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#1 Seth Gordon

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Posted 21 September 2019 - 10:56 PM

Finally popped into the new Fong On (81 Division) - the latest in the ongoing series of Post-Nom-Wah Chinese establishments taken over and ever-so-slightly modernized by the hipper tattooed descendants of the founders.

Tried two things: Savory Tofu Pudding and Matcha Rice Cakes. Excellent. Not reinventing the wheel, or going too far from tradition.

Savory tofu was silky, bordering on soup rather than pudding. Classic toppings: sesame oil, dried shrimp, scallions, chili, ginger, crunchy fried shallots to make things interesting. Good stuff. The small ($5.50) is a pretty good sized portion - a full pint, more than enough for a pretty filling lunch.

Rice cakes were also very good. Classic Chinese pastry, not too sweet, just enough to keep the matcha from tasting vegetal. They’re not gonna topple Matcha Oreos from the top of the Great Matcha Confections Hierarchy, but I don’t imagine anything ever will. $6 for what’s pictured, a pretty hefty amount. One cake is plenty, and there’s six in there. Will have to play around with incorporating the others into dishes at home, using them as a base for something.

Destination? No. It could be fun if they “chef up” the puddings a little more, maybe that’ll happen down the road. Or even get some local chefs to collaborate like Taim did with their CheFalafels that time.

Regular stop if you live in (or pass through) the neighborhood, though? For sure.

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#2 joethefoodie

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 11:12 AM

Thanks for this heads up, Seth.

 

Speaking of the neighborhood, have you (or anyone else) ever been to this place on E. Broadway?  

 

Hwa Yuan Szechuan

 

It looks, from the outside, quite fancy. And it looks, from the website, to be run by "the hipper tattooed descendants" of an evidently infamous chef named Shorty Tang. 

 

I've not set foot inside.  But am willing to give it a go.



#3 Steve R.

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 12:38 PM

Dont. The original was a well regarded Szechuan place in the early ‘80s that burned down under mysterious circumstances. It was good compared to the city-wide offerings at the time & I went with friends for a number of meals. They may have unsucessfully tried to re open the place after the fire, but that wasnt memorable and the Hwa Yuan name became a comparison memory when new places started opening in C’town. The family that owned it went on to open the several “Mr Tang’s” around Brooklyn — all average neighborhood joints but with no destination value. At any rate, the offspring decided to completely re do the building (which the family had apparently held on to, going thru generations of banks, storefronts, upstairs work places, etc) and re open Hwa Yuan a couple of years ago. Of course, I went with 10 old college friends. The son met us at the door, gave a spiel about restoring his family’s tradition, their new chef w/bold new ideas, etc, etc. The place looked nice, but felt a little sterile and museum-y. We sat in a banquet room. Very attentive service, nice plates, decent artwork. The food was well presented. Moderately priced, well over the norm for what was served but reasonable for the setting. And forgettable. Not a dish was above mediocre and nothing was inventive or interesting. It was more like going to the Bay Ridge Mr. Tangs than anything else.

Added piece of useless info: I believe that the old Tangs in Bay Ridge now houses Tanoreen.

This space available… contact owner.


#4 small h

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 12:39 PM

I've been to Hwa Yuan twice, most recently just this past Friday. The cold noodles are famous in the way that the pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company are, in that you have to order them, and they are indeed  excellent, but they're also just cold noodles. On Friday we got one of the specials, a beautiful pair of deep-fried soft-shell crabs covered in chopped garlic and hot peppers, which was fantastic (and at $28, one of the only reasonably priced things on the menu). My friends loved the Peking Duck - they had that and the noodles the first time we went, too -  and the pork soup dumplings. I thought the spinach with bean curd sheets was very nice. It was also $18, which is a lot to pay for a dish I can make myself. And the service is kind of ridiculous. There's always at least two people hovering a few feet away, leaping in to pour sake or divide up the communal dishes, in the most obtrusive way possible. I think that ended up adding about 15:00 to the meal, for no good reason.

 

If you want the cold noodles without the expense or the nonsense, go to Shorty Tang's in Chelsea. I'm pretty sure there's no difference, and you'll pay less and be able to eat in peace.



#5 Seth Gordon

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 05:06 PM

I have. It's definitely not run by the hipper tattoed descendants, but by Chien Lieh Tang, Shorty's son, who's in his late 60s, and front of house is run by his son, James, who at first glance appears to be about as hip as Ralph Wiggum. (Though that may just be his "work" side)

They for sure modeled the interior after "fancy" western restaurants, but the menu (as is often the case at Chinese places) is pretty varied - you can dine cheap, you can dine fancy. Their wine list, unlike many in Chinatown, actually has vintages. (How many of those are worth drinking may be debatable) 

I enjoyed our couple meals there. With a couple exceptions we stuck to namesake or recommended dishes. "Tang’s Amazing Spicy Wine Chicken" (which both SIetsema and Wells had singled out) was very good. Veal (something I pretty much never order unless I know for sure it's cage-free) with XO Sauce was cooked harder than I'd have liked but the XO was good. I'll have to ask if they can put it on something different for me next time, maybe shrimp. Roast fish (don't recall what kind) with hot bean sauce was very good. Conch with chilies I dug, though not everyone likes conch. 

Veggie dishes were oddly all the same price, which made ordering bok choy or spinach for $18 kind seem ridiculous when the normally much more expensive pea shoots were the same $18. They were excellent. 

 

As modern Sichuan goes, it's not as wacky as DaXi in Flushing, it's more refined than recent meals at Guan Fu, but (from the looks of it) not nearly as modern as Hutong, which I haven't been to yet.

Unimportant side note: I've seen Chef Tang shopping in Chinatown a couple times, everybody knows him and loves him - when he walks into a store it's what I imagine Eric Ripert walking into CItarella must be like. He also has very amiable twitter and facebook feeds. 

Anyway, to re-answer my above question - destination? No, but if your destination is just "dinner in Chinatown" it seems like one of the better choices to me. As is typical with the style, better with a group since a two-top might get to order two things before being stuffed. (Thankfully, it makes for good leftovers.)

At this point it probably deserves its own thread, though.