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Chinatown

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Hipsters on a Rampage

Chinatown: In a fit of ironic violence or violent irony, a hipster mob (including, reportedly, Neckface) trashed an empty building slated for demolition. [Gawker via Curbed] East Village: A pane of glass crashed down from the Toll Brothers’ accident-prone condo project at 110 Third; an improvement over the last time, when it was an eight-ton crane. [Gothamist] Harlem: Locals with pups weighing between five and fifteen pounds are sought for a focus group by a resident aiming to build a better doggie carrier. [Harlem Fur] Prospect Heights: When Forest City Ratner starts tearing down buildings tomorrow for its Atlantic Yards project, it’ll be met by protesters. [DDDB] Red Hook: Time Out says this waterfront enclave "until recently wasn’t a neighborhood," faces the wrath of area longtimers. [Gowanus Lounge] Upper West Side: Look out, Critical Mass, here comes National Velvet! Yes, horses have invaded the West 90th Street bike lane. [Streetsblog]

Liebrandt (Sort of) Linked to Montrachet; First Pulitzer for a Food Critic

L.A. Weekly’s Jonathan Gold is the first food writer to win a Pulitzer Prize in criticism. (Links to some of his recent reviews included.) [L.A. Weekly] Work is going on at Montrachet, and owner Drew Nieporent is seen in public with brilliant unemployed chef Paul Liebrandt, lending some possible credence to the rumored Liebrandt-helmed relaunch of the place. [Eater] Yeah, there’s some good food to be had in London, but the city’s still not there yet. [NYT] Related: Has the Food Over There Really Become Edible? [NYM]

Car Plows Into Hop Kee; Neroni Keeps Spinning

A car plows into the venerable Hop Kee restaurant in Chinatown. The restaurant is damaged, and one person is hurt. [Downtown Express] Izakaya invasion! The city now boasts everything from simple sake joints with food to full-blown small-plate restaurants. [NYDN] The official Times take on the Neroni Affair includes this classic quote, in defense of the Desperate Chef: “If Marco didn’t want anyone signing checks, including Jason, he should have put the checkbook in the safe.” [NYT]

Tourists Held Hostage in Chinatown

Chelsea: Blood flows red in Chelsea. But is it an art project on Seventh Avenue, or a fight to determine which gym is fiercest? [Blog Chelsea] Chinatown: Knockoff Louis Vuitton shoppers, beware! You, too, may be locked in a basement by vendors attempting to hide you from the cops. [NYP] Coney Island: Thor Equities may one day close Astroland Park, but the Cyclone is safe and sound on city-owned land. [NYP] East Harlem: How do you protect a community garden from turning into a condo tower and African art museum? Chain yourself to the fence. [On NY Turf] East Village: Rififi, that fun dive of burlesque, live comedy, and the notorious dance bash Trash, is on the market, with rent at $15,000 a month. [Brooklyn Vegan] Midtown: Iconic towers like the Chrysler, Woolworth, and Empire State don’t even make today’s list of the ten most valuable skyscrapers in the city. [NYO]

Victorious Chinese Workers Celebrate Belated New Year

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The Chinese New Year ended more than a week ago, but Chinese Staff and Workers Association — a militant labor-rights group trying to gain better pay and conditions for employees in the city's Chinese restaurants — held a celebration at P.S. 2 on Henry Street yesterday. "It's the Golden Year of the Pig, and it will be good for workers," said Wing Lam, the group's executive director. It's a moment for the association to be celebrating: Its members refused to sign a contract with the Saigon Grill mini-chain, which led the restaurant to suspend its delivery service last week, and in February a federal judge ruled that managers at the 88 Palace restaurant on East Broadway wrongfully pocketed a service charge the restaurant had imposed on banquet tabs, ordering owners to fork over to eleven busboys and waiters some $700,000 in gratuities and other costs dating to 2002. Lawyers for 88 Palace's owners have filed an appeal, and they're also fighting the workers' attorneys' request for close to $1 million in legal fees. But for now, at least, happy Year of the Pig.
Mary Reinholz

Forget Condos; It's Chinatown

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An old Chinatown building is being overhauled and prettied up, and — shockingly in today's New York — it's not for a condo conversion. The Oversea Chinese Mission, a 44-year-old evangelical outfit with fellowships and libraries and an aging membership, now has luxury condos on either side of its nine-story headquarters at Hester and Mott. But it announced a renovation last week that calls for reworking the building as a beacon to potential new members. "Right now you cannot see into the building," Nancy Ruddy, a partner in local architecture firm Cetra/Ruddy, told us this morning. The firm has designed a two-story façade of glass, metal, and stained glass to lure locals, from late-shift waiters to early risers.

