Day: August 28th, 2006

Adventurous eating @ Congee Village

Monday, August 28th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Friends

SC and JG had arranged for a group of us to meet at Congee Village on Allen, with a call to “bring your appetite and your sense of adventure.” Congee Village, you see, specializes in Hong Kong and southern Chinese dishes of organ meats, innards and a startling array of pause-inducing fare. Still, I suspected that growing up in a traditional Chinese household had probably inured me to such things for the most part. Plus, I was interested in finally checking out this place which, since its opening seven years ago, has become a popular, almost hip dining destination among the late night Lower East Side bar revelers.

I arrived about half an hour early — forgetting how quick the ride from Wall Street could be on the J/M/Z train. I promptly ran into JB on Delancey and we decided to retreat to the nearby Starbucks for cool drinks before returning to the restaurant at the appointed time. Once there, we met (engaged!) AC at the neon-lit, lacquered wood bar; the three of us settled into the odd assortment of hulking wood and futuristic plastic chairs in the lounge area to await the others. SC and JG arrived soon after, with LR trickling in eventually.

Congee Village

Our group was escorted — well, partly escorted — to one of the banquet rooms down the narrow stairs. The restaurant is in fact, quite large — much larger than just the main upstairs dining space would suggest. I wonder if this was one of the basement karaoke rooms I’d read about?

After some negotiation, we settled upon a mix of “safe” and “adventurous” dishes from the impressively extensive menu. Here, the dried scallop congee, which arrived at the table still boiling, but a bit too gingery for most of our tastes. Also, fish maw congee… because SC and I couldn’t decide upon just one.

(Actually, all the congee is listed on the menu as “porridge,” which seems odd given the name of the restaurant.)


The “House Special Chicken” — crisp skinned and garlicky: one of my favorites of the evening. Sharing this “safe” end of the spectrum were the “Han Moon Style Chow Mei Fun” (thin rice noodles with shrimp, Spam(!) slivers, egg, beansprouts and vegetables) and a cylindrical bamboo pot filled gift-like with sticky sweet rice and meats. We were about a third of the way through the dish when we realized that what we were eating was not the “Sizzling Frog in Casserole” we’d ordered; it tasted like chicken because it was chicken (with black mushroom.) The waiter had inadvertantly brought us another table’s dish — whoops! (The frog came later.)

Special Chicken

Chilled jellyfish and this dish of “Sweet Pea Pods and Sauteed Duck Tongues in XO Sauce” over explanations of vernacular and “Would You Rathers” among friends both old and new — what could be finer?

Duck Tongues

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