Restaurants »Nyonya

199 Grand Street

Nyonya is kind of universally liked due to it’s massive Malaysian menu. Trick is to order the right thing – I think Stacy and I fared about 50/50.The shrimp puff proved to be, not surprisingly,  too heavy to finish (ground shrimp surrounded by bacon, fried with mayonnaise!) but the roti canai appetizer is a classic and a must with it’s flaky warm crepe and flavorful curry sauce. Stacy’s Wonton Mee soup entree, though, lacked in flavor.

I did better with the Chow Kueh Teow, a rich noodle that, while not nearly as spicy as the little pepper on the menu warned, was a nice, easy to eat dish and a welcome change in flavor to the usual pad thais and lo meins.

The service is pushy to say the least. Within three seconds of sitting down we were asked for our order. Once you do order and get your food, you are promptly forgotten and will have better luck hailing a cab in the rain to Brooklyn than getting water or another Singha. But, it’s the unique flavors, not pampered service one comes for. And the brisk pace does mean you’ll rarely have to wait for a table even on a busy night.

While the environment’s not conducive to lingering, we had lots to catch up on a did so anyways over a yummy but sort of odd looking fried green tea ice cream.

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Posted on March 10, 2011

Drinks »Apotheke

9 Doyers Street

Like any good new wave speakeasy, Apotheke is hidden behind a nondescript old Chinatown storefront, down a small windy road (Doyers, one of my favorite streets in the city) and you’d never know it was there unless you were in the know.

Apotheke means pharmacy or drugstore, or a place for the art, practice or profession of preparing, preserving, compounding, and dispensing medical herbs, elixirs or potions. The team and theme here is appropriately medical and the staff plays along with lab coats and a menu that reads like old-timey makeshift healing elixirs.

The space is dark and snugly, but a bit on the contemporary side of its roots as an opium den. The walls are beautifully scruffy brick, the couches look plucked from a Victorian parlor and the bathroom has some quirky copper Fraggle Rock style pipes that are worth taking a look at. But that’s all surface, and none of it matters if the drinks are no good, but whatever it was I ordered (something frothy infused with tea, if I recall) was delicious. Might not be the best place with crowds on a Saturday night but I’d come back for an early drink with ambiance.

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Posted on January 31, 2010

Restaurants »Shanghai Cafe

100 Mott St

The service at Shanghai Café was so hostilely brisk and gruff that I almost felt honored to be seated in our tough little lady’s section. The place isn’t much for ambiance either, unless you feel comforted by the fact that your Formica table is lined (and protected?) with duct tape, but really what does ambiance matter when the perfected delicacy of a soup dumpling is there for the eating? Joe’s Shanghai is probably the better known purveyor of the messy dumplings of deliciousness, but I’d really have to eat the two side by side to decide which is better. Both are crave worthy (read: I want them right now!).

We inhaled two orders of the soup dumpling both crab and crab-less – which had the table divided – I prefer the crab, but its flavor is very pronounced and others, who may not have a palette for the briny sea, liked the all-pork incarnation better. We also ordered won-tons in spicy schezuan sauce (peanuty and spicy), eggplant with garlic sauce, and bean curb schezuan style. Unlike some hole in the wall spots, all the dishes had a distinct flavor.

Pair it all with good friends and a couple of cold Tsingtaos and you get one of those meals that can make you so happy to live in a city that hides so much good food in its quiet corners.

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Posted on January 24, 2010