For lovers of Cantonese-style seafood, Fuleen in Chinatown is a destination for many reasons, none more persuasive than its geoduck two ways. First comes the clam’s foot, sliced into strips and served raw over ice. sgordon finds it “beautifully briny and sweet, with a nice toothsome chew.” Dip it in soy or wasabi if you choose (sgordon chooses not to). On the heels of the foot arrives the belly, cut in chunks and cleanly fried, “a pile of some of the best clam fritters you’ll find in NYC.” This perennial Chowhound favorite is relatively pricey at $70, yet it’s not such a bad deal considering the same amount of mirugai sashimi—without the fried course—would cost that much or more at a sushi bar, sgordon notes.
Other highlights of his recent blowout dinner at Fuleen were steamed flounder with ginger and scallions; lobster with XO sauce; tender, meaty sautéed conch with scallops; bright, simple sautéed snow pea leaves; and crispy black jellyfish, almost cabbagelike in texture, sparely sauced with sesame and soy. Clay pot casseroles are dependably good: Try taro with preserved duck or chicken, salted fish, and eggplant. swannee recommends Fuleen’s Peking duck. The skin comes with freshly steamed wheat buns; the meat, in an unorthodox but winning presentation, is diced with mushroom and water chestnut and served with lettuce leaves for wrapping, à la minced squab. Perhaps because of its location, across the Bowery from the historic heart of Chinatown, Fuleen is often overlooked, sgordon says, but it’s “worth a trip for sure.”
Closer to the neighborhood’s bustling center is Oriental Garden, another hound go-to spot for Cantonese seafood. This kitchen has a sure hand with sauces—black bean, XO, ginger and scallion—so sgordon suggests an easy formula for ordering: Pick your protein, pick your sauce. He recommends the rich black bean sauce with brinier fare like clams or mussels; the XO with milder seafood like scallops, conch, or razor clams; and ginger-scallion with whole fish.
Other smart orders include grouper with ham; a large scallop in the shell with garlic that’s delicious but “a bit of a splurge at $6 for a single scallop”; and drunken shrimp (“good, as long as you’re cool with watching the critters die a fiery death in front of you”). sgordon offers two rules for dining at Oriental Garden: Go with a group. And skip the land meats—it’s not that the pork and poultry dishes are bad, but “you’re in the house of a noted seafood master, so stick with Chef Wong’s specialty.”
11 Division Street (between Catherine and Market streets), Manhattan
Oriental Garden [Chinatown]
14 Elizabeth Street (between Bayard and Canal streets), Manhattan