Can’t Make it to Beijing? How About Chinatown?

Last night, the Gourmand & I had a genuine date night. Our friend was performing the opening night of his Fringe Festival show, and the curtain wouldn’t rise until 9:15pm. This is usually my bedtime. So, we decided to plan a date night, including the show, which was to be held downtown, in New York City, at Pace University’s theater. (Actually, there are two theaters at my alma mater, and with 7 minutes to spare, M realized we were in the wrong audience and we made a mad dash to the other theater that starts with an “S.”)

Shanghai Café
If you’ve never had a soup dumpling, plan on it for dinner tonight. Seriously. Its a food that I’m not sure I’d ever make myself, for fear of third degree burns from any one of the production stages involving blazing hot soup or steam. Here’s how it goes. Shanghai Café is located at 100 Mott Street in Chinatown, NYC, just north of Canal on the west side of the street. I give such detailed directions because I want you to find the place and because Chinatown can be, well, a little overwhelming.

Take the Shanghai Café. Its decour is like a greek diner (pink and purple neon tubes on a mirrored ceiling) meets the kitchen of the grandmother of your foreign exchange student from high school – can’t understand a word she says but everything smells delicious.

For $8, order the Soup Dumplings with Crab and Pork. The soup comes inside the dumpling. The soup dumpling starts life as a paper thin disc of noodle, then gets a crab-and-pork meatball and a large spoonful of soup. The edges come together and twisted, so the dumpling looks like a little beggar’s purse. The chefs steam the dumplings, eight per order, in a bamboo steamer lined with cabbage. To eat them, use your chopsticks to grab them by the gather at the top, and place in the wide, flat-bottomed spoon. Poke a whole in the side of the dumpling to “let the juicy out” into the spoon and slurp it away as it cools and eat the remaining dumpling.

We ordered some other assorted dim sum, none really worth mentioning. When you come here, come for the soup dumplings. 

Chinatown Fair Video Arcade
When I was a kid, the arcade seemed so cool, like the mall: a place I saw on tv and got to visit on the occasional vacation, but did not exist within the grasp of my dirty, rural fingers. So, when last night we had some time to kill before the show, M mentioned that he knew of an arcade in the neighborhood, I was immediately struck with the familiar butterflies of entering a forbidden, cool-kid domain.

Aside from the fact that I now am the age of a chaparone, the arcade has the same thrilling, loud energy of teenage girls and roaches crawling up the walls while the boys compete in Dance Dance Revolution drenched in sweat. There is no natural light passed the front door, and despite the “No Smoking” signs, there is the distinct smell of late-night rule breaking. A round of Ms. Pac-Man and a driving game later, we reemerged onto the city street.

Monsters in the Wood
Brad is my friend. One of our very best friends actually. That aside, I can say with absolute objectivity: go see this show. Well, let me clarify that. Monsters in the Wood is one man telling the story that will make you reconsider whether your family deserves the label “dysfunctional.” (Mine still does.) Its dark, very dark at points, but I like dark. Its honest and raw and emotional and hysterically funny. Near the end, Brad talks about being a pallbearer for his sister murdered in a drug deal gone bad. “In life she came it a 315lbs, and now, that’s all dead weight.”

Go and see this show to confront your mortality and that of your fucked up family. Brad’s already done the hard part and I left feeling ever so slightly more prepared.

  • Patricia

    the peasant’s fam ain’t so bad, but still, go see the show.