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Restaurants & Bars 1

New Concept is Good Concept (longish) (okay, LONG)

Will Owen | Apr 12, 200510:03 PM

The Gang of Four agrees that SIV's review nailed it square: this joint cooks! The Chinese Guy, whom we trust to lead us through menus and discuss things in Cantonese with the waiters, was as floored by the menu as we were, even though he grew up knowing this cuisine inside out. I'd brought a list of SIV's recs that appealed to me, and we used that and our imaginations to cobble together a very nice meal: the Szechuan sizzling beef, the fried salt pork with greens, braised duck with potatoes, deep-fried bean curd, and fried rice with salt fish and minced veges.

That's pretty much the order things came out in. The kitchen was slammed - we went through a pot of tea before the beef came. When it did, we had to stare at it (smelling of heaven and sitting on a scattering of just-tender slivers of onion) and drool for a while because the steamed rice was lagging behind, for which there were profuse apologies. It was worth the wait.

The salt pork was just exactly on the edge of crisp and the greens (what I always call Chinese broccoli) just tender enough, and lightly bathed in a sauce flavored with star anise, which worked very well.

The duck had none of the overcooked staleness you get sometimes, but was firm and juicy and cut in nice meaty chunks. The well-done potato was cut in wedges, and soaked up the duck juices perfectly.

The tofu was like none we'd ever had before, with a crunchy, semi-porous cafe-au-lait colored crust surrounding a very soft center, curiously interesting in spite of being almost devoid of any flavor at all. It came with a dish of dipping sauce, with which it blossomed into something yummy.

The salt-fish rice was a good example of someone's re-thinking a dish. We get a version of this at several other restaurants, and while I love it I can't help thinking how my doctor wouldn't - so salty - but there's a stinky fishiness that I adore. Chinese Guy explained that those places use a moist salt fish that sort of melts into the rice, whereas New Concept uses flakes of really dry fish. The salty-fish flavor goes off in the mouth like little depth charges, enhancing rather than masking all the other flavors in the dish, of which there are plenty.

There's lots more to tell, but I'll just say that the service was some of the most attentive and friendly we've ever had anywhere, the food kept us babbling amongst ourselves for days, and we left a very generous tip and still got out for twenty bucks each. Best of all, though well-satisfied, we weren't feeling bloated at all...which explains why we then went to Twohey's and had hot-fudge sundaes for dessert ;-)

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