Dinner for 10 at Amazing 66.
Organized by: Olia (super thank you! :)
Eaters: Robyn, Diana, Olia, Jeremiah, Ian, Carol, John, Alice, Tristan, and myself!
The restaurant was packed to the edge during peak dinner hours with customers waiting in line both inside and outside. Despite the sheer volume of people, the first thing I noticed was the efficiency of the staff. There was no wasted room, movement or effort. Service throughout dinner would prove to be quick, yet very orderly. And the pacing of dishes was perfect, which is often an issue at most Chinese restaurants in this city (Yeah Shanghai is the worst…they once brought out dessert before any entrees).
Our waitress was quite the character, cheeky with a sharp edge – she proved to be rather friendly as the evening progressed. I suppose one requires tough skin to be work in such a rushed environment every night. Her deft with lifting dishes and clearing the table at the end of the meal was impressive – she managed to remove all our dinner plates as well the dishes used for the entrees in one very smooth sweep. Amazing indeed.
First arrived the watercress with bean cake sauce. The bean cake sauce was used very lightly, almost to the point where it didn’t contribute any flavour/ I was not sure if this is how the kitchen typically does it, or if it was by order of our waitress. Upon ordering this dish, our waitress asked me, “would you rather have oyster sauce? Are you sure you want the bean cake sauce? Are you sure? You’re sure? Sure?” YES WE ARE SURE. Don’t know if she believed me or not, but I wish the dish was more pungent. Quality of the watercress was excellent, and it was a refreshing dish – sometimes it just feels so good to bite into vegetables!
Our second vegetable dish was Chinese Broccoli and oyster sauce. Once again, the fresh quality vegetables required minimal fuss with such a dish. Can’t you just see the greeeeeen?! I love how such dishes are never made with the intention of being healthy. Chinese restaurants don’t tout dishes like these as “healthier” like many American restaurants would do, yet clean and simple preparation lets the quality shine though and then end result is a nutritious dish that was made only with the intention of pleasing the taste buds.
The Prawn Fruit Salad was a sight to see! Upon its arrival on our lazy susan, Jeremiah remarked that it resembled nachos. And yes it does!! In fact, they even used tortilla chips as the base! The ten battered and deep fried prawns were spot on despite the sheer strangeness of this dish. Good in size, and meaty with just enough batter to relish but not overwhelm. Layered with a most unusual mix of melons and tomatoes, the entire dish was finished with a hand of creamy mayo rich dressed and a spot of still hot sesame candied walnuts. Ahhh, the most indulgent nachos to date! I regret not doing as Jeremiah did: eating the dish as if it actually were nachos, getting the chip, prawns, walnuts, fruit, and dressing all in one bite. Next time!
The eggplant was unanimously approved by all around the dinner table. Tender chunks of purple sautéed in a sauce significantly lighter than most other places in town. I grew up eating Cantonese cooking and it’s my favourite of all Chinese cuisines, the dishes are focused on fresh seafood and veggies, and tend to be much friendlier on your arteries than the north or eastern regions. It was a good thing we had ten bowls of rice for ten people – I think I could polish off two bowls of rice with this dish alone.
We plowed though these dishes at warped speed, and didn’t slow down as sautéed flounder and vegetables graced out table. Flaky and tender white slices with a mix of green onions, mushrooms, carrots and gan lai choi. I would say this was my favourite dish of the evening, but everything was so enjoyable that to be honest, I have no favourite – all was excellent.
I was completely taken aback by the roast chicken with preserved vegetables. First off, roast chicken is a common dish, and while it is easy to come across many good versions, it is rare you find a spectacular one. But this was spectacular, oh yes it was! A succulent crisp skin that crackled at a bite, sweet meat still dripping juices…if I had no manners I would have preferred to discard the chopsticks and just munch away with my fingers. Oh, oooh, and the preserved vegetables were far from an afterthought, as they usually seem to be. These were slightly fried until crisp, perhaps in the chicken fat, and crazy good over hot rice. I’m pretty sure this ruins any future roast chicken dishes for me, hehe.
Pumpkin with Shortribs: Take 1 (note Olia’s expression ;)
Last came the dish we had all been anticipating: Pumpkin with Short Ribs. The dish is presented on a very large platter by a very serious waiter. He pushes all other dishes to the edge of the lazy susan making the pumpkin CENTER OF ATTENTION. And then he whipped out a knife and got to work…
Pumpkin with Shortribs: Take 2 (you see how happy Olia is? Now that is joy!)
He worked quickly and with confidence, slicing the kabocha into wedges. The whole dish rested in a thin bath of curry sauce, oddly similar to a Japanese curry with a twist of pepper.
Pumpkin with Shortribs: Take 3…now we can eat!
We took no courtesy in digging in – to each his own. And oooh man, oooh man! I bet you would have killed for a bite! ;) The short ribs required no effort on our part, simply falling apart on its own doing, soft succulent slices of meat, yes, drooool, yes. But I think I liked the kabocha itself even more! Rind and all, the entire pumpkin was roasted till the exterior was crisp and the innards turned creamy tender, the whole mass held its shape till you bit, and then, it just surrendered. The sauce was instrumental for the dish and also a great addition poured over hot rice – nothing goes to waste, and that’s the way it should be.
Meals in such restaurants are most often finished with free dessert…or at least that is how it works in Hawaii. Judging by the operations of Amazing 66 we doubted they would do the same. As our waitress cleared our table (all in one go!) I asked her in Cantonese, “desserts on the house?” She replied with an expression that hovered a fine line between smile and smirk and said, “only if you ask in Cantonese, so be glad that you did!” And so, ten warm bowls of hong dao sah were promptly delivered and I dug in quick, anticipating the cold weather we would soon have to face. The soup was of perfect consistency – many restaurants thin it down to stretch the quantity soup. They also used mini tapioca in the soup which is something I’ve never encountered with hong dao sah. The purpose of such tiny tapioca is defeated in hot sweet soups because the tapioca melts away quick, without an opportunity for one to get a feel for the texture.
Bowl cleaned, bellies ever so slightly bigger, it was a joyous and full end to the evening. We polished off all the dishes quicker than you could ever fathom and not a spot was left. The bill came out to a very fair $130 prior to tip – divided by ten, this was a great bargain for both the quality and quantity of food. Success? I’d sure say so!
We parted ways after dinner, half went home and the other half off to Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. There is always room for dessert! I did a scoop each of taro and ginger. The taro at Sundaes & Cones in the East Village is much better, more intensely flavoured with an almost Oreo-esque hint. The best flavour here is the Almond Cookie and I try so hard each time I come to restrain myself from getting the same flavour over and over again! Every time I don’t get Almond Cookie, I end up regretting it. And every time I do get Almond Cookie, I end up mourning the loss of opportunity to try a new flavour. Sigh. It is a delicious lose-lose situation.
66 Mott St.
NY, NY 10013
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard St.
NY, NY 10013