Tag Archives: dumpling

Excellent Dumpling House (23rd)

This joint was PACKED on a Friday evening when my wife and I came in for a quick bite. There’s another joint named Excellent Dumpling House in Chinatown. It has yet to be determined whether this is owned by the same folks.

Anyway, I was fighting off a cold, so I ordered a bowl of chicken dumpling noodle soup. It was pretty great, especially with some of their spicy chili oil.

I also tasted some of my wife’s soup dumplings, which were.. shall I say… excellent? Ha! Maybe. I mean they were constructed properly, cooked nicely… no ripping… But perhaps I haven’t had enough XLBs to really say what is excellent or just above average.

EXCELLENT DUMPLING HOUSE
165 W 23rd St
New York, NY 10011

Flame

Flame is a pretty large hibachi joint on the upper west side. I was recently invited in for a hibachi meal with a bunch of lunatic foodies.

They put on a great show here, I must say.

We started off with a pair of shrimp.

Then some fried rice and veggies.

And then the steaks came out!

Very simply prepared, and nicely cooked.

As far as hibachi goes, this is one of the best I’ve experienced. But that’s not where the action stops. They also serve a variety of nice dumplings, sushi and other seafood.

Everything was great; especially that miso octopus tentacle. I highly recommend this joint. There’s a lot of space, really beautiful tables and decor, and even some really nice mixed cocktails.

FLAME
100 W 82nd St
New York, NY 10024

Bangkok Cuisine

Is it just me, or is Thai food in NYC starting to all blend together into an incoherent, blurry amalgam of “sweet coconut this,” or “spicy curry that?” I live right near what I like to call “Thai Town,” a strip of dozens of Thai restaurants that run up 9th avenue from the upper 30’s to the upper 50’s in Hell’s Kitchen. One or two joints stand out there as being different and good, but largely it’s all the same Americanized, overly sweet, unbalanced bullshit but with a different name slapped on the facade outside. The interiors even start to look and feel the same. Dim lighting, bamboo everywhere, and a subtle yet obnoxious house music beat relentlessly thumping in the back of your brain for the entirety of the meal. I know you’ve experienced this, and no matter how much X you drop beforehand, it just won’t work while you’re trying to fucking eat. Is this the perception of Thai culture and cuisine that we have here in America, to which Thai restaurants feel they must cater in order to draw in customers? If so, we need to change it, ASAP.

Stepping into Bangkok Cuisine on the upper east side was a refreshing change from that cookie-cutter Thai experience.

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The space is bright, elegant and classy, with a gorgeous emerald Buddha as the centerpiece and focal point of the restaurant. It almost has a museum-esque quality to it, with high luxury style marble under foot and ornate chandeliers over head.

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Hap, son of the chef and owner, invited me in for a press meal. He runs the joint and takes pride in the decor choices he made when designing the restaurant a year ago. He did a great job. I knew just from the decor alone that I was about to get into something very different and unique here when it came to the actual food.

This place is a perfect spot for a date, but it also has appeal to everyday neighborhood diners who want a great meal in a beautiful setting. It doesn’t hurt that the prices are very fair as well. During lunch hours (even on weekends) you can score a three course meal for just $9 or $10. That’s pretty much unheard of these days.

The bar is nice too, with cocktails inspired by Thai spice and herb flavors, and fresh exotic fruits.

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Okay so let me get to the food. Hap suggested we try some of their best and most popular items, to get a good feel for his dad’s cooking style and the diversity of the menu.

First were the chicken lettuce wraps, with minced curried chicken, carrots, celery, shredded beet and cashews.

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These were super light and healthy; a great way to start the meal without going heavy. The curried chicken was a nice change-up from what I usually expect in a lettuce wrap. It was almost like a Thai or Indian taco, if you will. The beets added a nice contrast of color with that pop of red, and the iceberg lettuce added a great textural element of crunch to the tender minced chicken.

Next were the BBQ pork skewers. These were my absolute favorite of the starters.

