Sunday, March 09, 2008

Birthday Oyster Casserole at Phoenix Garden

I sprung forward yesterday, ahead of the clocks. To celebrate, I went with a handful of close friends to Phoenix Garden, easily the best Manhattan Cantonese restaurant outside of Chinatown. For many years there was a notable restaurant of the same name in Chinatown, but according to the staff this restaurant is no relation. Surprisingly for its midtown-east location, prices are no higher than at similar Chinatown restaurants. While most dishes at Phoenix Garden are quite good, one holds a special place in my heart, the oyster casserole with bean curd and roast pig. The clay pot is filled to the brim with those humongous oysters that I've only seen in Chinese restaurants, rectangles of fried bean curd, small chunks of roast pig with crispy skin, and a few vegetables for good measure in an amber-brown sauce. The dish is rich and wonderful, and is best shared by four or more diners. Other places make good oyster casseroles, usually with ginger and scallion, but the version with pig and tofu isn't so easy to find. In fact, before trying this dish at Phoenix Garden a couple of years ago I last had it in the 'nineties, at a now-defunct Chinatown gem called Tindo.

The other dishes we had to celebrate my big five-two were clams with lettuce (you roll up the clams in an iceberg lettuce cup and add a bit of hoisin sauce--it's more common to find this set-up with squab or chicken); salt and pepper shrimp; pan-fried noodles with eight precious (see this post for a discussion of eight precious); prawns and sea scallops in a taro basket (with chinese greens); snow pea leaves with crab meat sauce; and an excellent rendition of Peking pork chops, a Cantonese standby despite the name.

This is the third or fourth time I've had the oyster casserole at Phoenix Garden. On my prior visit it was unavailable for some reason, and a dish of sizziling oysters with black pepper sauce was so good I was glad to have been forced into trying an alternative. Also on the menu are salt and pepper fried oysters, and last night they were offering steamed oysters in the shell with black bean sauce. I think I need to plan an oyster-themed dinner at Phoenix Garden.

Phoenix Garden
242 E. 40th St., between 2nd & 3rd Ave.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

happy belated, Pete!

4:45 PM  
Anonymous uli said...

that was me

4:47 PM  
Anonymous DaveCook said...

Happy birthday!

11:35 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Belated Happy 52! I forgot to send you a pack of cards.

7:47 AM  

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