2. Asian Hipster Cuisine Has Replaced Asian Fusion Cuisine.
Long ago, Asian fusion was the all the rage in trendy culinary circles, but these days Asian Hipster is the fashionable phrase on many jaded Manhattan chowhounds’ lips. At his eponymous West Village restaurant, Wong, on Cornelia Street, the talented Simpson Wong dresses his light, temperate Southeast Asian creations with sunflower sprouts (on shrimp fritters) and shiitake mushrooms (over rice noodles), but if you’re in the market for a stout Chang-style feast, try the appropriately named typhoon lobster, which Wong and his chefs toss, in grand neo-Cantonese style, with curry leaves, crispy garlic, and industrial amounts of ground pork. Pork, in all its variegated glory, is also the favored ingredient at the new New York branch of San Francisco chef Danny Bowien’s neo-Sichuan restaurant Mission Chinese Food, which has been mobbed by hordes of lumberjack-shirted hipsters since it opened last year in a small, faux-carryout space down on Orchard Street. Because the wait in the evenings can be two hours or more, go at lunchtime, when the toolshed-size room is slightly less raucous and crowded and it’s possible to digest Bowien’s gut-busting, wickedly peppery meat-bomb creations—stir-fried pork jowls, plum-size lamb-cheek dumplings soaked in spoonfuls of chile oil, an inspired riff on Sichuan pork called thrice-cooked bacon—with the benefit of a long afternoon nap.
To the endless, ever-expanding list of noodle joints and neo-Asian dive bars inspired by Mr. Chang, let’s add Top Chef contestant Leah Cohen’s pig-centric Lower East Side establishment, Pig and Khao, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s long-awaited new comfort-food venture, Tribeca Canvas, down on Church Street, and Danji chef Hooni Kim’s new Korean gastropub, Hanjan, which opened last month in the Flatiron district. Gaonnuri, in a panoramic dining room on the 39th floor of an anonymous office tower hovering over Koreatown, is the place my savvy Korean friends go whenever they want to experience the classic pleasures of real Korean barbecue in a modern, Seoul-like setting, and when my brother and I want to relive the glory days of our misspent youth in old Tokyo, we visit the new Manhattan flagship of the popular Japanese restaurant chain, Café China, in midtown, is the Platt family’s default choice these days for a classic Chinese supper of wafer-thin mainland scallion pancakes and perfectly steamed Shanghai soup dumplings. Whenever we want to sample the latest in New Age dim sum, meanwhile, we visit Ed Schoenfeld’s RedFarm in the West Village, where Joe Ng’s new weekend brunch features an array of flamboyant, rainbow-colored dumplings stuffed with ground lamb, crispy duck and pork, and great golf-ball-size deposits of steamed lobster. For the ultimate Asian Hipster dining experience, however, we like to pile into the car and ride out to Biang!, Jason Wang’s polished new Xi’an-style noodle emporium. Unlike other restaurants along bustling Main Street in Flushing, this one features an upbeat, hip-hop soundtrack and chic young waiters dressed in T-shirts and black high-tops. The Platt girls enjoy slurping down the endless varieties of housemade, “hand ripped” noodles piled with lamb or spicy beef, but for the full-on Xi’an experience, Dad recommends the lamb cheeks, tongue, and eyeballs tossed with hair-curling Sichuan pepper and “proprietary spices,” which you can wash down with glass after glass of cooling chrysanthemum iced tea.