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

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

H Mart in Williston Park, NY- Tasty Sashimi and Great for the Pocketbook 

I shop at Asian grocery stores, from time to time. When I am out in Queens, I tend to go to H Mart in Williston Park on Long Island. H Mart is best for one reason: You can buy reasonably priced sashimi and indulge/gorge until your heart beats with delight. You can buy all the accoutrement and make the plate real pretty. This plate consists of tuna, salmon, octopus, yellow tail, seaweed salad, and the “smelly” daikon salad (My co-workers had a huge issue with the daikon salad when I brought it into work one day.  They threatened to go to HR to stop me from eating the smelly food!) Of course, I also had ginger and wasabi. All in all, this plate was less than $50. The effort to cut up the sashimi was minimal. The presentation was beautiful.

So why wouldn’t you do the same, if you are a sashimi fan and eating out in restaurants is not always economically viable?

The H Mart in Hartsdale (Westchester, NY) has a hot food court (My post on Reliable Food Court Eating). That’s also an excellent option for delicious Asian food with ingredients straight from the supermarket. This is as close to Asian local/home eating as one gets in the New York ti-state area.

This experience took place in

H Mart
400 Hillside Ave
Williston Park, NY 11596
(516) 699-0270

P.S. This is my 6th of 17 challenge, writing one post a day until I go on vacation this month.

Sweet Yummy House 三好小馆 in Elmhurst, Queens, NY- Cheesy Name and Poor Hygiene Gets an A from NYC Department of Health

Sweet Yummy House’s Chinese name, 三好小馆,  means “Three Good Things Little Restaurant.” It does not refer to anything sweet nor yummy. As I begin describing my experience at the Sweet Yummy House  in Elmhurst NY, I want you to remember that this restaurant received a grade A from NYC Health and Mental Hygiene Department on October 8th this year. Although my visit was in September, this rating should still apply. Here is the screen shot of the Grade A from NYC Department of Health website.Sautéed Cabbage in Hot and Sour Sauce四川泡菜。 This is definitely not sautéed; it is pickled. This is an inaccurate translation. But the dish was darn good. A perfect representation of the Sichuan cuisine: bold, flavorful, and spicy!Spicy Pork Kidney 麻辣腰花。 I was not a fan of the kidney but my friend loved both the kidney and the wood ear mushrooms. The slightly metallic taste strongly cut right through the spiciness. The photo sure is colorful and inviting. I think the photo looks more tasty than the actual dish.Diced Rabbit with Red Chili Sauce 麻辣兔丁。 This was just bad… The bone was still on the rabbit. The peanuts and the sesame created a weird contrast to the bones – they were all chewy and crunchy just at different levels. If you get a mouth full of bones, peanuts and sesame, your mouth would be confused by the size and the hardness. Your teeth would not know which to chew first because there is no right answer. The peanuts were the best part of the dish. I could not tell that there were rabbit meat involved. It was mostly bone!Sautéed Potatoes Leaves. This was excellent. Fresh veggies quickly sautéed in the wok. Can’t really go wrong unless you overcook it.Wonton in Red Chili Sauce江油抄手。This was acceptable.

The food, overall, was not bad. Mostly tasty. Sweet Yummy House offered authentic Sichuan dishes that are rarely seen outside of heavily concentrated Chinese neighborhoods. So that was a treat for me, for an Asian living in a white-washed suburban town. The restaurant had mostly Asian diners, even young kids who spoke only Mandarin (with Beijing accent, with the Fujian accent and with the Taiwanese accent). I inevitably eavesdropped and translated the conversations around me.

So I left the restaurant thinking that this was a good experience until… Both my friend and I had mild tummy aches and further digestive trouble for the next 12 hours. It’s either the rabbit bones or the hygiene of the restaurant. My money is on the hygiene or the lack of it.


This experience took place at

Sweet Yummy House 三好小馆
83-13 Broadway
Elmhurst, NY 11373
(718) 878-6603

Wanderlust Taiwan- RaoHe Street Night Market Beef Noodle Soup, 饒河街齒牛香很不好吃

This is the RaoHe Street night market 饒河街夜市 beef noodle soup experience. We went in because the place was packed with people. It was one of the few places that had a store front, running fan, cold bottled water for the foreigners, and AC. As a rule of thumb, a restaurant overflowed with diners is probably a good bet. I was wrong. I think this was the worst meal I had in Taiwan this summer.See the menu behind the man who was staring at the camera? The night market noodle soups are in general about $1 to $1.5 USD cheaper than those in a slightly more up-scale restaurant. Read the other beef noodle post, click here.紅油炒手 Dumplings in hot chili sauce, a famous Sichuan dish. This was good. The sauce on the freshly cooked dumplings that were still tender and warm made the dish. The green veggies balanced out the spiciness.紅燒半筋半肉Braised half tendon and half beef noodle soup. It was tasteless. I don’t know how they stay in business.牛筋和海帶, Beef tendon/kelp/tofu. Meh and blah. We mixed these into other dishes and added a lot more sauce to make them ok to swallow.泡菜, Taiwanese pickled vegetables. Best dish of the night.

The restaurant was busy because they had a store front, tables and chairs, and efficient management of the diners. The wait staff is extremely efficient to usher you in and out. Because of their efficiency, they are able to let you sit down in an air-conditioned room, resting your sore feet from walking the night market. This is the reason why the restaurant was busy. This is how they stay in business by working on the peripherals and not the main product. It absolutely had nothing to do with the quality of their food!

Taiwanese food is almost always yummy and excellent. Having a bad meal is blasphemy in my book. Yuck! 台北市饒河街齒牛香的牛肉麵難吃。真丟臉啊!

