Location: 18 East Broadway (nr Catherine St.) 2nd & 3rd Flr
Price: $2-$9 / dish
(unexpectedly decent website for Chinatown restaurant, plus good food pics)
Pop question: What did Gramercy Tavern and Golden Unicorn Restaurant have in common back in 1996?
Answer: They both were named top five restaurants in NYC by Food & Wine magazine.
Okay so 1996 is a LONG time ago and although there is no way they would get a title like that in this crazy restaurant world of 2010 but, Golden Unicorn has managed to gain some nice recognition for their quality food throughout the years since then. Located on East Broadway away from the craziness of Bowery and the tourist filled mayhem of Canal Street is this restaurant somewhat tucked away on a block which I rarely go. Gold Unicorn is known for their dim sum and that’s what brought some of us there for typical Saturday morning outing. The restaurant is located on the 2nd and 3rd floors of a commercial building and upon taking the elevators up and entering the restaurant I am greeted by the array of golden colors everywhere. Didn’t see any images of unicorns anywhere nor golden unicorns. I liked the spaciousness of the restaurant and at 11:30am we were able to sit right away with ample seating around the restaurant. This is a bonus because some of the other popular dim sum spots in Chinatown tend to have ridiculous wait times during brunch time.
We sat by the kitchen so we were hit by the dim sum ladies right away and there was nice variety of stuff coming out. We got some shrimp shumai, sticky rice inside lotus leaf, sticky rice molded to bowl shape, fried shrimp balls, wide rice noodle with pork, & the best dim sum dish was the fried taro ball (first image). Lets just say there wasn’t anything that I didn’t like that we ordered.
You have to excuse me for botching the name of these dim sum dishes because I never know the actual name to these thing since my Chinese/Taiwanese always order the dishes. I’m just glad those same friend didn’t order the BBQed chicken feet, because that is one dish I WILL NOT EAT…long story. The food was solid good dim sum but, nothing crazy amazing rock my world type of dim sum. If I were to meet friends in Manhattan chinatown for dim sum I’d probably go back to this place for solid food and accommodation for large parties. AND yes, I do have to go out to Flushing, Queens to try dim sum there and YES maybe it will completely rock my world?
Location: 124 Hester St (btw Bowery & Chrystie)
Price: Pho $5-6
I recently had conversation with a vietnamese dude whom I met through dodgeball and our conversation went like this:
Me: So you’re Vietnamese…which Vietnamese restaurant in the city is the best?
Vietnamese dude: None
Vietnamese dude: You kind of forget and get used to how bad Vietnamese food in NYC is until you go to another city and realize how good it can be.
Okay so MAYBE there is a mysterious Vietnamese place out there in the outer boroughs that have an amazing pho or some random French fusion Vietnamese street food. Who knows? I’ll keep looking out there but, for now I went to Cong Ly and they had a solid Pho. Its right off Bowery at a very unassuming location recommended by a friend. The noodle and broth were great and I like that they had a Pho option with a sweet beef roll thing on the side. The noodles were definitely higher quality than other places I’ve been to off mulberry and mott st. Yes I still need to go to Vietnam and experience the real thing.
So the ultimate question is…are the noodles more important, or the broth, or the other misc thing that go into a Pho (cilantro, lime, tripe, beef, etc)??
Location: 6008 Seventh Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Price: bun bo hue $6.25; spring roll vermicelli $4.00
Okay I admit that I’ve been drooling over Vietnamese food lately but, I just can’t help it. Especially after watching that No Reservations episode when Tony goes back to Vietnam for the second time, I had to find a soup close to what that lunch lady makes. So with the help and suggestion of my Brooklynite friend Jeesoo, we made a trip to the “other” chinatown known as Sunset Park. Thanh Da restaurant, looks like any restaurant located around 8th ave but, they serve one dish that no one else serves: THE bun bo hue.
This spicy soup dish with tender pork pieces, noodles, and a mix of vegetables is what this place is known for. The soup is very spicy but, has SO much flavor to it. Actually, I think that it was a good choice that we also got the spring roll vermicelli to balance the intense flavors of this hearty soup. The spring rolls were crispy and light with a bit of meat layered inside to create a nice balance with the very fresh vermicelli noodles all mixed in with fish sauce.
I’m sure these are nothing like what you can find in Vietnam but, it certainly makes me want to go to Vietnam even more. Maybe once I move to back to Brooklyn I can at least take more trips to Sunset park and find more places to satisfy my Vietnamese food cravings.
Location: 138 Mott Street (South of Grand St.)
Price: $3.75 – $4.25 for sandwiches
I think I have this weird conditioning where whenever I goto chinatown, I start craving banh mi sandwiches. I’ve made way too many excuses to walk, bike, or take train to Chinatown to get my fill of these Vietnamese street food sandwich creations that beats any sandwich in NY for the value and taste. Heck, I used to bike to Chinatown from Bushwick, Brooklyn to get my fix…and everyone knows that ride up Williamsburg bridge ain’t that easy. SO, I had to do a write up of at least one of my favorite places: Banh Mi Saigon Bakery. My favorite part about this place is that it happens to be located at Mott St. inside at the back of a jewelry store.
The jewelry store thing isn’t the only thing going for it…they have lightning fast service, delicious baguette, and have ample fresh vegetables on the sandwich. I feel like I’m getting my weekly supply of vegetables every time I eat one of these. I love also that their bbq pork in the sandwich has a bit of a crispier and sweeter texture to it to enhance the overall flavor.
The only bad part about this place is that it closes pretty early and at that point I usually have to settle for Paris Sandwich, Banh Mi So, or head back up to Baoguette or Little Nicky’s. Glad I have so many options to choose from, I’m just glad I don’t have cravings for the meatball Banh Mi from Sunset Park, Brooklyn on a regular basis.