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

Dinner: Time for a Round of Kitchen-Sink Leftovers (aka the “English Breakfast Sausage/Fried Rice Experiment” Post)

photo(4)Finishing the feast we ordered on Sunday from Sammy’s Noodle Shop & Grill was never even an option, although we gave it a good run:

— har gau, steamed crystal shrimp dumplings (4 ct.)
— pork and shrimp shumai (4 ct.)
— roast pork, Cantonese style
— roast duck, 1/4 duck
— house fried rice (chicken, beef and shrimp)
— sauteed mixed vegetables

By Monday night, the only remnants of the feast were the fried rice and the last of the sauteed vegetables, the perfect contestant for a game of … (drumroll, please) Kitchen-Sink Leftovers! Also known as: What Else Is Hiding in that Fridge?

photophoto(2)What happened to be hiding was a package of English breakfast sausage from Meyers of Keswick, a British specialty foods store in the West Village that makes sausages and other pork items (i.e. pork pies) that are so, so good. If I had to rank my favorite foods in the city, these are Tier One-caliber goods. Lucky day! Also, some loose leaf spinach, half a zucchini, eggs, the end of a bag of frozen peas.

photo(3)In the end, we had: Fried rice spruced up with peas, English breakfast sausage, fried egg, and tossed with the fresh spinach at the absolute last moment. Plus, a side of warmed, saucy sauteed vegetables, to which we added the end of the zucchini, which was spooned over bowlfuls of rice. Absolutely delish.

The final score: Five stars: I’d make it again, on purpose. In Kitchen-Sink Leftovers, you can’t get a higher mark than that.

Lunch: Monday, April 13, 2009

photo35I’m conflicted, or maybe apathetic is a better word. But I’m getting ahead of myself — let me back it up…

Intrigued. That was the state-of-mind that led me to walk in the door at Chef Yu for a second time in a week (the first to grab a take-out menu). Its spacious and airy, cool and a dimly lit, the perfect counterpoint to the din of Eighth Avenue. Lunch specials are a bargain; they top out at $6.75. My take-out order of a small wonton soup and lemongrass chicken came out to $9.05. (Cheap!)

photo211Astonished. My food emerged lightening quick, three minutes, five minutes max. That was the first surprise. Back at my desk, I was surprised again by the number of items packed into my take-out bag. In addition to the entree and soup, Chef Yu sent me packing with a small salad, two mini egg rolls, vegetable fried rice, a fork and sauce packet and a sizable package of crispy chow-mein noodles that have virtually zero nutritional value and any purpose, as far as I can discern, except to be something I shove in my face at some point in the future when I’m starving and rummaging in my desk drawer for anything to eat.

Suspicious. Here’s when I began to get suspicious. Why so many distractions? I take a bite. Ah, here’s why. The food’s not bad, but it’s certainly not good. The salad is iceberg lettuce, the fried rice tastes heavily of soy sauce and I ended up picking through it to find the stray mung bean or edamame. The chicken is too chewy, the vegetables, meh, the sauce not unlike McDonald’s sweet and sour dipping sauce, which is to say a little too sweet.

Disappointed. Sort of. Well, not really. Maybe. Undecided, or apathetic. I suspect at some point I’ll forget all this and be drawn in again by Chef Yu’s promise of cheap and calm.

COST: $9.05
PREP TIME: n/a