I’d been to the Congee Village on Allen Street several times now — the first visit most notable for our dish of duck tongues — but this was my first time to the smaller Bowery location, just a few blocks away at the edge of SoHo and up the street from BLVD. Similar gaudy-tacky decor as the original, with an emphasis on red and gold, faux-greenery, neon accents, and… well, you can see for yourself.
The website explains the design aesthetic thusly: “Built with all authentic materials imported from China, Congee Bowery presents itself with a gorgeous intricate play of wood and marble, decorated in traditional chinese style, with a fountain of stones, real plants and real gold fish, bamboo trees and original art from the great land of China.” Mmhmm.
The Cantonese food is well-prepared and authentic, though… a favorite of my family’s, though I’ve yet to introduce them to Amazing 66 on Mott, mostly because my parents don’t make it out to Manhattan’s Chinatown much these days. Two tables were gathered tonight to celebrate J’s birthday with a traditional Chinese banquet. The dishes were part of a pre-set special menu, and followed the usual progression, beginning with a platter of cold appetizers…
…and continuing with a tureen of seafood soup, fish fillets two ways (wok-tossed and battered/fried), a T-bone steak, a steamed whole fish… and of course, no birthday feast would be complete without a whole chicken — symbolic of the phoenix, that harbinger of good fortune. (Congee Bowery serves a very good one, crisp-skinned and topped with flakes of fried garlic.)
I lost track of the parade of dishes after a while. Here’s the Jumbo Shrimp with Walnut & Broccoli, coated in sweet mayonnaise sauce:
And a dish of what I thought was abalone, but which turned out to be a mix of mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, enoki) over vegetables:
One of my favorites of the evening: Pan Fried Bean Curd with Soy Sauce. A seemingly simple preparation: squares of tofu seared just enough to impart an outer texture, while keeping the insides soft and silky.
Lobsters with Ginger & Scallion. Congee Bowery also has a version made with Butter & Cheese… which may be good, but I’m too skeptical to find out.
For the more adventurous eaters among you, Congee Bowery’s menu (.pdf) is chock full of exotic-sounding items that push the limits of omnivorousness: Sea Cucumber & Goose Web, Roasted Young Pigeon, Duck’s Blood with Chives, and Baked Fish Intestine In Clay Pot, anyone? Anyone?
After dinner, several of us accompanied the out-of-towners for a night stroll through SoHo — with a pit stop for rice pudding at Rice to Riches — while the New Yorkers debated the relative merits of Eileen’s and Veniero’s. The latter, though far more touristy, maintains the edge at least in terms of operating hours… at 11PM this Saturday night, there was a twenty minute wait for take-out cheesecake.
This afternoon, the Broome-facing windows of Papabubble were hung tantalizingly with sugar-sculpted cages encasing candy critters. How I’ve loved visiting this Barcelona-born sweets boutique since it opened in NoLIta last Fall.
Fiona and Jelly were in the midst of rolling out a fresh batch of sweet-smelling passion fruit when we strolled in. Check out this video from Cool Hunting for a behind-the-scenes look at their candy-making process.
On the white marble counter sat a sample jar of pale purple and orange striped nibs, which Fiona informed us were chocolate-filled lavender and bergamot candies. Although the combination sounded suspiciously like something I might pick up at Fresh, I decided to try them out. Different, certainly… and in fact, deliciously addictive. (Oh, dear.) These candies represent a couple of the shop’s newer flavors and are sold in bags with a mix of both aromatic varieties, or separately without the chocolate centers. Papabubble founder Tommy Tang would be proud.
Earlier this year, former Brooklyn Record editor Kara Zuaro (I Like Food, Food Tastes Good) recommended these elaborate “Edible Rings for Commitmentphobes,” which are sealed and displayed in a glass case near the front register:
We left the candy store, having picked up a bag of tasty treats… but disappointingly, nothing else. Buck up, my friend: there is only glory.
Disheartening message at DiSalvio Playground:
Pre-theater pizza at Lombardi’s on Spring Street with its unmissable mural of a pie-wielding “Mona Lisa,” whom manuscript experts at the University of Heidelberg have definitively identified as Florentine Lisa del Giocondo, putting all other theories to rest. (La Gioconda, inspiring artists everywhere.)
The “Pizza” episode of the History Channel’s “American Eats” series — set your TiVos for the next airing: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 — tells the story of Gennaro Lombardi, the “founding father of American pizza,” and his contribution to New York City pizza: locally grown tomatoes (instead of San Marzano), cow mozzarella (instead of water buffalo), and pies fired in coal ovens. To some extent, all the old school city pizzerias can be traced to Lombardi’s pioneering shop at 53½ Spring Street.
That first pizzeria was established in 1905, though in 1994, Lombardi’s grandson re-opened it at its current location at 32 Spring. For the pizzeria’s centennial on November 10, 2005, Lombardi’s sold whole pizza pies for 5 cents apiece.
We paid somewhat more for our pepperoni and mushroom pie, but it was still worth it.
At the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center‘s Milagro Theater on Suffolk for the premiere of playwright Carla Ching’s TBA. The 1898 building is a former public school (P.S. 160), but since the mid-1990s, has served as a multicultural center for contemporary arts and art-related community services. CSV has four theaters and exhibition spaces; 53 visual artists have studios in the building.
Enhancing the LES hipster vibe was a dimly lit bar/gallery through a beaded doorway on the ground floor with vibrantly colored paintings of female nudes and cans of PBR, which we were invited to bring inside the theater.
Through April 5, theater company Second Generation celebrated its eleventh anniversary of supporting Asian American dramatic literature with ELEVEN, a month-long festival of 11 plays: one full-length production, four developmental staged-readings, and an evening of six one-acts. The centerpiece was Ching’s drama, starring Lloyd Suh, Second Generation’s artistic director and a playwright in his own right. (Both he and Ching are members of the Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab.) Suh appeared as a last-minute replacement for Ken Leung, who was called back to the set of Lost, where he has a recurring role as Miles Straume.
From TBA‘s press notes:
When Silas Park’s girlfriend leaves him, he becomes a shut-in, pumping out blistering autobiographical writings in his little East Village apartment. Just as Silas finds himself unexpectedly on the verge of literary stardom as the next Asian American wunderkind, his brother Finn shows up on his doorstep, accusing Silas of stealing his life. A play in two acts, in the crevice between fact and fiction.
An intriguing exploration of how impression and memory can form their own reality. Excellent work all around.
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