There are two Best Fuzhou Restaurants in Chinatown. Which one is the best? At both their customers are predominantly Fujianese, who from morning until late afternoon mostly order Congee ($1.00) and some assorted Chinese pickles, salted peanuts, scrambled eggs or perhaps dried shrimp (.50) The ambiance in both is at best nouveau peasant. The patois: the Fuzhou dialect.
Best Fuzhou Restaurant at 71A Eldridge Street (Hester) 212-219-3328 Chinese Name: Song Bo Yuan.
I’ll have to warn you first. The first time I managed to get a seat in this 30-seat spot it was full and 3 Chinese men next to me were smoking as they ate and swilled beef from small glasses. Subsequent visits during the week have proved much less crowded and smoke-free. Their English menu has about 75% of the Chinese dishes translated. One of their two waitresses speaks English and the other one doesn’t. Start off with the Xiao Long Bao – 8 fine steamed pork dumplings for $3.75 with no soup inside - Fuzhou style, with no black vinegar/soy and ginger dipping sauce. Also worth trying is their Fried Taro Cake, a pie-like wedge of taro deep fried (.50) and Fuzhou Dumpling Soup: 12 pork dumplings served in a clear broth with scallions for only $3.00. Add a touch of vinegar if you like. For main dishes the Clams in Black Bean Sauce ($9.95) were tender and juicy and Sautéed Cauliflower ($7.95) was hot and crunchy. The Zui Pai Gu (Drunken Spare Ribs) or Spare Ribs with House Special Sauce ($7.95) and some tomatoes and taro were more bone than meat. A Fuzhou specialty seems to be Qing Chao Tong Cai (Clear, Stir fried Water Spinach) in garlic which was delicious. When not busy, the waitresses are sorting and packing this veggie at one of the front tables. Fuzhou being famous for its soups and stews they offer plenty and I only tried their $5.95 Fuzhou Zahui (translated as Assorted Placates Soup!) but which is really a delicious mixed-soup with some type of fish!
It greatly helps here to speak Mandarin or be able to read Chinese at the next Best Fuzhou Restaurant!
Best Fuzhou Restaurant at 68 Forsyth Street (Hester.) Chinese name on the awning says Qing Yuan. If you get here after 12 noon or so, there is one waitress who speaks some English! It seats only 18 and the aquariums are empty. Try their #122 - Li Zhi Rou (Lychee Pork) the famous Fuzhou version of sweet and sour pork. Usually sweet and sour pork is not a dish I order as it’s usually too sweet but this is the best in Chinatown! Piping hot pork served with potato, green peppers, carrots, garlic, scallions and hot pepper flakes that was closer to the sour side than sweet. And it had the right proportion of sauce to ingredients. I've had this at three other Fuzhou spots but this was the best. Normally the dish costs $6.95 but at lunch they served me a smaller portion (I didn’t ask them to) and was only charged $4.00! Even cheaper is Yu Ren (Fish Ball Soup,) 10 huge pork-filled fish balls served in broth with scallions for only $3.00. On another visit I wanted to try their #11, Zha Hao Bing (Fried Oyster Pancake) and #12, Zha Yu Gao (Fried Taro Cake) but was told they don’t have it. They also list XLB on their menu but never have it! For the cheapest eats try their Dou Jiang (Soy Juice) and 3 Zhu Bao (pork belly filled Mantou) for only $1.50 - an excellent pre-lunch snack!
71 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002