RIP – Xi’an Famous Foods, Upper West Side location
I have been chronicling the growth of the excellent Chinese restaurant scene in the Manhattan Valley neighborhood, which is just south of Columbia University. The University’s international students make up a large portion of the patrons at these restaurants, but the students have largely left town since Columbia’s classes went online. So I have been worried that these restaurants are getting particularly hard hit during the pandemic. Here are the results of my recent tour of the neighborhood and some internet sleuthing.
Grain House – is doing delivery, take-out and has taken over part of Amsterdam Ave for outdoor dining. They have changed their veggie dumplings and are now using a green spinach dough wrapper and have added cilantro to the filling – so be warned if you have a cilantro allergy. Overall they seem to be surviving.
Happy Hot Hunan – when I walked by Happy it looked pretty closed down and there was no evidence of outdoor dining. But a note on the window said they are doing online ordering and delivery and their website is set up for online ordering.
Chinese Food Trucks on Broadway at 117th – the usual cluster of food trucks near Columbia’s main entrance were not there when I went past mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. With Columbia not hosting students since March it makes sense that these trucks are not coming out. The sidewalks are close to deserted on Broadway from around 122nd down to 114th streets, you can really feel the impact of the missing students and faculty.
The Tang – is temporarily closed with the windows covered in brown paper, but they are delivering Homemade Dumpling and Bun kits. The Homemade Dumpling Kits include 20 frozen dumplings and you can choose from: “Beef & Carrot”, “Shrimp, Ground Pork, Chives, Eggs”, “Shiitake Mushroom, Vermicelli Noodles and Tofu” and “Mapo Tofu Dumplings”. The Homemade Vegetable Buns come 4 to an order and look to be giant sized. For home delivery of these kits, a minimum of 3 orders is required.
Uncle Luoyang – This place looked closed with its metal shutter down at lunch time. But their web site claims that they are doing delivery.
Xi’an Famous Foods – The Broadway location which opened in 2013 has closed permanently – this is a huge loss to the neighborhood as this tiny joint was always packed. Xi’an Famous Foods is selling frozen dumpling meal kits including their spinach dumplings with spicy and sour sauce which have taken the Dumpling Hunters Best Veggie Dumpling award multiple years in a row.
Yu Kitchen – is doing delivery and takeout only.
La Salle Dumpling Room – is doing delivery and takeout only.
Atlas Kitchen – I didn’t enjoy my dinner at Atlas, but for completeness…. they are doing delivery and pick-up. Their website says they have a new seasonal lunch special menu, but I couldn’t see it on their online order portal.
Pearls Chinese Restaurant – this is classic upper west side American style Chinese restaurant, the type of Chinese restaurant I generally avoid unless I am craving scallion pancakes and peanut butter/sesame noodles. But early in the pandemic I discovered that their boiled pork dumplings traveled really well for delivery and were delicious. Pearls is doing delivery and take-out, and has two small tables set up on the sidewalk.
Other local, non-Chinese, joints for dumplings:
Andaman Dumplings in Ponzu Sauce
Spice – I tried Spice on 108th street and Amsterdam Ave for the first time last week. Unlike many Thai restaurants in this neighborhood Spice has a good selection of dumplings. I tried the Andaman Dumplings, which are steamed shrimp & pork dumplings, similar to Shumai, and are served in a ponzu dip. The dumplings themselves were delicious, but the ponzu sauce had a metallic edge to it that I did not enjoy – maybe too much raw ginger in the sauce.
Yakitori Sun Chan – This is one of my favorite spots for Izakaya dining. They are doing take-out and delivery and have a few outdoor tables for dining on the street.
Jin Ramen – A bit south of Manhattan Valley, but one of my favorites. Jin is doing takeout and delivery and has taken over a chunk of the sidewalk and part of the avenue for outdoor dining. They have good distancing protocols, so I felt quite comfortable eating there. I got the Tofu Bao, which I always enjoy.
Moonrise Yakitori – this is the other, and not nearly as good, Izakaya in the neighborhood. They are hosting outdoor dining on the sidewalk and street, but the tables looked to be too close together for my comfort and were crowded with people. They are also doing takeout and delivery.
Mokja Korean Cuisine – When I walked by at lunch time the metal shutters were down, but the website is taking delivery orders.
HMart Gyoza and Bao to-go
HMart – the local Korean supermarket is open and appeared fully stocked. The to-go hot food section had lots of gyoza and Bao options.
Peacefood Cafe – Peacefood has shrunk its menu, the excellent vegan crab cakes are no longer available, but they are still serving their fab Shanghai Dumplings. Like their neighbor Jin Ramen, they have taken over a chunk of the sidewalk and part of the street for outdoor dining.