Thai Spice in Norwalk, CT – Authentic Food Served by Teenagers

This was a funny little experience. I ended up in this stretch of suburban sprawl in Norwalk, CT, hungry. Looking around me, there were corporate parks, bad Chinese food take outs, genetic diners, fast food joints, liquors shops and massage parlors. As I was getting desperate, I saw Thai Spice, squeezed in between an empty office front and a massage place. The menu looked authentic and I went in. imageTod Mun: fried fish cakes, cucumber salad and crushed peanuts. The restaurant was empty and all the wait staff were in the back, eating dinner. They didn’t care to take the order; didn’t care whether there were utensils on the table; didn’t bother to even place the dish in front of me. The slid my big bowl of soup across the table to me – like slow motion bowling.imageNua Nam Tok: beef, lettuce, onions, lemongrass, roasted rice and mint. So good. The onions were strong. The beef was tender and the roasted rice smoky.imageThai Green Curry: coconut, vegetables, lime and green curry paste with shrimp.imageThai Boat Noodle Soup: beef, beef balls, rice noodles, and beef broth. Almost as good as the Vietnamese Pho and Taiwanese beef noodle soup. The broth was tasty. The noodles were infused with the beef aroma. It was very satisfying!

Despite the service, the food was amazing. Authentic, delicious and fresh. If this were a take out place or a strand in the food court, I wouldn’t complain at all. But with the restaurant set up, the dismal service by the teenagers was disappointing. I seriously consider skipping out on the bill because I didn’t think they would have noticed. I also considered calling the restaurant owner – I doubt the owner would be ok with paying all these people to not serve the customers.

This experience took place at

Thai Spice

Parkway Plaza Shopping Center
345 Main Ave #2,
Norwalk, CT 06851
(203) 846-3533

 

Oriental Garden Restaurant 福臨門海鮮酒家 in Chinatown, New York- Dim Sum Brunch Anyone?

My sister and I met up in Oriental Garden in Chinatown for a dim sum brunch. In the last twenty years, I ate only once in Chinatown. Recently, I ate at Shanghai 456 and now Oriental Garden. I did not have a great experience at Shanghai 456 and hoped that Oriental Garden would be better.imageBaked Cha Shao Bao 叉燒包imageFried Dumpling, Chew Chow DumplingimageRoast DuckimageTurnip CakeimageSteamed Spare Ribs, Lotus Leaf Sticky Rice, Beef Balls and Shrimp Dumpling

Here is the comparison between eating in a good Chinatown restaurant (Oriental Garden) and eating in an equivalent restaurant in Asia:

The ambiance is much better in Asia
The service is better in Asia
The food is equivalent – the Chinese know how to cook!

Chinatown is good for tourists, the Chinese who live in the US and miss home, and the non-Chinese who need a little culture. Oriental Garden or not – really does not matter. They are all kind of good in their own way. But there is really nothing better than buying that ticket and get yourself on a flight. As soon as you land, you will be in awe of the difference. Take a deep breath in and let it soak in. The overwhelming amount of interesting food, the people, excellent service (no tipping required), and the culture.

I will not be home in Asia this Summer and it saddens me greatly. Chinatown – you and I will be much closer friends for the next few months.

This experience took place at

Oriental Garden Restaurant

14 Elizabeth St
New York, NY 10013
Phone:(212) 619-0085

Koku in Armonk, NY – Asian Fusion and Chinese Dialects at Their Best from Fuzhou, China

There is a new restaurant in Armonk, NY. As a resident of Armonk, I am so delighted that I now have more options on Asian Fusion restaurants. Koku took over Made In Asia next to the CVS in town. The restaurant is modern with hip designs that are comparable to those in the City.  I walked in with my 12-year-old and the brainless hostess sat us right in front of the bar where it was loud and child-inappropriate. Of course, I declined and sat ourselves at the sushi counter and watched the actions.

The friendly sushi chefs were absolutely amazing behind the counters. I couldn’t figure out what language they were speaking and I decided to ask.

“What language are you speaking?”
“Chinese!”
“That’s not Chinese!”

