Tag: Amazing 66
There are few things SYB enjoys more than assisting tourists: hardly a week goes by without his proactively offering directions to bewildered-looking foreigners. German speakers, in particular, will capture his attention… as will fetching French women, as was the case with RM’s guests, whom we met at his St. Patrick’s Day soirée in Sunnyside. MB and JA were in town for just over a week, and fortunate I think to have such attentive and enthusiastic boosters for New York City at their disposal.
I crossed paths with the touring trio on Sixth Avenue, as they were heading into the MoMA to take advantage of Target Free Friday Nights when museum admission is complimentary from 4–8PM. All other times, it’s a rather steep $20, which explains this insane queue for entry.
So despite the fact that my MoMA membership card would earn me line-jumping privileges, I knew that every single one of these people would make it inside the museum eventually, and I didn’t particularly want to be there when they did. Not when I could check out the acclaimed “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibit any other time… through May 12, anyway.
I met up with SYB, MB and JA a couple of hours later at Amazing 66, where we gave our visitors an authentic taste of Chinatown. Tonight’s menu overlapped much of the Mardi Gras meal -– with the short rib-stuffed pumpkin and steamed whole flounder the unqualified hits of the night — but in the excitement of feasting, I neglected to order the “Salad Walnut Prawns” — sorry, HYB! Afterwards, the nine of us made the obligatory post-dinner visit to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory around the corner.
After the couples took their leave, it was up to the B brothers and me to plan out the rest of our evening. The night was still young, but, as it turned out, so were our guests; JA was a couple weeks shy of her 21st birthday, which strictly limited our options. Three native New Yorkers, and not one of us could immediately think of a place to spend a Friday night that did not involve drinking, or that at least required guests to be of drinking age. Embarrassing, actually – and a testament to how very long it had been since any of us had to take such matters into consideration.
I remembered what fun we’d had at J’s birthday celebration in December, and suggested Fat Cat Billiards on Christopher, both for its live music and its low-key vibe. Under 21 welcome! The $3 cover got us into the basement saloon, stocked with pool and ping pong tables, shufflepuck and foosball (“baby-foot” in France, I learned), chess and board games galore. The women, though, seemed most entranced by the live performances, and the well-over-21 among us were more than happy to settle into the worn couches for the next couple of hours to catch the sets by The Gospel Queens of Brooklyn and one very talented jazz octet.
Since that first visit in January, we’ve been averaging a trip to Amazing 66 on Mott Street every couple of weeks. At the restaurant this Thursday afternoon, we had the serendipity to stumble upon the high-powered board meeting of new Asian American literary journal Kartika Review, i.e., our friends RL and SL. If there is any better way to conduct business than over a whole Peking duck, I do not know it.
We joined them and their fellow editor DW at a large round table, where their meal was already in progress.
Although the trio did generously offer to share with us some of their delicious-looking duck, I stayed strictly vegetarian with my #62 lunch special: Vermicelli with Buddha’s Delight.
As the name suggests, this dish is enjoyed traditionally by Buddhist monks, most of whom maintain vegetarian diets. (Buddhism’s Five Precepts prohibit killing, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, engaging in false speech and taking intoxicants, to avoid accumulating negative karma.)
This slow-braised dish usually consists of a fairly long list of ingredients, cooked in a soy sauce-based liquid with other seasonings until tender. The specific items used vary greatly both in and outside Asia, and often carry some auspicious significance: black moss (fat choy) is a homonym for prosperity (as in “Gung Hay Fat Choy“); ginkgo biloba nuts (bak ko) mimic silver ingots and therefore also bring good fortune; fried tofu and beancurd sticks (foo jook) represent blessings to the house; bamboo piths (jook tseng), wood ear fungus (ha mok yi) and mung-bean threads (fun see) symbolize long life.
No animals were harmed in the making of this delight.
Is it still only Tuesday? So far this week, there’s already been song and dance, thrilling victory and joyous celebration… and tonight, coinciding with Super Duper Tuesday and the traditional excess associated with Mardi Gras, our long-planned, pre-Chinese New Year feast at Chinatown’s Amazing 66.
A dozen friends, new and old, gathered in the restaurant’s lower level. Early in, it was established that we would place ourselves (willingly, happily) in SL’s capable ordering hands, and just eat whatever food was placed before us this evening. So began the parade of deliciousness — off and on the menu. A platter of batter-fried seafood, sauteed pea shoots, pan-fried noodles with seafood, braised E-Fu noodles with black mushroom (for longevity), and this, the first of two restaurant specialties that required advance ordering: Short Rib Beef in a Pumpkin. Yes: that’s short rib beef! In a pumpkin! Was ever there more a delightful combination of words spoken? The dish was brought out to the table in one glorious piece, with chunks of steaming, lightly curry-spiced meat exploding tantalizingly out the top of the hollowed out squash. Our glossy-tressed waiter, brandishing a large chef’s knife, made quick work of the soft, pumpkin flesh before our eyes.
Salad Walnut Prawns — a classic dish made up of the seemingly strange combination of deep-fried jumbo prawns, slathered in a sweet mayonnaise, and laid over a bed of dressed mixed fruits, broccoli and candied walnuts. Tasty, though.
And the second show-stopper of the evening: the House Special Crispy Chicken Stuffed with Sticky Rice. Essentially, a whole chicken, deboned and de-…fleshed(?), crammed with a combination of sausage-studded sticky rice, and then deep-fried and meticulously reassembled into the general shape a chicken, albeit a rather flat one. Head included, of course — to symbolize wholeness and togetherness.
There were more dishes, selected for their symbolic auspiciousness: another chicken, roasted, and topped with preserved vegetables. A whole steamed flounder; the Chinese word for “fish” is a homonym for “abundance”. And an oyster casserole, to bring in “good things” for the coming year.
We ate our fill — or perhaps just beyond — and finished with a round of orange wedges (for wealth) and bowls of red bean tong shui (sweet dessert soup). How a few of us still managed after all that to squeeze in a post-dinner trip to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory can best be attributed to a new year’s miracle.
Though when it comes to such temptations, I align myself with New York‘s Insatiable Critic Gael Greene, who declares quite rightly: “I shall never trust anyone who doesn’t love ice cream.”
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