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Posts from the ‘Chinese’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Schnitzel, Hot Pot, $1 Oysters

zum stamtisch trio

Zum Stamtisch might not serve the best German food in NYC, but you have to appreciate its longevity. (The first thing I ever wrote for money in NYC–and was paid 7 to 14 times more than what I’ve been offered for blog posts in modern day–was about German bars in Glendale. Zum Stamtisch is the only one of four still standing in its 2002 form.) And commitment to Bavarian kitsch. This is not a young person’s restaurant, especially not on an early Sunday evening. Everything could use a few shakes of salt (perhaps the clientele is watching their sodium intake). The schnitzel, available in pork only, is a stellar specimen, though, with a super crisp-and-craggy breading that’s not oily in the least. The mustardy vinegar-based potato salad is also well done; the starchy chunks have a few browned edges that add a little character. There is an impressive list of after dinner digestifs that does include Jaeger and Bailey’s but also gets a little more esoteric. Forget Fernet, this is Underberg and Escorial Grün.

little sheep

Little Lamb. I’ve said this before but I’m still not sure who’s ripping of whom. Little Lamb Happy Family, which has sat on Flushing’s Main Street for some time, is a blatant counterfeit.  But Little Sheep, which opened last year and Little Lamb, which recently appeared in the SkyView Center, are cut from the same cloth, complete with flat screen TVs showing videos of the Mongolia-based chain’s origin story. Little Sheep is bigger and has a liquor license (though Lamb serve what appears to be cola in wine carafes). Little Lamb has a view of the Applebee’s, its neighbor, and was still doing a 10% off promo when I visited (both pros, if you ask me). Bizarrely, the entire seafood section had an X through it on the order form (a con). The spicy side of the half-and-half broth contained an unusual amount of cumin–I’ve never had a hot pot where cumin seeds stick to everything, and the greens in the mixed vegetable platter were kind of strange and included lettuce (I find cooked lettuce grotesque) as well as weird frilly leaved weeds I’d never seen before. Everything was pleasant enough, though if this were a competition Little Sheep would win by a (wooly) hair.

extra fancy trio

Extra Fancy has always struck me as more of a drinking establishment even though both times I’ve eaten there in the past it has been fine (if not full of loud drunken people encroaching on my space). Apparently, they are trying to get fancier with the addition of a new chef. That seemed to translate to a $35 steak special, lobster pie and more charcuterie. I didn’t even realize they did a $1 oyster happy hour, practically a requirement in Williamsburg, but it was appreciated. A chicken pate topped with a layer of cider jelly and a big dose of toasted pistachios was one of the better I’ve had of late, bone marrow with barbecue-sauced brisket and Texas toast was also fun and now makes two restaurants in a six-block radius serving bone marrow with Texas toast (see Brooklyn Star). I stuck to the shared plates, but will most likely return in the very near future because I sometimes Lent dine to appease others and live down the street.



Genting Palace

Similarly to how interest generated by Bun-Ker has
nearly as much to do with its oddball location as the food (I'm partially
guilty), the dim sum at Genting Palace inside the aqueduct "racino" garnered
a spurt of attention when it first opened. I do love a novelty (and spending
warm summer days indoors) though sadly, the food is nothing more than average.

Genting palace facade

What it does have going for it is the $9.99
all-you-can-eat lunch special. I mistakenly ordered a la carte because I wanted
to try more than the limited greatest hits (shrimp dumplings, egg rolls, spare
ribs, etc.). This meant that it took an hour to get five dishes, one forgotten,
each one trickling from the kitchen with gaps in between because the focus is
on bringing out the cart periodically, not cooking to order.

Service is well-intentioned, in the pull out the chair,
place napkin on your lap variety (you won't be given chopsticks or tea automatically
if you're not Chinese; about 60% of the diners are) but harried and forgetful.
One table barked at a server after apparently waiting 20 minutes for ice cream.

Genting palace chardonnay

It's classy. You can drink Chardonnay (or a blue

Genting palace race track view

…while gazing at the race track.

