Saturday, October 10, 2009

Asian food in Manhattan (food, MomVisit09)

This entry officially concludes the chronicling of the food we ate during my mom's visit to NYC. It was a fun, gluttonous, month, and I enjoyed writing about it as well. For those who read this blog specifically for the food trip posts, I thank you for your visits. I will continue to write about upcoming food experiences, though probably not with the frequency of when my mother was visiting.

I've written about Num Pang before, but the sandwiches are just so good that I actually went out into the city and brought them home for my mom to try on a Sunday when I wanted to stay at home and sweat the NFL games. Pretty much every selection on their menu is good, but our favorites, which happen to also be the favorites of my coworkers who eat them frequently, were the steak sandwich and the mackerel sandwich. Each sandwich comes with cucumber, cilantro, carrots, and chili mayo, but it's the nice marinade on the main ingredient and the fact that it's grilled to order that makes the sandwiches stand out. They are not cheap, but for the quality of the main ingredient, I wouldn't call them expensive either. They may not look as big as a banh mi, but they are really filling.

The skirt steak sandwich, always grilled to a perfect medium rare.

The mackerel sandwich, which was originally spanish mackerel, but is now king mackerel.

We also took the time on her last day here to go have some dimsum. I say dimsum and not yumcha because we did not in fact drink any tea. I took her to Chinatown Brasserie, a place that is very hard to justify for most of my friends here from Hong Kong. Who wants to pay $6 for four pieces of turnip cake when they can go two more stops on the subway to chinatown and get it for a lot lot less? By way of comparison, I would say that the prices at Chinatown Brasserie would be comparable to having dimsum at a top-tier Hong Kong hotel. That's not even including the fact that you'd be expected to tip more here than in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, for the higher price there is a higher quality of food, and probably better than any other place in NYC.

The aforementioned turnip cakes, with scallions and XO sauce. Details matter. The turnip cakes were crispily fried on BOTH sides, and did not have any sense of being oily at all. My mom, who makes a wonderful XO sauce herself, thought the XO sauce here had a good amount of quality ingredients and liked how it was also not oily at all.

Clockwise from bottom right. The basic shrimp dumpling, or har gau, was really good. The skin was thin and not gummy at all, and while petite, the filling was full of shrimp and no added filler. The watercress and shrimp dumplings were also good. The snow pea leaf dumplings are described below, while the shrimp and scallop dumpling in the upper right was mediocre.

Pan fried lamb dumplings were pretty good. Again, well fried without being oily, the filling had real lamb meat with some bite, not just random minced meat.

The snow pea leaf dumplings from above. Aren't they cute with the little eyes dotted on them? These were really good too.

We also ordered the Young Chow fried rice, which came in at an exorbitant $16. Traditionally, a Cantonese style Young Chow (or Yeung Chau) fried rice has staple ingredients of char siu (bbq pork) and egg, while shrimp is often added as well. This one had wolfberries and scallops in addition to that and it just seemed like an odd mix. Almost as if they were throwing in ingredients to justify the price. The fried rice itself was decent, but not spectacular. I would still recommend Chinatown Brasserie for an occasional outing, but stick with the dim sum. Also, if you happen to not know a lick of Chinese and would be clearly lost in the hustle and bustle of eating dimsum in Chinatown, this place does have a nicer, calmer, atmosphere.

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