Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chinese Two Ways

It started on Sunday night with a trip to Chinatown's Peking Duck House. This venerable duck spot is always crowded, never has reservations available, and allows patrons to bring their own wine (Riesling and Burgundy for us). Really, there is only one thing that you must get here: Peking duck (duh!).

Soup dumplings were a misstep, with a flavorless filling and an over boiled dumpling wrapper. Chinese broccoli--closely resembling broccoli rabe--in oyster sauce was good enough, fulfilling the need for something green. But the real star was the duck, carved away from our table and brought back in clean, lacquered slices. It was fatty and chewy and crispy and arrived with a julienne of cucumber and scallions, along with thin pancakes and hoisin sauce. We ate the whole duck.

Later in the week, I had a dumpling craving that required satisfaction and so found myself at the recently renovated (but still dirt cheap) Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers Street, where a truly overabundant meal set me back twenty-five smackers--and where I should have shown restraint and ordered less. House special dumplings, pork and shrimp, came in a crisp, pan seared package. Shrimp and pea shoot numbers were in a thinner, gooier rice paper wrapper, equally delicious. Vegetable dumplings were the size of hacky sacks. Shrimp filling wrapped in bacon came deep fried and impossibly crunchy. Rice rolls--one with vegetables and one with beef--surprised us with their incredible texture and depth. A pork bun the size of two adult fists gave way to chunks of real, toothsome pork. And turnip cakes with Chinese sausage and dried shrimp were crisp outside and soft inside, a welcome departure from that old stand-by, scallion pancakes. I never even made it to the fried crab claw, which came with shell intact (a minor turnoff, to be honest). The evening's only real disappointment was a plate of "sweet and sour" spare ribs, more closely resembling a withered, soggy tonkatsu.

But for dumplings, well, it's worth the trip.

Peking Duck House
28 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013

Nom Wah Tea Parlor
13 Doyers Street
New York, NY 10013

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