Genting palace rice rolls

Rice rolls are always a good start and I didn't even
mind eating these with a fork since I've never mastered the art of cutting into
something slippery and dividing with chopsticks. These were filled with
barbecued pork and enoki.

Genting palace shrimp dumplings

The shrimp balls coated in black and white rice a la
porcupine meatballs were ok, if not a little dense.

Oddly, I've never had such a disconnect, even in
non-English-speaking establishments, between what I thought I was ordering and
what I got (well, except when I got flower petal Jello by mistake at Tim Ho
). I accidentally ordered the same balls wrapped in fried taro strips. When
I read fried taro dumplings I imagined lacy, creamy lavender wu gok. I was so dismayed I forgot to take a photo.

Genting palace tripe

We were steered away from beef tripe, simple,
steamed with ginger and scallions. It wasn't the chewy, fatty cut I expected,
but the stiffer white variety, omasum, you find in pho. Still likeable.

Genting palace pork buns

I almost just grabbed a steamer of pork buns off one
of the carts after giving up on their arrival. These were the fluffy split
top-style, and yes, I was craving something else, the sweet, shiny baked
version that I later noticed was listed incongruously with desserts like the durian
puffs and egg tarts. I wasn't about to ask for something different at this

Genting palace sports bar menu

I wish I could've gotten the crab rangoon from the sports bar menu.


Clearly, I'm not much of a gambler. I came away with
16 cents (after losing $24.84).

Genting Palace * World Resort Casino, 110-00
Rockaway Blvd., Ozone Park, Queens




Unlike Lulu and Po or Do or Dine, which I can't
technically claim as part of my new neighborhood (they're three and two blocks
outside the Clinton Hill borders, respectively) Sapolo firmly counts. In fact, it's
one of the first restaurants I noticed because it's kind of hard to miss. A
late night favorite with the patrons of Myrtle Avenue doormen clubs, Bamboo and
SoCo (ostensibly a restaurant) and mulleted Pratt students sipping cocktails
the color of  jordan almonds, Sapolo also
represents a dying NYC breed, the sit-down Chinese-American restaurant.

Sapalo interior

And then they also serve "Spanish" food,
oh, and piña coladas in to-go cups. It's a lot to take in.

Sapolo wontons

And to digest, portion-wise. Of course, you're first
brought wontons and duck sauce to nibble on while pondering the list of
cocktails ranging from the classic Singapore Sling to the notorious Nutcracker while
checking out your zodiac on the paper placemat.

Saplo general tso chicken combo

Combos are designed for value with a big butte of
fried rice (with substantial chunks of chicken or roast pork) and classics like
the General Tso chicken pictured. This is not a poor representation of the genre
and easily a notch above corner takeout style. The brown sauce was not overly
corn-starched and gloppy and while it was sweet as one would expect, there was
actual spice. I was tempted to eat more than half the serving, which any sane
person would get wrapped up to go.

Sapolo egg roll

The eggroll comes on its own plate with a steak

Sapolo signage

Honestly, I'm not sure what you're supposed to order
at a restaurant like Sapolo. The clientele isn't Caribbean, the staff is all
Chinese, so it would seem safer to stick with lo mein and beef with broccoli than
fried plantains, paella and bistec empanizado. The window sign does tout pollo
a la brasa, though. And it just might be the biggest restaurant in the area, so I wouldn't call them liars.

Sapolo * 501 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan is famously the cheapest Michelin-starred
restaurant on earth. At least the original Kowloon location is, but there was
no way I was testing out the blog-chronicled two-hour-waits while on vacation.
I get enough of that nonsense in NYC, thanks. The snazziest branch is on the
Hong Kong side of Victoria Harbour in the IFC mall. I went for the
lesser-trafficked Kowloon location (The Guardian recently filmed a video there)
a bit higher up the subway line in Yau Ma Tei, which appeared to be a district
made up of blocks and blocks of toy and children's clothing wholesalers.