I exclaimed in both English and Mandarin, the official language of China and Taiwan. They then quickly switched into Mandarin and conversed with me. They were speaking the Fuzhou dialect.  I am slightly surprised because the Fuzhou dialect is close to the Min Nan dialect which is also known as Taiwanese. Yes, I can also maneuver in Taiwanese. Confused, I looked up Chinese Dialects in Wikipedia… OMG. This is a moment when having the 5,000 years of Chinese heritage means the world. We really should be more proud as a people. Grilled squid with Teriyaki sauce. Although this dish was in the menu in the restaurant, it is not listed on their website. That’s unfortunate because it was excellent. It was done the authentic Japanese way. The squid was still tender. It was so good that my picky small human changed her opinion on the squid and ate a lot of it! She used to reject eating squids. Salmon roll. Respectable. This is also not on the menu. My new sushi chef friends decided to treat us and made this crab and guacamole appetizer for us.Nabeyaki Udon: Noodle soup w. shrimp, chicken, egg, fishcake & vegetable. Sadly, this is the only dish that under-delivered. The broth was too young. The noodle did not absorb any of the goodness from the broth.

The restaurant appears to be staffed by people, other than the bartender and the hostess, from Fuzhou. They are the friendliest bunch I have ever known in Armonk. They all commute from Flushing; one of the chefs moved from Virginia for this job. They were so eager to please and to make sure that we like the food. They were so eager to deliver high customer service. I don’t think I could ask for more from a restaurant. Koku has great pricing, excellent food, wonderful staff, and a lively atmosphere. Highly recommended it.

This was a completely opposite experience than my recent trip into Chinatown. There was no belittling of me, click here to read my Chinatown post.  Koku’s people are young, vibrant and want to do the best they can. Chinatown is of the past and Asian Fusion in Armonk represents the future!

This experience took place at

Koku
454 Main St
Armonk, NY 10504
Phone:(914) 730-0077

Thai Village in Princeton, NJ- A Local Favorite with Tasty Food and A View into Life

My high school friend, Monica, took me to Thai Village in Princeton, NJ. I have a special connection with Princeton because I spent three years living as a boarder at The Hun School of Princeton and loved every minute of this quaint university town. Since I last lived there, Princeton has become very global and very Asian. I lost count of the Asian restaurants on Nassau Street. Thai Village is the favorite Thai place for Monica. It’s a no-nonsense, looks like a take out joint but is also a sit down place, restaurant. The conversations surrounding us included one on technology startup infrastructure and one on pharmaceutical clinical trial. Monica and I chatted about her photography business, MK Photography, and the pleasure in creating beautiful images. For her, it’s the headshots. For me, it’s the food, nature, far away places, and people.See Me: Crispy egg noodles topped with brown gravy and cooked with shrimps, bamboo shoots, scallions, and straw mushrooms. I ordered this dish largely because of its name. I want you to SEE ME! Chicken with red curry and coconut milk.

The food was fresh and tasty. No complaints for a $20 meal for two. It’s even better by the simple fact that there is a free parking lot attached to the restaurant. Of course, love from a long time friend is definitely priceless. If I lived in Princeton, I would frequent the place.

This experience took place at

Thai Village
235 Nassau St # C
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone:(609) 683-3896

456 Shanghai Cuisine in Chinatown, NY- Authentic Food and Authentic Belittling of Asian Women

I am Taiwanese. I am not Chinese. I love all kinds of food, including Shanghainese Cuisine in Chinatown. I can be wary of going to an authentic Chinese food place in the US. I have not had much luck whenever I go. Let it be a food hygiene issue or simply the fact that I am an Asian woman and I speak the same language as the servers. Sometimes, they have a problem with it, especially if I go with a white male friend. At 456 Shanghai Cuisine in Chinatown, NY, the unfortunate scene repeated.

All was good in the beginning when I spoke only in English. Troubles began when I started speaking in Mandarin to the servers.Soup dumplings. Delish!
Cold Jelly on the left and braised beef on the right. The beef was not tasty and I remembered how this dish is usually served in Taiwan – adding a little bit of dark vinegar and chili. I asked the server (this is an older gentleman) for the dark vinegar in Mandarin. He was a little surprised that I spoke the language. Quickly answered that I already had the vinegar with the soup dumplings and corrected my vocabulary.