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They were sweet, spicy, sticky and super tender. The spice/sweet balance struck here was right on the money, and the sticky and tangy sauce on top really fueled my addiction to these. With fresh cut herbs sprinkled over the top of these warm skewers, the air all around the table was filled with some incredible, mouth watering aromas. When you come here, these are absolutely a must-order.

Hap also brought out a small sample size of two other popular apps for us. First was the Thai crepe, a thin, wide, flat, homemade steamed rice noodle wrapped around chicken, shallots and peanuts.

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This is similar in form to Vietnamese banh cuon, which my wife and I love. The flavors here are a bit different though, as they are sweet rather than tangy, and more peanut-forward than the Vietnamese dish. These are nice and light, and very healthy.

The second sampler app was the five-star Thai dumplings. These may look like Chinese dumplings, but they taste very different.

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They have Thai-spiced chicken and shrimp inside, and are served with a sesame and soy dipping sauce.

We tried three entrees from the special chef’s tasting portion of the menu, all at Hap’s suggestion and based on popularity and his personal preferences.

The first was this stuffed salmon with panang curry.

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First off, this was absolutely stunning to look at.  It’s pan-roasted salmon with crab meat and shrimp stuffing, green beans, bok choy, peppers, carrots and onions in a thick and rich panang curry sauce. The sauce here, again, displays Bangkok Cuisine’s amazing ability to properly balance sweet and spicy. One could easily just spoon the curry up and eat it like a thick soup. And the salmon itself was cooked to perfection, with what was essentially a really good shrimp and crab cake added in the mix. It’s no wonder that this is one of their signature and most popular dishes. Absolutely delicious.

Our second entree was volcano duck.

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This is a crispy, boneless half duck served atop tempura carrots and celery, and topped with a fluffy egg and homemade chili flake sauce (pad pong karee). Just to beautify the plate even more, there are a pair of fried lotus root slices on top. The dish consists of traditional Thai ingredients that have been treated in non-traditional ways. For example, the duck is prepped and cooked in a notably French style, with butter under the skin to get a certain level of crisp before finishing, as opposed to just frying the fucker to holy hell. I haven’t seen or tasted anything like it here in the city. The duck itself was amazing. Tender, flavorful and with super crispy skin. And the fluffy egg on top lent a flavorful soft texture to offset the crisp of the duck.

The final entree was a true test of Thai food mettle: Pad Thai.

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But this is no ordinary Pad Thai. This is seafood tom yum inspired Pad Thai. The sautéed rice noodles are adorned with shrimp, squid, scallops, mussels, eggs, peanuts, carrots, bell peppers, scallions and bean sprouts, all deftly tossed with just the right coating of a hot and sour lemongrass “tom yum soup” flavored sauce. Again; a very unique take on a classic Thai dish. It reminded me of the way this noodle dish my wife and I had in Hoi An, Vietnam captured the characteristic flavors of pho in a sauce for a non-soupy noodle dish.

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Each bite of seafood was cooked just right. All tender, and nothing overcooked, whatsoever. What really got me, though, was the perfectly dressed noodles. Lots of times Pad Thai comes to you all watery and soupy. I hate that! This had just the right amount of sauce coating the noodles, and that helped make the noodles slightly sticky, so that all the spices and accompaniments clung to the noodles just so. This made it easy to pick up with chopsticks and stuff down my throat. If Pad Thai is your go-to dish when eating Thai, you won’t be disappointed with this. It brilliantly marries two very popular Thai dishes (Pad Thai and Tom Yum), executed perfectly.

Unfortunately at this point we were too full for dessert. But I will definitely be back to try the whole fried snapper, lamb chops and drunken noodles, for sure. They looked great on the menu.

I highly recommend this place, and even if you’re not regularly spending time on Manhattan’s upper east side, it’s certainly worth a trip up to the neighborhood.

