Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In a Land Far, Far Away…The Foodies Explore Chinatown

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Once upon a time, three successful NYC women in their Bloomingdale’s best trekked through the fish juice glazed streets of Chinatown to explore the highly buzzed about 456 Restaurant.  Sam Sifton of The New York Times (and foodie celeb!) had us at the phrase "dumpling heaven" in his review of 456, so we decided it would be a fun adventure for The Foodies…

While some restaurants pride themselves on the overall dining experience – the peaceful ambiance, delivering the specials in poetic prose, the milieu of soothing orchestra music and a cellar full of exotic red wines – we don't always consider that the main attraction (as discussed previously).  That said, ordering at 456 was not a three-ring circus.  The menu was fairly straightforward (fish head casserole; chicken with cashews; Peking duck) and our experience with the staff was equally laconic:
Foodies in NYC: Do you have a wine list?
Waiter:  White or red?
Foodies in NYC:
Waiter: Bottle or glass?
Foodies (in unison): Bottle
Waiter:  Ok.  Do you want rice?
Foodies:  Yes.
Waiter:  Ok. How many?
Foodies:  Uhh...two?
Waiter:  Ok.

End conversation, cue the food.  We decided on a little bit of this (steamed juicy pork buns and steamed house veggie dumplings) and a little bit of that (cold noodles in sesame sauce).  The dumplings were moist and flavorful but the noodles fell a little flat – the sauce was too buttery and meagerly covered the dish, which made it difficult to get past the gummy texture.  On our two main dishes, General Tso's Chicken and Moo Shu Pork, we indulged in the simplicity of the sauces and quality of the meats.  The big, white chunks of chicken and fluffy pancakes made both dishes good to the last rice grain.

While fairly awkward in presence, the large, inexpensive plates of quality food at 456 took us all to our happy places, where we laugh, chat and munch (never at the same time, right mom?!) and always end the night with the phrase, "we needed that!" 

To ensure a happily ever after, we navigated back through the eel-streaked windows of Chinatown to end our night at Rice to Riches, a specialty, rice pudding Mecca.  “Strange” might be the first thought that pops into your head, but ours is, "why the #$%& didn't we think of that!?"  Served in Solo, Epic, Sumo, and Moby sizes, in flavors like Cheesecake, Cookies n' Cream, Banana, Rum Raisin and Coconut (among many others), Rice to Riches is a dessert dream come true.

The Takeaway:
Get out of your comfort zone with typical Chinese food.  Next time, leave the take out boxes at home and go out for the real deal!  And, in the words of Anne, "if you don't like rice pudding, seek professional help."

456 Restaurant
69 Mott Street (Canal Street), Chinatown
(212) 964-0003

37 Spring St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 274-0008