Monday, March 30, 2009

[NYC '09: Brunch, day 4] Rong Hang Restaurant: Noisy, Dirty, but Oh-So-Good

(Spare ribs and beautiful cubes of taro)

After our dinner at WD-50 and our shopping extravaganza at Century 21, Sunny and I decided to economize for our day 4 dinner. Initially, I had planned on grabbing soup dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai but, being a Friday night, the place was packed full with – you guessed it – White people. It was already close to 8pm, I was starving and I wasn’t about to wait 45minutes for my food. So, instead, the two of us walked over to the part of Chinatown on the other side of Manhattan Bridge.

We stepped into Rong Hang Restauarant and were greeted by the loud ruckus of clanking bowls and beer bottles and indiscernible Chinese dialects. Yes, it’s scary and unnerving but it’s also a pretty certain sign that the food is probably really good.

Since the dine-in menu was in Chinese only, Sunny gave me ordering carte blanche. The menu boasted that the restaurant served authentic Fuzhou fare which, I have to say, I’m not very familiar with but seemed to be made up of a lot of animal innards. Well, knowing that Sunny is a non-innards person, I skipped over dishes like sautéed pig stomach and crispy duck intestines and went for the spare ribs with house special sauce ($8.95), the stewed lamb Chinese style ($9.95) and two mountainous bowls of steamed rice.

Both dishes were awesome. Though both the pork and lamb were both bony cuts of meat, the meat was cooked to such tenderness that it fell easily off the bones. The pork was so flavorful – it was cooked in a sort of sweet and sour sauce which was close to being addictive. But what REALLY was addictive was the cubes of taro sprinkled throughout the dish. They were my favorite part of the meal. The sauce really enhanced the taro flavor and the tartness of it really cut through the crumbly soft texture of the root vegetable. The lamb stew was a perfect compliment to the pork dish – it was a lot milder in flavor so it balanced the meal out. Also, the stew broth was perfect when mixed with the steamed rice. The sheets of dried bean curd soaked up all the flavors of the lamb and the broth and turned into a sheet of pure deliciousness. These dishes were a welcome respite from the days of eating heavy Western food – both the pork dish and lamb stew had a hearty balance of veggies and the cuts of meat were cut to small bite-size pieces which made the overall meal less stuffy. That being said though, the portions are huge – we left about half of each dish unfinished…and the total for the two of us still only came to $20. I love Chinese food.

(Lamb stewed to tenderness)

Service is iffy – especially if you don’t speak the dialect. This place is DEFINITELY catered to its regulars. I mean, I could converse with the staff in Mandarin and I still had only mediocre service. But then again, at places like this, it’d be stupid to expect red carpet service. As long as the food is awesome – which it was – I’m a happy camper. I’m glad Joe’s Shanghai was packed. Rong Hand is off the beaten path but it’s a definite gem if you can put up with its seeming rough unprettiness.

FOOD: 4/5
SERVICE: 1.5/5

38 Elridge St.
New York, NY 10002

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