
                                            456 Shanghai Cuisine
                                            69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                            28 Replies
                                            1. re: scoopG

                                              that smoked fish looks delicious, need to make it in here

                                              1. re: Lau

                                                Yes you do, Lau, seriously good.

                                                1. re: Lau

                                                  It is easy to order wrong here I think and land in American-Chinese territory. . .

                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                    We had dinner here over the weekend and it was somewhat hit or miss, not, i think, because we ordered poorly and got into americanized dishes, but some of the dishes that are so lauded here (and in Sifton's NYT review) just didnt do it for us.

                                                    To start with we found the service to be totally friendly and even extraordinary (okay maybe extraordinary only in comparison with lowered chinatown standards). We were a larger group and then busily moved around tables for us, then when part of our group was a bit late and the larger round table in the back came free they insisted we move there to have a better experience which we really appreciated.

                                                    The buns were great (both xlb and "tiny" buns) though im not entirely sure how one is supposed to eat the sheng jian bao with their soupy insides and fluffy outsides - i ended up pouring off some of the interior soup and putting it back in bite-by-bite.

                                                    We had two vegetables that i thought were both very good - broccoli in garlic and spicy eggplant (no meat). Broccoli was nicely crisp and eggplant was delightfully greasy with great flavor - would order any or all four of these dishes again.

                                                    The two let downs were from the Chef's special menu - we got both the Honey sauce pork shoulder and Fish in tofu skin, and while neither were bad, both were decidedly a little disappointing. The pork was really fatty, which i wouldnt have minded but it didnt have a whole lot of flavor, it was a lot more subdued than I would have expected, and not something any of us were terribly interested in ordering again. Fish in tofu skin was well fried and not greasy, but again it didn't wow us with flavor - the small dish of salt it was served with added some interest, but I think we were just expecting some more assertive flavors.

                                                    We'll probably go back for the sheng jian bao, which i thought were just awesome - crispy, doughy, bursting with juice and just slightly greazy in a delicious way, and maybe to check out some of the cold dishes or veggies.

                                                    -----
                                                    456 Shanghai Cuisine
                                                    69 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                                    1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                      the honey sauce pork was so bland, yet overly sweet, and very one dimensional

                                                      1. re: Ricky

                                                        Yeah, its hard to describe just right. There was, overall, too little flavor, and yet the proportion of that flavor that was simply sweet and nothing else was too great. still thinking about those bao, though.

                                                      2. re: tex.s.toast

                                                        I thought 456 was remarkably mediocre--a significant step below what Yeah Shanghai Deluxe or New Green Bo were putting out a few years ago (although the service was better than YSD and much better than NGB). We had:

                                                        fried tiny buns with pork: good/great

                                                        xlb: ok (delicate, thin wrappers were nice but the actual flavor of the pork & soup was lacking compared to what I remember from New Green Bo before its decline)

                                                        sauteed pea greens with garlic: almost inedible and this is a tough dish to screw up. This should simply be greens, garlic, oil, and a touch of salt, but they included something that gave it a flowery, almost perfumed aftertaste that was fairly revolting.

                                                        turnip cake: totally different than expected (we were expecting the crispy yet soft rectangular blocks served at basically every dim sum place) but just ok. These were deep-fried dough puffs that contained a filling of finely chopped turnip, some unidentifiable meat product (pork, I assume), and threads of some starchy substance.

                                                        scallion pancake: pretty awful. Very thin (so no "layering" of dough), soaked in oil, absoultely no crispness--just chewy with almost zero scallion flavor. Tasted like really oily, thin bread.

                                                        Overall, very dissapointing. What is the consensus best Shanghainese restaurant in NYC right now? In my opinion, our current Szechuan, Hunan, and Northern Chinese restaurants (which, granted, are mostly in Queens) are just light years ahead of the available Shanghainese. Is this simply a reflection of the changing demographics of recent Chinese immigrants?

                                                        1. re: alex m

                                                          There are clearly American-Chinese duds on the 456 menu. No reason for you not have received well done greens though. Try Shanghai Deluxe Café at 100 Mott Street. They have about a dozen Shanghainese specialities that are now translated into English.

                                                          1. re: alex m

                                                            ManhattanL chinatown shanghainese has always been pretty bad, very few of the chinatown locals are from shanghai, there are some decent dishes off the menu at shanghai cafe, but alot of their dishes are bad. The other shanghainese restaurants ive been to in the city are really bad.
                                                            http://www.lauhound.com/2010/10/shang...

