Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Best Getting to Know the Neighborhood: The Best Gross Chinese Food I've Ever Had

UPDATED: Revised a good deal of this post. Just for perfection's sake.

As you may or may not have heard, something wonderful has happened: I've moved back downtown for the months of April and May! It's hard for me to say what neighborhood I'm in exactly, but Chinatown is at my door, and I'd say that's where I lived, I'd say except I'm very particular about only calling the area below Canal Street Chinatown, no matter how Chinese parts of Little Italy and the Lower East Side get.

Anyway, this shift in neighborhood has me now living amongst an insane number of new restaurants to try (and a few old favorites I've been anxious to revisit for a while). If I can conquer Chinatown and environs, my New York food education will be entering graduate degree territory! I officially began my new adventure today with (hold on for the google image)...

Amazing 66! (located at 66 Mott Street, b/w Canal and Bayard)

I'd heard (read) good things about this restaurant and was excited to experience it for myself. It's like a real Chinese restaurant inside, you know, big tables with Lazy Susans and attentive, uniformed waiters. They've got a $5.25 lunch deal that includes an incredibly long list of options for your main course served along with a soup and rice. Based on a little research, I ordered the Roast Chicken with Preserved Vegetables and a Hot and Sour Soup.

My Hot and Sour Soup was just great, a perfect example of how the dish should be done. Based on it alone, I'd have to say Amazing 66 is a very good restaurant. When my Roasted Chicken came out I was stunned by how much food they gave me, I almost checked with my waiter to make sure I he understood that I wanted the lunch version. It was beautiful and it smelled delicious (click here to see a picture of it in someone else's flickr account.) Doesn't that look great? I had presumed that "preserved vegetables" would be, uhm, pickles or something? I'm still not sure what the preserved vegetables were, they were salty and delicious and the color and consistency of onions left in with a proper Sunday roast.

But here's the unexpected twist (unless you read the title of this post): I thought my beautiful, delicious smelling chicken with it's perfectly crispy golden skin and moist meat was totally gross. Why? Because it turns out it was that kind of Chinese chicken that's been hacked into sections with the bones still in. I just can't deal with this sort of chicken! Sorry! I consider it essentially inedible. I don't know how to eat it, and while I'm busy trying to eat it (do I use my hands? do I pick it apart with spoon and fork? with my chopsticks? I asked Andy and he says he just uses his hands, but gave me no assurance that that's proper manners) I fixate on the bones, chicken bones are awful. They're awful to accidentally bite down on and they're awful to look at. Too much pink, too much blood. I tried hard to eat this delicious disgusting chicken and told myself that maybe I'd take it home in a doggy bag and then dissect it properly at home and have a fine roast chicken dinner. But after battling it for fifteen minutes, I was so sick of being disgusted by it that I opted to bring none home.

So now I find myself in a strange spot regarding Amazing 66. The food is definitely good there, even when it is totally gross, but will the memory of wrestling with that chicken that took my appetite away for the rest of the day going to be too much for me and keep me from returning? Or will I channel my memories to the hot and sour soup and try something real safe some other day? Only time will tell, and that's coming from a guy who doesn't usually say "time will tell."

And Another Thing: I totally got tricked by my waiter! As I finished ordering and handed him my menu he asked what kind of soda I wanted. I didn't want a soda, but the way he said it had me thinking they came as a part of the lunch special. I went "Urrrr..." as I tried to decide and he said "Orange?" and I agreed to that. Drank my Sunkist, asked for a water, too. And when my bill came? Yup, charged for the soda. Tricky, tricky.

I left the value of the soda out of my tip. Take that, waiter!

And Another Other Thing: How much do I not like hacked chicken? This much: The only thing I ever ate at Momofuku that I positively did not like was the Noodle Bar's sometimes-available deep-fried poulet rouge which is served, regrettably, in the Chinese hacked-style.

HOLD ON! I just realized they didn't give me a fortune cookie and orange slices with my check like everyone else around me got. Did I really appear to struggle too much with the chicken to be trusted to break open a cookie with a piece of paper inside? People, I can do that!

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