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Sunday, July 6, 2014

In Search of Chinatown

In a seminal article published this year, Adam Platt, New York magazine food critic, called a spade a spade and debunked the myth of Manhattan's Chinatown, saying the food is not all that great there.  Chinatown is  a powerful myth and I admit I can't help buying into its ethos myself, if for no other reason than the sights, smells and history of the place.  This thinking, of course, pays no mind to the food of Chinatown, which is kind of the problem, according to Platt.  That is, Chinatown is strong as an idea but the food is bleh. I've had enjoyable experiences in Manhattan's Chinatown, but overall I've had the best Chinese food I've had in other parts of town.  Still, there are enjoyable Cantonese joints sprinkled throughout Chinatown, and good rice noodles and luscious roasted meats can be found.

Wilson Tang famously responded to Platt's opus, conceding that "Platt's got a point."  Yet Tang, who owns two Chinatown establishments, celebrates the greatness that he claims still exists in Chinatown.  One place he mentions I visited not long ago, Sing Kee.  Tang exalts the Chinese fried chicken there, and I must confess plainly I was decidedly underwhelmed when I had it.

I had to see what this Tang man was all about, so I ventured to his Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers.  The place itself is extremely pleasant, some sort of throwback to an Imperial-style tea house of Manhattan's prohibition days, perhaps.  The waitstaff are extremely friendly, which is not in keeping with line with many classic Chinatown eateries.  The food?  All I had was a beef rice roll, but I am pleased to report it was a good rice roll.  In all fairness, though, it's hard to mess up a rice roll.  Still, I was happy with the place and will go back for further investigations.