Pub. in Brooklyn Exposed. 2013
Chinese New Year is Sunday, Feb. 10, and there’s no better way to usher in the "year of the snake" than to celebrate with a food tour of Brooklyn’s own Chinatown in Sunset Park. Here is our guide to the best of what 8th Avenue has to offer.
A successful morning of dim sum is one part experiential and one part culinary, and East Harbor Seafood Palace (714 65th Street) delivers on both fronts. Carts of authentic Cantonese small plates clatter their way through the massive banquet hall packed with an appreciative crowd of hungry diners. Mile-high towers of steamer baskets full of pork dumplings, rolled noodles, and egg tarts are just a few of the many selections making frequent trips past each table. If you can't find that dish you're craving, one of the staff will help you hunt it down.
The word Szechuan (or Sichuan) can be thrown around rather carelessly on many a Chinese takeout menu. Metro Café (4924 8th Avenue) makes good on that regional promise with crimson red pepper-laced dishes without a cloying brown sauce in sight. The tripe, beef, and tendon in chili oil packs a fire-laced punch with subtle smoky notes. For diners wishing to stay on the safer side of the Scoville Scale, try the Bean Curd Noodles, the rich sesame overtone punctuated by the acidity of rice vinegar and the freshness of scallion and cilantro.
Whether you prefer the hand-pulled or shaved variety, Wong Wong Noodle Shop (5410 8th Avenue) is the real deal when it comes to authentic, freshly made Chinese noodles. Try the house special soup with egg, tripe, marinated beef, Chinese broccoli, and perfectly al dente peeled noodles simmering in a savory, rich beef broth.
Don’t be deterred by the seedy graffiti-covered exterior or the bulletproof glass. Embrace it. After all, a visit to Kai Feng Fu (4801 8th Avenue) will only set you back a buck or two. Grab a chair on the better side of the B rating sign, and watch all those not-so-in-the-know passersby as you woof down a styrofoam plate of pork pillows with just the right amount of caramelization. More for you.
A decent bowl of pho is an elusive thing in New York, let alone Brooklyn. Gia Lam (4810 8th Avenue) gives those touted Queens establishments a run for their money, serving up piping hot bowls of fragrant, rich Vietnamese soup accompanied by a respectable plate of sprouts and fresh herbs — just the way they do it in Vietnam. Whether you prefer the simplicity of a medium rare Pho Tai, or a witches brew of tripe, tendon and other nasty bits, there’s no mistaking that good is good, and Gia Lam nails good pho.
All that traipsing up and down 8th Avenue giving you a case of the shivers? Follow your nose to Ten Ren Tea Co (5817 8th Avenue) where the aromatic scents of tea and ginseng literally waft through the doorway. An invigorating cup of King's Tea from the counter will warm you up fast while you explore the impressive selection of imported specialty teas and ginseng.
Hardcore Traditional Artisan
Chefs and lovers of sharp objects alike should make a point to head towards 7th Avenue and ogle the display of gleaming cleavers, santokus, and swords at Yanagi Knife (5402 7th Avenue #B). Opened in 2012 by a sushi chef-turned-master of Japanese knives, the shop also offers a full line of sharpening services, as well as custom made handles and accessories.
You may have to elbow your way back to the bok choy, but the produce at Hong Sheng Market(5514 8th Avenue) is worth the tight squeeze. This tiny stand is fully stocked with both domestic and specialty fruits and vegetables at an excellent value.
Crates of live conch, whole cuttlefish, and blue crabs spill out onto the corner of 8th Avenue and 58th Street at S & P Seafood Inc (5802 8th Avenue). Here the seafood is unmistakably fresh and priced to move, offering some of Sunset Park’s best in terms of variety and quality.
A garden of carnivorous delights for nose-to-tail aficionados, the meat section of Fei Long Market (6301 8th Avenue) has the biggest and most varied selection of primal cuts and offal in the neighborhood. Shoppers can peruse the aisles of pre-packaged meats, or visit the butcher counter for fresh cuts to order.
Dragon Bay Bakery’s (5711 8th Avenue) shelves are lined with adorably wrapped house-baked breads, cakes and tarts, though the stars here are the feather-light buns made fresh daily. Try a classic sweet bun with red bean for a sweet finish to your day on one of Brooklyn’s tastiest strips. You'll be licking your sugar-coated fingers all the way back to 8th Avenue Station.