Much as fresh blood revitalized Chinatown's Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a new generation has updated Lee Chung Café a few blocks south. The youngsters transformed the family business, once an herb store, into a tea and snack shop "for other kids like them who live in the neighborhood," sgordon observes.
Hounds say the kids are all right. They started small, with bubble tea, and gradually rolled out a Hong Kong–style café menu of "young people comfort food," as Lau calls it: ramen, baked rice, peanut butter toast, egg dishes, noodles, and chicken or grilled cheese sandwiches, among other bites. A new one on Chandavkl was fish balls with cut-up cheung fun rice noodles, tossed into a plastic container with soy sauce, Sriracha, and other seasonings—a bargain at $1.75. There's also a Myanmar-style fish soup with "a little spice, nice hint of lemongrass," sgordon reports. DaveCook found it more Cantonese than Burmese, despite the presence of cilantro, hard-cooked egg, and crisped lentils. But strict authenticity may be beside the point at Lee Chung, sgordon suggests: "it's cute, fun, and the mishmash of different cultures and foods makes it quite representative of the surrounding area."
A block away in this otherwise Fujianese-dominated corner of town, Poon Kee draws crowds of locals for Cantonese-style snacks. Fish balls are a specialty; Lau says they're excellent, with house-made texture, seasoned with soy and sesame sauces and a squirt of Sriracha. AubWah gets them with cheung fun, à la Lee Chung, and a quarter cheaper at $1.50.
Lau also recommends Poon Kee's cheung fun with dried shrimp and stewed honeycomb tripe with tender radish and a touch of star anise and five-spice. Expect a line out the door (there are only three stools and zero décor) and go before 1 p.m.—the good stuff goes fast.
Lee Chung Café [Chinatown]
82 Madison Street (between Market and Catherine streets), Manhattan
Poon Kee [Chinatown]
39 Monroe Street (between Market and Catherine streets), Manhattan
Discuss: Fish Ball/Cheung Fun Part II and Burmese Fish Noodle Soup Part II--Two Threads Converge at Lee Chung Cafe
What is your favorite Chinatown restaurant?
Poon Kee – Delicious Hong Kong Snacks in Chinatown
Fish ball with cheung fan noodle?