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Report on Ping's, Funky Broome, etc.

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Report on Ping's, Funky Broome, etc.

Adam Stephanides | Jul 30, 2001 11:50 PM

Finally (and tardily) the last of my reports on my trip to New York. This covers all the significant Manhattan experiences I haven't mentioned in previous reports. The first of these was the Manhattan Ping's (the newer one, north of Sweet 'n' Tart). Though I'd eaten at the Flushing branch several times, this was the first time I'd been to the Manhattan branch. Me and my two companions ordered duck tongues, oysters with XO sauce, double boiled whole honey melon soup with shark's fin and fresh seafood (served inside a hollowed-out melon), crispy squid and fried silverfish with roots, crispy skin chicken, prawns with cream sauce and fried milk, loofah with dried something (my notes are illegible here), baked squab, salt and pepper prawns, and mixed Asian mushrooms. I know this sounds wonderful, but it sounds better than it actually was. The last dish was bland, a real disappointment. The others were good, but unexciting (including the honey melon soup which William Grimes, iirc, raved about). This was a real letdown, since it was the Flushing Ping's that first revealed to me how creative and complex Chinese food could be. In fact, my two companions were more excited by their first bubble tea at Saint's Alp, which I took them to after the meal, than the were by Ping's.

A few days later, I ate at Funky Broome. This did not disappoint. I started off with the crispy intestines, which were delicious as always (my mouth is literally watering, thinking about them). For entree, I had "home style pork stuffed lotus root wok." This was lotus root stuffed with pork, breaded and deep fried, served (as the name suggests) in a wok with greens and various other things, including some sort of preserved red fruit (Eric Asimov says cherries, but I have my doubts). This did indeed taste "home style," very hearty and very good. I've only eaten at a few of New York's many Chinese restaurants (though I think I've hit most of the places regularly touted on these boards), but if someone were to ask me to recommend one Chinese restaurant, I'd say Funky Broome.

Actually, the highlight of my trip to Ping's was that while walking to the restaurant from the subway, I stumbled across Aji Ichiban (37 Mott St.). This is like one of those stores in malls that sell bulk candy from bins, except that this store sells a vast range of Asian candy and snacks (though the name is Japanese, the selection seemed to my uninformed eye to be as much Chinese as Japanese). This place has been talked about on this board before, but none of the posts I found mentioned the best part: you can sample anything you want, as many items as you want. So if you've ever been curious about the strange things found in Chinese groceries, this is a risk-free way to satisfy your curiosity. Among the treats I sampled were grilled tuna (little cubes of spicy dried grilled tuna, each individually wrapped), ten scent olives (one of what must have been at least a dozen varieties of preserved olives), and "whole licorice menthol" (they aren't kidding about the menthol). Truth to tell, none of the stuff I had was a revelation, though the grilled tuna was addictive (and expensive, about seventeen dollars a pound iirc). But still, it's an amazing place, and I'm sorry that as it turned out I wasn't able to make a second visit.

Another very good restaurant I went to was Banjara. This is on 6th St. and First Ave., but has nothing in common with the other Indian restaurants on 6th St. In fact, it was the best Indian food I've ever eaten. Unfortunately I didn't take notes on it, and I've completely forgetten what I ate (another reason I should have written my trip up much earlier).

I also went to the Indonesian restaurant in the East Village that Robert Sietsema put on his list of top 100 cheap eats. I don't remember its name, and I didn't think it was that good.

I just realized that in my report on sweet stuff, I'd forgotten to mention the Donut Plant, on the Lower East Side somewhere. Those doughnuts were addictive. I don't know if I'd travel from, say, the Upper West Side for them, but I was staying on 13th St. between 1st and A, and I was very happy to walk the mile (or however far it was) and back for them.

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