137 Rivington St., nr. Norfolk St.; 646-684-3835
The signature of this high-spirited subterranean snack shop is gua bao, which its menu defines as “authentic Taiwanese steamed buns,” made with a better grade of ingredient than you’re likely to find in any of the city’s various Chinatowns. There’s a beef-noodle soup served weekdays only, oddly compelling boiled peanuts, and a black-sesame-sauced fried-dough dessert as deadly as zeppole. But you’re here for the buns: warm, spongy wrappers for flavor-bomb fillings. The “Haus Sauce” on the “Uncle Jesse” fried tofu bao tastes like Buffalo wings, and the Chairman Bao features Niman Ranch pork belly braised in soy sauce and cherry cola. But our favorite, and the chef’s, evidently, is the Angus skirt steak Haus Bao, a tender, ropy piece of beef marinated in Chinese grain alcohol and, again, cherry cola, and zestily dressed with crushed peanuts, cilantro, Taiwanese red sugar and something called “Haus Relish,” made from pickled mustard greens.
From the 2010 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine