Monday, November 26, 2007

Quail Day

I can't remember the last time I had turkey on Thanksgiving. For years I've been having Thanksgiving dinners at restaurants, mostly in Chinatown, with groups of friends, friends who don't have family in New York and those who don't have family in New York they'd care to spend Thanksgiving with. This year there were just four of us, and we tried Amazing 66, a Chinatown Cantonese restaurant that opened a little over a year ago.

Of late I had been disappointed by the state of the Chinatown restaurant scene, and worried that there was no longer any really good Cantonese seafood place I could take large groups to. Ping's, a favorite of mine for several years, had gone way downhill, two recent dinners at the formerly excellent Congee Village were mediocre, and a first visit to Fuleen, which has a very good reputation, was rather underwhelming. Amazing 66 gives me new hope for Chinatown.

We started the dinner with our Thanksgiving bird. Who needs a humongous, ungainly turkey when you can nibble on lean, mean, minuscule quail? I can't remember ever having tried quail on the bone before, though I think I've had the meat minced in a Moroccan bastilla. Well, Amazing 66's honey-roasted quail has made me a head-over-heels quail lover. The dark, sweet meat reminded me of duck, which was a surprise, except that the little birds are much less fatty.

Our next appetizer was baked scallops in the shell. On the menu, they offer clams or scallops "carina," but their takeout menu says "casino," and indeed the preparation is rich, creamy, and cheesy, with bacon in the mix, perhaps too rich for my taste, and, if Chinese at all, best described as "new Chinese."

The pan fried butterfish with soy sauce were wonderful. Sweet and delicate, the flesh falls off the bone.

I was less taken with the sizzling oysters in black pepper sauce than were my dinner companions. The large oysters were excellent, but besides the fact that they weren't served sizzling after all, the sauce was rather bland and gummy; Phoenix Garden, in midtown, does a much better version of the dish. Our vegetable dish was king's mushroom with snow pea "sprouts." Actually, they're not sprouts, but rather shoots or leaves, and are one of the most delicious (and expensive) of Chinese green vegetables. The wonderfully aromatic mushrooms may be a variety of what I'm more familiar with as oyster mushrooms.

Our most expensive selection, at $25, was the jumbo prawns over twin rice. Served in a wooden box, the twin rice is a mixture of black and glutinous rice with a nutty flavor, with vegetables on top and minced scallops and mushrooms mixed in. The fresh, flavorful jumbo prawns were served in the shell, but sliced into several pieces each, which made for easy eating.

There are many tempting items on Amazing 66's extensive menu, and I look forward to trying many more of them. You can be sure, however, that the next time I go I'll be ordering the quail again.

Amazing 66 on Urbanspoon


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