Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Note to self (and all): do not get the desiccated soup dumplings here
I think something that's come with me having a job, and by association not being a broke-as-shit graduate student, is that my perception of value has become skewed. When I first started writing 'My Inner Fatty,' I think there were few things that made it ever slightly more palatable than every other food blog on the internet. First - I was (and still am) a relatively huge idiot and this is kind of like one of those nature shows where you just know the gazelle is going to get fucked, but you keep watching thinking that maybe it'll outrun the lion... but it never does. Second - I was raised in an Asian household that valued holding onto money tighter than a sphincter during a Korean horror movie (hint hint... that's tight) so instead of being a mega douche-nozzle getting off sucking off the likes of Per Se and Daniel, I wrote about stupid shit like 5 for $1 dumplings. The last thing I had going for me was my stunning good looks, but only a select few of you know me well enough for that to be reason to read my blog. Kidding on that last one, sadly. Anyway, I feel like I should apologize. Back to the original point, I feel like my value per dollar is really messed up now that I have a job. I'm no longer championing sketchy ass sandwiches from drug-dealing delis, I'm taking fancy pants pictures of legit restaurants with grades like 'B,' sometimes even 'A.' Shit. That's messed up.
When I first started writing this post, I was going to talk about how pimp Red Egg's dim sum is - it takes a tried-and-true concept of classic Chinese afternoon dishes and combines that with booze, complete with a pseudo-fusion feel - but then I realized that, no... I don't like the model that they're trying to sell. They're trying too hard. I think most of it has to do with the fact that it feels out of place in Chinatown (with how modern the decor is...) and its location is kind of out of the way too, undoubtedly so the old school Asians don't flip a shit. Counter-intuitively, I give mad props to any restaurant that can stay afloat while dancing gently along the fine line that is hygiene, looking like absolute shit and mocking the DOH - Red Egg is basically the opposite of that. It feels as if they're selling me ambiance, not food. Regardless of how true that might be, first impressions are big, and that shiz don't gel with me. Plus I like the fact that those other places have old women that yell at me in Cantonese while pushing around little carts in those little apron numbers - that's kinda my thing. It makes it feel more homely and hectic (and erotic). You ain't gonna find that kind of sensual atmosphere at Red Egg. There will be no one yelling at you angrily to take their 'chicken feet' while eye-fucking you with the intensity of 1000 suns.
With all that said, it's pretty clear that I'm biased against this place. With that said, they do make pretty bitchin' cuisine. Since I'm something of a Chinese food connoisseur/moron - it's probably for the best for you to make up your own mind on whether or not you want to go.
Oh hai! It's shumai. Admittedly, it is hard to fuck up shumai, but theirs were tight. Sometimes you find places with pushcarts that keep their steamers on top of low heat for so damn long that the shumai skins get mushy, the meat starts sweating, and weird flavors from other dishes leech onto the small delicate flower of pork. While mixing of dim sum flavors sounds like an absolutely heavenly premise, it actually sucks - and their shumai suck. Not Red Egg's. Theirs are springy like an rubber band (but without the chemical taste!), with each squishy bite carrying unadulterated pork porn (at this point, I guess I should have realized why my blog keeps getting flagged for adult content, but I never seem to learn).
I actually have no clue what the fuck these things are. While they look like boring bricks of lightly browned rice cake, the glistening skin really hides a center of pork. I think a good rule of thumb in an Asian restaurant is - "if you have no clue what something is, the center is probably some combination of pork, shrimp, msg, and other shit you don't want to think about." Anyway, these discs of oil and meat are basically dumplings with uber thick rice flour skins flattened into a short and stout cylinder. The filling is as you would expect - that is to say, porcine - but the skin is actually pretty special. There's a certain snappiness to the texture, and a very deliberate sweetness that you don't get with the 'dead flour' you normally use for wonton or dumpling skins. Long story short, while these things look all pasty and white like Newt Gingrich, they taste all dark and sensual like a Barry White. That's not racist, you're racist if you think that's racist.
I'm not going to justify why I got these. Shit, I got two orders of this. Why? Because every roast pork bun is a good roast pork bun (and because I finished one of them myself). Admittedly, some are better than others, but Red Egg does pretty well here. The bun is pillowy soft and the roast pork is crispy, yet moist. Add in a generous helping of maltose syrup and it's pretty much game over. Know all those stupid Snickers commercials where they say people get cranky when they don't have a Snickers? Well I feel like if you gave Kim-Jong Un a roast pork bun from Red Egg, he'd mellow the fuck out too.
Cheung fun is another one of those dishes that you can't really go wrong with. You steam rice noodles, you wrap some delicious-ass junk inside, and boom - you have a culinary masterpiece that delights on texture and also flavor. Sometimes I wonder if I actually like eating rice noodle wraps, or if I just use it as an excuse to drink the sweetened soy sauce mixture that they bring out to the table. Then I realize it doesn't really matter. That last bit was a good story, I'm sure.
These fuckers are so good they don't even need to be filled with meat. That's coming from me, so you know that's gotta be true. Some people don't like cilantro (I've been told it's because it shares the same active chemical as is used in modern soap production) - that's totally cool. If you don't, this shit probably isn't your jam, but if you enjoy munching on bars of Irish Spring as much as I do, you'll fucking love this dish.
My friend showed up with a vegan. I'm sorry, but if you're vegan - dim sum is basically a huge Jackie Chan "mind is full of fuck" kind of thing. Why would you even bother rolling out of bed to go to a place where everything is probably rolled in pork fat before being brought to the table? Seriously. If you're curious how these tasted - the honest to god answer I can give you is, I have no freakin' clue. I go to dim sum to eat pork, not steamed grass. Anyway, I think what you should probably take away from this post is - Red Egg makes good food, that is undeniable. I hate the premise on which Red Egg operates - that it's hip, caters to non-Asians, and tries way too hard to be modern... and has good hygienic practices. You should go if you want to drink with your dim sum. You will never find me there. The End.
tl;dr - Red Egg is a dim sum restaurant that serves booze and is clean. That feels wrong, weird, and counter-intuitively... dirty to me. Their food is pretty sick though. Also, don't invite vegans to dim sum. It really brings down the mood all around.
202 Centre Street, New York, NY 10013