poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie


Christmas in Chinatown, Part II

After less-than-stellar meals at East Market and the Peking Duck House, my expectations for the rest of my Chinatown meals were not very high. Thankfully, my hopes were rescued by awesome experiences at Great N.Y. Noodletown and 9 Chatham Square.

Roasted meats sold by the pound.

We arrived for a Sunday lunch at Great N.Y. Noodletown with a group of 10 . The only downside of the meal was that we had to sit at 2 separate tables because this restaurant is small. But the service is fast (and brusque), so the turnover is quick. I was told that their shrimp wonton noodle soup was the house specialty, so who was I to resist? Plus, y’all know how much I love noodles!

My bowl of shrimp wontons with egg noodles and just a dash of hot sauce. Delish!

Each noodle soup was between $5-6 — a great value considering: 1. the size of the bowl; 2. the quality of the broth and noodles; 3. (most importantly) the number, size, freshness, and tastiness of the shrimp wontons. There were 5 (or 6?) huge wontons in my noodle soup and each wonton was perfection. Seriously — I’m salivating as I recall those wontons. *sigh*

Shrimp wonton + roast pork bbq noodle soup. They definitely don't skimp on the good stuff.

Yet another wonton noodle soup, this time with roast duck. Yum.

Others in the group ordered different kinds of noodle soups and fried noodles, each with lots of flavor. In the end, the tab for our party of 10 was like $50 (pre-tip?). Amazing.

Seafood fried noodles, with chow foon (fried wide noodles) in the background.

After lunch, and with a long drive back to Maryland ahead of us, we stopped by 9 Chatham Square for coconut buns and bbq roast pork buns (char siu bao). For days, my family raved about the coconut buns, but as I had missed out on the first batch, I took their words with a grain of salt. I was also, admittedly, a little intimidated by the pushy crowd at the bakery corner/take-out window so I let my bro-in-law do the heavy lifting. (Thanks, B!) He emerged with a dozen coconut buns and 6 pork buns. At 70 cents each, the coconut buns were among the most delicious things I’ve ever had. They were hot and melty, sweet and a little savory… and probably loaded with fat, but who cares? For a quick second, I fantasized of buying their recipe and opening a chain of coconut bun franchises, modeled after Krispy Kreme. Though I’d have to think of my own version of the “HOT NOW” neon sign. Feel free to add your suggestions below.

All sorts of delicious baked goods. So close, yet so far away.

A whole box of warm coconut buns.

Soft bun stuffed with warm coconut. Get in my belly!

9 Chatham Square is also known for their cheap dim sum, but we didn’t eat there so I can’t speak to that. From what I could see, the dining room seemed fairly disorderly/chaotic so be forewarned. My advice: run in and scream, “I want X coconut buns!” Then pay and run back out as soon as you can.

So, next time you’re in NYC Chinatown and a little low on cash (or even if you’re not), be sure to stop in at these two fabulous places!

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Christmas in Chinatown, Part I

Sincere apologies for being the slackest blogger ever. I have no real excuse, except that I was lazy and busy… all the usual suspects. It’s especially shameful that I still have material from Christmas (Christmas!). But enough complaining… on to the post!

I spent Christmas and the days following in New York City and we went into Chinatown for one meal everyday.  I think I’ve only really eaten in NYC Chinatown a couple of times, so this was pretty interesting. On Christmas day, I met up with my family after Christmas Mass for dim sum at East Market. It was a no-frills, affordable place with spotty service and dated decor. Some of our food was cold and when we went up to the hot station for daikon cakes, the lady frying them kept yelling, “They’re not ready yet!” when we asked her when they would be ready. Grrr. As you might be able to tell, I was not pleased. But, like I said, it was super affordable and fast. It ended up being less than $10/person, which in NYC is a steal. Sorry, no photos. I was not moved to take any, except of the awful decor, but I decided that I’d rather not.