Kids Do Grown-up Planning for a Chinatown Park

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Find the development imbroglio at ground zero childish? Redirect your gaze to Chinatown, then, where some kid-focused planning is progressing in a very mature way. The nonprofit design firm Hester Street Collaborative is rebuilding Sara D. Roosevelt Park — that slab of concrete and turf running from the Manhattan Bridge to Houston Street — by using art exercises to determine what kinds of new fields and seating areas the local kids and elderly need, and the designers celebrated their progress last week at their second annual Chinese New Year party. Collaborative director Anne Frederick says she's still building consensus and won't show off designs yet to avoid ruffling feathers — Larry Silverstein, are you listening? — but her group and the schoolkids it trains have already made a mark. There's talk of making the sidewalk-stenciled names and kid-painted historic signs it set up last spring at Allen and Grand into the basis for a permanent upgrade of the midblock malls. —Alec Appelbaum

Happy Chinese New Year!

Carroll Gardens: Will a bank, national chain store, or real-estate office replace Bleach House, the Dickensiansly named, now-defunct launderette on Court Street? [423smith] Chinatown: Party like it's 4705! That's right, the Chinese New Year kicked off this weekend. Welcome to the Year of the Pig. [Gothamist] Coney Island: The PR firm for development giant Thor Equities has released another homemade-looking "newsletter" about future Coney fun — which yet again makes no mention of Thor's planned condo towers for the area. [Gowanus Lounge] Greenpoint: From the looks of the floor plan, it seems like the Polish movie house turned Burger King at 910 Manhattan Avenue is due to become Greenpoint's first Starbucks. Rejoice or recoil? [Curbed] West Village: When special people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Lucy Lawless, or Christine Quinn need to pick up a package, they do it at Something Special, a mailbox-rental place on Macdougal and Houston. [The Villager]

Our Chinatown Guide Goes Viral — in a Good Way!

Blogger Buddha Drinks Fanta gets around — she has posts on Southeast Asia and Australia as well as the U.S. Which is partly why we’re flattered that her new photo essay, “Tongues and Bungs: BDF Does Chinatown,” was inspired by Zak Pelaccio’s picks in this issue’s Chinatown guide. BDF also drops in on several places Pelaccio didn’t mention, including some especially … interesting meat stores. Those of you with vegetarians in the office: These pics are most definitely NSFW. Tongues and Bungs: BDF Does Chinatown [Buddha Drinks Fanta] Zak on the Prowl [NYM]

From Chelsea to Chinatown

In this week’s magazine, high-end restaurants and the doings of midtown Michelin hopefuls take a back seat to the wonders of Chinatown — and the pleasures, spread out across the city, of the Year of the Pig.

Don't Mess With Bill Moyers's View

Red Hook: The shady demolition of the Revere Sugar Factory is making the neighbors furious. [Gowanus Lounge] Brooklyn Heights: Want a Mexican restaurant? It's yours for only $389,000. [Brooklyn Heights Blog] Chinatown: Some major street changes are in place, including a buffered bike lane on Grand Street, making it safer to eat sticky pork buns while cycling. [Streetsblog] Clinton Hill: Looks like the topiary-stealing first reported two weeks ago by Brooklyn Record continues. Who's the sticky-fingered horticulturalist? [Clinton Hill Blog] South Slope: Developer Gregory Rigas has been quietly been buying up — and not so quietly demolishing — mucho property on Fourth Avenue between Prospect Avenue and 16th Street. [Brownstoner] Upper West Side: Bill Moyers leads a pack of angry rich people against the New-York Historical Society's plan for a high-rise condo off Central Park West and 76th Street. [Curbed]

Bánh Mì, Oh, My: New Shop Challenges the Greats

It takes chutzpa to open up a báhn mì shop around the corner from the beloved Bánh Mì Saigon (not to mention Viet-Nam Banh Mi, which is a couple of blocks down), but newcomer Paris Sandwich is clearly hoping to one-up those cramped storefront operations — the restaurant has a clean, spacious, bright-yellow interior adorned with Fodor's-worthy photos of the City of Light. Despite the chainlike setup (a “fast food” portion of the menu offers comfort dishes like a pork chop on rice and roti-style chicken accompanied by bread and dipping curry), owner Jimmy Ly’s own mother, Kim Phung, oversees a kitchen that bakes crispy, skinny baguettes for twelve types of Vietnamese sandwiches — everything from the usual pork-roll-and-liver-pâté variety to a faux-chicken version made with gluten. Ly also prides himself on the fact that his desserts — Vietnamese flan, green-tea waffles, and the like — are made on the premises and that the coffee beans were chosen only after he and his dad did some extensive research in the homeland. Sounds bon to us. — Daniel Maurer Paris Sandwich, 113 Mott St., nr. Canal St.; 212-226-7221

Yes, Soup for You!

Last week we lamented the freakishly warm weather’s impact on the availability (and desirability) of cassoulet. Now that New York has finally hit a cold pocket, we’re taking the opportunity to recommend three soups that are the culinary equivalent of kicking back by a roaring fire. fire.

