Monthly Archives: October 2015

Nyonya, New York City

Nyonya
199 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013

My trips to Washington, DC and New York city are always a chance to reconnect with friends, both close friends and friends who I haven’t seen in a really long time. This past trip was no different and gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my godsister (my mother was her godmother). Since she had lived in Singapore for a few years growing up, we decided to try out a Malaysian/Singaporean restaurant called Nyonya in Lower Manhattan.

We arrived around 7:45PM on a Monday night and got one of the few 2 seaters left open in the restaurant. After being seated we took a little while to browse through the dozens of selections on the menu, each looking more delectable than the last. However, we decided to order a few entrees and a few appetizers to share:

Roti Canai at Nyonya

Roti Canai at Nyonya

  • Roti Canai – This was my first time having this dish, and I instantly saw why Malaysians love to have this for breakfast. The light, airy roti matches perfectly with the curry sauce. The delicious, but not super heavy, dish was a good way to start off a meal, if not the entire day.
Beef Satay at Nyonya

Beef Satay at Nyonya

  • Beef Satay – The satay sauce was nice and had none of the gloopy high fructuse corn syrup taste you find in some of the cheaper satay sauces on the shelves. That said, the beef skewers were a little tough and probably too well done. It could have used a light marinade or a little less time in the heat.t said
Hainanese Chicken with Rice at Nyonya

Hainanese Chicken with Rice at Nyonya

  • Hainanese Chicken with Rice – The chicken was good, the dipping sauces were decent, but we both agreed that the rice wasn’t quite pulling its weight. While we might have tasted hints of chicken fat or stock, there definitely was not enough rendered juice, which is one of the signature parts of the dish. That said, the chicken was really tender and not too salty helping to make the dish decent, if not spectacular.
  • Chow Kueh Teow – This was a pretty solid version of the stir fried seafood noodle dish. We loved how the dish had a good “wok hei” (freshly woked aroma), fresh seafood, and a decent amount of sauce with a little kick of spice.

All in all, we really liked the restaurant. While the flavors of some of the dishes weren’t quite what we were hoping for, it gave both of us a nice satisfying bite of a cuisine that I believe is still too hard to find in the United States. There were a lot more items I wanted to try from the menu, however. This includes their Nasi Lemak and Assam Laksa. Of course, this just means I need to take more frequent trips to New York City to try it all out. Something which I absolutely do not oppose.

Mission Chinese Food, San Francisco

Mission Chinese Food
2234 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Two weeks ago there was a coincidental alignment of events that made for one interesting Sunday. In what might be a once in a lifetime coincidence, a lunar eclipse happened on the same day (and night) of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Folsom Street Festival. Given that I live in the Bay Area now, it led to a long and adventurous day of cultural exploration and examination.

My original intention was to have a decent size Cantonese style dinner with a few friends. However, at around 6PM my friends and I were not anywhere near Chinatown, the Richmond, or the Sunset so we walked to the closest decently tasty Chinese restaurant: Mission Chinese Food. Now, I know some of my readers will point out to me that Mission Chinese Food is not actually Chinese (in terms of authenticity), which is true given that even chef/owner Danny Bowien himself says that the food is more homage than anything. However, the flavors were at least Chinese enough that it seemed like a decent option given my absolute insistence on having Chinese food for a Chinese holiday.

We arrived at the restaurant around 6:30PM and were able to be seated immediately, the first time that has happened to me at Mission Chinese ever. After sitting down, we quickly browsed at the menu options especially given that some of us didn’t even have lunch that day. A few minutes later we ordered the following:

Braised Pea Leaf and Pumpkin Soup

Braised Pea Leaf and Pumpkin Soup

  • Smashed Cucumbers in Garlic Sauce – The cucumbers had a nice crunchiness with a perfect amount of vinegar in the dressing. Could have been a bit spicier, however.
  • Braised Pea Leaf and Pumpkin Soup – I really liked the soup as it became a light and refreshing palate cleanser after eating all the other meat and sauce heavy items we ordered. I love pea shoots so that was a great bonus and the pumpkins were in very thin slices giving it a lighter, more melon flavor than if it was cut in chunks and cooked in the broth.
Mapo Tofu at Mission Chinese Food

