Weekend of Food: 3 Restaurant Reviews

Royal Seafood [ Dim Sum ]

流沙包子

Dessert at dim sum [流沙包子] in NYC’s Chinatown.

After an unnecessarily difficult period of scheduling and rescheduling, the brunt of which my sister had to deal with, we had a family dim sum lunch in Chinatown on Saturday.  Royal Seafood is alright as far as Manhattan dim sum goes, and it’s not terribly hard to get a spot there.  The location is easy to get to – very close to the 6 train – the interior is a vast hall that seats over a hundred, surely, and the waiters are actually pretty attentive!  If you don’t see a food you know they serve on the roaming carts of food, you can easily ask any worker for help and they hunt it down for you.  But I’m not convinced it’s as good as some of the seafood dim sum places in Flushing, which I think have a bit more variety….and none of these are as good as the variety and freshness you can get in Hong Kong!  I suppose it depends on what you order though!!  I really liked the fried radish cakes here.  Okay, maybe my uncle just kept picking stuff I didn’t like, and that is why I’d give Royal Seafood 3 stars.  But the siew mai (燒賣) tasted a little old to me.  Bad batch, perhaps?  My uncle refused to order it because it’s “common food”….but as I’ve learned over the years, I love common food!!!  You can also order actual meals from a menu, like noodles or a plate of vegetables, meat over rice, etc.  The prices are good here and the portions are HUGE.  You probably want like 6 adults with you to finish it all if you order a meal-type dish.

Kinda gross looking, but the inside of this dessert is filled with a very sugary, golden egg yolk! Tastes really great.

We actually wanted to order the red bean filling version of this, but someone made a mistake!  Egg yolk instead!  Imagine a chicken that is about to die of diabetes, but before it does it lays a single egg.  You then put that diabetes egg yolk in to a dessert, and VOILA…you have this yummy treat!  Okay, that might have grossed you out even more.  But trust me, it tasted great.

Cha Chan Tang

Cha Chan Tang - Pork chops, fried egg over rice, sausage, and Hong Kong style milk tea.

Cha Chan Tang – Pork chops, fried egg over rice, sausage, and Hong Kong style milk tea.

My boyfriend came down from the Bronx to meet me after my Mandarin class in Chinatown, and we went to another restaurant I like called Cha Chan Tang.  It’s a cute place, very trendy – flatscreen TVs on the left-hand wall show live feeds of Hong Kong, so during the daytime it is night time there.  There’s a wall of tea cups and saucers, each stacked one on top of the other, that reaches from waist-height up to the ceiling.  I tested it a little – they appear glued together.  The service is not that great…the waiters are not very attentive and it can be difficult to flag them down for service, including ordering and getting the check. I had to ask for the check twice today actually, and no, it doesn’t matter if you use English or Chinese.  The space between tables is also extremely cramped, but once you’re in I don’t mind one bit!  The seats are cushiony and I still had enough space for me and my boyfriend’s bags and coats.  Despite the lackluster service, I have and will be coming back again and again…the food is pretty damn good!!!  And the distinct fusiony mix of Western and Chinese influences on this type of food reminds me of childhood and the food my dad used to cook.  Pork chop anything is good, go ahead and order it, hahaha!  Instant noodles with pork chop, pork chop over rice (as seen in the photo), anything…I have yet to try the baked spaghetti with pork chop, but I bet it’s good too.

I wanted to eat that actually, but accidentally ordered “fried spaghetti” with BBQ pork instead.  I totally thought this meant it would still be, you know…spaghetti in tomato sauce, just deep fried.  There’s a now-closed restaurant that I used to frequent that had really good spaghetti and fried chicken, and I got that a little mixed up!  Anyway, it was just stir fried noodles with scallions and bean sprouts…the kind you can get from street vendors for $1 on Canal St.  The kind I used to buy on my way home from high school, haha.  But at least it was VERY tasty, so I was not disappointed for long.  Didn’t take a picture because it resembles pig slop.  But it tasted great.