BANGKOK CUISINE
1586 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10028

Joy Luck Palace

Joy Luck Palace is a new dim sum mega-hall in Chinatown that took over the space from older dim sum mega-halls Grand Harmony and 98 Crystal Palace.

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In classic dim sum style, carts are pushed around the restaurant offering delicious bites of dumplings. Confusing wafts of hot sterno and crystal shrimp shumai overwhelm you when you enter the large space. But soon, your nose settles in and your stomach takes over.

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There really isn’t a bad item here. There are just some that are way more successful than others. Some seem like they are purely for affectation or Instagram fodder, while others are truly inspired culinary genius. In addition to those fun items, there are plenty of tried and true dim sum classics. And everything is cheap!

Since we came here with a big group of food bloggers and high-traction Instagrammers, we were able to sample almost every item on the dim sum menu. As such, I’m going to hit you with a photo-dump style review, where I highlight my favorites here and there with extra words other than the identity of the dish. I will say that this is one of the better dim sum joints I have been to, so I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Shrimp and pork:

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Stewed pork meat:

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Sticky sweet rice inside these leaves:

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Veggie dumplings:

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Beef rolled up in wide, flat noodles:

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Same thing with shrimp here – both were good:

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Another shot of the shrimp and pork:

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One of my favorites is next: a fried pastry cruller wrapped in a wide rice noodle and then topped with soy dumpling sauce, green onion and cilantro. The play of different textures here was awesome.

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These doughy pig buns are deceiving. They look like they might be porky and savory, but they were very sweet with an egg filling; more like a dessert. Very nice for Instagram posting.

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That was a kiss of death:

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Savory yet sweet pork bun:

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There’s BBQ pork inside this flaky dough:

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Assorted shrimp dim sum:

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I’m a huge fan of tofu skin. Below is tofu skin wrapped around chicken. Very nice as well.

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Assorted shrimp dim sum:

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Beef meatballs:

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Dim sum for days:

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The tripe was a bit rubbery for my liking:

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Savory filling inside this noodle nest:

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These had a savory filling inside as well, not the expected sweet red bean paste that you often see in Asian pastry shops and bakeries. The outside “shell” is more like that gummy rice flour dough:

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This noodle dish just needed a bit more salt, otherwise the texture and flavors were great:

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Another favorite here. This is called “Buddhist’s Paradise.” Inside the noodle wrapper is a fried vegetable spring roll. Another awesome texture combination with winning flavors.

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Veggie dumplings:

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Another home run was this shrimp roll. Chopped shrimp, shrimp paste “sausage” and veggies are wrapped up in tofu skin and then fried. At first I thought the tofu skin might have been an egg pancake or crepe, but I was mistaken. Absolutely awesome.

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More Instagram fodder here. This carrot-shaped cake/bun is filled with a sweet mashed taro or lotus root type of filling. The outside “shell” is more that same gummy rice flour dough I mentioned in another dish above. But perhaps a savory rabbit meat filling would be a nicer play instead?

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Here’s that carrot with The Hungry Rabbit in the background:

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These short ribs were a bit too chewy/fatty and lacked a grilled or charred flavor, but the sauce and meaty bits were actually pretty tasty. A slight tweak here and there would make them great:

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Shrimp ball ala Trump toupee noodle nest:

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Curried cuttlefish:

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Deep fried bacon wrapped around a shrimp ball with mayo? SURE! These were excellent with chili oil too, instead of the mayo:

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Chicken feet:

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Egg custard tarts:

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Durian fruit pastries:

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So I think that’s a good guide to this joint. If you stick with the basics, and try a few flourishes that I highlighted here and there, with any LUCK you will come away overJOYed… KNEESLAP!

JOY LUCK PALACE
98 Mott St
New York, NY 10013

Excellent Dumpling House

NOTE: THIS JOINT IS CLOSED

Day two of jury duty gave me the opportunity to finally try Excellent Dumpling House, a small joint just below Canal on Lafayette that slings some decent cheap grub.

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I grabbed three items to fuel my sense of civic duty.