This experience took place at

No. 104, Raohe St,
Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105



Kira Asian Bistro + Sushi Bar in Armonk, NY- Hometown Japanese Restaurant Run by the Chinese, Paled in Comparison to Daido

Kira Asian Bistro + Sushi Bar used to be called Kira Sushi when I first moved to Armonk eight years ago. The menu was more Japanese than Asian fusion. Now with the new brand name, it’s clear that they serve both Chinese and Japanese dishes with a bend at being fusion. Their specials that day were dominated by many Chinese dishes and the staff all spoke Mandarin. This was my first time at Kira.
Tuna or Toro Tartare (Chopped tuna or toro topped with caviar serve with chef’s special sauce)
Chirashi Deluxe (Assorted sashimi over a bed of steamed sushi rice)
Special that day – a version of Chinese broccoli.

Honestly, this was average. This was something I would expect from a good restaurant in Armonk: fresh sashimi, good presentation, and tasty. But there are so many restaurants like this in the Westchester area. The only reason Kira would stand out is because it is the only sushi restaurant in town. I would repeat because I live in the town. Would I travel to eat at Kira? Probably not. I would travel to go to Daido, the Japanese grocery store in White Plains, to buy the sashimi and cut them up myself.

This experience took place at

Kira Asian Bistro + Sushi Bar
575 Main St #7
Armonk, NY 10504
(914) 765-0800

Wanderlust Singapore- Fish Village in Central Mall, the Downside of Traveling with a Child

So traveling with a sick child means no restaurant eating for me.  It’s rather unfortunate since I have only a couple of days in Singapore.  To make the best of it, the Central Mall food court came to the rescue with cheap and fresh bento meals. Fish Village focuses only on fish! Crunchy, fresh and perfectly sautéed and seasoned with Bonita on top. A vegetarian delight.Yes, boring salmon with Teriyaki sauce, to be shared with the sick child. The egg yolk was really orange yellow and more flavorful than that in the U.S. The Bento box was perfect for the combination of a picky mom and a sick child.But look at my other options: Pomfret, Saba, Grouper, steamed fish and congee! Since this is only my second day in Singapore, I still have trouble with bill/coin recognition.  The proprietors were so kind to me and made me completely at ease in handing over money for them to choose from.Juices are a lot more popular in Singapore and Taiwan than in the U.S. due to the tropical weather and its abundance of fruits. Here is an example… Avocado as a drink!  I had A4 Avocado and Green Apple.  Funny… I tried to order watermelon smoothie and was discouraged because the watermelon today is not sweet.  I tried to order avocado with Yakult and was discouraged because the owner thinks it’s not a great combination. I tried to order avocado and mango and she told me the mixture does not blend well.  So I landed on her recommendation of avocado and green apple. It was delectable.

My experience at the juice stand and Fish Village is quintessential Asian.  This is one of the best parts of the Asian culture.

This experience took place at

The Central Mall
At Clakre Quay MRT Station
Level B1
6 Eu Tong Sen St,
Singapore 059817
+65 6532 9922

Wanderlust Singapore- Remember the Old with Food Festival at Ellenborough: Influences of the Chinese, Malay and Timor Culture

The Singapore Food Festival at Ellenborough is a walk down the memory lane.  “Relive the delectable charms of Ellenborough Market in its heyday during the 1800s – 1960s. Indulge in authentic food offerings such as Teochew meatballs, prawn rolls, and chive dumplings, while enjoying nostalgic Teochew Opera performances.” I heard the Teochew Opera from my hotel room and ate the soup dumplings, 小籠包. The Teochew opera is a variant of the Chinese opera that I grew up with. This experience rivals the Taiwanese night markets.  
This is the carrot cake without the carrot.  Looking serious and very spicy.
Clams and abalones on the shell  Meat on the skewers
Suckling pigs  Otah- Per Wiki “Otak means “brains” in Indonesian and Malay, and the name of the dish is derived from the idea that the dish somewhat resembles brains, being whitish grey, soft and almost squishy.” Grilled in banana leaves and served with coconut sauce.
Soup dumplings小籠包。unfortunately, it was not good.  The pastry was too thick. The filling was skimpy.  The pork was tasteless.  It wasn’t even soupy.  I was very disappointed that this was what I spent my calories on.  Churros with favors I have never seen before…Banana Nutella and Ondeh Ondeh. “Onde-Onde is one of the traditional kuih in Malaysia (kuih is term for Malaysian cakes). They are either made from sweet potato or glutinous rice flour. The cute little onde-onde–also spelled as ondeh-obdeh–are infused with pandan (screwpine leaf) juice and filled with “Gula Melaka” or palm sugar and then rolled in with some fresh grated coconut.”Durian creme brûlée – offered to me to try and I did.  The evidence that I did try. I think I can say I am not afraid of doing new things but would rather never eat durian again. Click here for my durian ice cream experience.Fish balls with curry.  Had this in the Taiwanese night market.  It was yummy.  Forgot the name though.  Curry.  Soup dumplings.  Shumai.    Fried and sweet soft shell crabsThe experience was vivid, lively, pungent, and friendly. This is very much the Asia I know. I am enthused to learn a lot more about the Malay and Timor influences in Singapore.  My friend told me the Singapore population is made up of approximately 70% ethnic Chinese with the rest by Malay, Indian and a tiny percentage of Eurasian. The languages in the MRTs are English, Simplified Chinese, Malay and Timor.

I can see, smell and hear the impact the cultures had on Singapore. What a world I live in.