Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sunset Park Asian Picks

Sunset Park's Chinatown doesn't have anything near the culinary diversity of Flushing. There are no Sichuan, Shanghai or Taiwanese places, for instance. The neighborhood is dominated by both Cantonese and Fujianese restaurants, and I'm completly ignorant about the latter cuisine. Still, there is a bit of variety, and a few interesting specialty snack shops. Below are my Sunset Park favorites, arranged geographically, north to south on 8th Avenue. The main restaurant drag runs from 42nd to 61st Street, with the greatest concentration between 54th and 60th (though I only recommend one place below 55th). Street numbers ascend as you go south. By subway the neighborhood can be reached by the N train to 8th Avenue (at 62nd Street) or the D train to 9th Avenue (at 39th Street) .

Ba Xuyen - 4222 8th Avenue (near 43rd Street). This is quite possibly the best banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) place in New York. I'm especially fond of the grilled pork, which has a wonderful lemongrass accent, and the pork meatballs.

Eighth Avenue Seafood Restaurant
- 4418 8th Avenue. An excellent bet for dim sum, without a long wait, and pretty good Cantonese seafood dishes for dinner.

Gia Lam Villa - 4810 8th Avenue. There really aren't any great Vietnamese restaurants in Brooklyn. In fact, I don't know of any Vietnamese restaurant in New York that I'd call great. Perhaps it's because we don't have a particularly large ethnic Viet immigrant population. There are a handful of Vietnamese restaurants in Sunset Park, and Gia Lam Villa is pretty reliable if you're looking for Vietnamese food. I actually go there pretty often. Best bets are the grilled beef dishes and cha gio (spring rolls). Gia Lam has another branch further south on 8th Avenue.

Yun Nan Flavour Snack - 775A 49th Street (just off 8th Avenue). This hole-in-the-wall with a narrow counter and short stools is of interest partly because foods from Yunnan province are hard to come by in the U.S. The specialty here is very spicy noodle soups with homemade rice noodles, but I'm particularly fond of the dumplings in hot and sour soup. The half-moon-shaped dumplings are served in a broth that has the tartness of a Thai tom yum, which makes sense since Yunnan is right near Southeast Asia.

Sun's BBQ - Corner of 8th Avenue & 50th Street. A small, friendly Cantonese place specializing in roast meats and noodle soups.

Nyonya - 5323 8th Avenue. This Malaysian restaurant, with a sister branch in Manhattan's Chinatown, is my favorite place to eat in Sunset Park. Malaysian cuisine, which brings together dishes from the country's Chinese, Malay, and Indian populations, is one of the most rewarding for sheer variety, and Nyonya does good to excellent renditions of most of these dishes.

Pacificana - 813 55th Street. This big, glitzy Hong Kong seafood palace serves excellent dim sum, but be prepared for long waits on the weekend. I think Eight Avenue Seafood Restaurant is as good, and much more relaxed. I haven't tried dinner at Pacificana yet.

Lan Zhou Hand-Pulled Noodles - 60th Street off 8th Avenue. Another bare-bones, tiny place, like Yunnan Flavour Snacks. This one specializes in wonderfully chewy hand-pulled wheat noodles in a delightfully flavorful spicy soup with your choice of meat (beef is traditional). You watch the guys making the noodles as you order and eat. The noodles originated in Lanzhou, in Inner Mongolia, but I believe most of New York's Lanzhou noodle makers are actually Fujianese.

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