Congee Village is a perennial hound haunt for satisfying Cantonese chow. Pan (who has eaten a wide swath through the menu) and other devotees offer a few reasons:
– Noodles: chow fun with sliced beef and rich black bean sauce; crispy chow mein with beef and Chinese broccoli, or “Chinese vegetables” on the menu (“the answer to all the mediocre beef with broccoli dishes you’ve had elsewhere.”)
– Congees are a good bet, as you’d expect. Recommended accompaniments include fresh squid with ginger sauce, chicken with black mushroom, sliced fish and lettuce, roast duck and meat ball, sliced beef and fish. Avoid boring, under-flavored “Healthy Vegetarian Porridge.” mnk suggests ordering Chinese greens with garlic, then pouring some of the garlic sauce into the congee.
– Chicken: house special chicken, fried and sauced with an addictively good garlic-scallion mixture, is special indeed. Also great: steamed chicken with black mushroom, a many-splendored but harmonious dish that also contains Chinese sausage, lily buds, ginger, scallions and jujubes.
– Vegetables: simple, flavorful winners include Chinese greens with garlic, sauteed lotus root with special bean paste sauce, assorted vegetables Buddhist style (includes ginkgo nuts and bamboo pith), and eggplant and other vegetables with bean curd.
– Lamb chops are made with onions or black bean sauce, both terrific.
– Rice baked in bamboo: two standout flavors are chicken-black mushroom and two kinds of Chinese sausage.
– Seafood: shrimp with fish sauce, crabs with delicate black bean sauce, sweet/spicy/sour “Thai-style” clams, and sea clams and sweet pea pods with XO sauce. The latter dish is “wonderful–one of the best things I’ve had at Congee Village,” marvels Pan.
A few blocks away in Chinatown, Oriental Garden remains a fine, if sometimes overlooked, spot for dim sum. Shu mai (steamed pork dumplings) and cheung fun (rice noodle rolls), to mention just two, are tops. “Wow–that’s all I can say,” raves wingman, who has been making the rounds of Chinatown’s yum cha contenders. He says the relatively small Oriental Garden beats Golden Bridge and Jing Fong in quality and Golden Unicorn and Dim Sum Go Go in selection. Others praise the user-friendly illustrated menu and accommodating service, not so common at Chinatown’s larger dim sum halls.
Two blocks west, outside the orbit of many Chinatown diners, Chanoodle continues to serve houndworthy Cantonese. “Easy to forget about this place,” notes Chandavkl, but it’s worth remembering for dishes like its flounder and tofu casserole, a chef’s special. Deb Van D is a fan of its crisp-fried soft shell crabs. Past records have singled out salt-baked squid, powerfully flavored with fresh chiles, raw shallots, and fried garlic.
Congee Village [Lower East Side]
100 Allen St., between Broome and Delancey, Manhattan
Oriental Garden Restaurant [Chinatown]
14 Elizabeth St., between Canal and Bayard Sts., Manhattan
79 Mulberry St., between Bayard and Canal Sts., Manhattan