Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bits and Morsels

The lid covering the Vegetable Hot & Sour soup at Mr. K's Restaurant.

by Erin Frankel

For some New Yorkers Christmas doesn't involve a tree or caroling, making gingerbread houses or a big Christmas dinner. But it does involve Chinese food. We trade in the ham and prime rib for hot and sour soup, egg rolls, dumplings, spicy noodles, and Peking Duck rolls. This feast has become a time-honored tradition for many New Yorkers, and one that we look forward to all year long.

Late on Christmas Eve, I made my way to Wo Hop, in the heart of Chinatown on Mott Street, to challenge my friend's claim that they had the best cold sesame noodles in New York. To enter, you walk down a narrow flight of stairs where you're tempted to slap the red and white Wo Hop sign above, into a basement hubbub with bright fluorescent lighting, kitschy décor, and a room filled with loud and spirited groups, even at 2 AM on Christmas Eve.

Wo Hop is the equivalent of a fast-paced American diner where you are immediately plunked down at a table along a wall lined with candid photos of Wo Hop's best customers dating all the way to 1938, if you look hard enough. And it's clear that the space hasn't changed much in those 73 years. The next thing you notice are the waiters quickly scurrying around to each table at breakneck pace. And it's fun to watch.
Hot & Sour soup at Wo Hop.
The menu is filled with Americanized Chinese classics, the kind of palate-pleasing greasiness we crave at that late hour. Start with the hot and sour soup; a broth that is a heavy, MSG and lard-loving delight (at least in the moment -- it leaves you swollen with sodium overload the next day). Next, get the noodles. We ordered them in three different helpings, saturated with starch, soy, grease, and (Christmas?) spice.

Wo Hop City
17 Mott St # B
212.566.3841
Cold sesame noodles at Wo Hop.
Christmas Day was a vastly different dining experience. With that said, if you want a taste of arguably the most refined Chinese fare in New York City, Mr. K's might be it.

We were whisked to our table where our waiter, dressed in a tuxedo, promptly pulled my chair out and obliged us with immensely polite service. The chairs were large, plush, pink and velvet, and the room also painted pink.

The menu offered sophisticated dishes from the Shanghai, Peking, Hunan, and Szechuan regions of China. And before I knew it, the waiters had brought us our food on carts, served on Imperial flatware. I felt pampered.
Hot & sour soup at Mr. K's.
We started with the Shanghai Spring Rolls and a soup. My hot & sour soup was flavorful yet lighter than the usual kind. Then we moved onto the entrees, all meant for sharing, which the waiters divvied up for each of us. I suggest going for the perfectly spicy shrimp Lo Mein, the Empress Chicken in a soy and garlic sauce, the prawns in a different yet tasty garlic sauce, and, last but not least, the restaurant's crowd-pleaser and ultimate delicacy, the crispy and light Peking Duck rolls. Nothing could have made me merrier on this night.

Mr. K's Restaurant
570 Lexington Ave # 1
212.583.1668
Spring rolls at Mr. K's Peking Duck served with crepes, scallions, and hoisin sauce at Mr. K's.
Shrimp Lo Mein at Mr. K's.
A plate of Empress chicken, Shrimp Lo Mein, and shrimp with garlic sauce.
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