The options for eating excellent Chinese food around the Columbia University campus continue to expand. The Tang, which opened on the Upper West Side about 8 months age, bills itself as a noodle bar that serves contemporary Chinese food in the styles that are actually being eaten in China now. The owner is from a family of Beijing restaurateurs and opened the original Tang, now closed, in the East Village in 2016, and now also has a Sichuan hotpot restaurant on the Bowery. The Tang is a more up-market option than the other Chinese restaurants around Columbia, it has a sleek interior design, table seating and a counter bar that looks into the open kitchen. In terms of price and up-scale decor The Tang is on par with the nearby Atlas Kitchen, but the food at The Tang is far superior.
The Dumplings: On the menu the Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil get two out of a possible three red chili peppers, but the chili oil really was not that hot and didn’t have a lot of flavor. But the small wonton style dumplings, filled with pork and chives, were delicious.
The Fried Pork & Chives Dumplings are about twice the size of the wontons with the same delicious filling and are served doused with chili oil. While again the chili oil was not very spicy, the seared and charred edges of the fried dumpling wrappers gave the oil a welcome smokiness. In addition, black vinegar dipping sauce, which I usually dislike, worked really well with the chili oil coated dumplings and produced a delicious combination.
I also tried the Fried Pork Buns, which are Chinese buns folded around slices of slightly sweet braised pork belly, topped with pickled cabbage and dressed with mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha. The menu also listed scallions as part of the dressing, but except for a lone green sliver, they didn’t appear on my order. Overall this was my least favorite of the three dishes, it was good but not great. The pickle on the cabbage was quite light and didn’t bring enough sour and acid to the buns. I also did not enjoy the bun, which were deep fried to a bronze color. The frying made the buns stiff and brittle and removed all the fluffiness that makes Chinese buns so good.
The Location: The Tang is on Amsterdam Avenue on the corner of 105th street in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood, about 8 blocks south of Columbia University. There are a lot of other great options for Chinese food in this area (a map here).