Lower East Side, Manhattan
My best friend, Tiffany, from back home (in good old NH) came a-calling a few weekends back, for a brief visit. A grand old time we had, indeed. On a breezy Saturday, as we nursed hangovers and roamed the sun-bleached streets of the Lower East Side, our tummies set to rumbling. We started a mission to find delicious margaritas to cure the hangovers, and yet in the midst of talking about how we both love Thai food, she looked across the street, pointed at Sticky Rice and said, “let’s go there instead.” Margarita quest abandoned, we opted for oriental.
The front of the restaurant was really a large window, and given the lovely day, it was open, so we could just walk right in. We were at first seated on the right side behind a wall, but Tiffy requested we move to a booth that wrapped around the table in a semi circle, right in front of the opening in order to get a light breeze. The restaurant was airy and beautiful yet simple. One wall was painted turquoise with a white flower pattern, and had tables and chairs near it, the opposite wall had a decidedly chilled out Thai lounger and was lined by booths. Running through the middle between the booths and tables was a long black table with stools on either side. In the back sat a chic bar.
Our waiter was nice. He didn’t really check in on us, except to pour water—the staff here was seriously on top of their water pouring game. Everything about the place was leisurely and cool. Smooth afternoon jazz floated through the air along the sweet breeze. It was soothing, but didn’t make me sleepy, just lulled me into a contented state of “this is the perfect afternoon ever” bliss. Nothing was in a rush, including the food. This was just as refreshing as it was a bit unfortunate for our rumbling bellies.
We started off with some fried pork dumplings as an appetizer. They had a creamy sauce drizzled on top that was delicious. Sort of a ranchy taste, but sweeter. The dumplings were a good texture, though could have had a bit more filling. Sometimes I felt I was eating a lot of the dough. On top of each dumpling rested a thin strip of sweet red pepper for garnish, completing the sophisticated presentation. By the end we were both licking up the sauce on our fingers.
We both ended up ordering the fried rice—I got mine with chicken, she got hers veggie. The only difference was her version swapped the chicken for broccoli. The rice was good, but very greasy, which worked for my hangover. Usually, when I get fried rice I expect a rice dish accompanied by a variety of vegetables and whatever meat I get with it. This dish however, was mostly just rice and onions, plus a bit of chicken. That was about the extent of it.
I like my onions pretty well cooked, caramelized is best. These could have been cooked more. The chicken was cooked perfectly however, and tasted great. On top, yet another shred of red pepper. I wish there was more pepper rather than just the garnish, it would have added the something extra that this dish needed. I would also have liked to get some broccoli too like Tiffy got. Though I enjoyed the taste, the imbalance of rice to veggie to chicken, and the fact that the only veggie appeared to be onions, threw me off.
The atmosphere of the place was really the star quality, with its lovely openness, its modern mixed with traditional decorations, and its sweet jazzy tunes. For my friend and I, it was nice to just chill and digest the food, we were in no hurry. However if you are in a hurry, this is not the place for you. When we finished the meal, the waiter came and took my friend’s plate, who had cleaned it, and went to assist other customers. I still had some food on mine, intending to take it home (it may not have been my favorite dish, but I’m far too broke to waste food). We lazed, we chatted, we sighed contently, and we waited a very long time before the waiter finally came about the check and a box for me. On the whole it was pleasant, not spectacular or amazing, but I wouldn’t mind going back and getting just the dumplings next time.
Post and Photos by Shannon Moloney.