Tim ho wan yau ma tei

There was still about a 15-minute wait, but not so

Tim ho wan pork buns

This is dim sum, by the way, non-skippable in Hong
Kong even if only in town for two days like me. I couldn't even tell you the
best because there are just so many choices and it depends on if you want luxe
or old-school; many fall somewhere in the middle, and most now serve fresh dim
sum cooked on demand after checking boxes on a piece of paper instead of the
cart method that Americans have grown to like.

Tim ho wan pork bun

Often a restaurant is known for a specialty or two.
At Time Ho Wan it's undoubtedly the place for pork buns with a crackly shortening-and-sugar
enriched topping that bakes down into a barely golden, flaky crust. A softness without
fluff. I'd say they're a relative of the Mexico buns I was obsessed with on my
last Hong Kong visit. I don't consider buns chopstick food, but tried to do as
my fellow diners, using the little bowl to park it and taking awkward nibbles
before I dropped the floppy mound onto the spoon.

Tim ho wan shrimp dumplings

Hong Kong is modern, British-influenced, and all
that but there is still a substantial language barrier, and outside of the
central areas, foreigners still get stared at like you're in rural China or
something. I felt the eyes, and then a heap of trouble arose when I tried
asking for chile sauce for the shrimp dumplings.

Tim ho wan tonic medlar & petal cake

The table next to us, which being separated by
half-an-inch meant we may as well been dining with the middle-aged couple, had
a dish, so after futile attempts at asking for chile sauce I pointed at theirs.
And what I ended up with was the only thing on the fairly short menu that I
really, really didn't want to eat. I'm not crazy about eating flowers, but go
along with it at high end restaurants since it's en vogue and unavoidable, but
not with my dim sum! Um, so three wedges of the so-called Tonic Medlar & Petal
Cake were given to me. It's basically Jello with chewy bits of…I don't even
know. Apparently, medar is a fruit but these were dried petals and I think wolfberries suspended in
gelatin not fruit. Anyway, it was fine, and I ate it, but it was no cake and
did nothing for the Chinese dessert image problem.

Tim ho wan shrimp rolls

Shrimp rolls. I should've gotten the pork liver
version, but it slipped my mind.

Tim ho wan spare ribs

Spareribs with black beans.

I briefly considered getting another order of pork
buns to go, but after than medlar mishap I wasn't taking any chances.

Tim Ho Wan * 9-11 Fuk Wing St., Hong Kong

Real Cheap Eats Spring Edition: Chinatown

Bo ky cambodian noodles

The spring edition of Real Cheap Eats is live, and it's all about Chinatown(s). I'll admit that I don't spend much time in Manhattan's Chinese enclave anymore, so this was the perfect excuse to get re-excited. My contribution is about the not-really-Cambodian Cambodian noodles at Bo Ky.

Bo ky chile sauce

They also make a killer hot sauce.

Bo ky spring rolls

Serve Vietnamese-ish spring rolls.

Bo ky country style duck

And country-style duck, soy-braised with pickled radish.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Cuttlefish, Tripe & Chinese Crawfish

Celestino quad

Celestino. It's that time of year again when I play along with the boyfriend's Lent thing even though I don't get why it's a big deal to not eat meat one day a week (pizza’s not punishment, right?). You're not even restricted to vegetables. Sea creatures are totally fair game. So, Celestino, where the only meat is in the meatballs on the kids' selection of two items, was fitting. Super cute, whitewashed and hiply nautical (I still need to see Littleneck for comparison) with very good prices, it's the kind of restaurant that would be packed in Carroll Gardens, but was only a quarter full on a Friday night. A juice glass of a tart Italian white wine that wasn’t the Chardonnay or the Pinot Grigio was only $5 and bracing with oysters from Massachusetts and a kale salad, crunchy and oil-slicked with anchovies draped on top of the pile of greens. I wasn't expecting something so dense and stewy from the grilled cuttlefish with peas and polenta description–the peas played more of a prominent role than anticipated–though the damp, drizzly evening called for something savory and rib-sticking.

Rocky Sullivan's. After being traumatized by the sheer volume of under-26s at both places–Fulton Grand and Hot Bird–where we attempted to have a drink after Celestino (Hot Bird is a large space, and you literally couldn't get one foot in the door it was so packed) I sought solace in a no nonsense bar bar the next evening (this is not me being a grandma–in my 20s I didn't enjoy claustrophobic situations with 20-minute-waits for drinks either) and a Sixpoint Brownstone Ale and jalapeno poppers did the trick.