1) fried pork dumplings.
These were crispy and light. I gobbled them up pretty quickly and was waiting for my next dish. I have to say, I was impressed with these and I had very low expectations going into it.

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2) bbq duck egg roll
This was just mediocre. I was expecting a more dry experience as opposed to a highly sauced inside. That’s fine. It was just a little bland and slightly heavier on the vegetables as opposed to the duck.

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3) steamed shrimp and crab dumplings
These were excellent. A full, good quality and perfectly cooked shrimp was inside each, along with some crab meat mash. The sauce it came with was like a spicy cream sauce. Not a fan of that. But the dumplings themselves were great. The skin didn’t rip too much, yet it wasn’t too thick and gummy.

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These three items came to $17.50 with tax and tip included.

EXCELLENT DUMPLING HOUSE
111 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10013

Thai Select

Kate, the owner of Thai Select, invited me and my wife into the restaurant for a press meal to sample, and yammer about, some of their delicious menu selections.

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I nearly got killed by three people going about 40mph on bicycles getting that shot, so please take the time to appreciate it more than usual. It was partially my fault, as I wasn’t watching where I was walking, but whatever. Bicycles still suck.

Anyway this joint is located in the heart of what I am now calling Thai Town in NYC. That’s 9th avenue from the 30s through the 50s. There are TONS of Thai joints on that stretch, and competition is pretty fucking fierce! There are lots of good places to dine here, and also lots of shitty ones as well. You need to know which is which, and that’s what I’m here for.

Thai Select is one of the good ones. In fact, it’s probably one of the best. The inside is decorated with a lounge-like atmosphere, with exposed brick, a long bench seat with two-top tables going along the entirety of the wall.

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There’s a bar on the opposite end that goes about a third of the length of the entire restaurant. There’s even a back area that is elevated, almost like a stage, for larger groups.

Chef Toni explained that on Friday and Saturday nights it gets pretty jammed. This was a Monday at 6pm, so we had some elbow room to eat, at least for a little while. It did get to nearly full capacity by time we left at around 7:30pm, which is a good sign.

They offer happy hour from 4pm to 7pm, and allow you to take advantage of those deals from your table. $4 beers is a pretty great deal, for one, but there are others as well. We started by sipping on this cocktail made with citron vodka, canton, fresh ginger and lime called the Springter. It was incredibly refreshing and bright.

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Chef Toni sat with us and explained some of the new endeavors that Thai Select is undertaking. One is a new healthy menu, where everything is gluten free, no MSG and no saturated fats, and which highlights the health benefits of various Thai herbs and ingredients.

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The offerings on this portion of the menu roll out officially next month, and they actually look really good, even the vegetarian stuff!

Chef Toni has been in the restaurant biz for about seven and a half years, and is already juggling two other joints nearby in Thai Town, in addition to this one.

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He’s created a menu that is accessible and familiar to people of all cultures, whether it is American, Indian or Latin, in addition to classic Thai dishes and flavor profiles. Everything is made in house from scratch, all the way down to the dumpling wrappers. Toni’s expertise shines in the food. Everything we tasted was really excellent, so let’s get into it:

We started with this bowl of moo dad deaw, or “pork poppers.” This is small bits of pork jerky that are crispy on the outside and served with a spicy, “fire sauce” that reminded me very much of the sauces made in Vietnam for eating with fried foods. It’s like a sri racha, but more orange colored and slightly sweet, as opposed to all spicy.

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I couldn’t eat these things fast enough. I ripped through that bowl like nothing. I could eat buckets of this shit. PLEASE – if you like meat snacks of any kind – do yourself a favor and order this when you go. You won’t be disappointed. If this was sold in bags, I’d be stockpiling for armageddon.

Next we tried the peanut dumplings.

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These are stuffed with sweet turnip and ground peanut, and served with a sweet soy sauce.

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The wrapper had the texture of a really nicely executed dim sum dumpling, but it held up to cutting without falling apart. Really tasty and healthy to boot.

