Chinese and Japanese, Together Under One Roof? (aka the “No, Not Fusion… Something Else” Post)

“Hunan Delight Matsuya
Chinese & Japanese Cuisine”

One phone number, one address. And then there’s the matter of the handwritten sign that reads “FREE WINE” in the window.

What. I’ve been perplexed by this locals Upper East Side restaurant since I moved into the area.

The take-away menus make certain that it’s two restaurants — Hunan Delight, a Chinese restaurant, and Matsua Japanese cuisine — in one space. How can two such disparate cuisines — different ingredients, techniques, cultural histories — cohabit? How can this possibly work?

Well, except, it does. The food’s actually really good.

We came for the free wine, the Chinese food (after I found out Hunan Delight gets rave reviews online, to my surprise) and maybe a California roll. (It’s hard to mess up a roll made of crab stick, avocado and cucumber.)

What we discovered:

— Free wine offer is truly free: one glass of cheap, but crisp and very drinkable white wine, per person at dinner

— One of my new favorite Chinese dishes, called Green Jade Chicken ($11.95). Plump white meat pieces woked over high heat in “chef’s spicy sauce” (not really that spicy) along with matchstick-sized pieces of fresh ginger and string beans.

In the heat, the sauce caramelizes into a crisp, light glaze on the beans and chicken; the fresh ginger adds a welcome kick. This dish is the exact antithesis to the soggy, fatty, greasy Chinese food of styrofoam yore. It’s just lovely.

— And the sushi? You can find far worse sushi in supermarkets everywhere. Entranced by the platter of Dragon Rolls the sushi chef was putting up on the counter (see below) … so we ordered one.

It turned out to be a cooked roll (I still haven’t tried the raw sushi here) — shrimp tempura and cucumber on the inside, wrapped in eel and avocado on the outside.

— Doting, attentive service, of the sort you only get at a restaurant where the proprietors are that hands on, that involved, with everything.

There was a certain activity in the restaurant the night we were there, tables being reconfigured, the sushi chef turning out dragon rolls like nobody’s business, a party of young twenty-somethings turns up with a bottle of Johnny Walker.

Turns out, on this particular night the restaurant was hosting a friends and family Chinese New Year feast of epic proportions after the restaurant closed (11p). Being the last guests in the restaurant, and obviously geeking out about the Chinese New Year food, they kindly invited us to join … we didn’t, and in hindsight, wish we did. The food looked A-mazing and it was of epic proportions.

Still, this sit-down dinner for two totaled just $42.30 … also known in New York City as cheap.

Hunan Delight, a Chinese restaurant, and Matsuya Sushi, Japanese cuisine, share 1467 York Avenue, at 78th Street, 212-628-8161

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The Fourth of July Weekend Wrap-Up Post

Oh, Fourth of July. Every year you are the ultimate excuse for the ultimate indulgence of all food things American: barbecue, burgers, hot dogs, beer, backyards (or, in New York’s case, roofs and patios), and every year I take you up on your offer. 

photo-3This year I started extra early (unintentionally) on Thursday night, when I shared an order of dry-rubbed chicken wings and a bacon cheeseburger at Daddy-O in the West Village, along with a pair of one of the best cocktails I’ve had in a really long time:

It’s called the Eastside, and is gin muddled with cucumber, mint and lime juice, shaken and served frothy cold in a martini glass. Really, the ultimate summer refreshment. Just look at all the floating fresh bits! The picture doesn’t quite tell the story, but they were layered, suspended, in the drink at different levels and looked really cool. 

The next day, we celebrated the official federal holiday in style with happy hour at Brother Jimmy’s BBQ. There’s one close to my Upper East Side neighborhood, but there are also about a half-dozen other locations around the city. Brilliant happy hour: Between 4p-7p, domestic draft pints (Bud and Bud Light) are $2 and all appetizers are half-price at the bar. 

photo-1We tried the frickles, deep-fried pickles served with a creamy horseradish sauce; the peel-and-eat shrimp, which are doused in Old Bay seasoning and come with lemon wedges and a zesty, homemade cocktail sauce; and a basket of rib tips, the brilliant discovery of the day.