El bohemio duo

El Bohemio Jarocho. I have all but given up on house-hunting. After seeing a nicely designed, overpriced co op in Clinton Hill next to the projects that already had four all-cash bids (seriously who the fuck are all these Brooklynites will millions to spare? The crank in me says all of the 20-somethings now filling the neighborhood bars in ten more years) then a so-so whole house in Sunset Park, in hopes of less-trodden neighborhoods being less competitive, I just needed a taco…or two. I’ve never head a peep about El Bohemio Jarocho, but it happened to be on the block we parked on and had more customers than the empty alternative across the street. Sometimes you need some crispy tripe and pineapple-sweetened al pastor with Monkey Trouble playing on two TVs and no English interactions. The steak el huevo advertised on the chalkboard turned out to be a massive plate of everything (maybe a Mexican garbage plate?): steak and eggs, obviously, but also a slab of white cheese, grilled bulbous green onion, nopales, jalapeño, avocados, tomatoes, refried beans, chips, rice, and potatoes. Phew.

New world food court

New World Mall. This is the fanciest of the subterranean Flushing food courts. I didn’t encounter crawfish in New Orleans (we were about a month pre-season) but they were selling the ma la-style for $9.99 at Sliced Noodles. I was tempted, but tried the beef soup with hand-pulled noodles since it was the original craving that drew me there (though I was thinking of Hong Kong-style, which this super-greens-filled Henanese version is not).

Duck and pork buns

The dollar peking duck buns from across the street are a bargain, but pale in comparison to the not-much-more-expensive gua bao ($4.95 for two) from the Taiwanese stall. My favorite item of the afternoon: big fat soy-braised slabs of pork belly placed on fluffy buns and garnished with a pile of cilantro and pickled mustard greens, and given a crushed peanut finish. I saved one for breakfast the next day and wish this part of my daily first meal regimen instead of almonds and clementines.


China Poblano

Just as you can't really assess a restaurant's true nature based on a Christmas buffet, I can't say that China Poblano's New Year's Eve tasting menu is necessarily representative of a typical meal in Jose Andres' more casual casino restaurant. Many of the dishes served that evening aren't on the regular menu. For a traditionally price-gouging evening (if I were crazy, senseless rich I would've done the $1,300 Times Square T.G.I. Friday's event) I thought the two $45 (nine courses) and $65 (ten courses with slightly more luxurious ingredients) tasting menus were fairly priced. I ended up trying the latter.

My only issue was that dishes came out rapid-fire so that at any given moment, there were four sitting on the table at once. More like tapas than a tidy procession, (combined with a propensity for slow eating) at least half ended up being cold by the time we got around to eating them. I don't know how they would've possibly executed the four-cocktail drink pairing also being offered. So, I can't say if my favorite dishes were just the ones I happened to sample at their optimal temperature. The sense was that the staff was trying to wrap everything up by midnight.

Us, we had no desire to be on the strip to ring in 2012 as our eyeballs had already maxed out on stumbling packs of ladies squeezed into barely-butt-covering sausage casing dresses. It's one thing to be surrounded by small packs in casinos, The Cosmopolitan in particular (those ubiquitous kooky TV ads must work–or maybe it was the giant stiletto sculpture where I had to force myself not to take pictures of the girls taking pictures of themselves sitting inside the oversized shoe. Besides, Flickr is fertile ground for such shots already), but packed in among thousands felt apocalyptic.

China poblano 1

Carne Apache tenderloin crudo/ chile pasilla de Oaxaca/pickled cactus and  Traditional Sui Mai shrimp/pork/ water chestnuts/mushrooms/peanuts. The chile-spiked beef tartare was a hit, but the pork and shrimp dumplings dusted with gold leaf soon distracted. It wasn't a battle, but the tartare prevailed. The more successful–or more exciting, rather–dishes almost always were the least conventional.