Gay Waiter Literally Has It Shoved in His Face; Falai to Open More Casual Restaurant

Jean Georges waiter claims to have been abused by the restaurant’s homophobic staff — including a forced after-hours lap dance. We might have expected this at Mercer Kitchen, but … [Newsday] The Times considers the banana-cream pie as a Zeitgeist item, concludes that it unites the diverse population of Los Angeles. Also, it’s funny when people throw them. [NYT] Iacopo Falai set to open Caffe Falai, a more casual version of his restaurant later this week. Get there while it's still BYOB. [The Strong Buzz] New York has better bars and restaurants than London, says English op-ed. And they’re just figuring this out now? [Telegraph] Chinatown is the place to go for cheap, high-quality vegetables. Also, we would add, for cheap, high-quality fish, turtles, dumplings … [WNYC] Cook and cashier brutally shot at Brooklyn’s Happy House Chinese restaurant. [NY1] Whether to add other brands to your core business, or shed them: McDonald's versus Red Lobster. True inside-baseball, but interesting. [Foodservice Blog]

Forget Freshness, Shoppers. It's Chinatown

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A reporter for NPR's Morning Edition today took on one of the pretty unvexing questions of our era: Why are vegetables in Chinatown so astronomically cheap? We were hoping the piece would reveal that it was one of those unanswerable but poignant New York mysteries "Metro" section columnists love to mull over — like, why are there no good independent radio stations, and where did that smell come from? But in fact, the question has an equally unvexing answer: Residents of Chinatown eat a huge volume of vegetables, and in volume lies discounts. Plus, because these shoppers cook fresh every day, the vegetables can be thisclose to going bad when they're sold. (Now we understand why our toxic Met Foods apples are doing fine at two weeks and counting.) We confess, though, that we're a little sad the answer wasn't "Because they're made in China." Chinatown Vendors Ripe For Bargains [NPR]

For Chinatown Barber Shop, an Unhappy Ending

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Thought Chinatown barber-shop brothels were a thing of the past? Not so fast. Recently Good Friends Barber Shop, at 72 Forsyth Street, was closed under the Nuisance Abatement Law after detectives made three arrests: one in February 2006, after a female employee offered an unlicensed massage for $45, and two more in September, when a manager offered an undercover cop a massage plus a sexual act for $90. (There's a larger image of the restraining orders here.) According to posts on a so-called "hobbyist" bulletin board — an online spot where men exchange information on these things — the chop shop has had a reputation as a massage parlor for at least three years, though it seems to have been unreceptive to non-Chinese clientele. (The only bulletin-board member who was able to "crack" the back rooms was an Asian.) So will the busted rub-and-tug joint give way to a drinking den, as has happened in so many other spots across Chinatown? If the troubles of across-the-street neighbor 205 are any indication, not even that will save it from the long arm of the Nuisance Abatement Law. —Daniel Maurer

Reader: The City's Dim Sum Sucks. But Here Are the Places I Like!

We recently heard from our friend Francis Lam, a connoisseur of Chinese food who had some intriguing things to say in response to our post on the wooing of Chinatown Brasserie's Joe Ng by Bensonhurst restaurateurs.
"Frankly speaking, the dim sum I know of in the city just doesn't match up to the best stuff in Hong Kong and Vancouver. What you can get in those and other places is much more in line with Joe Ng's work at Chinatown Brasserie, which I would definitely call head and shoulders above anything else here. (Secretly, I'm glad he's being headhunted back to a Chinese community in Brooklyn, where it will be more affordable and the product turnover will be higher.)"
Okay, Francis. So where do you get decent dim sum in the city?

Chowhound Wonders If You've Heard of This So-Called ‘Chinatown’

One of the pleasures of cruising the Chowhound boards is the vicarious thrill of discovery: There's always somebody who just found out about DiFara or Sripraphai or Kebab Cafe. Last week, apropos of nothing, user Brian S. posted a guide to Manhattan Chinatown that includes a basic overview of various regional cookeries. An added bonus is the long, link-rich thread, centering on Chinese bakeries, which follows the post. (We recently essayed the same topic.) If only the Chinatowns in Brooklyn and Queens were given the same treatment. Eating in Chinatown — a beginner's guide [Chowhound]

Forget It, Jake

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• Chinatown business owners are beefing with Hollywood crews that have flooded the neighborhood, with 25 film permits issued over the last twelve months. City Hall says it's the neighborhood's fault for being so damn photogenic. [amNY] • In one of the strangest street attacks in recent memory, a pedestrian was stabbed by a passing bicyclist last night on West End and 63rd. The assault appears completely random. Perhaps citywide bike lanes are a good idea after all. [NYDN] • Local news predicts an unrelieved Manhattan Bridge traffic nightmare for the next year while the lower level is closed for a spruce-up. Daily Intel's AccuChopper 20,000 predicts the same nightmare for the twenty years following the Atlantic Yards groundbreaking. [WNBC] • Mets tie series, prompt the following tortured sports-pun headline of the day: NOW BATS MORE LIKE IT. [NYP, natch] • Finally, some club called Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers went out of business — with a name like that, what could be the problem? — hopefully stemming the steady flow of elegiac human-interest features. [VV, NYT]