Wednesday, January 20, 2010
We are not Flying Dragon Lotus Panda Face Killah
There was a dope review of us in the Village Voice today. Shawty, Sarah D, took a few shots at the throne linking us to hipsters and asked what grandmas would think but its all good. She recognized that we da best and set this whole thing off with the first VV article noting we were open so much respect. My bad for under-frying your tofu. I will address that in the next post!
She's also not the first person to question our authenticity. If you read yelp or sit in on any evening here, there are always mid-20s/early-30s ABCs (american born chinese) and hipsters talking shit ackin' like they know what's really good. By the end of the first bun they stop so its cool. But, I know where they're coming from. You expect a good Chinese restaurant to have a name like Flying Dragon Lotus Panda Face Killah.
I feel your pain. When I see asian food served in a clean setting outside flushing, shanghai, beijing, or taipei, I get suspicious too. Its only natural. We're used to eating the best Chinese food in Iraq themed hell holes. "Iraq see the world, the world see Iraq." lol. But, if we want to evolve the food and eat it on friday/saturday nights with bigger groups, we have to be a lil more open minded. I also think its important to fully understand the cost of cheap food. I have people from the massage joint next door coming over asking for jobs because we pay twice as much as most restaurants in Chinatown. Not only is there a environmental cost to cheap factory produced food, there are human costs. If you read Fortune Cookie Chronicles, you'll see the links from immigration to cheap Chinese food and the pangs people go through to deliver 6 dumplings for $1.
This is not to say I'm trying to expose the Chinatown system. The first generation pays the cost for the 2nd to be the boss. Without this system, most just wouldn't be able to come over so its a catch-22. Definitely support those businesses, but that isn't the only place to get authentic Taiwanese/Chinese ("T/C" henceforth) food. It's actually really ignorant and offensive that people expect Chinese/Taiwanese/Thai/etc food to be under $5 to be authentic yet the same rules aren't applied to other ethnic foods like Italian, Japanese, French, etc. Shit, look at cupcakes! The food cost is stupid low on cupcakes but why the double standard? I'm using Niman Ranch Pork, Certified Angus Beef, and Poulet Rouge Chicken. If you want those items at any other sit-down place, you're giving up arms, legs, and the name of your first born. Additionally, we don't use MSG, we don't have a single freezer/microwave/toaster/etc in our store, and we use 90% energy efficient cooking methods that don't allow us to make huge batches with big gas stoves like other places.
That said, I wanted to make a list of the old and the new. Places that capture the food of our parents/grandparents and places that serve authentic Asian food while progressing the cuisine in a more modern setting. "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." - Big Bill
Imperial Palace - they actually have a mix of old and new innovations from China. They specialize in Cantonese food. A lot of people shout out oriental garden, but this place beasts it. Get the crab steamed OVER sticky rice.
Szechuan Gourmet - the spot is so good old heads call it duo yi (translation: the shiznit) don't miss the beef tendon, the cumin lamb, braised beef filets (signature dish of the region), ma po tofu, braised sea cucumbers with pork, braised fish with sweet vinegar sauce.
Grand Sichuan - only the st. marks place! This place is the old standby. when i lived in the village i ordered from here twice a week. good, hearty southern chinese food from hunan, cheng du, sichuan.
66 Lu's Seafood - Link - classic taiwanese. a lot of people like the little spot across the street next to spicy tasty better. i think that place does some of the "street food" items better like minced pork on rice, but for the whole gauntlet, stick to 66.
Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao - Link - don't stray, just get xiao long bao, soy milk, curlers, and the turnip pastry. This is officially the best block for asian food in the 5 boroughs. You have 66 Lu's, nan xiang, spicy tasty, the beef noodle soup joint. 66 and Nan Xiang are the stars, but everyone is good. Our beef noodle soup is better hands down and you dont get a msg hangover, but the place on that block aint bad.
Xiao Fei Yang - you already know.......
