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.
Okay, maybe not that last one.
Veterans Day was one day earlier, but my office was observing the holiday today, which gave me another reprieve on a day when almost everyone else I knew had to work. My afternoon of leisure consisted of a vegan lunch at NoLIta’s Wild Ginger followed by a visit to the new Papabubble shop to watch the pretty candies being made.
Once we entered the rather plain storefront on Broome, we were enveloped by a wonderful smell: that steam-cooked mixture of corn syrup and sugar. Inside the shop had the appearance of a sleek candy laboratory: all white subway tiles, brushed metal counters and beakers of colored oils.
Papabubble was empty this afternoon but for us and three employees: one cashier, and two candy makers who were hard at work, pulling and shaping large, malleable blocks of sugar. As the pair moved quickly in tandem to run the candy through the extruder, the woman looked up from her work. No doubt sensing our fascination through the plexiglass barrier, she asked if we’d like to sample some fresh candy. Would we?! She obligingly cut off a couple pieces from the end with a pair of scissors, and I popped the warm, chewy, cherry-flavored piece into my mouth. Holy moly, what do they put in these things… crack cocaine?
Maybe, because I was hooked. (First one’s always free, right?) Afterwards, I spent an inordinate amount of time perusing the shop’s left wall, where shelves of the cheery-looking glass jars ($14.50 and $25 — refillable at a discount) and bags ($7.50 for 4 ounces) of hard candies were spotlit to glittering effect, like bits of Venetian Murano glass.
At the front counter, gorgeous lollipops of varying sizes — $4 to $15:
For the more economically-minded, the shop had a few aesthetically-inferior candy “irregulars,” ranging in size from a golf ball to wider than a palm. (This hefty disk was marked “$ five bucks.”)
I wonder how they get the letters inside the candy for the New York mix (center)? And is each borough represented by a different flavor?
- July 2010
- July 2009
- January 2009
- November 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
- November 2007
- October 2007
- September 2007
- August 2007
- July 2007
- June 2007
- May 2007
- April 2007
- March 2007
- February 2007
- January 2007
- December 2006
- November 2006
- October 2006
- September 2006
- August 2006
- July 2006
- June 2006