Toni also brought out one of their better selling appetizer items, the crab rangoon.

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These are hand made deep fried wanton wrappers filled with whipped cream cheese and crab meat. They were very creamy and soft inside, but crisp on the outside, and came with a light duck sauce for dipping. While I’m generally not a fan of cream cheese with any sort of meat, these were definitely addicting.

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The entree I chose was a Bangkok spice pork stir fry wok dish.

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It came with fresh peppers (spicy green chili and sweet red bell alike), green beans and onions. And a nice little cone of rice:

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This was a really tasty dish. It had the kick that I expect from good Thai food, but without going over the top to blow out my palette.

My wife had what I think was the winning dish of the night. She ordered the pineapple curry duck.

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This robust, spicy-yet-sweet curry is one of the best I’ve had. The duck was placed on top, skin side up, to keep all that delicious fried skin good and crispy throughout. This is actually smoked duck from Canada, so there is less chewy fat under the skin than normal.

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There is no waste when you eat this – none at all. No bones, no messy picking up and chewing or gnawing through cartilage or fat, and no sticky smelly fingers afterward. It was awesome. And that curry. MAN! Toni should jar it and sell it at grocery stores. It was garnished with red bell peppers, tomato, green beans, fresh basil leaves, bamboo shoots and chunks of pineapple. Killer dish. No wonder why it is another one of their top sellers.

For dessert we had the fried bananas with coconut ice cream, which was drizzled with honey and chocolate syrup, and sprinkled with toasted and untoasted sesame seeds.

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The ice cream was good and flavorful without being too sweet, as were the fried banana egg rolls. We washed this down with some ginger tea and Thai iced tea, which was nicely adorned with a straw-wrapper rose:

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I love that chai tea flavor with sweet milk. It reminds me of the smell of fresh pipe tobacco for some reason.

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That about wraps it up. Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed eating. Check this place out when you’re in the area and tell them I sent you.

THAI SELECT
472 9th Ave.
New York, NY 10018

Radiance Tea House & Books

Me, my wife and her cousin came in here for a quick lunch that ended up being a pretty big, delicious meal. Check out all the shit we ate. I pretty much liked every bit of it, but the least favorites were the chicken rolls, egg custard had the BBQ pork bun.

The ladies had lemongrass mint tea. I smelled the lemongrass, but in the sip I took it was only mint that I tasted, and very light in terms of flavor as well.

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This is silky tofu in chili oil. A very nice dish indeed, and good spice to it.

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These little fuckers are the pork soup dumplings. These were my favorite of all the dim sum, but you have to get on them quickly otherwise the liquids may leak out. But be careful: have it too soon and you will burn your mouth.

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These packets of yum are the chicken with wood ear mushroom dumplings. These were my least favorite of the dim sum, but they were my wife’s favorite.

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This was egg custard. The texture was nice, similar to a soft creme brûlée, but it needed just a bit more of the sauce on top to make it perfect.

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Crystal shrimp dumplings. These are always good when they’re done the right way. I liked them. Good snap texture, soft, flavorful and briny.

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The BBQ pork bun was a little lacking for me. Too much dough, and the meat was more like sloppy Joe mix to me.

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This was one of the stars. Pork belly steamed buns with cilantro, onion and tomato. Great flavorful bites, and the pork was nice without too much chew fat. Loved it.

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These are the curry chicken rolls. I liked them. The chicken is pounded flat and used as a wrapper to house the veggies inside. Maybe could have used a bit of salt. Otherwise I liked them. My wife wasn’t a fan, however.

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Ice cream with green tea drink. Simply and delicious.

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Assorted mochi: sesame, peanut, red bean, green tea, mango, and taro. My favorites were the peanut and red bean.

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Some of the decor: the place is a cross between a coffee shop, a restaurant and a book store. Neat little place. Glad we came.

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RADIANCE TEA HOUSE & BOOKS
158 W. 55th St.
New York, NY 10019