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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Danny Ng's Place

This is my first true restaurant review on the Manhattan Cheap Food Blog and I hope you all enjoy it! I decided to review, in my opinion, the best Cantonese-style Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, Danny Ng's Place, on 52 Bowery. Danny Ng's Place is located on the ground level of Golden Bridge Restaurant, which is a dim sum restaurant. When looking for Danny Ng's, there may be some confusion because both restaurants share the same address and entrance. To get to Danny Ng's, you would need just to walk straight through the entrance, directly to the back of the ground level floor. What you'll see is a smallish 12 table dining room in a clean modern setting.

Now for the food. Why is this restaurant so good when there are so many other Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood? There are two main reasons why I love this place:

#1 reason is the care that they put into making their dishes.
#2 reason is the service.

What does it mean when I say "care" into making dishes? Let's take a look at why many people like Chinese food, especially Cantonese-style cuisine. The restaurants that serve "Chinese" food all around Manhattan and the outer boroughs tend to serve traditional "American Chinese cuisine." Generic items from this type of cuisine are: egg rolls, lo mein, fried rice, General Tso's chicken, etc. American Chinese cuisine has its roots in Southern Chinese (Cantonese) cooking as all these dishes contain elements from this style. Cantonese cuisine reveres the straightforward natural tastes of foods and encourages steaming, quick stir-frying and simple sauces that do not overwhelm the underlying taste of the food.

What's so good about the cooking you'll get at Danny Ng's is the conscienciousness of the chefs in not falling into the trap of making "American Chinese" food. I am not against American Chinese food, but only want to point out a different way to view and taste Chinese food out of the usual paradigm. For those of you who have travelled to China, you will find less of a reliance on frying that requires heavy breading, heavily salted foods, heavily oiled foods, and finally less processing and over-marinating. At Danny Ng's the chefs have really thought about how to make all your favorite American Chinese dishes into something that is cooked in a more traditional and healthy way. Let me explain. My signature dish here is, da-dum,... General Tso's chicken. We all know and love this dish which has a long history in American Chinese restaurants. They take this dish, marinate the white-meat chicken, make it moist and fry this dish with the thinnest of batters. In fact, it is very hard to notice a crust. Then they make the sweet sauce that is not thick, but thin, yet clings on the cubes of chicken. It is all presented on a bed of broccoli. The truly amazing part here is that it is like no other General Tso's chicken you've ever had. It's easier to describe what it is not. It is does not have a thick breading. It does not have an overly thick and overly sweet sauce. It is not oily. It seems that there are three principles working here in their kitchen:
  1. Lower the salt content
  2. Lower the oil
  3. Insert plenty of vegetables in each dish
This philosophy in creating their food is perpetuated throughout their menu. I have been to this restaurant 5 times already and I have never been disappointed. Some of my recommendations are the oxtail stew, the fish maw soup, anything with a bean curd wrap (great for vegetarians and in my opinion, the best mock duck in the world), fried pork chop with pepper salt, any of their casseroles and fried frog legs. The only item that I would avoid are any of the sizzling platters. I've tried a couple and the volume of food and combinations of vegetables and meat weren't adequate in taste or excitement.

Now, since this is the cheap food blog, you may be asking, "How are the prices?" I would say that they are competitive in the mid-range. Most dishes are in the $12 to $15 range, with many tasty dishes in the $9 to $11 range. I've even tried their fried rice dishes and noodles, which are cheaper and they are all excellent. Also remember that if you do not order soup, the house will serve the house soup free of charge and will also give free orange slices and dessert soup at the end of your meal. Given all of their affordable menu choices, I would say this qualified to be on Manhattan's Cheap Food Blog.

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