Adventures in Chinatown

On Saturday I (easily) talked my friend into visiting Chinatown in NYC for a dinner of dim sum. I had never eaten or even walked through Chinatown nor have I ever had dim sum. I’m not sure what suddenly gave me the urge to suggest it but I do know that I have wanted to try dim sum for several years now, ever since I read The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones. It was a surprisingly good novel for a book I bought in the $2.99 and under the section. As I read this description, my mouth watered and I craved it so much that I even tried to make it at home (massive fail):

“She was too hungry for exotic ones and so she chose a plain dumpling,  something substantial, filled with eggplant, cilantro and dill.”

The novel goes into more detail about traditional Chinese food, cooking methods, and ceremonies but that particular quote always stuck out to me. It was a fantastic and fast read if anyone would like me to do a review on that novel, comment down below and I’ll be sure to get one up.

Anyhow, we were staying at the Muse hotel over near Times Square, it was about an hour and a half walk to Chinatown. Though we could have gotten a taxi, we opted to take the walk as the night was beautiful with the weather being a tad brisk. Perfect for long walks. What was so wonderful about this walk is that we were able to walk through the best parts of Manhattan. We walked through Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park, Chelsea, Soho, and Little Italy.

We didn’t plan on being in NYC during pride weekend, it just worked out that way. Saturday’s outfits were actually planned with Breakfast at Tiffany’s in mind so we really didn’t plan to go out of our way to deck out in anything too flashy. We also didn’t properly plan our outfits with the weather in mind. We ended up having to wear long dresses with stockings underneath to stay warm and jackets. My friend’s long dress was unintentionally stripped with yellow, light pink and reddish coral. Most people thought it was a pride dress and also figured we were a couple. We had one or two dirty stares and one man who actually bumped my shoulder extremely hard but for the most part, everyone thought her dress was awesome and complimented her on the choice.

We arrived in Chinatown a few hours later around 9:00 pm with the intention of eating at Dim Sum Go Go. As we began walking towards our destination we came across a restaurant that we thought was Dim Sum Go Go. When we walked in the impatient waiter immediately looked at his watch before sitting us in a small nook by where the dishes are kept. Immediately upon sitting down, he opened the menu to explain that they only had shrimp dumplings left. At this point, we realized we were in the wrong restaurant and while debating our exit strategy the waiter briskly placed a pot of tea at our table. We thought it would be rude to leave now so we ordered steamed shrimp dumplings plus a plate of assorted buns.

The piping hot dim sum arrived first followed by the waiter abruptly slapping down a fork each and soy sauce. I struggled for a moment to pick up the dumpling with the chopsticks so I could appreciate why the waiter placed the forks. I almost used one but decided against it. The dumplings were so hot that I damn near spit it out as my friend mumbled: “don’t you dare, you swallow that dumpling now.” I must have looked hilarious, mouth wide open desperately trying to chew a scorching hot piece of shrimp while giggling simultaneously as my friend mumbling obscenities at me. The dim sum ended up being phenomenal, the shrimp was seasoned perfectly. As soon as we finished the dim sum the assorted buns platter arrived. When we broke into our first piece we realized we had ordered assorted plain buns, we honestly thought we ordered the steamed and baked roast pork buns. Regardless, the buns were ridiculously good, especially the baked ones. I loved them for the crispy exteriors and soft insides while my friend much preferred the steamed ones. The dipping sauce that accompanied the buns was creamy, delectable goodness in a bowl. It complimented the buns perfectly.

As we sat there, at the wrong restaurant, eating the Italian equivalent of the bread basket my friend decided that we were to go to the original destination after we finished the food here. Already eating our food fast so as not to intrude on their closing down for the night, we left as soon quickly as we arrived. To our dismay, Dim Sum Go Go was directly across the street. We walked across the street and in doing so put us in a small area with trees and park benches. Let’s just say the characters on those benches looked rather “shady.”

Once we arrived at Dim Sum Go Go, we were relieved that they don’t close down until 11:00 pm. They placed two menus on our table, a picture menu of every dumpling they had to offer and a traditional menu with options other than dim sum. Ordering was a complete breeze, on each table is a pencil and a paper with all their dim sum/bun options. You simply check off what and how many you would like and hand that to the waiter. It is very similar to an all you can eat sushi restaurant but without the all you can eat part. In fact, in order to figure out how much each item costs you must match the symbols at the bottom of the paper. Cruel, I know.

Similar to the first restaurant, the waiter placed a pot of tea on the table upon us ordering. We ordered another round of shrimp dumplings, to compare, crabmeat, pork and vegetable, mushroom and steamed pork buns. We concluded that the food here was just as good as Chatham Seafood Restaurant though we both felt the tea was tastier and the shrimp had a touch more flavor there. The only dumpling we really did not care for was the mushroom, it was tasteless in comparison to the others. The steamed pork buns were great as well but I decided that I much prefer baked/fried because I didn’t like the soft outside of those buns. Halfway through our meal, my friend was in need of a cold drink so she ordered a couple of Chinese beers for us. I am extremely picky about beer, while I prepared for a horrible tasting beer, I was surprised by how well it complimented the dim sum. The beers arrived opened and as the waiter placed them on the table he picked up a teacup and began saying cheers, a little confused at first we quickly followed suit and did cheers with him. I suppose the steaming hot dim sum made me rather thirsty because about halfway into my beer I began searching for the alcohol percentage as I was definitely feeling tipsy. My friend is absolutely convinced the waiter put Sake in our beer because she too was feeling tipsy plus after cheers she was unable to locate that waiter. Interesting indeed!

As we left the restaurant, that particular group of men was still sitting on the benches so we walked in the opposite direction to hail a cab back to our hotel. As our cab was pulling up to the curb we noticed a small older woman with two other older women in tow run across the street to our cab. Upon reaching it first she looks at us and says “this is my cab, I hail first.” We have a few back and forth words and realizing that it wasn’t worth the argument we let her have the cab and hailed another.

My friend has been coming to the city since she was a little girl and even lived there for a time while she attended college so I believed her when she said Chinatown isn’t somewhere you want to be at night. Seeing it though, that was a whole different story. As we left Chinatown we were acutely aware of the various groups huddled in dark alleyways, on park benches and in front of stores and honestly, they didn’t look like nice groups to be around.

Regardless, I would come back to Chinatown because there is just something so timeless about this section of Manhattan or maybe I’m just thinking with my belly.

Amanda

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