                                                            Flushing:
                                                            - nanxiang: i think this is the only place that serves a decent XLB in NYC and I like some of their other small eats particularly their cold apps at nan xiang
                                                            http://www.lauhound.com/2011/04/nan-x...
                                                            - taste of shanghai: i think you can get decent shanghainese food here, i'd stay away from their xiao chi type items (XLB etc) and stick to more dinner type dishes
                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/647259

                                                            1. re: Lau

                                                              Half of it is ordering right. No one does a better Braised Pork Belly 東坡肉 (Dōng pō ròu) in the City than Shanghai Deluxe Café. Nan Xiang in Flushing only serves snacks and appetizers. 456 XLB can be as good as Nan Xiang.

                                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                                I don't think 456 is great by any means but some dishes--the fish with seaweed--are certainly acceptable. Shanghai Cafe seems to have the best XLB. Anyone have a nomination for Lions' Heads? and a consensus on smoked fish?

                                                                1. re: swannee

                                                                  Swannee, have not had Shanghai Café's version in a very long time (called Stewed Pork Balls in Brown Sauce) and I've never had 456's (Braised Meatball with vegetables). The best ones I had lately were at SN (formerly M&T in Flushing). Have you had 456's smoked fish?

                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                    Smoked fish at 456 was OK, bot not great. Uncle Zhou's, completely different, is good. Anyone had it at Shanghai Taste in Flushing? I still haven't tried that place.

                                                                    1. re: swannee

                                                                      There at least kinds of Smoked Fish! There is a famous Suzhou style smoked fish that is not smoked but looks like it! It's marinated and then fried. 101 Taiwanese in Flushing serves it. SN (formerly M&T) also serves a good version of Smoked Fish seen here below (with Chicken Hearts).

                                                                       
                                                                2. re: scoopG

                                                                  agree with scoopG - you def have to know what to order

                                                                3. re: Lau

                                                                  An odd food stall 不樣點心 in the nearly defunct Flushing Mall serves a surprisingly good (clean-tasting, thin-skin) crab XLB, quite a lot better than the one at Nan Xiang, IMHO.

                                                                  1. re: diprey11

                                                                    i heard about that, some people say they are better and some people say they are close, but i'm quite interested to go try that now...such an odd time to open a stall there

                                                                4. re: alex m

                                                                  456 is fraudulent. Shanghai cafe is smart money. the stewed pork with bean curd sheets come highly recommended

                                                                  1. re: AubWah

                                                                    "Fraudulent" - ? How so? My Shanghainese friend found it to be quite typical Shanghainese.

                                                                    1. re: AubWah

                                                                      Fraudulent? Ha. Nonsense.

                                                                      Maybe your family owns Shanghai Cafe? LOL!

                                                                      1. re: The Professor

                                                                        I wish

                                                              2. re: Lau

                                                                I haven't had really good smoked fish since Joe Shanghai 's 10+ years ago in Flushing.

                                                              3. re: scoopG

                                                                Great set of reviews, Scoop. I haven't had good sheng jian bao (with both a crispy-on-the-bottom, well developed crust and lots of juice inside) in years. Do you mind if I ask you when -- what time of day, day of week -- you've been going?

                                                                1. re: michelleats

                                                                  Mostly lunches, with one dinner on different days of the week.

                                                                2. re: scoopG

                                                                  That scallion and hoisin beef pancake wrapped with egg is quite good. Based on what I spied on other tables, the classic rice cakes with seafood looks really good, as does a preserved veggie and tofu skin dish that looked jiggly and amazing.
                                                                  p.

                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                    Ah, sorry Scoop, I should have viewed the entire slideshow before posting. You indeed got a shot of that preserved greens and tofu skin dish. That's going on my shortlist.
                                                                    p.

                                                                    1. re: Polecat

                                                                      Has the place been packed when you've gone?

                                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                                        Sorry for the late reply - only went once, on a weekday afternoon for lunch, and it was pretty crowded.
                                                                        P

                                                                  2. My father used to frequent the old 456 as a teenager, so my (jewish) family of six is headed there this weekend. Would anyone mind throwing us a good list of non-american-chinese greatest hits to try out? Preferably light on pork - most of my family isn't a fan.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: ychasin

                                                                      The fish fried in beancurd sheet is quite wonderful (if you haven't been there yet).