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Jan 23, 2013 03:35 PM

Wither art thou, South China Garden?

Now that South China Garden (sigh, previous visit was so amazing that we went twice in a four day visit-- is 86, do any places serving any cuisine in any area of Manhattan stand up equally or near to?

For our upcoming short trip, a sojourn out to my native Queens appears a tough sell. Many thanks in advance.

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  1. Congee Village is always dependable.

    1. Of the Cantonese in Chinatown these days, Fuleen has been the most consistent of late. They're a little different than SCG - more focus on seafood - but excellent, with some creative and unexpected dishes you don't find elsewhere among the Casseroles and Chef's specialties.

      Ping's can be good sometimes - also creative and significantly "cheffier" - though they're up and down. Some of Chef Hui's flights of fusion fancy work (like his fantastic Jicama Siu-Chow) and other don't (there's one dish that was, like, spaghetti with ketchup or something... reminded me of Tokyo teenager food you'd find on St. Mark's, only without Kewpie Mayo drizzled all over it...) - but for the classic dishes they're always pretty solid. I find them better at dinner than lunch, though.

      There's always Oriental Garden, which is good and everything's super-fresh but I just find Fuleen a bit more exciting. OG, at least lately, I've found almost a bit too polished.... I always appreciated that Chef Wong didn't have such a heavy hand with sauces, and a more subtle palate - but a couple dishes I've had recently have gone beyond "subtle" and straight into "bland" territory. Still, they're always in the rotation - their oysters with ginger-scallion sauce are still the ones to beat, for me.

      1. in short answer not in manhattan, i unfortunately feel like chinatown is dying a fast death

        i agree with sgordon that if i were to pick a place now it would be Fuleen, i also agree with sgordon that the ingredients at OG are pretty decent, however i dont think their cook is very talented and i find their food to just be decent

        you are in luck though if you decide to go to flushing. I like Imperial Palace / East Lake more than SCG and I also thought that Lake Pavilion was quite good

        9 Replies
        1. re: Lau

          The familiar Cantonese flavor profiles and prominence of seafood and chicken at Imperial Gourmet make it a better choice than Fu Run for the character of the party--three businessmen of a certain age, two of whom have well traveled and adventurous yet somewhat inexperienced palates.

          Should Flushing prove infeasible, however, the fall back is the midtown central Sichuan ghetto. Would we fare best at Szechuan Gourmet, China Cafe or La Vie en Sichuan... or...?

          1. re: Steve Drucker

            those are three hugely different chinese cuisines (cantonese, dongbei and sichuan), which don't have much in common aside from the fact that they are located in china. probably best to decide which of the cuisines you want and go from there?

            1. re: Lau

              Choice is less about the cuisine than about the logistics. Nevertheless, here's how it lays out.

              Imperial Palace in Flushing:
              --Familiar flavor profiles
              --Seafood freshness
              --Often moderate salt levels
              --Easy shot by car for a key attendee who originally hails from Queens.

              --Largely familiar flavors
              --Eating crabs entails using one's fingers to suck the flavor from the shell
              --Salt levels can be high, depending on who is cooking
              --7 train for me, end to end.

              Sichuan (Szechuan Gourmet, China Cafe, La Vie en Sichuan...?):
              --Vigorous flavors
              --Extensive familiarity with the oeuvre which facilitates ordering for the group yet still engenders an intensified sense of adventure
              --Easy midtown central location for me, and also for another attendee arriving by Metro North.

              --Too much ma la can be a shock; it's often accompanied by ultra high salt levels
              --The variety and preparations are new.
              --Quality of any of the choices doesn't seem as well plotted as Flushing Cantonese and Dongbei options.

              Fu Run:
              --Many of these dishes I've had before while in China, especially the 'Muslim Lamb' which is sure to be a hit
              --Total adventuring, great for me.
              --At least it's close to the 7 train at Main St in Flushing; and just a door or two down from a now departed place I frequented in my youth, 'Old Roma'--heck, it could be the old 'Old Roma' in which case high score for nostalgia.

              --In a new place, I'm sure to hit a few clunkers
              --These are New York suburbanites who have been eating 'Chinese Food' their whole lives and may feel a somewhat uneasy in a 'linoleum joint'
              --The 7 train is 30 minutes, about the same time as schlepping to Penn Station for the LIRR.

              Can a 'Chinese car' from Grand Central to Flushing Main St. come in at $25? If so, what shall I google?

              1. re: Steve Drucker

                just call new golden horse (jin ma) 718-762-8888

                why not just go to hunan manor? i like it the best of any chinese restaurant in mahattan. its spicy but less so than the sichuan places and not as salty. i think its less of a shock to those not familiar with chinese food. the decor isn't amazing, but it's passable and the staff is nice.


                1. re: Lau

                  Hunan Manor is close by.

                  We went a year ago xMas eve and were less than impressed. That said, it was within ten minutes of closing and there were only two other tables finishing up. Perhaps it's time for a Sat afternoon return visit?

                  1. re: Steve Drucker

                    hmm i'd be careful about lunch almost all the chinese restaurants in NY seem to have their B-level chefs on at lunch, ive noticed material drop offs in quality at lunch at most of these places, so i dont usually eat at them at lunch. For example Imperial Palace is very mediocre at lunch, i ate there a few months ago for lunch and if i didn't know better i wouldve said this place isnt worth your time

                    re: Hunan Manor - follow my post in terms of what to order and i think you'll be happy

                    1. re: Lau

                      Hunan Manor. Or maybe Mission Chinese then.

                      In any event, exc 411. Many thanks. Come to ATL or Chicago and I can return the favor.

                      1. re: Steve Drucker

                        btw just as an fyi Mission Chinese is an absolute disaster in terms of waiting times. I walked by it yesterday at 5:45pm on my way to drop off my dry cleaning (i think they open at 6pm) and I'd say there was a line of about 60 people

                        1. re: Lau

                          Mission Chinese takes some reservations via email.