Where we live on the Lower East Side it’s hard to tell where Chinatown starts and the Lower East Side ends. We live on Grand street and I only have to walk 2 blocks before I am in the heart of one of the most vibrant Asian grocery store areas downtown. Besides having some of the best prices in town they always have some of the most interesting produce I have ever seen, often things actually I have never seen and this selection changes seasonally. Produce is not the only thing that is hard to keep up with in this ever-changing neighborhood: food shops and restaurants are constantly opening and closing. Of the two places I have recently discovered one has been there for a while (a very long while from the looks of it) and the other is recently opened.
Lam Zhou in a small hole in the wall on East Broadway just a few doors down from the post office. I’ve walked by it many, many time and never really noticed it. Maybe you can tell from this picture why…
It was starting to get cold out, the first real cold of the season, I had rushed by Lam Zhou on my way to the Post Office to try to get there before it closed. Turns out it closes at 5:30 not 6 so I was left on East Broadway hungry and in a hurry to get to my appointment in Tribeca when something in my brain said: Didn’t that sign post say duck soup? So I went to investigate.The place was packed but I was lucky enough to find one seat at a large table occupied by a group of young Asian men (teenagers I would guess) most of whom were waiting for large plates of fried dumplings, the guy in my left was slurping his soup which confirmed for me that soup was the way to go. I looked around and didn’t really see a waitress, at the end of the small dingy room was an open door way, on the left was this guy (above) making hand-made noodles and a bunch of other people busy frying dumplings and attending to steaming pots of broth and boiling noodles…the menu was posted on the wall.It didn’t take long for me to decide that Ox Tail was the way to go. I figured for $5.50 even if it was awful it wasn’t much of a risk. I went up to where the guy making the noodles was and someone else from the kitchen looked up at me expectantly so I told him Ox Tail Soup and returned to my seat just as several plates of fried dumplings arrived at the table to feed the hungry youth I had joined for dinner. They smelled so good I began questioning my choice, but I could never eat dumplings and soup it would be way too much food. Black Vinegar, Hot Sauce, a few other condiments I didn’t know what they were and utensils are all on the table.The utensils included small, really useless plastic spoons, which I quickly realized where a concession to Western dinners, as the young man next to me picked up his bowl after he has finished his noodles and drank the hot tasty broth directly from the bowl. Much more efficient than the plastic spoons. When my soup came it was steamy hot and delicious. The noodles were the perfect combination of chewy and soft; perfect for slurping. When I left the place which had been packed had emptied out. I vowed to return, this place may not have much going for it in the way of decor, but it offers one of the best bowls of soup I’ve had in a long while, for a great price. I have to go back with friends so I try the Duck soup with noodles and try out the dumplings.On the same walk through Chinatown to get to tribeca I came across: Beautiful Memory Dessert. First off c’mon how could you not want to eat at a place called Beautiful Memory Desserts? This place looked brand spanking new and had photos of their desserts along with their names.Sticky rice and mango is a classic Thai dessert, I’m guessing that the Vanilla sauce is made with a coconut milk base? Or that the chef is getting all fusion on our asses 😉 I didn’t go in because I was running late, but I will be back, in a world filled with fancy Chinese sponge cake and fruit pastries or bubble tea shops this Dessert place looked very unique with a Southeast Asian twist that really appeals. Turns out after some research that Beautiful Memory Desserts started in Flushing Queens…and this is their expansion into Manhattan.
Finally to make me feel like I had indeed been transported to Asia there was an endless array of produce. An entire block that seemed to be taken over by sugar cane Pineapple peeled and cut like they do in Bangkok – this is the first time I have ever seen this here in NYC – I was so thrilled by it I actually bought some pineapple.And finally the elderly gentleman whose famous food cart makes “yummy cakes” which are very simple lite white cakes the size of a donut hole that smell and taste so good….15 for a buck. If you haven’t been for a walk through Chinatown in a while I think it’s time. Each time I go I discover something new and wonderful. I love it.