Hong Kong style milk tea - cold.

Hong Kong style milk tea – cold.

The Hong Kong style milk tea is hit or miss.  The first time I went, I got it cold, and it came in this ice bucket with a charming glass bottle.  It tasted great, with the perfect amount of condensed milk in there.  But this weekend, I dunno.  I got the hot version and it tasted like yuck.  Not enough condensed milk flavor…and for just 25 cents more I could have had the yummy cold one again!  Maybe it was just a bad day for whoever mixed it. Ah well….I’ll be back again.  Can’t help myself.  Also I’m quite happy that my boyfriend likes it too!  This style of food is all new to him, and sometimes I worry that he won’t like it….as seen in the next and final restaurant review.

Ugly Kitchen [ Filipino Night, Sunday ]

Ugly Kitchen appetizers - fried fish balls and fried tripe.

Ugly Kitchen appetizers – fried fish balls and fried tripe.

A brief story before the review….!  My boyfriend hasn’t seen his college roommate and the roommate’s girlfriend for close to half a year, so we all agreed to have a double date this Sunday night!  I had my heart set on taking them all to Umi no Ie, which is a GREAT spot for Japanese comfort food. I can go on and on about it, but I’ll save that for when I actually visit again with my camera in a later post!  Sadly, we arrived at Umi no Ie and it’s actually closed on Sundays….huge oversight on my part.  But this is the Lower East Side, there’s tons of restaurants in the area!  My back up plan was to eat at Ugly Kitchen, which I have been wanting to do for a very long time.  I think they mostly have modern Korean food.

Surprise #1: It’s Filipino night on Sundays!!!!  The roommate’s girlfriend is also Chinese from the Philippines, like my family is, so we were both excited to eat Filipino food.  Happily, we ordered.

Surprise #2: Some free appetizers come to our table.  Turns out, a good friend of mine from a while back works as the chef!  I have no idea HOW he knew I was there, I’m extremely impressed that he recognized me after all these years.  But I honestly think he is the best chef ever; anything he cooks I WILL EAT.  He used to work at my best friend’s Filipino restaurant a few blocks north, but quit a few years ago.  It was really really great seeing him again, and of course I’ll be back now that I know he’s cooking there on Sundays!

My boyfriend saw the appetizers, and after a moment of confusion he said, “Why do you seem to get free things wherever you go….?”

Hahaha.  It’s not everywhere.  It’s just sometimes, and I happen to tell him.  I don’t tell him about the 1000 times inbetween where I get nothing.  Also I think he’s referring to how sometimes people throw in a little extra food when you order at deli’s and stuff.

The food we ordered, with description of each dish in the captions, below.  FYI, pork knuckles may sound weird to some, but it is one of the most tender parts of the pig.  The other most tender part is pork belly!  Order these 2 types of meat anywhere and you have a 99% chance your meal will be amazing.

Crispy Pata

Crispy Pata – Deep fried pork knuckles.

Crispy Pata again

Crispy Pata again … so good, it deserved two pictures! I love that it’s fried yet NOT greasy. Perfectly golden and crispy.

Lechon Kawali

Lechon Kawali – deep fried pork belly, the other tender and tasty part of the pig, perfectly fried and not greasy.

Laing

Laing – not too sure how to describe this but…it’s sorta curry-like, a little spicy, with coconut milk that makes it incredibly yummy. With taro leaves, and some meat.

Not only was the food 100% delicious, the prices were really good too.  Entrees ranged from $8-15, and totally worth every penny.  I suppose I could be biased, since I love Filipino food…but doesn’t that mean I know good Filipino food?  ;D  I’ll be the first one to tell you, finding a Filipino restaurant that is both great tasting AND affordable is really freaking hard.  I don’t know why, it’s hard to get both those traits here in NYC.  But Ugly Kitchen is that restaurant, on Sunday nights!

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