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Chinatown rec for the unadventurous

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I live in the burbs, where the local Chinese restaurants are tasty but not really interesting (let's not even contemplate "authentic"). I may be in Chinatown on Christmas and would like a chance to try out something a bit more exciting, but I'll be in the company of a person who's been perfectly happy getting the same lemon chicken and pork lo mein at Wo Hop or Hop Kee for the last 40 years, and is a little (!) resistant to change.

Can anybody suggest a restaurant in Chinatown (pref. on the Mott St/Canal St side, to keep my friend on familiar turf) where she can find something familiar/old fashioned, but I can also have a bit more chow-houndish fun than the same old same old again?

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Wo Hop
17 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

Hop Kee
21 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

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  1. You have a lot of options, as most of the Chinese restaurants I've been to and liked have plenty of options for the less adventurous. Congee Village serves Gereal Tso's chicken, for example, and Fuleen Seafood serves beef chow fun (which I know 'cause my cousin ordered that, and I ordered mantis shrimp, and we were both happy). At South China Garden, your friend can get sweet and sour jumbo shrimp, and you can get sauteed frog. Everybody wins!

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

    Congee Village
    100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

    Fuleen
    11 Division St, New York, NY 10002

    1. Great NY Noodletown is a good bet. Their roast items (especially duck and pork) are excellent and while I've never had their sweet and sour items, they're probably better than average for those who like such things.

      I also agree with Congee Village as a suggestion. I'd actually recommend their beef and Chinese broccoli chow mein, which is a genuine Chinese dish - the noodles are a crispy, ungreasy nest over which the good beef and Chinese broccoli are spooned.

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

      Congee Village
      100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

      1. Most of the restaurants in what I like to call the core Chinatown area (Bowery and to the west) depend in some part on tourist business so will serve both the tame and the more authentic. Contrast this to places like Flushing, the San Gabriel Valley near Los Angeles, and Richmond B.C. outside of Vancouver where little accommodation is made for non Asian diners.

        1. If you're dining on Christmas Day, I assume you're prepared for the mobs of people....

          2 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Good point.

            It's really best to get to Chinatown by 10 AM, 10:30 at the latest.

            1. re: Pan

              I've gone to South China Garden Christmas for the last 3 years, and the wait is not so bad. I usually get there at around 3:00-4:00 and never had a big problem. In regards to the OP, I recommend SCG too for your dinner. The sweet and sour spare ribs are really good, for all especially the non adventurous.

          2. I'll second South China Garden, and add Oriental Garden (a bit more expensive, better for ultra-fresh seafood) and Ping's (a bit more adventurous, as Chef Ping is one of the few major Chinese chefs in town who'll stray from strictly Chinese flavors) as well. All are places with a number of non-adventurous items, but even those are going to be much higher quality than you'll find at most places - a simple dish like, say, squid in black bean sauce will be much better at OG or Ping's than at most other places, and chowhound-worthy.

            The Congee restaurants (Congee Village and Congee Bowery) could also work, as their menu really defines "something-for-everyone" - as I recall, they're pushing over 800 items at this point. I really like CV's eggplant with salted fish and chicken - it's goopy and oily (you really need rice with it) but really flavorful, they sure don't hide that beautiful preserved fish umami if that's your thing. Was recently there with a non-adventurous eater (gf's mother) who's basically only down with sesame chicken and such - and while it's nothing I'd ever order, I have to admit it was the best sesame chicken I can remember tasting. Sweet and gloopy, yes, as the dish always is, but the chicken was actually nice and crispy and flavorful and not completely drowned in goopus.

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

            Congee Bowery
            207 Bowery, New York, NY 10002

            Congee Village
            100 Allen St, New York, NY 10002

            Oriental Garden
            14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

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