Amazing, Indeed: Indulging in Cantonese at Amazing 66 (New York)
Chinese food is always tricky for me as I’m not a fan of MSG (I mean, who is really?) and I have a love-hate relationship with soy sauce that has been going on for the last seven years. I adore all manner of sautéed and grilled meats, roasted vegetables, tender dumplings and savoury soups, particularly anything Sezchuan or hot and sour. What I’m intolerant to, however, is what I affectionally call the “Chinese food hangover,” the feeling after I’ve eaten at a place where the food has been laden with far too much salt, additives and all manner of other things, which leaves me with my head is pounding, a thirst that cannot be satiated or (sometimes) a food baby of mass proportions.
Yes, I went there. A food baby.
It’s for these reasons that I eschew Chinese unless I’m travelling in China, I get a chance to try one of the three culinary traditions I have yet to lay my hands on (China has eight), or I’ve gotten a killer recommendation that I can’t pass up. Last week involved more of the latter thanks to two friends who got hitched in The City That Never Sleeps. One half of the lucky couple is a serious foodie who resides in the culinary mecca of India. He was intent on dining in the heart of Chinatown at the behest of a friend who advised him of places he “must dine at in New York” and I was lucky enough to tag along for the ride and see if my aversion to Chinese food could be cast aside, at least for a night.
By God, it was…and like how.
Amazing 66 is a rather nondescript restaurant along Mott Street that doesn’t look much different than most of its contemporaries. It’s airy and bright. It has tiled walls and brown chairs with yellow cushioned seats. It has stiffly ironed table cloths that are pulled across all size of round tables. It looks like any other joint in the neighbourhood with the exception that it was: a) ridiculously clean, and b) had several Zagat stickers in the window.
Come on. You know where this story is going already.
The eight of us crowded around a table and began scanning the menu for favourites and new dishes we wanted to try. Given that the lot of us had wildly different eating habits (some wanted vegetarian only, others didn’t eat pork, another Intolerant was seeking to avoid dairy and gluten) we threw all caution to the wind and decided to order to our heart’s content.
There was a request for the tender dumplings with pork and one for the pan seared yu choy. Several people were gagging for the Peking duck with crispy skin, while a few others requested the fiery Szechuan chicken. On top of this we ordered another tangy veggie dish and the cashew nut pork, all of which came alongside a piping hot duck broth and some more stir-fried greens. Oh wait! There was also a plate of sautéed conch and scallops, which was so utterly delectable. I don’t believe I’ve ever had conch before and I found myself enjoying every single morsel that was left behind after the rest of the table went mad over that platter.
And all that food was – for lack of a better word – amazing.
The food was delicious and seemed to be traditional in the sense that it wasn’t spiced up or dulled down too much to suit Western palates. There also wasn’t copious amounts of fish, oyster or soy sauce used, to the point where it drowns out the taste of the food it’s meant to complement. By the time 19:00 rolled around Amazing 66 was packed and at least 85% of the patrons were Asians looking to get their Cantonese fix (yes, I am one of those annoying food-enthusiasts that will seek out and/or frequent the places where all the locals congregate, because I feel – and my logic hasn’t failed me yet – that’s where the best food tends to be).
Aside from being pleasurable to the palate, the cost of the meal was extremely easy to swallow as well. Everything came to – including beer, wine, bottomless tea and a generous tip – a meagre $240, which meant we shelled out roughly $30 each. Ah yes, food that’s not only good for my belly, but my wallet as well. That’s the kind of meal I’m happy to bang on and on about.
But I’ll spare you all the other sordid details and leave you with this: thanks to Amazing 66, Chinese food and I are officially on speaking terms again.
About damn time if you ask me.
66 Mott Street
New York, New York
Tel: (212) 334-0099
Open: all week long from 11:00 – 23:00