An afternoon in Chinatown NYC with Baah Ben, Billyboy and Ian (with pics)
Billyboy, Ian (Billy's friend) and Baah Ben all met at Vanessa's Dumpling House
(formerly known as The Dumpling House) on 118 Eldridge Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, NYC. The place is small, but not nearly as small as described in several write-ups. (bb-Ian mentioned that they may have undergone some renovations when they changed over to Vanessa's)
I'd like to try the Ovaltine or the Horlick beverages next time. Has anyone ever had these before, hot or cold? Baah Ben
-Ian ordered a scallion pancake and a single order of chive and pork filled fried dumplings. We'd add another order of dumplings shortly; One dollar per order of 4. The dumplings were absolutely fantastic. Plump, juicy and bursting with flavor. They didn't need anything like soy sauce, chili oil, etc. They were that good. We could have ordered several maore and made our stand at The Dumpling House! But, we knew we had to save room for lunch. Billyboy
-the highlight food of this day! Just amazing. There was a nice hint of soy and ginger in them that I really loved, Sorry I didn't cut them open and take of pic of the cross-section. They also sell them frozen, $9.00 per order of 50 and the menu has cooking instructions on it. Baah Ben described them perfectly! These were a "stopped me in my tracks" kind of dish. The Polish have pierogi, Latin America has the empanada and the Chinese have dumplings. Pure comfort food! Possibly in my top 20 for the year! Ian, glad you could make it, man!! He is the one who first told me about the Sterns and Roadfood and got me excited about it. So I tip my cap to you, good sir! I arrived a few minutes late and Ian and Baah Ben were already discussing the foods to come. They hadn't met before, but I think Roadfooders can spot each other a mile away from that hungry look in their eyes!
In the back kitchen, apparently there are these little dumpling makers, who bring trays and trays of these things to the front of the house where they are placed in a circle on special flat pans with hot vegetable oil and cooked on wok ranges. The pans are covered and the heat is constantly being adjusted to slowly get a crust on the flat side of these dumplings. It takes a while witness the fact that you can find yourself waiting 10 minutes for your order. It's worth it. You can watch the action from behind the counter or in the front window. Baah Ben
-The scallion pancake was very interesting. It reminds one of a Greek Pita in that it has a built in pocket when you cut up the pancake in pizza like slices. the pancake seemed to be about two feet in diameter. It has sesame seeds on the exterior and bits of scallions throughout the inside. It has a wonderful salty taste and can be eaten just plain or they make little sandwiches out of them. It is also made on the wok range, It is covered and turned and slowly cooked to a golden brown exterior. The sesame seeds give it a terrific nutty taste. Billyboy
-I too loved this, although it reminded me somewhat of focaccia bread. Light, with a wonderful butteriness and saltiness to it and a slight chew to it. The sesame seeds definitely elevated it. This is a perfect snacking food to pick up and munch on while walking the streets of Chinatown. My only regret is that I failed to take a picture of this as a whole. It was as big as a pizza, but we only snagged a this slice as we had another stop to make.
A shot from the back of the house looking out to the street. Baah Ben
-If you are patient, you can find seats albeit you'll be sharing a table. Not a problem since this is not fine dining nor the type of place you want to linger over your meal. This is a real roadfood.com joint. Billyboy
-the window next to the Coca-Cola case is where you can look into the back kitchen and watch the women (only women-not sure if that is a cultural thing) making the dumplings. I walked up to the window and pointed at my camera, but one woman shook her head to say "no". If you make it here, definitely worth taking a peek to see the dumpling making process.
Baah Ben spotted some very wonderful, adorable Golden Retrievers outside so we spent a few minutes giving them some love before moving on to our next destination.
The Manhattan Bridge Arch on Canal Street in Chinatown. It connects Chinatown to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Next stop was Great N.Y. Noodletown
. Ian was not able to join us; Too bad because he would have provided a reason to order even more dishes. Baah Ben
-We started off with what was anticipated to be one of their crowning specialities; a simple appetizer of roast pork. Normally, this is cut up at the front, at room temperature, where the bbq meats (ducks, chickens suckling pig) are hanging. But, for some unknown reason, the order came from the back of the kitchen. And our genius waitier thought we "Americanos" thought we wanted it hot. Billyboy spied the waiter placing the sliced pork in the microwave!
