Saturday, June 28, 2008

From Chinese to American: Congee Village and The Blue Seats

I'd only ever had crab steamed over noodles one other time, and it had been a bit of a disappointment. Ever since, I had wondered if perhaps the flavor of this particular dish was just always that delicate (read: bland); if so, I couldn't understand what people were raving about.

And then, last month, I tasted the dish again at Congee Village.
Now, I'm not much of a fan of Congee Village. Aside from their kitschy, over-bambooed decor, I've always found their food too sweet, too oily, poorly executed, and full of off-flavors. I only go from time to time because I have karaoke-loving friends who like the restaurant's private rooms.

Sure enough, when I found myself there for LT's birthday after Sylvia's and the miracle fruit party, my sampling of what was on the table when I arrived confirmed my previous impressions. But the crab, oh the crab. Once the fat crustacean came out and I tasted the rice noodles resting underneath, I realized there was another universe beyond bland crab. It was difficult not to keep putting another few forkfuls of the briny, seafood-infused ribbons on my plate; each bite tasted rich with crab and garlic and was completely addictive.
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Later, there were also snails in black bean sauce, another surprisingly addictive item. Some of us stuck to delicately teasing the gastropods out of their shells with the aid of a toothpick, but for the most part, the men were too manly to bother and slurped out the curlicues of meat using their mouths instead. I can't say which method was better, but all of us ended up with sauce-smeared lips and happy tongues.
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After we left Congee Village we hit up some other bars, but at the end of the night we wound up at The Blue Seats, a slick-looking sports bar in the LES, where for the ten of us there was somehow more eating. Rigatoni in vodka sauce, mac 'n' cheese with truffle oil and lardons, and "baked potato" french fries, all of which were surprisingly decent. And the food was buffered by shots of tequila and a friendly female server...which I believe made it a very happy birthday for LT, indeed.

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