Anybody Try First House Garden in Chinatown?
81 Chrystie St., I believe taking over from Lucky Plaza. Only been open a couple of months.
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
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.
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.