What the hell is a microwave doing in a chinese restaurant in the first place! NOT GOOD! Billyboy
-The funny thing was that I saw him put the dish in microwave after we had order the pork and I didn't make any connection with it being "ours" until he took it out and set it on the table. I said to Baah Ben, "You know, he just warmed that up in the microwave!" I thought it was good, but I am curious how much better it would have been if he hadn't warmed it up or if they cut some off of what I would presume would be a newer rack (I'm guessing that ours was the "last" serving from a rack) or if we had gone up front and specified which one we wanted ours from. I wonder if knowing a few key phrases in Chinese would have helped? Baah Ben
-We ordered two dishes; chow fun with shrimp and lobster sauce and fried pork chops with onions over white rice. The chow fun dish was delicate and just as I remembered it at Great N.Y. Noodletown. Billyboy
- I've never had a dish like this before and I'm pretty sure I've never seen it anywhere either. Not a big selection of old school Cantonese in Central NY. The shrimp were huge and plump and I was digging the chewy wide noodles. I wasn't so sure about the lobster sauce though. It had a very thick, somewhat gelatinous feel that just isn't my thing. I'm certainly glad I tried it and it makes me want to explore Chinatown even more and experiment with dishes that are foreign to my palate. Baah Ben
-The pork chop was interesting. Billy liked that one better. It had a very light sweet and sour touch to it. Perfect since each of us took our favorites home; plenty left over. Billyboy
-I liked this dish a lot. Sweet, sour, salty, a bit fatty and crispy from the battered bone-in pork chops. The onions and egg bits were a nice complement to the just rightly chewy rice.
A shot looking into the restaurant from the front door. Our table was in the far right hand corner near the entrance to the kitchen where the man in the black vest is standing.
Various shots of the meats in the window. Baah Ben and I both lamented the fact that we didn't think to order some of that beautiful looking suckling pig!
We saw some feet in the middle and left pans, but not sure what the brown items are in the pan on the right. The yellow items appear to be squid, but I'm not sure. Any takers?
Not a huge fan of duck, but those ribs look might good to me! Baah Ben
-I was not happy about the microwave and next time, I'm going to Big Wong's. So, I am no longer recommending NY Noodletown as my favorite restaurant in Chinatown. Billyboy
-I liked this place, but I'd rename it "Yeah, it's "Good, but not Great" N.Y. Noodletown". Given the vast number of restaurants in Chinatown, I'd return but I wouldn't rush back. Baah Ben
-We went to Billy's choice for ice cream in Chinatown, the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
, located at 65 Bayard Street. They had had an amazing variety of ice cream flavors such as sesame seed, Durian and the one Billy ordered, Almond cookie. Boy, that was very, very good! Lots of almond flavor within a very good rich ice cream base. Almost like a Tortoni. Billyboy
-Sorry I didn't take any pics on this one, so I just inserted these shots from my trip there last year.
This is actually the Almond Cookie mixed with Pumpkin Pie ice cream. The Almond Cookie is definitely my "go to" flavor. I tried to taste a sample of the Durian flavor, but they were out. It's hard to get as they don't have any available too often. One of these days...
Billy, great meeting you and thanks again for the goodie bag (BBQ sauce, mustard, baked beans) from upstate NY. I can't wait to try them all.
Baah Ben, thank you, sir! You were excellent company and the Roadfood definitely tasted that much better sharing it with a great Roadfooder such as yourself. The 411
1.) Vanessa's Dumpling House
118A Eldridge Street (bet. Grand and Broome Street)
New York, NY 10002
2.) Great N.Y. Noodletown
28 Bowery (at Bayard Street)
New York, NY 10013
Menupages listing:   http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/great-ny-noodletown/
No website 3.) Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard Street (bet. Elizabeth and Mott Street)
New York, NY 10013
Menupages listing:   http://www.menupages.com/restaurants/chinatown-ice-cream-factory/
post edited by billyboy - 2009/04/27 16:33:59