What are rib tips? As far as I could discern, rib tips are the knobs and ends of the rib rack which are usually chopped off to give a slab of ribs that uniform cut. The result are knobs of bone, fat and meat that have been as slow and as long as the rest of the rack, and that are heavy with meaty bits. Each rib tip takes a little bit of inspection and the willingness to get down and dirty, but it’s worth it: The meat is supremely succulent and tender.

photo-2At happy hour, a basket of these bits goes for $4 — a really good deal. Brother Jimmy’s has a Monday night special of all-you-can-eat rib tips, wings and all-you-can-drink domestic beer (2 hours max) for $15.95 that is a great deal, except that I probably wouldn’t be able to finish too many more than the $4 happy hour basket. Oh, but they’re so good. A basket has plenty enough rib tips to sample all of Brother Jimmy’s sauces, which arrive in a rack with any barbecue order. The sauces are lighter and more vinegar-y, as is the way with South Carolina-style barbecue. 

On the Fourth of July I found myself in the unusual position of fresh stovetop-grilled hot dog in hand — just as the now-famous Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island was about to begin. 

photo(2)photo(3)

photo(4)It’s odd to say that I ate my one dog in the time it took these professional eater-bingers to consume 50-plus, but I’m confident I enjoyed it more. No bun dipping in water necessary.

Elsewhere at the party: Pizza, a plate of brownies, plenty of beers and plenty of friends. It was a good holiday.

Dinner: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

photo-52Who would ever willingly make a soup that begins with a “broth” that is water in which Kielbasa sausage has boiled for two-thirds of an hour? A soup in which that that severely overcooked sausage comes back into play, along with lemon juice, heavy cream, fresh horseradish and slices of hard boiled eggs … 16 hours later? 

I would. I did. For Easter; it’s the Polish Easter Soup I mentioned in passing. I slurped that broth up with a few brave friends — who liked it to varying degrees, none of which actually, simply, liked it like I do. The best compliment that it got was that it’s “very Polish.”

I’m writing about it tonight because it deserves its due, and was entirely overshadowed by the S’meep Show on Sunday, and because … well, alright, I didn’t go back to the broth which has been in my fridge now for two days, and is entirely separated and strange-looking, but those leftover overcooked Kielbasa slices and extra hard-boiled egg? Couldn’t let that go to waste. 

photo-27So for dinner I made some simple cheese-on-cracker items, topped with the leftover egg, and the Kielbasa was used for even grander plans: Reheated one last time to serve as a mix-in to half a can of Annie’s organic All Stars (fancy version of Chef Boyardee stars — ED NOTE: WTF just went looking for official Internet reference to star-shaped pasta in tomato sauce by Chef Boyardee and ran into this scary CG child!).

COST: Rescuing the about-to-be-tossed. Annie’s can, $2? 
PREP TIME: 10 minutes

Scary picture of how I almost burned down the house and the Kielbasa boiling, all after the jump: Continue reading “Dinner: Tuesday, April 14, 2009”

Lunch: Tuesday, March 24, 2009

photo1What a difference a plate makes.

Kitchen sink stir-fry looks hardly “leftover,” thanks to yet another triumphant makeover, this one cosmetic.

The best part? These 9″ plates (8-count, $1.50) weren’t only the most festive at Duane Reede today, but they were also the best value.  Chinette offered 9″ plates (16-count, $3.99) at at slightly higher price point, minus the flair. On a per-plate basis, the 100-count package of generic, super-flimsy plates was cheaper… but the fact that you need a stack of three to sustainably hold food sort of defeats the purpose.

COST: $1.50 package of plates
PREP TIME: n/a

Want to see more? The great reveal is after the jump.

Continue reading “Lunch: Tuesday, March 24, 2009”