Thursday, 31 May 2012

NYC: Chinatown's Downtown Realness!

Sandwiched between New York City's Garment District and World Trade Center area stood Chinatown. A melting pot of smells, sights and situations stayed ready to attack my senses. Depicted in countless big budget blockbuster movies, well not exactly so but from I saw was enough of a surprise. NYC's honest Chinese corner had me gagged from the very first moment! Yes, NY! 

Being brand new to New York City, myself and my colleague made our way from Newark Penn Station to Canal Street deep in the heart of New York City's Lower Manhattan area. I was particularly excited to try some interesting food and to see a potential film that had given me one more reason to choose my Newark placement. The energy and shadiness of Canal Street hit us in the face, fake Rolex watches and Chinese gift shops fronted us as we made our way to one of the themed Chinatown backstreets. We had a laugh at some of the shop names, they were just too good not take a photo outside of. The cold February day was difficult to handle but we powered through. The Chinese writing and fire escape stairwells looked just as they did in the films, no I wasn't living a dream I was in a real place in real time. I felt awe-struck by the opportunity that I being given to visit such places on my day off from airport life. Yes, BB!
 
The PATH train didn't take us directly from Newark Penn Station to the heart of NYCs Chinatown, no because we got off our first train at One World Trade Center otherwise known as WTC. In the heart of New York City's Downtown core felt indescribable, walking past Wall Street and the Bull just like Birmingham's one was magic! From the heart of NYCs financial heart we took a further Subway train towards Chinatown. My colleague and friend Paolo hadn't taken the train to that part of town before so we trusted the NYC Subway to guide us to Canal Street, being a short distance we were fine. That was another thing to fathom, I was on the NYC Subway in such normal circumstances and it wouldn't be the last time! The characters and vibe within the world's most famous or infamous transportation system gave me everything and more! Chinatown had plans for us, we hoped lunch would be on the cards. London and Sydney have great Chinatowns, I was living for the vibe of NYCs own! 

It's not just Chinese establishments that frequent New York's Chinatown. The name of this area could be seen as misleading as on each street corner there's a different restaurant from South-East Asia. I found it quite a task to warm to a specific Chinese restaurant so I chose to eat Vietnamese food for the first time in my life! Vietnamese and Thai eateries make their mark on the centre streets of the Chinatown district in NYC. During my first visit to New York's Chinatown me and my friend Paolo sampled a interesting Vietnamese restaurant, we weren't really sure what we had ordered but it tasted mighty fine! Pho 88 Vietnamese Restaurant, located just on Bayard Street showed me that Vietnamese cuisine is just as good as Chinese food. The unknown dishes that were written in a strange language tended to be a definite winner with my taste-buds accepting it. Truthfully, it was an experience like no other P! 

Was I in food heaven? Quite possibly, yes! I like to try new and interesting dishes that taste different from the norm, something that I quite liked about the Vietnamese food. The rolls served with the satay sauce were divine and the Pho noodles were just amazing, the iced coffee that accompanied the meal was just the right touch. Telling the truth on a recent visit to Wo Hop, a small Chinese cafe-like restaurant I experienced a pit-stop dining experience that I don't want to experience again. It was the real and raw side of Chinatown, I wasn't ready for the gritty service or lack of it. Choices! Comparing the rushed service of Wo Hop to the friendly atmosphere of Pho 88, I know for certain that I will be back to sample the delicacies of Vietnam soon. The experiences were worth it, no matter the lack of service in Wo Hop I know the Vietnamese flavours will be back in my life during a future visit to NYCs Chinatown. U.S life has taught me to take chances! 

If I'm completely honest about one thing I have noticed about the younger population of Chinatown, New York City that I have seen all looking cool rather trendy.  The guys and girls all seem to have cutting edge fashion forward hairstyles. See my current barber shop on Ferry Street really isn't making the right cuts for me. So I'm going to play with fire and go for a change by trying one of the many ultra modern hair salons to hopefully achieve the dream barnet. Well, I'm sure that I shall report back if this brave new decision makes me look any less mundane than my current hairdresser does at the moment. Also I will add that the range of opticians on offer look fantastic, I probably would have to forfeit a trip if I had bought a pair of designer specs from one of these premium eye stores. I'll probably stick to Ferry Street because the price is right and its what I know, but never say never! Those fire-escapes, NY! 

Most definitely, I'm not going to be a stranger Chinatown, New York City because I can't get enough of its edgy exterior and your beautiful cuisine. Don't get me wrong because NYCs Chinatown is a must for any tourist visit as it shows New York City is a place that's quite different from New York City inspired films that I had watched before my initial visit. Not blogging at the time after my first visit allowed me to return to Chinatown for a whole other experience that brought me back those very first moments. I have sometime before I fly back to England, I know that it will be a natural thing to find myself back in New York City's gritty and honest Chinese neighbourhood within the heart of Lower Manhattan. The signs, dodgy goods and seriously good Vietnamese food served everything and more for that first Chinatown NYC experience. Little Italy was interesting but something all attracts me to a Chinatown, wherever in the world it might be. Until next time, stay on your game Chinatown!

Ooh, Vietnamese Food!

Joseph Harrison

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