China poblano 2

Ceviche de Kampachi grapefruit/ mint/serrano pepper and Hawaiian Blue Prawns with Salsa Negra prawns/chipotle chile/piloncillo/garlic. The ceviche and sweet-and-smoky prawns that almost seemed Indian, were the two favorites of the evening. Maybe I'm just responding to the micro-herbs and flower petals as haute cuisine signifiers. The green puree is a mystery; the texture was like saag but not spinach, and didn't distinctly taste of cilantro, mint, or parsley either. Neither dish was overtly Chinese nor Mexican.

China poblano 3

Carnitas Taco braised baby pig/pork rinds/ spicy salsa verde cruda and Flautas de Pato slow braised duck/mole Mihateco. The  flautas and tacos got ignored for the competing seafood above, so they weren't at their prime. (Also, I may have ruined my appetite by making a late lunch in the hotel room with carnitas and corn tortillas purchased at Mariana's Supermarket. NYC desperately needs a real suburban-style Latino grocery store, like a Hispanic Hong Kong Supermarket, not a glorified bodega.)

China poblano 4

Dragon’s Nest pan fried egg noodles/whole live lobster/shiitake mushrooms/ carrot butterflies
Twenty-Vegetable Fried Rice fresh vegetables/fried rice. The lobster (half, for what it's worth) dish was very Cantonese with the crisp-bottomed egg noodles and a light brothy soy-based sauce. We barely made it past the seafood component and couldn't even think of eating the fried rice (somehow the carrot butterflies ended up here) after a few bites of noodles. We actually brought the rice back (as well as Lotus of Siam beef jerky, jackfruit curry, and chile basil duck, and those carnitas and corn tortillas from earlier–we hate waste and love leftovers) in our luggage to NYC because there was nothing post-holidays to eat in the house. I didn't have the wherewithal to count the vegetables, though the baby turnip (more like a zygote) no bigger than a pinkie toe, was adorable.

China poblano desserts

Cajeta Flan goat’s milk caramel/pineapple and Chocolate Terracotta Warrior caramelized banana/sesame/ginger. I don't think we were supposed to get both desserts, and we certainly couldn't finish them (though I appreciated the gesture, prompted after we couldn't decide between the two). I preferred the flan simply because caramel feels lighter than chocolate. The chocolate warrior  was very impressive even if the figurine (filled with chocolate mousse, by the way) was probably not supposed to be lying down on the job.

China poblano drinks

When I first heard of the Salt Air Margarita, I imagined a glass entirely filled with foam like a Czech pilsner served mliko-style. No, the "air" is simply a layer of salty fluff atop the cocktail, that works perfectly to balance the lime juice's sourness–unless you're one of those freaks who likes their margaritas frozen with no salt rim.  Normally, I would branch out and try a different style drink for round two, but I rarely encounter sal de gusano, the chile/salt/powdered worm condiment drank with mezcal in Oaxaca, in the US. Why not use it as a margarita rim?

China Poblano is probably best experienced in small bursts. If I were back in Vegas I would likely stop in for a duck tongue and lychee taco and pork buns, two enticing things I didn't have a chance to try.

China Poblano * The Cosmopolitan, 3708 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas, NV

Hunan House

It wasn’t that I thought pupu platters and moo shu pork were Hunan food; I’d never even considered that regional Chinese food existed. And I can’t fault Gresham, Oregon or the era when I took my first job bussing tables at Hunan Garden. Even twenty years later in a city filled with actual Chinese people, we have kung pao and lo mein slingers with names like Hunan Balcony and Szechuan Delight.

Luckily, we also have restaurants representing less-celebrated corners of China like Dongbei, Quingdao and Fujian, something that not all cities in the US have. (I truly didn’t understand when in the ‘90s a Queens transplant to Portland complained about the city’s lack of good Chinese food. Many of the restaurants serving Chinese and Thai at the time were really Vietnamese.)

And finally, Hunan food. I’ve gathered from reading Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, sampling the Hunan section of Grand Sichuan’s menu and a meal at a Hunan restaurant in Shanghai, which is about as close as I’ll get to Changsha in the immediate future, Hunan food is spicy like Sichuan cuisine—some say spicier— but doesn’t use the tingly peppercorns.