Kunjip - good late night spot for standard korean fare. Their stews aren't great, but bbq, octopus, calamari, all good. I forgot the name of the korean place I go for gam ja tang and kalbi tang. will find later!
Pho Banc - I love their pho. Everyone has their own favorite and its all debatable, but I get the #1 with extra rare eye of round and omasa.
For the most part, I feel Japanese food has been more progressive. Probably due to their economy being better and their culture being more vibrant the last 20 years, but i have no idea so disregard my intuition. It also may just be that I am exposed to Chinese food more and ya know......
Xi'an Famous Foods - Link - this is old school cuisine, but most people focus on East China, Southern China, and Cantonese cuisine. This is Western Uyghur food and it doesn't get much play usually. I wish they did the pan fried beef buns that Chinese Muslims are famous for, still need a spot for that.
Kuma Inn - i posted earlier this week. i like this place. byob, good for friends, etc.
Kasadela - this place has the illest chicken wings and great sake selection. steer clear of the okonomiyaki here. it sucks.
Da Dong - this place is in beijing, but for the readers that have been, i wanted to use it as an example. In Beijing there's quanjude that's famous and Li Qun No 7 roast duck. Both dope, but along came Da Dong. This place is unbeatable. The skin on the duck is golden and translucent, literally. Its so perfect, crispy and thin you can see through it. I eat the pancakes with just skin, onions, cucumbers, and hoisin. Anyone going to Cantonese restaurants eating duck on gua bao is just silly. Until you've been to Da Dong you just don't know.
Din Tai Fung - multiple locations. This place serves old standbys but in a modern setting and with an eye toward premium ingredients, cleanliness, and they like to isolate flavors with their soup, their dumplings, their fried rice. Nothing is over done and over dressed. They let food speak. Their Taipei location is the fave restaurant of my childhood and the place I measure everything else against.
Mad for Chicken - so let me ask you haters, are you suspect about this place because its clean, decorated like a club, and serves yogurt sochu? This is my hands down favorite place to throwdown, get wasted, and hit on asian cougars. Link
Paris Sandwich - best banh mi in ny. unbeatable, they also have quirks like the green tea waffle you smell all the way from hester st.
Pho Grand - for vietnamese people, this is old school, but from my perspective, it has a lot of new things that i'm not used to getting at vietnamese restaurants. I usually stick to pho, grilled pork and crab patty, roast quail, or grilled beef with spring rolls on bun. Here though, they do all the other things well too like chicken curry, shrimp roll grilled on sugar cane, etc. All stuff that has been around forever, but I personally haven't had good versions of.
Basta Pasta - Really dope uni pasta and the open kitchen is nice. I really like this place. Rare to find a restaurant I'll eat at above 14th st.
Momofuku - They must be mentioned. I myself did not think a store devoted to pork buns would work until I saw what they did. I was a momofuku hater for a long time, but its not always about the food. Reasonable minds can disagree about who has the best ramen, pork bun, etc. but every once in a while, there's something at momofuku that you just have to have. 2 years ago I distinctly remember a oxtail and gnocchi dish that was awesome. I was pissed it wasn't served on the bone, but again, that's a artistic choice. Their Korean rice cake stew a few years ago was great too. I think milk bar is a great idea for desserts and its my favorite of all their branches. But bottom line, Momofuku is the "daddy" in terms of setting off nouveau asian. He calls it new-american, but its asian! lol.
Oh Taisho! - i love this spot for japanese street food. it isn't particularly "new" but it definitely isn't traditional. I like the tsukune (chicken balls), okonomiyaki, fried squid, and all kinds of other stuff. A lot of people like kenka and both restaurants have different items, but I prefer oh taisho.
So, I gotta get back to work. 7pm rush coming. This list is by no means comprehensive and I'm sure to regret some things, but maybe I'll edit later tonight! I am the Chinese Oprah, BONG