Mapo Tofu at Mission Chinese Food

  • Ma Po Tofu – While the Ma Po Tofu did not have the distinct ma la taste, this version was still pretty good with a nice level of spice and a sauce that was held together very well by the firm tofu chunks.
Kung Pao Pastrami at Mission Chinese

Kung Pao Pastrami at Mission Chinese

  • Kung Pao Pastrami – One of the dishes that the place is known for, it melded the pastrami, peanuts, celery, and potatoes pretty nicely. It had a tiny kick of heat, but I wanted a little bit more.
  • Cumin Lamb Ribs – While not a juicy as the tender ribs I had at Fu Run (in my previous blog post), these were still pretty well done. The meat was decently tender and the cumin added a nice hint of spice without being too overwhelming.
  • Thrice Cooked Bacon and Rice Cakes – While the rice cakes were stir fried well, for me this was probably the most disappointing dish as I neither could get a taste of the bitter melon (which I suppose could be a good thing) nor did I feel any real heat of the Sichuan pepper supposedly in the dish
  • Market Greens – Interestingly enough, the market greens turned out to be a wheat noodle dish with diced pieces of mustard greens. I actually really loved the dish even if it didn’t quite seem like a dish of greens as I originally hoped.

All in all, the food was good, albeit I do agree with Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle that the quality seems to be going down (perhaps because Bowien spends more time in New York?). Regardless, tasty meals can still be found at Mission Chinese, even without the use of mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorns. If you have never been, I would also recommend the salt cod fried rice, which was fantastic on a previous visit.

However, even a good bowl of salt cod fried rice can’t beat the end of the night. As we got a ride from the Mission back to SoMa we saw the incredible lunar eclipse with it’s deep “blood moon” shade of red. We finished off at my brother’s house, where we at delicious slices of Kee Wah white lotus seed mooncakes and played with his wonderful dogs. So even if the plans didn’t turn out the way I envisioned, the important part is that I still was able to dine on good food with great friends, and those are the experiences you really keep.

Food Adventures in Flushing

Unisphere at Flushing Meadows - Corona Park

Unisphere at Flushing Meadows – Corona Park

As some of my friends know, I like to go to New York during the Labor Day weekend to see the US Open, if possible. It’s an annual affair I started when I lived in Washington, DC and have hopefully resumed again now that I make a little bit more money and flights to New York are more abundant from the Bay Area than Albuquerque. The trips not only give me the chance to see top notch tennis matches, but also the opportunity to visit friends, see family, and, of course, eat good food. It doesn’t hurt that the US Open grounds are literally next to Flushing, the biggest are arguably the best Chinese community in all the five boroughs.

This trip two of my cousins wanted to do some exploring in Flushing, which ended up working perfectly. Below are a few places we went on our day as foodies in Flushing.

Fu Run
40-09 Prince St.
Queens, NY 11354

Our first stop of the day was Fu Run, a restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Dongbei, or northeastern China, formerly known as Manchuria. I never had Dongbei cuisine before and this place is consistently recommended from virtually every dining guide of Manchurian cuisine in Flushing. Dongbei cuisine, being part of the interior north and subject to drastically different climate than Hong Kong or Shanghai, tends to have dishes that are more lamb or beef based and use starches that are thicker. Given the different profile of food, I was excited to dig in when we finally got our dishes.

Country Style Grass Jelly Sheets at Fu Run

Country Style Grass Jelly Sheets at Fu Run

  • Country Style Green Bean Jelly Sheet – The server mixed the ingredients well, allowing the green bean jelly sheets to soak up the flavors of the sauce, cucumbers, cilantro, and other ingredients without losing their chew. It was a light, but good appetizer to start off the meal.
  • Sauteed Chinese Watercress With Garlic – While I generally prefer Chinese watercress to be chopped in longer sections (coming from my Cantonese roots), these were seasoned well. It was just enough garlic for a good amount of flavor, but not enough to be too overpowering.
Muslim Lamb Chops at Fu Run

Muslim Lamb Chops at Fu Run

  • Muslim Lamb Chops – If you have read any reviews of this place, their major claim to fame are these excellent lamb chops. The meat was succulent and nicely infused with the cumin and other spices. The spices themselves gave a very nice kick of spice without being too overpowering like a Sichuan peppercorn. All three of us really loved this dish.

