Bei Wei or Yi Mei deemed just "okay."

New Bai Wei Gourmet Food Inc., at 51 Division Street (and #17 on the Sietsema list) may or may not exist any longer.  I say “may or may not” because I ate at a restaurant that matched Sietsema’s description of New Bai Wei, but the name on the sign had changed to “Yi Mei.”  Whether this is merely a different transliteration of Bai Wei or a different name, I’m unsure of.

Nevertheless, Sophmoricles and I plunged into the restaurant after inspecting the myriad array of crustaceans and mystery meats arrayed in the window.  You get the sense that the regular diners at places like this know which things are good and which to avoid, but, without any insider knowledge, we did our best – the price, $2.75 for four dishes, rice, and a bowl of flavorless egg and tomato soup, encourages experimentation.

The lady at the counter recommended the spare ribs, which came off something like sweet and sour pork.  A gringo favorite, I’m sure.  I liked better the slightly sweetened tofu, though there was nothing terribly unique about that one, either.  I also requested the duck, which unfortunately ended up being mostly fat and bone.  Fortunately, I liked the greenery better: the baby bok choy was as oily and crunchy as it should be.

As Sietsema’s blurb had claimed that five dishes, not four, would be bought for $2.75, I was a bit disappointed when the counter lady said four.  So she sold me a fifth dish for an extra 50 cents – I selected some kind of intestine (at least, I think that’s what she said it was), which came off more or less like a leftover pork belly dosed with a sauce that looked spicy but wasn’t, at all.  Probably wouldn’t order it again.

If you’re an adventurous eater of seafood on a tight budget, you might enjoy Yi Mei better than I did (there were at least two kinds of crab and three kinds of shellfish on display).  But, as Sophmoricles reminded me when I lamented the general lack of deliciousness, “it was only three bucks, dude.”  So it was, I guess.  I’d prefer top-quality excellence in every price category, though, and the banh mi purveyors are my example of how three bucks can get you a quality meal in many corners of the city.  But, if you’re allergic to gluten or merely require a bit more adventure in your meal than mere pork pate, a visit to Yi Mei (or the identical-twin restaurant next door) might be right up your alley.  If your dining partner or someone at a neighboring table chokes on a duck bone, be prepared, though: you’ll probably be the only diner there who can read the Department of Health-mandated save-a-choker sign in time.  It’s the only thing in the restaurant that’s in English.


Filed under NYC

2 responses to “Bei Wei or Yi Mei deemed just "okay."

  1. Cool site. Was sent here by a co-worker. Man, I wish I had the willpower to stick to 20 bucks a day. On my current pay I should be only eating $10/day, but I often fall off that meager wagon.

  2. Thanks, and welcome!

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