Ren-dang, Thelma!

News flash: most of the best food bargains in Manhattan are located in Chinatown.

What, you say you already knew this?  Alright, alright, so it’s not exactly worthy of a 35 point headline and above-the-fold reportage, but it may surprise some of you who are used to the Bowery-Canal axes of Chinatown that better bargains exist in other areas.  Last night’s great bargain, thanks to the Voice list, was Oversea Asian Restaurant, located on Canal (#49, at Orchard St), but far enough east of the Manhattan Bridge access to avoid the chaotic tourist dump that I normally associate with any Canal St. address.  Actually, it’s right across from where Division St. meets Canal, which forms a lovely triangle-like square that looks like it would be a fun place to live (unlike, say, the fish market segment of Chinatown…the smell!).

Oversea Asian is ostensibly Malaysian, and the décor is tiki-meets-Chinatown (truly, it’s a little bizarre).  The service is very friendly, seemingly accustomed to gringo forays, but without losing the enthusiasm for your presence that defines many of the Queens ethnic joints that see few, if any, white customers.  A group of teenage customers sitting at a table near mine was a little more overtly nonplussed, but it made for a great game of trying to figure out what they found amusing about me.  Hey, when you’re dining alone, you’ll take the entertainment, right?

Anyway, another possibility for why they were staring was my ordering of two dishes.  Yes, indeed, I engaged in a bit of gluttony, because I CARE about you readers and I think a food review that covers but one dish on a menu of many to be rather limited in usefulness in many cases.  So I ordered the Capitan Noodles and the Beef Rendang over rice and prepared to chow down.  Wait, I hear you screeching, how much did you pay for this meal?  Well, each of the dishes was $5, which certainly helped me make the decision to order two.  I can see this place becoming a favorite meeting spot for college students, if they were only aware of it – the portions were plenty enough for a meal by themselves, without question.   Word to the wise – make sure you order the Beef Rendang “over rice” specifically, though, because there is a full plate of Rendang (likely without rice) that costs closer to $10.

Oh, and about the dishes themselves – the Capitan Noodles were one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  A kind of chow-fun-like dish with flat, broad noodles and what I’m guessing is a black bean sauce, based on the slight sweetness-without-sugar that black bean dishes often possess.  It also contains various types of seafood and meat chunks, most notably shrimp, squid, and beef (maybe chicken too, I forget).  Absolutely recommended, totally non-spicy for you sensitive types, this was in my head like eating the Asian version of buttered noodles.  Delish.

The Beef Rendang was also very good, and made me sweat like crazy, though it seemed to be spicier at first than throughout.  The beef was a little dry and could have benefited from being served in a stew-like presentation, but it was very tender indeed, and it was at least served on a kind of cabbage or lettuce leaf that contained the sauce somewhat.  Had I ordered this dish on its own, I would have been dumping the sauce on the remnants of the rice.  It was pretty tasty.

I can tell you right now that I’ll be bringing a few of my friends that I usually meet for Chinese here instead, on our next meeting.  Very solid stuff and a lot cheaper than Wo Hop.  Also, it’s very close to the East Broadway F stop, a few doors down from what must be the furthest south entry in Lower East Side fine-ish dining an open-air bistro, Les Enfants Terribles.  Frankly, I find the idea of paying $8 for a mojito in a juice glass terrible.

1 Comment

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One response to “Ren-dang, Thelma!

  1. I’m taking you and Care to New Green Bo. It is my Chinatown fave. -Laura

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