It was an uncharacteristically warm afternoon for New York. Gliding effortlessly into Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge, the sun was high, illuminating the water in glimmering patches of silver. We were on our way to Chinatown to see the Chinese New Year parade in honor of 2014- the majestic Year of the Horse.
Along the narrow cobblestone streets of Chinatown, barricades had already been set up, a small crowd had taken its place, giving the drab, snow and ice coated streets a burst of color.
With twenty minutes until showtime, we would have just enough time to park and slip into a place along the parade route...only there were no parking spots- not a single one. For thirty minutes, we circled Chinatown and the Lower East Side. There wasn't a single available spot. Even the parking garages were full to capacity (what?!?).
In the distance we heard the drums signaling the beginning of the parade. We could make out a colorful red dragon undulating its way down the street. Our wheels spun over the icy street.
On the sidewalks, children skipped and yelled, popping cherry bombs against buildings and sidewalks. Shops were closed, gates down with signs in Mandarin or Cantonese and English announcing : Happy New Year- Closed!
"At least we can grab some food!" Mark, always in the mood for Chinese food suggested. It was clear the parade wasn't happening.
So, instead of making our way towards the music and colorful floats, we made our way down Bowery towards Congee Village.
Known for serving up authentic Cantonese food, Congee Village is an award winning restaurant that is heralded by foodies. Bizarre Food's Andrew Zimmerman himself isn't opposed to the occasional visit.
After miraculously securing a parking spot almost directly in front of the restaurant, we were ready to re-claim the day of the horse. If there wasn't going to be parading, then there would most certainly be eating- lots of it.
Though mainly written (I believe in Cantonese), there are some English subtitles to help you navigate the menu.
We settled on fried vegetarian dumplings, two chicken dishes and vegetable lo mein.
The food was delicious!
We didn't need so much as an ounce of sauce as everything was seasoned and flavorful. The lo mein noodles were light and flat, the vegetables fresh and sauteed to a vibrant glossy green crisp. The chicken was tender and arrived pretty much in tact. It was such a far cry from your typical Chinese take-out experience where the vegetables are soggy and microwaved, the noodles gummy and heavy and the chicken gristly, gray, and covered in a thick starchy sauce.
It was a great meal!
Fully sated and invigorated by our taste journey to China, we accepted the fact that we missed the parade, because we had gotten much more than a quick glimpse of China, we had an authentic and delicious taste.
207 Bowery New York, NY 10002