Hunan house pig's ear salad

I didn’t find the food at Hunan House to be particularly chile hot. The cold pigs’ ear appetizer was mildly spiced and consisted of chewy ribbons of meat and fat lightly slicked with oil in a very straightforward presentation that was more about texture than strong flavor. I kind of missed the orange pool of oil that dresses similar Sichuan dishes.

Hunan house chairman mao's pork

Chairman Mao’s pork, a rich star anise-heavy braise of pork belly cubes with green bursts of wilted spinach and sliced scallions to trick you into thinking the dish contains healthy components, has always been a favorite from Grand Sichuan and was successful here, too.

Hunan house fish head

I had no idea fish heads were part of the Hunan canon because I’ve tended to encounter the toothy castoffs in Southeast Asia, the most famous example being Singaporean fish head curry. At first we worried that our choice was a dud. The waiter asked, “you know that’s a fish head?” But after noticing at least three other tables with the same red chile-and-scallion-smothered dish, we realized he was concerned about our non-Chinese palates (I really wanted to type palette to see if anyone would go apeshit on me).

Hunan house fish head remains

No worries, we picked the bones mostly clean, despite the fish head’s size (in Singapore you can specify if you want a small or large head) being better suited for more than two diners.

Hunan house water spinach

Ack, the stems (I completely had forgotten that I was aware of their existence and swore to never eat them). I could’ve sworn the menu simply read sautéed water spinach with green pepper, though the online version I’m currently looking at definitely says water spinach roots. Once again, I got tripped up by a Malay/Singaporean preparation of what they call kangkung. I was expecting leaves in chile sauce, not a whole platter of stems! I don’t want to make a big stink and go as far as saying I have a stem phobia (it’s like you’re being cute and drawing attention to quirks unnecessarily like in that Sloane Crosley story—a few months ago in an attempt to better myself and become more compassionate by reading things I assumed I would hate but that others love, I checked out her book from the library…and couldn’t get past the third story—where she claims to have a made-up disorder where she can’t read maps) but when I get a banh mi stuffed with more cilantro stems than leaves, I am not happy and if I make kangkung belacan, myself, I use leaves only. Stems go in the garbage, no matter how wasteful.

With all of that said, this dish that was far more challenging than a fish head, ended up being delicious. Light chile heat blended with the salty funk of black beans and hits of ginger and garlic.  I didn’t even miss the Sichuan peppercorns I had been craving at the start.

Hunan House * 137-40 Northern Blvd., Flushing, NY


Me & My Egg Roll

Earlier this week I spied a shocking development on the corner of Court and 2nd. I’m surprised I noticed it at all because normally during my home-to-subway walk I’m zombified but speedy (more 28 Days Later  than Walking Dead) rarely noticing anything in my path. There was no doubt about this, though. Even I could see that Me & My Egg Roll, the Chinese takeout place with the best name for miles, had not only re-opened its permanently gate-down, lights-out dining room, but was now advertising Vietnamese sandwiches and bubble tea on a crisp new awning.

Me & my egg roll awning

When I moved to Carroll Gardens (last week I realized I’m one-month shy of seven years, far longer than I’ve lived in any one place in my adult life. No wonder I’ve become so burnt out on the neighborhood despite the fondness everyone else in the city seems to have for it) I never would’ve anticipated a banh mi shop appearing around the corner. I’d given up on convenient tacos (do not try convincing me that Calexico and Oaxaca serve real Mexican food) and Vietnamese sandwiches after leaving Sunset Park in 2004.

Better late than never. And just because I declared a banh mi ban in 2009, doesn’t mean that I’m not happy to finally have the beloved sandwich being made four blocks from my apartment. Luckily, this work-from-home snow day coincided with their opening, so I could pop over during my lunch break.

