Such a dreary day yesterday that I needed a Chinatown fix---lunch and Chinese supermarkets.
Usually appalled by the crowd scenes outside the "new" Sweet 'n Tart Cafe (Mott St), my sister and I made tracks there early, arriving by 11:30 am. We were rewarded with an immediate and comfy "solo" table in the smaller upstairs section. (Whilst sharing giant tables in Chinatown with boisterous families CAN be part of the fun--I prefer to do my serious food analysis with my nearest and dearest.)
Beaming friendly staff (really!) handed us the menus and we went to work. I am usually suspicious of hyped restaurants--these places described as the "scenes," should often be given the hook and yanked offstage. But Sweet 'n Tart deserved its rep.
At luchtime you can get a wide selection of dim sum (ordered from the menu), soups, noodles and rice dishes. (Upstairs, where we sat, there was none of the panic I always endure from seeing full dim sum trolleys racing by, perhaps bearing away some unforgettable taste thrill that I've paused too long deciding over--and missed my Shangri La.)
We started our feast with a large crock of minced beef congee with preserved vegetables. The gingery steam rising from it was irresistible. It was a lovely porridgy texture and perfectly spiced. Our plate of pepper and salt prawns on thin shish kabob sticks arrived on a bed of colorful salad and was first-rate, fresh and crunchy.
Next up was a sticky rice casserole with a side plate of two kinds of Chinese sausage and that fatty, but delicious Chinese belly pork bacon and black mushrooms to add to it.
Our last two dishes (yes, we were pigs!) were a plate of steaming rice noodles filled with sliced beef and preserved vegetable (the noodles were sooooo fresh) and a portion of six huge stuffed mushrooms caps (stuffed with crab? am not sure.)
Prices were very reasonable--dim sum from $2.85 up to $6.95 (for shrimp dishes) and congee from about $3.50 to $5.50, approx. Larger dishes were in the $6,7,8 dollar range.
We left feeling full--but not too full to stop at Big Wong (on Mott St.)for take-out minced beef congee and spare ribs, and then on to Kam Man Supermarket (Canal St) for fresh preserved vegetables, Shanghai noodles, Chile paste with black bean sauce, a can of assorted oriental mushrooms, and a bottle of fermented bean curd in chili sauce.
This excursion was,indeed, an antidote to a dreary day!! I urge everyone who shares the Sunday "blues" to try a similar one!