The Bowery, between Canal and Bayard Streets, Chinatown, NYC
Review by Rosie
HSF is in Chinatown in Manhattan, on The Bowery near the Manhattan Bridge and Confucious Towers. Their specialty during the day is Dim Sum, served teahouse style. Eating at a Dim Sum restaurant is an amazing experience. As you're waiting to be seated, you are face to face with fish tanks at the front of the restaurant holding some of the critters that will be on the table a short time later. There are lobsters -- Pacific and Maine, various crabs, giant shrimp, clams of all sizes and ooziness, eels, various fish, and even a turtle in a bucket ... If you are alone or with a small group of people, you're seated at large, round banquet tables with perfect strangers, what Italians or the Amish might call "family style." It's up to you whether you talk to your neighbors or not. I'm sure it would have been interesting -- assuming we could have heard each other over the surrounding cacophony, and assuming I could have gestulated in Chinese at them (Cantonese or Fukienese, very little Mandarin, and no English!) -- but we were busy trying to keep up with the ongoing arrival of food!
Here's how Dim Sum served Tea House style works. The staff walk between all of the tables in the dining room pushing carts loaded and stacked high with two or three different kinds of dishes. You point at the dishes you want to try, they give them to you, doused with the appropriate sauce(s). If you look carefully at the ticket on your table, there are only four prices printed on it, each price section marked with a grid of boxes: $1.80, $2.50, $3.20, and $4.50. The server stamps a box at the appropriate value, marking which dishes you've taken.
It's an incredible way to try a little bit of all sorts of flavors and textures, rather than being limited to one entrée per person, the usual way to go. We had shrimp rolls, a hugh pile of baby clams in broth (out of this world!), lots of different types of steamed or fried dumplings -- shrimp, pork, beef, taro, mushrooms, etc. -- spinach, chopped peking duck, red chinese barbequed pork, beef ribs ... all accompanied with boiled white rice, and all absolutely delicious. The only dish I couldn't bring myself to try was chicken feet -- complete with claws, they looked like pale monkey paws. Too much like the banquet in Temple of Doom -- far too scary for me!
Though Dim Sum doesn't include fooyungs, chop sueys, column A and column B lists and other things you might be used to seeing on a Chinese restaurant menu, it does include traditional Cantonese snack and lunch favorites. Many are work intensive -- like the dumplings -- or contain rich ingredients you couldn't really afford in a dinner-sized portion, either financially or calorically! It's the original "grazing" menu, and the appetizer-sized portions are normally eaten for brunch, or a business day lunch. You eat what you like, in moderate portions -- what a great idea! (Okay, we overdid it -- 16 dishes between three of us ...)
As for beverages, the jasmine tea that was served immediately upon our being seated deserves special mention. Even though it was a blazing hot, humid day in the city, the jasmine tea, which was served boiling hot, was surprisingly refreshing. It was so fragrant, almost intoxicating, and so good, that I bought some at the Ten Ren tea shop later to bring home.
On the other end of the spectrum, a Coke or Diet Coke is the perfect accompaniment to Dim Sum. The bicarbonate bubbles probably help with digestion!
Dim Sum is truly a culinary adventure. HSF is different from some authentic Chinatown restaurants in that it's relatively clean and the staff speak something other than Cantonese. The menu is not constant, depending on seasonality and the chef's temperament that day. That day we went, there were no steamed buns or sticky rice with pork and peanuts Hong Kong style packets wrapped in ti leaves. So, we'll just have to go back for those!
I highly recommend it. And while you're there, check out the street peddlers, the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, souvenir hawkers, and the hustle and bustle of being in a city within a city. Stand on the corner of Mott and Bayard, look at the funky vegetables, and tell me you are not in Shanghai! Whatever you do, you'll be fortified with Dim Sum, jasmin tea, and adventure. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: The opinions and observations noted are the property of the author. Neither Wookieehut nor any associates makes any claims or lucre from the posting of this report or review. Enjoy!