Month: May, 2007

Wonton Garden woes

Thursday, May 17th, 2007 | All Things, Eats

An updated look for Wonton Garden, mostly consisting of new window signage. Why are they no longer claiming to be “The Best in Town!!”?


Wonton Garden

A trip to Chinatown is always something of a crapshoot when it comes to dining experiences: crowded tables; scary bathrooms; surly or harried waiters; brusque, bordering on rude, service… depending on your perspective it could be considered part of the charm, or at least an acceptable trade-off for access to the cheap and delicious food.

Since we began doing these Thursday Chinatown lunches, we’ve had relatively good experiences: a slight wait for a check here, a late arriving scallion pancake there… but today, our luck ran out. It was inevitable, really.

After being shown to our formica-topped table by the cashier/manager, we sat and proceeded to wait for one of the two waiters overseeing the dining room to take our order. Benign neglect is one thing, but for ten solid minutes, nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. The heads of our fellow hungry diners swivelled around in vain; a group of tourists, frustrated by their inability to snag anyone’s attention, rose in a fit of pique and left. Other groups were seated in their place, only to receive the same (non)treatment. Every now and then, we’d catch a fleeting glimpse of a waiter, only to have him disappear just as quickly to seat another party, or to put together other orders. Clearly, the skeleton staff was busy, but I didn’t see a single lunch order taken from the moment we sat down, until a pair of harried businessmen physically halted one of the waiters as he dashed by their table to drop off water glasses. It was as bizarre as it was maddening.

Now my first rule of dining out is: “Do not piss off the waitstaff” – not in general, but especially not if your food is yet to arrive. Reasons should be obvious. But we had sat patiently for nearly twenty minutes — and Wonton Garden has an open, full-view kitchen — so I felt I was on solid ground in voicing my concerns in this particular situation. Or rather, given my less-than-perfect Cantonese, wordlessly expressing them. I half stood, and shot the cashier/manager a cocked eyebrow, accompanied by emphatically opened palms (ASL for “WTF,” I believe) after which she immediately hissed some sharp words at the nearest passing waiter, who sullenly scurried over to take our order.

Minutes later, my dumpling noodle soup hit the table, followed by our fried dumplings: both reliably fresh and tasty, but the overall experience was somehow marred from having to rush through the meal to get back to the office at a reasonable time.

Wonton Garden dumpling soup

Wonton Garden dumplings

Eh, for $3.50 a bowl, I’ll get over it.

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Chamber music at the Y

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Eats, Music

Sassy’s Sliders — the Upper East Side’s answer to White Castle, albeit slightly less grungy and without the bulletproof glass. The 50’s inspired fast food shop offers five varieties of their signature bite size-burgers (turkey, veggie, chicken parmesan and BBQ chicken) for just over a buck apiece — toppings extra — as well as three types of torpedo sandwiches. I have never seen anyone order the latter.

Delivery is available throughout Manhattan, with a $50 minimum. Those Wall Street guys do love their sliders.

Sassys Sliders

Followed by an evening of chamber music at the 92nd Street Y. Featured on the Schubert-focused program tonight was an abruptly unfinished duo for violin and cello by Czech pianist and composer Gideon Klein, whose promising career was cut tragically short by World War II. Klein died at the Fürstengrube concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 25, leaving behind among his effects, several compositions from his time at Terezín, north of Prague, which was represented to the world by the Nazis as a model Jewish settlement, but where in reality Jews were received before being sent on to death camps.

chamber musicians

Assessing the average age of those in the auditorium that night, I have to wonder: Who will be around to attend these concerts in 20 years?

Lexington Avenue

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What to wear

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007 | All Things, Events

At the “Summer in the City with Color Fashion Presentation” at Lord & Taylor:

Lord and Taylor fashion show

Lord and Taylor fashion show

Aside from the free-flowing pinot grigio (no fools, these marketers) and a couple of pretty frocks, J was singularly unimpressed. Note: puffy sleeves may be in vogue this season, but puffy shirts, not so much — summer blockbusters notwithstanding.

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