Pho Grand: “Authenticity” isn’t Everything

Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

Buzzwords are funny things, especially when it comes to restaurants. Some places comically tout “authenticity,” others present an expensive mishmash of ingredients as “fusion“, while still others bandy about words like “original,” “modern” or “seasonal”. “Tapas” has come to mean miniscule portions paired with overpriced drinks, regardless of whether the food bears any resemblance to something one might find in Spain.

How did that happen? I stay away from places that associate themselves with buzzwords, as I’m convinced they mean I’ll be paying a premium for the privilege of taking part in somebody’s concept. I have nothing against concept dining, I‘m simply not interested in paying extra for it. My favorite places are more pedestrian: hole-in-the-wall joints where I can get a great meal without an obligatory side of pretense. I go out to eat, not to affirm my social status.

This kind of thinking brings me back to places like Pho Grand (277c Grand Street, between Eldridge and Forsyth) again and again.

Weekend Kid’s Pick

Family workshop on Chinese Puzzles at MOCA.

This Saturday visit the Museum of Chinese in America and try your hand at puzzle solving! MOCA is offering family puzzle-solving workshops on the last Saturday of each month from March to August 2011. Kids 4 and older work with their parents to solve the puzzles, hear stories related to the puzzles, and experiment with puzzle-inspired art.

Time: Saturday, March 26 from 1:30 to 2:30 // Location: 215 Centre Street // Admission: $10 per child and adult pair; $5 per additional child; Free for MOCA Family Members. RSVP to education@mocanyc.org

An Choi

Banh mi, delicious authentic pho and other Vietnamese specialties, in fancier digs than you’ll find a few blocks to the west in Chinatown proper.

85 Orchard Street, near Broome

212-226-3700

Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week

Web site

Delivery

Cube 63

The Clinton Street sushi restaurant packs in a young crowd with affordable prices and a BYOB policy. There are only 26 seats, so prepare to wait for a table if you don’t have a reservation.

63 Clinton, near Rivington

212-228-6751

Open 5pm-midnight Monday-Thursday, 5pm-1am weekends.

Web site

Delivery

Cafe Boho

Karaoke club/Korean restaurant. The menu features a selection of noodle dishes, kimchi and sizzling hot pots, but really people go for the drinks and the Karaoke.

196 Orchard, near Houston

(212) 777-0102

Hours 11am-4am

Web site

Bun & Company

CLOSED

Cambodian-style sandwiches – served in gourmet hot dog buns and stuffed with pulled pork, brisket, catfish and other interesting  ingredients.

78 Rivington, near Orchard

212-253-8441

Hours Monday: 12pm-10pm; Tuesday-Wednesday: 12pm-12am; Thursday-Saturday: 12pm-2am; Sunday: 12pm-10pm

Web site

Delivery

Tiengarden

A vegan Chinese restaurant that also prepares dishes without garlic and onion (gasp!). Stay away from the mock meat dishes.

170 Allen, near Stanton

212-388-1364

Hours Mon-Sat, 12:30pm-10:30pm; Sun, closed

Menu

FEATURES

Chinese, vegan, delivery, lunch

Wing Shoon

In the former home of the legendary Garden Cafeteria, this old-school Cantonese restaurant does a reasonably decent job with dim sum, barbecued meats and seafood dishes. The price is right. Downside: they don’t deliver.

165 East Broadway, at Rutgers

212-780-0238

Hours: 7am-11pm

Menu

Lam Zhou

There’s no English sign and you can’t expect a warm welcome, but these hand pulled noodle soups and (very thin-skinned) dumplings are some of the best in the neighborhood. A bag of 50 frozen dumplings will set you back 8 bucks.

144 East Broadway, near Essex

(212) 566-6933

Menu

Super Taste

Hand pulled noodles from Lanzhou, in Central China, is the specialty at this hole-in-the-wall on Eldridge Street. The dumplings are also standouts here.

26 Eldridge, near Canal

212-625-1198

Open 1030am-1030pm

Menu

Sticky Rice

This Thai restaurant on Orchard Street is part of a Manhattan mini-chain. If you like your food spicy, be sure to tell the waiter. Dishes tend to be on the mild side. No alcohol served.

85 Orchard, near Broome

212-274-8208

Mon-Fri, noon-10pm; Fri-Sat, noon-10:30pm

Menu

Soy

Japanese home cooking in a tiny spot on Suffolk Street. The menu includes tofu-based dishes and miso soup, but this is not strictly a vegetarian restaurant. There’s a casserole dish, for example, made with beef and potatoes.

102 Suffolk, near Delancey

212-253-1158

Open Mon-Fri, noon-10pm; Sat, 5pm-10pm; Sun, closed

Web site

Reservations not accepted

Xi’an Famous Foods

A takeout counter next to the Manhattan Bridge specializing in super-fresh hand-pulled noodles and spicy lamb dishes. The Flushing import features dishes from the Shaanxi province in Central China, such as spicy lamb noodles with cumin and the savory cumin lamb burger (Anthony Bordain’s favorite).

88 East Brodway, near Forsyth

No phone

Hours 11am-8pm

Web site

Cash only

Sheng Wang

At this spartan, subterranean spot, handmade wheat noodles are served with a choice of 20 or so toppings (chopped pork bones, duck, ox tail, etc). For English only speakers, ordering here is a bit of a challenge. Some think the fish ball soup is unrivaled.

27 Eldridge, near Canal

212-925-0805

Open daily 7am-10pm

Web site

Yummy Sushi

A new sushi restaurant on Orchard Street also offers cooked entrees, including soba and hibachi dinners.

198A Orchard Street

212-388-0899

Hours: tbd

Menu

Delivery