Sunday, March 11, 2012

Duckavore Dinner at Wong (food)

Like I wrote in my most recent food post, you just can't get enough duck. So how about a meal of 6 different courses of duck? That's what we had at Wong, a relatively new Asian-fusion/Pan-Asian restaurant in the West Village. The Duckavore Dinner must be reserved with 48 hours notice and is meant to serve 4 people, though there are arrangements for larger parties.

Atmosphere: The space gives off that cozy neighborhood vibe, with the exposed brick walls and lack of tablecloths. There's an open kitchen towards the rear of the restaurant, but the only thing I could really get a look at was the plating of some desserts. The lighting is a bit dim for my taste, but that appears to be the norm in the West Village.

Service: It seems like they have a script and the servers stick to it. Can't really complain.

Dinner starts off with two pieces of puffed naan-like bread, but with a dip reminiscent of the curry that I would eat with roti canai. A bread service that tries to provide more flavor than just bread with butter and salt is a winner in my book.

This was the first official duck course of the meal. The hoisin sauce, vegetables, and lettuce wrap allowed us to begin tasting duck but in a refreshing bite. A good starter.

In addition to using duck meat, the buns distinguished themselves from other popular pork buns around the city by being fried. I liked the fried texture, which reminded me of fried mantou as dessert/dim sum, especially with the sweet mayo-like sauce.

There is nothing at all Asian about this dish except for the forced use of paneer as the cheese. The meatballs themselves were decent, and packed rather tightly. The tomato sauce had enough acidity, though it did still have sweetness in addition to that from the accompanying squash.

Someone from the kitchen came by to show us the whole duck prepared two ways. I didn't get all of the descriptions, but one had some kind of glaze and the other was wrapped in lotus leaf before both went into their brick oven.

The accompanying side dish for our main course exceeded my expectations. It wasn't too sticky or too sweet, and worked well for eating with the duck.

Our main course, served with seasonal greens, which were Chinese broccoli that night. The vegetables were good and provided a much needed crunch, as neither preparation had crispy skin. The meat on the legs fell off the bone and were a comforting mass of rendered fat and tender flesh. The breast however, was not as successful, in my opinion. As the skin wasn't crispy and the fat wasn't rendered enough, the piece of skin and fat attached to the meat was superfluous, and felt awkward texturally as a whole.

Usually the course between the main entree and the dessert serves as a bridge from savory to sweet. In this case, they gave us what was probably the most savory course of the night, a rich, concentrated duck broth with a good amount of molten duck fat at the top.

The roast duck ice cream with star anise poached plum was the big winner of the night. It was the most interesting combination of flavors and textures of the night, and served as a very comforting end to a big meal.

A plum cocktail shooter and five spice cookies came with the dessert and matched perfectly with the flavors of the ice cream.

The only dish that really stood out for me was the duck ice cream, as something that I would go there just to have. While some of the dishes were fine on their own, the composition of the meal was just too one-note for my taste. Sweetness was featured in every course except the broth, making its strongest appearance in the main entree. If they kept the preparation of the legs the same but changed the breast preparation to something completely savory with crispy skin, I think the meal as a whole would benefit greatly. Overall, it's still a great value for $65+t/t per person given the neighborhood and especially if you like duck.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jeremy Lin: The Perfect Storm (sport)

Now that the hype has died down a bit and the Knicks aren't on a winning streak that people are extrapolating into a top seed in the East (maybe it's Carmelo's fault), I can discuss my thoughts on Jeremy Lin. And people have indeed asked me about my thoughts on Jeremy Lin, given that I am Chinese, went to Harvard, and am a big NBA fan.

First off, let me say that I am an NBA/basketball fan. I am a fan of the sport. Actually I'm a fan of almost all sports. But I don't like it when people hear that I'm a fan of -insert sport here- and they ask me what team I root for and who I like. Why must I be a fan of a team or player? I am a fan of watching a sport being played at a high level. I enjoy watching Peyton Manning dissect a defense in football. I enjoy watching the Spurs' defensive rotations in basketball. When I watch old Knicks-Bulls games on MSG, I don't watch it for Jordan or because it's the Knicks. I watch it to see amazing off the ball movement in the triangle offense matched with high intensity interior defense.

So I found it rather off-putting when all these random casual fans, especially Asians half-way around the world, jumped on the bandwagon. What really got to me was that they were crowning him like he was the second coming. At least Yao Ming really was a hall of fame caliber center when he could stay healthy. Jeremy Lin is an NBA starter, but I wouldn't put his ceiling anywhere higher. He didn't make it in Golden State and Houston. The answer to that is simple. No matter what he's doing with the Knicks, you wouldn't bench Stephen Curry or Kyle Lowry to start Jeremy Lin instead. I can't wait till he gets voted to start in the All-Star game next year.

So all the hype really came together in a perfect storm scenario. I'm not even going to discuss the whole Asian thing. But he plays for the Knicks who are always going to have the attention of the media. His streak came during the middle of February, when all the other major sports were dead. As far as his stats go, he plays point guard in a Mike D'Antoni offense. When people brought up his stats, I kept mentioning Chris Duhon. Duhon put up 11ppg and 7apg in a full 82 game season under D'Antoni, and he pretty much broke down two years later from being run ragged. Add to that Lin's high turnover numbers, and it makes you wonder how efficient he will be when the league figures him out and he starts to get tired from a long season.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy the Knicks are doing well. I think Jeremy Lin will be a starter in the league. But the over-exuberance was just too much for me to bear. Then again, that's kind of how I feel about the stock market too, so maybe it's just me.