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Aug 21, 2014 11:03 PM

Anybody Try First House Garden in Chinatown?

81 Chrystie St., I believe taking over from Lucky Plaza. Only been open a couple of months.

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  1. I got a great vibe when I popped in on First House just after Memorial Day -- the restaurant had only recently opened -- but I didn't have the bandwidth for bo zai fan. Then I forgot all about it. Thanks for the reminder, Chandavki.

    Dave Cook

    4 Replies
    1. re: DaveCook

      Would be interested in your report. Won't be back there for a few months, but I did see an interesting shot of the exterior of the building.

      1. re: DaveCook

        The sign announces that they are serving authentic Taishan eel with rice casserole.

        1. re: scoopG

          Thanks. The few Yelp reviews indicate that's the main attraction.

          1. re: scoopG

            yah ive walked by this palce many times, im going to try it soon and report back

        2. First House Garden(興華第一家 - xīng huá dì yī jiā)
          81 Chrystie Street (between Grand and Hester Streets)
          New York, NY 10001

          Tel: 212-219-8868
          Open seven days a week from 11 am to 10 pm.

          Checked this place out – it’s a solid Cantonese newcomer across from the Sara D. Roosevelt Park. They opened last May and feature some Taishan specialties. Taishan is a “county-level” city in southern Guangdong and home to America’s first Chinese immigrants.

          In all nine dishes were ordered. We started by selecting a live grouper and crab from one of the several aquariums they have. My notes are not as detailed as they should be - we were a festive group and the dishes came out quickly. Service was prompt and very attentive. They also offer over 40 lunch specials from 11 am to 3:30 pm – all from $5.50 to $7.50 (for the Lamb with Bean Curd Sticks).

          Taishan Yellow Eel on Rice – this signature Taishan dish takes pride of place at First House Garden. It is served in three different sizes: Small ($20), Medium ($30) and Large ($40). The rice is first cooked halfway before being mixed with pre-cooked eel in a clay or stone pot. The pot is then fired up to finish cooking the rice. Eel broth is then served separately. While it’s a better version (more eel) than Lian Won’s in Bensonhurst it lacked the crispy bottom found there.

          Yangjiang Tofu ( 陽江 Yángjiāng). Yangjiang is a city along the South China Sea, about 100 miles from Taishan. Here, homemade tofu was braised in a delicious pumpkin sauce.

          Roast Crispy Chicken with Minced Garlic – we wanted to order the special Home-style Duck but they were out. This proved to be an excellent substitution. (I can’t compare it to Café Hong Kong’s version.) The chicken was moist and juicy with a crispy skin.

          Whole Fresh Grouper Two Ways – the meat of the grouper was served in one dish with peanuts while the skin and some of the bones were served up in another dish.

          Bringing up the rear: Hearts of Bok Choy, sautéed with garlic; Mushrooms in Stone Bowl, served piping hot; Watercress in Broth; Fresh Crab with Chili (best to eat this dish last) and House Special Rice Noodles with Seafood.


          6 Replies
          1. re: scoopG

            nice review, high on my list of places to try

            1. re: Lau

              I look forward to your report.

            2. re: scoopG

              Update: One of our group felt Lian Won's Eel on Rice Casserole was better than First House Garden. Another got the same casserole to go and it did have a crispy bottom layer.

              1. re: scoopG

                A casserole yesterday evening had a crispy bottom, too. Our waiter, Michael -- the tall thin fellow with glasses who speaks decent English as well as Cantonese -- noted with some amusement that we were keen on the crispier rice. I wonder if yours had been deliberately undercooked? In any case it couldn't hurt to make mention of the crispy bottom when ordering.

                Something we took too little notice of, until we got the check: Tsingtaos are just $2.50.

                Dave Cook

                1. re: DaveCook

                  Thanks Dave - Michael is from Fuzhou BTW.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    I imagine, then, that he speaks Fujianese, too, but the native speaker at our table communicated our thornier inquiries in Cantonese.

            3. Closed. Now replaced by Bite of Hong Kong.