Knowing that we had more of the day to chomp on other tasty morsels, we limited ourselves to three dishes. However, I would have loved to try the sweet potatoes, taro, and apple dessert to taste a truly Dongbei style of hard caramelized sweet treats. Of course, this just means I need to come out to New York and eat here again.

Corner 28 – 四菜一湯北京鴨
137-28 40th Rd
Queens, NY 11354

After lunch, my cousins and I spent a lovely afternoon at the Queens Museum. If you haven’t been, it is fantastic. While their famed panorama of the city was definitely marvelous, if you are ever at the museum this year I also encourage a tour of the World’s Fair design posters now on display.

Peking Duck Buns at Corner 28

Peking Duck Buns at Corner 28

Winding down the afternoon we walked back to Flushing, hungry for some snacks. The first pit stop we made was the Corner 28 for their famed Peking Duck bun stall. Corner 28, like a few other places in Flushing, is a space of a few food stall vendors cramed into the retail square footage of a small restaurant. While the place was not big, it did take us a while to spot the Peking duck buns. Tucked furthest in the back is the 四菜一湯北京鴨 stall (literally translated 4 dishes, 1 soup, Peking duck). We paid $5 for 6 buns and grabbed a bite of them on the curb. The Peking duck buns were made Cantonese style (with mantou buns) and pretty delicious. The duck could have been a little crispier, but for less than $1 a piece, I was not quibbling such details of quality.

We weren’t quite ready for dinner still so we wandered down Main Street and grabbed some curry fish balls. Like many stands and stalls in Hong Kong, there was little to no signage of the place. However, the balls were pretty good and had just a mild coating of curry, reminiscent of what my mom used to make.

New World Mall Food Court
136-20 Roosevelt Ave
Queens, NY 11354

Finishing the curry fish balls, we decided to wander some more. After taking a look at some tantalizing fresh fruits and vegetables, we did some grocery shopping. That turned out to be a fantastic activity because we learned what food traditions were more particular of our immediate family versus our extended family. It was during that time I learned my dad’s fondness for canned sardines or fried mud carp came from a family tradition of eating them while riding out hurricanes in their apartment.

Braised Pork Rice at 小圓環

Braised Pork Rice at 小圓環

Upon checking out of the supermarket we were ready for dinner. As we were right at the New World Mall, we decided to go to the New World Mall food court. Now, the New World Mall food court is no ordinary American mall food court where you find a selection of 8 or so food stalls hawking the same generic chains you would find at any other mall. Instead, there are over 25 different stalls, most of them small mom and pops, serving food from nearly every major culinary region of China. It’s busy and mesmerizing, like any food court you would see in Hong Kong.

I walked around the food court a couple times to figure out what I wanted to eat. In the end I chose 小圓環, a Taiwanese stall that seemed to have good food at bargain prices. I ordered their Box Entree with braised pork for $5.85+tax. I also wanted to order some 割包 (braised pork belly buns) but they were unfortunately sold out. Regardless, the braised pork rice was pretty good, up there with some of the best versions I’ve had at least in Irvine. I also got some boba milk tea from Tea Twitter, which was pretty sweet and refreshing and a nice change from all the Hong Kong style milk tea I usually order back in the Bay Area

Conclusion

All in all, I love exploring big food neighborhoods like Flushing that give you a little bit of culture and tasty food everywhere you stumble. While I have been to Flushing before, the experience was enhanced with my cousins also walking side by side, learning the similarity and differences of how we grew up. Of course, I still have more food adventures waiting for me next year when I return to Flushing (and Flushing Meadows) for the US Open. You could probably eat at a new place everyday in Flushing and still would only make a small dent in the cornucopia of restaurants in the community.