The evening after Christmas, LO had arranged for a big group dinner at Peking Duck House. I noticed a few interesting things immediately. First, we were the only Chinese people in the two-story restaurant, which is never a good sign of authenticity. Second, the Chinese banquet menu was very different from the English one. Overall, I thought the meal was good but not great. The standard banquet items, such as the lobster with ginger and scallions and the cold appetizer platter, were just so-so. I’ve definitely had better elsewhere. Moreover, the Peking duck was especially disappointing, given that it’s their signature dish. The duck was ok but not great and the pancakes were too thick for my taste. On the other hand, there were some dishes that weren’t your typical banquet food, such as the pulled pork on a bed of greens and the abalone mushrooms on bok choy hearts, that were really great. My sister and I both agreed that those were the standout dishes. Scroll through the gallery for more details and description of each dish. Apologies for the wonky color on a lot of the photos; the lighting in the restaurant was not particularly conducive to my picture-taking.

Oh, I guess it’s worth mentioning that the decor is quite nice and the service is attentive. Let’s be honest — both are usually lacking in the Chinese restaurant experience. My advice/conclusion? Go to another restaurant with more Chinese people. Then, just point to what everyone else is eating and say, “I’ll have some of that!”


A Historical Tour of Lower Manhattan, Foodie Style

I know what you’re thinking. “She STILL has material from NYC?! From AUGUST?!” Never fear, my readers, this is the last post about NYC. It’s ridiculous how backlogged I am, but now that I’m done traveling and finished with my grant (thank goodness), I hope to be blogging more regularly.

On my last full day in NYC, RS and I headed to the Essex Street Market in the Lower East Side. According to their website, the market was established in 1940 to organize the pushcarts and vendors into one location. Unfortunately for us, 10:30am on a Monday morning wasn’t exactly a bustling time at the Market, as most vendors were just beginning to set up shop. It’s basically a bunch of different kind of food vendors (produce, cheese, specialty items) under one roof.

Without any particular purpose or destination, we kept walking. We happened to pass Katz’s Deli again, which was much less busy compared to my experience just a couple of days before. We then walked past Russ and Daughters, which caught my eye previously but didn’t get a very good look. RS and I stopped in to check it out. The store is pristine with attractive, retro decor. The counters were full of delicious looking things, familiar and strange. Even though I wasn’t very hungry, the tubs of cream cheese alone made me salivate. Interestingly, in 1933, Joel Russ changed the name of his store to Russ and Daughters. According to the website, Russ and Daughters may have been the first business to officially have the word “Daughters” in its name. Way to go, Joel Russ!

russ and daughters

RS picked up a bagel with cream cheese at Russ and Daughters, and we kept walking. We ended up at the Ear Inn, on the other side of Lower Manhattan. It is a bar and restaurant housed in the James Brown House, which is a designated landmark of NYC. Even though there is a significant chunk of land separating the Inn from the water today, it used to be located five feet from the water. Thus, it was a favorite amongst sailors, who called the bar “The Green Door.” In fact, the bar never had a real name until 1977, when the neon sign reading “Bar” burned slightly, resulting in the B looking like an E. From then on, the bar was renamed the Ear Inn.

the ear inn

Inside, the woodwork and decor is reminiscent of being in the hull of a ship. The bathroom was so small that it was indeed a “water closet.” For lunch, RS and I shared an avocado, tomato, and cucumber salad, smoked trout (sorry that’s mislabeled on the collage), and steamed mussels. It was good, though I have to say that the avocado didn’t quite match California standards. (I know, I’m such a snob!)

After leaving RS, I made my way to Queens to meet up with EY, where I had my first Pinkberry experience! (I just realized that statement sounds pretty perverted if you don’t know what Pinkberry is.) Anyway, Pinkberry was among the first of the “real frozen yogurt” places, meaning that it tastes more tart and less sweet, like real yogurt. I had heard about them for years, but because they are very exclusive about their franchising, they are found only in select cities in California, New York, and Texas. I got the passionfruit frozen yogurt with mango and blueberry. Yum!

Fro Yo!

Fro Yo!