Me & my egg roll interior

I can’t say if they’ve redecorated the dining room filled with about eight-to-ten four-seaters because I never got a good look at the dim space before (I’m fairly certain that when I did first move here, you could still dine-in).The room is utilitarian with recessed ceiling emanting colorful glowing light and a few pendant lamps for good measure, but not dreary like sitting in the one or two plastic booths you might find at your corner takeout spot. A twosome who appeared to be a middle-aged son and mother were sipping coffees (the woman asked the man if my bubble tea was a smoothie, which reminded jaded me that decade-old Taiwanese trends aren’t a part of everyone’s word) out of paper cups, a younger man was eating in and waiting a bit for his food like I was and a lot of passerbys stopped to peek inside.

You can order from the Me & My Egg Roll menu (I’ll admit that when I’m in the mood for Chinese-American takeout I choose Wing Hua because they’re the only ones who serve crab rangoon) or the new one, which devotes most space to drinks—37 of them—five sandwiches and three resolutely American salads.

Me & my egg roll banh mi

Banh mi are $5 apiece, which is fair (you don’t want me to tell you about how they were only $1.50 in Portland a million years ago again, do you?) and falls between Chinatown and contemporary Vietnamese in Manhattan pricing.

Me & my egg roll house special The house special was good for an opening day sandwich. One of the staffers admitted that they were still getting it right. Most of the components were there: lunchmeats, cucumbers, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, ground and bbq pork, mayonnaise… but the balance skewed a little sweet, maybe from a sugary pickling liquid and thickly sliced char siu. What it lacked was chiles and the pate, both mentioned on the menu. A little heat and creaminess would’ve added more dimension. Sriricha is always on my shelf, so that was easily rectified. The bread was fresh and pliable with a little chew, though not particularly crackly. Given the neighborhood, it’s probably Italian bread, not a traditional French baguette.

I realized the taro bubble tea was a mistake after I got out the door. The mauve beverage filled with brown orbs draws attention. Also, I needed my arms for balance while trudging through slippery piles of slush and navigating single-file paths carved out of feet of snow (not easy with the amount of dog and stroller traffic in the area—I really don’t enjoy playing chicken with strangers in the slush).

Me & my egg roll bubble tea

I tried squeezing past two boys, shovelers for hire, and one turned to ask me something. Oh no, I read enough police blotters to know that kids are always punching people and snatching their iPhones (I’m more concerned that they’ll discover that I only have a Cliq XT and punch me harder because it’s such a piece of shit phone).

“Where did you get that drink?” he said.

Oh, right, everyone’s into food these days. “Um, at the Chinese place down the street, Me and My Egg Roll,” I replied.

“So, it’s like a milkshake?” he asked.

“Yeah, I like it,” I said and then wondered why I said I like it instead of answering the question. I guess bubble tea is like a milkshake. Did he really need me to go on about Taiwanese tea being co-opted by Vietnamese and now sold by Chinese in Brooklyn? No, that deserves a punch.

Now I wonder if the kids who have been known to eat monochromatic fried combo meals from Styrofoam containers (and get into altercations with the staff) while gathered outside Me & My Egg Roll’s takeout door, will start asking for milkshakes.

Me & My Egg Roll * 407 Court St., Brooklyn, NY


Kim Gary

Kim Gary serves Hong Kong-style cuisine in Malaysia and Singapore. Chinese with last-century Western touches like the cheese-baked rice dishes on many tables. So many layers, so completely un-American. We ate in the middle of a mall in Penang.

Kim gary interior

You are handed like five different laminated photo-filled menus. It’s overwhelming; the food is nonsensical as it is. I’m still not clear if the diner is supposed to mark off the items they want on the black and white order sheet or if the waitress is supposed to. We let her do it.

Kim gary borsh

“Borsch” comes with the combo meals. Bastardized Russian food, the product of mid-century émigrés, still lingers in Hong Kong. I don’t think a beet had come anywhere near this soup. This was tomato-based and had a few soft carrot coins floating around.

Kim gary shanghai ribs

Shanghai ribs were nothing special, tough meat in sweetish soy sauce atop rice with corn and broccoli.

Kim gary meat fries

Meat fries because why not?

Kim gary

Kim Gary * Gurney Plaza, Penang, Malaysia