True Taiwanese chow—much hungered after by New York hounds, but rarely found—has surfaced in homey, authentic form at Excellent Pork Chop House. HLing says this Chinatown hole in the wall recently began making an herb-scented restorative called Four Gods Soup. It’s a long-brewed, light-flavored broth full of tender slices of pork stomach, enriched and flavored by lotus seed, dried mountain potato, barley and other grains, and a dash of rice wine.
“Fantastic!” HLing declares, “even better than what I had in Taiwan at one of the night market places. It is a very calming tonic, great in the winter but good any time you feel you need to calm your nerves.” But, she adds, it is not for everyone: Its slight medicinal bitterness may put off those unaccustomed to Chinese herbal soups. It’s $5 a serving, and for an extra buck you can get a side of cai fan, Taiwanese-style rice mixed with pickled vegetables and ground pork. Four Gods Soup is not on the menu; just point to the colorful Chinese sign at the counter or ask for “Si4 Shen2 Zhu1 Du3 Tang1.”
This restaurant has earned mixed marks over the years—even its namesake pork chops are not universally beloved—but right now it appears to be on a roll. Lau says the place is enjoying a renaissance that has gotten the attention of Chinese locals: “I’ve been going there for a long time. This was far and away the most crowded I’ve ever seen it. People kept coming in, almost all Chinese, mostly Mandarin speaking.” Highlights of his recent satisfying meal included dried tofu with marinated seaweed, refreshing cold cucumber in garlic sauce, and big, tasty steamed wonton, served in hot oil and topped with chopped garlic and cilantro (“very Taiwanese-tasting, similar to things I’ve had at street stands”).
In other Chinese news, hounds are racing the calendar in search of soft-shell crabs, whose season is almost over. At Phoenix Garden, the crabs are salt-and-pepper-fried and garnished with sliced garlic. Plump and juicy, these are the best soft-shells Peter Cherches has enjoyed since the memorable version at Chinatown’s late, much-missed Sun Golden Island.
Yeah Shanghai Deluxe also has them, but they’re listed only in Chinese among the blackboard specials. “This made my day,” exults batterypark, who describes a large platter of scrumptious, deep-fried crabs, served over a bed of lettuce, scallion, garlic, and peppers. “My plan,” he resolves, “is to slowly eat my way through the blackboard specials.”
Finally, let us set down our chopsticks and observe a moment of silence for two recent Cantonese casualties, one old and one new: Nice Restaurant on East Broadway, a banquet destination for decades, and Dragon Palace on Centre Street, whose dim sum won some hound love during its run of less than two years.
Excellent Pork Chop House [Chinatown]
3 Doyers Street (between Pell and Bowery), Manhattan
Phoenix Garden [Turtle Bay]
242 E. 40th Street (between Second and Third avenues), Manhattan
Yeah Shanghai Deluxe [Chinatown]
65 Bayard Street (between Mott and Elizabeth), Manhattan
Board Links: The best Taiwanese 疇�算�疑岑汀壅阬授珍兩�￣汕嗽�, now at Excellent Pork Chop House!
Softshell crabs at Yeah Shanghai Deluxe–Not on the English language menu, but really great
Phoenix Garden has soft shell crabs
Dim Sum or not to Dim Sum–that is the question?
What Happened to Dragon Palace (Dim Sum)?