Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A New Year, A Full Belly

My food choices for the first day of the Lunar New Year were reflective of my Chinese-American self: American brunch (followed by a visit to the Museum of Chinese in America) and snacking in Chinatown.

Brunch was at Jo's in Soho. When you first walk in to this restaurant, you see a bar and a few tables and stools up front. It looks like a New York closet-sized space. But then you are led back through a narrow hallway into the back dining room that feels like a cozy cave. 

The small menu here is fairly simple with pretty standard American brunch items, but very gently priced. My dining companion and I decided to go for a savory/sweet split. We shared an order of poached eggs Benedict with potato hash and buttermilk ricotta pancakes with warm cherry maple syrup. 
The eggs Benedict were good, but not lukewarm by the time they arrived on the table. They also curiously came with a side of really tasty jam that didn't have any apparent use on this dish. The potatoes were well seasoned and qualified as a decent hash (it's a pet peeve when the menu lists hash and you get what essentially boils down to roasted potatoes).
The real star was this amazing plate of thin pancakes — buttery and so hot they were still steaming when we cut into them (maybe the eggs sat waiting for these to cook). The cherry sauce wasn't too sweet, but added a nice tartness to the stack. These pancakes were probably some of the best I've had in the recent past and it was a nice change from the more common pile of two or three thick, fluffy pancakes.

After the museum, we headed to Mei Li Wah for roast pork buns. People were pressed up against the counter and you had to be aggressive to even get close enough to shout in an order. They were all out of the baked buns so we settled for the large steamed kind, a cocktail bun and a coffee (Chinatown bakery coffee tastes different somehow and the smell of it always ignites a particular sense of familiarity in me). The white bread used for the steamed buns here is doughier than most and the buns are filled with fatty chunks of not-too-sweet roast pork. These are a good, filling snack.

Given that we were across the street from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to have almond cookie ice cream. We decided on a two-scoop cup with black sesame as the other flavor. The ice cream here isn't the best ice cream you'll ever have — the texture is a bit on the icier side rather than creamy and its on the sweeter side.  Its allure lies in the availability of unique Asian flavors. Besides the almond cookie flavor, which blends Chinese almond cookies into ice cream and which I have never seen anywhere else, you can also get egg custard, taro or red bean. The black sesame was a good balance, with a very nutty flavor, almost like peanut butter. This large cup is not one you'll finish fast — it lasted our stroll through the confetti-covered streets and half the subway ride home!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:20 AM

    i am salivating just looking at that picture of the berry soaked pancakes.