South China Garden was one of New York's best-loved Cantonese restaurants, so Chowhounds gave it a heartfelt send-off when it closed last year, a victim of new development in Chinatown. Now its owners are back in business a half-block away at Cafe Hong Kong, which opened earlier this month.
The chefs from the old place are in the house, knocking out some of their greatest hits—crispy chicken with garlic sauce, lobster with XO sauce, bean curd and seafood casserole—from a Cantonese menu that's a pared-down version of South China Garden's. Bitter melon with ribs (pictured) is distinguished by perfectly cooked, addictively seasoned meat, Chowhound Peter Cuce reports. What's new here, as the restaurant's name suggests, is Hong Kong café–style Western chow—salads, toast and sandwiches, spaghetti with white or tomato sauce, and the like—plus a lineup of tea drinks, espresso, and coffee brewed with beans from New York roaster Gimme!
This kind of fare seems to be the flavor of the decade in Chinatown, where Cha Chan Tang, Cutting Board, and Mottzar Kitchen, among other places, are now working variations on the theme. For this long-established ethnic neighborhood, well-traveled 'hound Chandavkl (a.k.a. food blogger David R. Chan) suggests, the relative newcomers represent a renaissance—and an overdue step forward into the 21st century.
Cafe Hong Kong [Chinatown]
51 Bayard Street (between Bowery and Mott Street), Manhattan
Photo by Mark Hokoda