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On Menus: In Brooklyn

by Dana Stewart

Chinese Food in the USA

Fall Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(3) page(s): 7

Have you hungered for an exotic experience but been too busy nursing your wounded 401K to pursue pricey foreign travel? A trip to Brooklyn’s Chinatown may be the budget-minded answer to your wanderlust. For a mere New York City subway token, take the N train to the 8th Avenue station in Sunset Park. Once there, explore this unspoiled gem of a neighborhood. Refreshingly free from crowds of tourists and street vendors hawking incense and pet frogs, Brooklyn’s Chinatown has all of the appeal of its larger megalith sister-neighborhood in Manhattan, and it is less crowded than the brotherly-streets of Flushing, Queens; and without some of the drawbacks of both of them.

XI FUNG BUDDHIST TEMPLE at 5101 8th Avenue, Brooklyn NY is one place to start your journey by re-balancing your qi. There are any number of extensively stocked herb shops, too.

CHUNG YUAN HERB CORP. at 5411 8th Avenue; Brooklyn NY is one of these. There, open barrels brim with smelly mystery items. Counter herbal experts dispense sage advise based on traditional Chinese medical paradigms of health and wellness. The small but serene place offers a meditative environment and even a vegetarian lunch, donations accepted. It is open to the public the first and fifteenth of every month on the Chinese lunar calendar.

If your look could use polishing, pop in to one of the exceptionally large number of hair and nail salons offering every beauty treatment known to womankind that you can shake a stick at. Need to shed some stress? Masseuse 'Mai' will knead and pound it out of you, even walk on your back, if desired, at Joyce’s Salon; 5623 8th Avenue; Brooklyn NY. That is for a mere forty-five dollars an hour, about half the going rate for a massage in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

The adventurous home cook can stock up on supplies at one of the many green grocers and Asian supermarkets offering items from the standard to the unidentifiable. Fresher fish cannot be found than those offered by the numerous fish markets, each with an impressive selection of live wigglies.

OCEAN PALACE at 5423 8th Avenue in Brooklyn NY is a place to satisfy the worked up appetite from all your shopping. You are never more than a stone's throw away from a dizzying array of restaurants. Sample the lively Dim Sum at this palace or one of the numerous, almost exclusively Cantonese ones nearby. A Mr. Li, a social worker and ex-pat of mainland China calls this one 'the best' and lunches in the area daily. He strongly recommends the lively or some would say noisy atmosphere here for an authentic Cantonese dining experience.

NYONYA at 5323 54th Street in Brooklyn NY might be your spot if you are not in the mood for Chinese. This Malaysian cuisine eatery is where each freshly prepared dish is more creatively presented and visually appealing than the last in this casual, clean eatery. Make sure to end your meal with one of their unusual desserts, such as the 'ABC.' It is possibly the strangest and strangely delicious iced dessert ever devised.

GIA LAM II at 5606 8th Avenue; Brooklyn NY can be for you if the ubiquitous pigeon is not your favorite urban co-habitor. Get some gastronomical revenge at this Brooklyn Vietnamese restaurant where the same creature of flight is served both roasted and fried, along with a sweet salad and a 'special sauce.'

SAINT ALP'S CAFE at 5801 8th Avenue; Brooklyn NY is where to stop in for some lighter fare. There, you can slurp up trendy tapioca-tea concoctions through giant straws. If you are not familiar with this 'in' concoction, it is part drink, part snack, and all fun.

TEN REN TEA AND GINSENG COMPANY at 5817 8th Avenue; Brooklyn NY is where to purchase relaxing beverages. Here is a truly terrific Taiwanese teahouse experience in this borough's Chinatown. Go there for a cup of carefully prepared tea, a calming experience enjoying a fine brew served by their friendly and informative staff. Ten Ren sells a wide variety of teas to take home, there is one for every budget and every taste. Their packets of surprisingly tasty green tea powder sell for just under four dollars; some exotic varieties cost a hundred bucks a pound or more; and there is a huge variety in-between.

THE KINGLY BAKERY at 5722 8th Avenue: Brooklyn NY or the nearby GOLDEN HOUSE BAKERY at 5516 8th Avenue; Brooklyn NY are where to rub elbows with the locals while satisfying your sweet tooth at one of them. Try the light-as-air pastries baked daily and that can be eaten at their tiny tables while people-watching; or do so through their glass storefronts. Take some of their treats home for family and friends.

For adventure in this Brooklyn backyard, do get to this fascinating and mysterious neighborhood. It offers the neophyte and the Chinaphile endless shopping, eating, and exploration options not to be missed. Brooklyn's Chinatown is truly a cultural treasure trove. I think it one of the boroughs best kept secrets.
Dana Stewart is a registered dietician who delights in seeking out undiscovered places, exploring Chinese neighborhoods, seeking out the best, watching the locals reveal their secrets, and getting them to tell all. Mix her experiences in Brooklyn's Chinatown, her boundless energy, the many who share their best and together you will taste the treats of Brooklyn, as she did.

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