Updated: Jan 31
Date Visited: February 11, 2017 | Address: 13 E 37th St
A one Michelin Star restaurant at a reasonable, college-student-budget price? Yes, please.
Café China is a humble, family-friendly place—a historically vibrant, culturally rich nook in the heart of Midtown featuring traditional Sichuan cuisine and 1930s Shanghai decor.
The majority of the food is ma la: tongue-numbing, spicy, savory, salty, and oily—just what authentic Sichuan food is known for—while other complementary dishes are sweet, fresh, and light.
Each bite transports me back to my own family kitchen, where my parents work side by side making ma po dou fu in a charred pot with hot peppercorn oil and red chili peppers. Each dish reminds me of a different Chinatown restaurant back home in Houston, where friendly owners know our orders before we place them and familiar faces greet us every time we walk through the door.
Whether or not the restaurant deserves the Michelin star is up to one’s own interpretation; personally, I only found that the appetizers and Chungking spicy chicken truly stood out in authenticity and taste. However, in general, all the dishes won me over by filling me up with savory, well-seasoned memories.
Saturday Lunch, Family Style
cold dish appetizers
口水鸡 (Mouth Watering Chicken)
poached chicken with a sweet and salty chili-sesame sauce and chopped peanuts
麻辣兔丁 (Spicy Diced Rabbit)
tender rabbit (bone-in) with peppercorn, red chili oil, & chili peppers
棒棒鸡丝 (Bang Bang Chicken)
shredded chicken in sweet, thick sesame sauce
小笼汤包 (Steamed Pork Soup Dumplings)
重庆辣子鸡 (Chungking Spicy Chicken)
stir-fried diced chicken with red chili peppers
樟茶鸭 (Tea Smoked Duck)
bone-in duck with crisp, browned outside and tender inside; served with hoisin sauce
咸烧白肉 (Braised Pork Sichuan Style)
sweet braised pork belly cubes in pickled mustard green shoots
麻婆豆腐 (Ma Po Tofu)
braised tofu with garlic and spicy chili sauce
熏干回锅肉 (Double Cooked Pork)
alternating fatty and lean pork belly strips, smoked tofu slices, sauteéd leek and chili peppers in brown sauce
蒜炒小白菜 (Bok Choy with Garlic)
醋溜土豆丝 (Sautéed Potato Shreds)
shredded potato soaked in white vinegar and topped with red chili peppers and green bell peppers
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