The first bite I took burned the roof of my mouth. Rosaria looked over at me as I quickly ejected the steaming hot crab and pork tiny bun from my mouth back into the cabbage lined metal steamer in front of me. I hate when I do that. Usually that happens to me when I eat pizza before it’s had a chance to cool down. I was still waving my chopsticks in my right hand as I swished a cool mouthful of Tsingtao beer. She just shook her head and took a small bite of her seafood dumplings.
We were on our way back from Bucks county, Pennsylvania, from visiting our son who’s away at prep school. It was a bitterly cold Friday evening in late January, and instead of enduring hours of the bumper to bumper grind across the Verrazano Bridge and the mind-numbing crawl onto the Belt Parkway towards eastern Long Island, we decided to drop into Chinatown in Manhattan, do some shopping in the Chinese markets and grab a bite before heading home. I’ll leave our Chinese purveying adventure for another post, but I just want to comment on our quick dinner at New Bo Green, 66 Bayard St., just off of Mott St.
This is a small, slightly larger than a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant. We picked it in part because we were freezing after walking around Chinatown, and the small restaurant was packed, which is always a good sign. The glass windows facing the street were streaming with condensation around the scores of reviews and autographed celebrity photos plastered on the glass. (Rosaria, remind me to send them an autographed picture of 2gourmaniacs on Monday.) Inside there were maybe a half a dozen large round tables and four smaller tables for four. The small Chinese woman who greeted us urged us to share one of large round tables with two young men discussing when and how many records or CDs or something to cut after some band’s initial tour, and a balding gay Chinese man eating noodles with a fork.
The same Chinese woman appeared with well worn menus, and a waiter served us a pot of steaming hot tea. Both Rosaria and I went for the tea; more of a hand warmer than a palate pleaser. We studied the menu and after weighing various choices and combinations, I decided on the steamed crab and pork tiny buns and seafood mein fun. Rosaria opted for some seafood dumplings and seafood chow fun. Nothing too daring, you might say. My first rule of thumb when checking out a new place without any pre-visit research or menu recommendations is to go for the basics and see how well they do with that. It’s like vanilla ice cream, ho-hum, but have you ever had vanilla ice cream that just blew your socks off? I have, and I distinctly remember where and when.
So how was it? After regaining my composure from scalding the roof of my mouth, I exercised a little more prudence and I transferred a couple of tiny buns at a time to cool off on a small plate. They were delightful to look at. A thin wonton wrapper-type dough had been filled with what seemed to be separate dollops of crab and pork mixture, brought up into a gently twisted, puckered point at the top, from where a yellow vegetable sprig was poking out. The “buns” had been steamed and contained a delicious broth which bathed the crab and pork filling. I dredged each one in a ginger ponzu dipping sauce. They were light and flavorful. Even Rosaria (who doesn’t eat meat) tried one and nodded her head in approval. My mein fun arrived shortly afterwards in a cloud of steam. It was a nest of thin noodles, yellowed by what I imagine was a curry, and hiding a bed of shrimp, small pieces of fish and onions and red peppers. Pretty mild, by my standards. But New Bo Green provides each table with a pot of red chili paste, and a few tiny spoonfuls of that brought the dish to life.
Rosaria offered me one of her steamed seafood dumplings. In comparison to my “tiny buns” I found them a bit doughy and heavy. When her chow fun arrived, she was already full, and had over half of her noodles and dumplings boxed up for the ride home. But before it was whisked away, I tried a couple of mouthful of her noodles. They were firm, smoky flavored from the sesame oil and they seemed right on the money to me. I looked forward to warming them up for lunch the next day, but they were gone before I could get to them when our daughter helped herself to a breakfast of Chinese leftovers the next morning.
All in all a good meal. Even better news was the check: 2 appetizers plus 2 noodle dishes, and 2 Tsingtao beers for $33.00. Back out in the frigid New York cold, our car was parked on the street within easy walking distance. Satiated, we hopped in with full bellies, and glided out of Manhattan without any traffic delays. Life is good.