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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Go On Down to Chinatown

High-end noodle bars and Asian fusion restaurants have become a fast moving trend in NYC. Modern styled restaurants like Momofuku and Buddakan are changing the game for Asian take-out boxes and leftovers. While experiencing these media savvy restaurants is sure to be enjoyable, don’t forget that NYC is still home to Chinatown, where you can find the hidden treasures of Chinese cuisine. In a unique and colorful setting, you’ll have an authentic and delicious experience to remember.

My first experience in Chinatown, I tried jellyfish and shark fin. At eleven years old, I was wildly adventurous. Many years later, I have yet to retry those unique plates, but have expanded my repertoire to include some more classic dishes. Here are three Chinese specialties and restaurants you shouldn’t pass up while walking through lower Manhattan’s culturally exploding neighborhood.


The flourescent lighting and modern décor of Dim Sum Go Go will pull you off the gritty Chinatown streets and into a funky atmosphere, that, when paired with its menu, will appeal to a variety of palates. Two Hong Kong chefs, Ping Chung and Guy Lui, create the expertise in kitchen. From parsley dumplings filled with jícama, to flash-fried roasted chicken served with fried garlic stems, the unusual flavors make it hard to choose, but easy to satisfy. What impressed me most was their ability to remain authentic and truly Chinese, even in their experimentation with nontraditional ingredients. The dim sum is refreshingly light and uniquely made to order. Each table is set with three different dipping sauces that enhance the flavors in every dish: ginger scallion, scallop shrimp and chili, and garlic vinegar. They make Dim Sum Go Go unparalleled in all of NYC. For someone like me, messy at my best, this meant my place seating was decorated with spots of delicious sauce. The tablecloth had to be sacrificed for each perfect bite! A change of pace from the more traditional Chinese restaurants in the area, Dim Sum Go Go is a fun and social setting to try something new!

MIDDLE BITE: Peking Duck House

I am tempted to leave my review of Peking Duck House with this simple message: Go. Eat the Peking Duck. Now. But being a person of few words is not my nature, thus I will explain myself. This dish, centuries old, is an elegant process from start to finish. Requiring artfully mastered seasoning methods, and an elaborate cooking process, the duck must be prepared with precision. Peking Duck House proves itself worthy of its name, serving the crispy brown duck every bit as beautifully as one would hope. The tender meat is served in thinly sliced medallions, accompanied by pancakes, scallions, cucumber strips and sauce similar to Hoisin, but more traditional. The special Peking duck dinner, at only $25.50, includes soup, appetizers, duck, and entrees, and accommodates parties of 4-8 people. So assemble a group of friends, or even not-so-friends (after this meal, you’ll have created an instant bond) and go. Eat the Peking duck. Now.

LAST BITE: Ten Ren's Tea Time

If walking through Chinatown, amongst gaggles of tourists and fake designer products and fish markets and even more tourists, has left you in need of a clean seat and a refreshing drink, then Ten Ren’s Tea Time is perfect for you. White walled and brightly lit, the location is cool, crisp, and lively. Bubble Tea has become a quick trend, and with over 30 flavors, Ten Ren excels at it. I have always loved bubble tea—the tapioca balls resting at the bottom of the cup add a fun and sweet treat to a delicious drink—but a friend of mine has always been suspicious of mixing drinking and eating in a cup with a giant straw. And so, I felt inspired to convert her to a bubble tea enthusiast. Ten Ren let me do just that. I opted for a clean and refreshing Jasmine Green Tea, and she chose a milky sweet Honeydew Milk Tea. Her trepidation was quickly dissuaded. The tapioca was a perfect consistency: not too chewy, and not too hard. The tea was perfectly steeped: not bland, and not too strong. The combination of tea and tapioca made sense: not too weird, and not boring. At the risk of sounding like I’m quoting a nursery rhyme, the Bubble Tea at Ten Ren’s Tea Time is not too much of any one thing, it’s just right. And with the spring quickly turning into summer this year, hot drinks are so last season. But rather than walking the streets with an iced coffee in hand, try a Bubble Tea. It’s sweet and fun, and still a healthy option.

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