People- the vocab for the same item can be a little different between Taiwan and China. This server is from China. I then asked for chili because what they provided was not spicy. He laughed at me and said that what’s on the table was all they got. Told me all I needed to do was eat more chili, implying volume will increase the level of spiciness. His reaction toward me can be considered as a typical treatment from someone who is an older male to the younger and less worthy female.

In the Chinese culture, I can do one of two things in response: suck it up because I am younger and I am a woman or I yell back and be mean. I usually do the former because I find it unnecessary to get all riled up by a server from the old world. But it really sucked to be belittled. I did nothing other than being a customer who wanted her condiments. It was a punishment for showing that I am one of them but have crossed into the other world.

Inevitably, any white friends I have experienced such a scene with (and there were many occasions) always find the situation interesting. For me, not so much. Peking duck pancakes, green scallions, and Hoisin sauce.
The duck. Fatty though…This is how you put them together.Voila!

I am proud of my heritage. I am proud to be able to speak the language. I am also proud to be a New Yorker who loves food. Sadly, this kind of experience keeps me away from authentic Chinese restaurants in the area and makes me long for the days in Taiwan when I am respected regardless of my age or my gender.

P.S. I did want to smack the waiter around at some point that night.

This experience took place at

456 Shanghai Cuisine
69 Mott St # A
New York, NY 10013
Phone:(212) 964-0003

Zenzo Sushi in Mamaroneck, NY – A Ranking of Mamaroneck Ave Asian Fusion Restaurants 

There are four Asian Fusion restaurants in Mamaroneck, NY and I have been to all of them now with Zenzo Sushi rounding up the end of the list. Each has its own uniqueness. Below is a quick summary of them. Click on the name below to read my past reviews.

  • Red Plum – the least expensive and probably the most fusion (bastardized) version of Asian food
  • Haiku – the middle of the road, balancing the fusion with the traditional. I was pleasantly surprised by their specials of Chinese Soup Dumplings… Almost as good as those in Flushing but much closer geographically to home
  • Ginban – Decent food. Friendly staff, caters to families. Big on presentation. A tie with Haiku.
  • Zenzo – The surprising winner with a strong selection of sashimi. Worth returning to try other non raw items that are on the menu. We went off menu and simply ordered whatever we fancied.

Sashimi: Hamachi (Yellowtail), Toro (Fatty Tuna), Maguro (Tuna), and Hotatekai (Scallop). The presentation was clean and elegant. Sushi: Uni (Sea urchin), Ikura (Salmon Roe).

This experience took place at

Zenzo Sushi

328 Mamaroneck Ave
Mamaroneck, NY 10543

 

Ginban Asian Bistro and Sushi in Mamaroneck, NY- A Playground for the Children

Ginban Asian Bistro and Sushi in Mamaroneck, NY is one of the four Asian Fusion restaurants on a short stretch of Mamaroneck Ave off the Metro North Station. I often wondered how these four restaurants compete and survive. Ginban apparently is the family friendly one. When I was there, there were two groups of families with small children. The children (4-5 of them all around 5-6 years old) ran around the entire restaurant playing hide and seek, without discouragement from parents nor the restaurant staff. They were very noisy and I asked to sit as far from them as possible.

Interestingly, Ginban is positioning itself as a “cutting-edge” and hip restaurant filled with adults. The image and reality are diametrically different.Sushimi Delux. 21 pieces of assorted raw fish. Can’t complain. It’s fresh raw fish cut up with wasabi, soy sauce and ginger. Beautifully presented!Salmon roll  Miso Soup. Decent.Fried Rice with Chicken. Decent and edible.Tempura Fried Ice Cream. Was told that this is their most popular dessert. Yuck. It was horrible. The batter was greasy. Vanilla Ice Cream. My 12-year-old critic did not like it. Now, for a child to not like ice cream…

In conclusion, if I had a family in Mamaroneck with small children and want to eat dinner out in a restaurant with contemporary atmosphere (almost like the City but not quite), Ginban is where I would come. My children could eat the generic chicken fried rice, be exposed to slightly more exotic dishes like salmon roll, and run around in the restaurant after they finish eating. I can then eat in peace with my husband, partner or friends. It’s all about targeting your demographics- Ginban’s website content should be re-written.

This experience took place at

Ginban Asian Bistro and Sushi
421 Mamaroneck Ave
Mamaroneck NY 10543
phone 914.777.8889