Amazing Chinese in Dyker Heights: New Spring Garden

My family usually celebrates Chinese New Year in Manhattan, but last year, we had an especially hard time getting a reservation. All of our favorite places were booked, so we ended up at the monstrous Jing Fong, which, while decent for dim sum, was overwhelmed during the height of holiday dinner service. We waited forever for each course and, quality- and service-wise, the meal didn’t measure up to dinners of new years past. To ensure we wouldn’t have a repeat experience, my family moved our Year of the Rabbit dinner across the river to Dyker Heights in southwestern Brooklyn.В My grandparents recommended New Spring Garden (912 65 Street, Brooklyn), a restaurant I hadn’t been to or heard of, and made an early reservation.

New Spring Garden Restaurant

It couldn’t have been a better choice. The service was first-rate. The courses came out at a good pace and the food was very fresh. We started with jellyfish with preserved vegetables (which had a nice seaweed salad with the veggies), followed by crispy jumbo shrimp and two types of pork: salt baked pork chops and Peking pork chops. Then the food started coming at a faster succession. We had scallops with black bean sauce, braised tofu and veggies, Chinese broccoli, and traditional lamb stew with bean curd. Lo mein (noodles symbolize longevity) and a whole chicken (also considered a lucky dish during New Year’s dinner) rounded out the meal.

jellyfish crispy shrimp braised tofu and vegetables lo mein

I don’t know much about Dyker Heights, but it borders Sunset Park and I assume some of the Chinese population has moved outwards from there. I’m finding that this area has some of the best authentic Chinese food in NYC. New Spring Garden is within a few blocks of East Harbor, a Chinese restaurant that Anthony Bourdain featured on No Reservations and has, in my opinion, stellar dim sum. If the neighborhood weren’t so hard to get to (we rented a Zipcar), I’d be there every weekend.

New Spring Garden Restaurant

Washington Heights = Skating Rink

When I got home at 10 p.m. last night, the streets were dry and there was nothing falling from the sky. That’s why–despite all the dire weather predictions–I was shocked to find my neighborhood like this, this morning. An inch of ice covers the streets and sidewalks and all the trees and shrubs are drooping under the weight of frozen water. Watching people clinging together for support and taking shaky baby steps as they “walked” to the train would have been more amusing if I weren’t doing the same thing, nearly wiping out several times in the process.

…It’s hard to believe that just a week ago, I was sipping coconut water and sunbathing in Negril!

Summer Snapshots: Citifield

I was lucky enough to go to Citifield several times this summer, thanks to my lovely parents who were more than willing to share their half-season ticket package. I’m not a sports fan at all, but the Mets are my hometown team and I’ve been to Shea more times than any other stadium: As a kid growing up in Queens, I often went to Mets games on summer camp trips or on weekend outings with the fam.

That said, I don’t miss Shea at all! It always felt gross and dated, heavy and claustrophobic. Citi, on the otherhand, is open and airy with lots of spaces where you can hang out and watch the game. We spent one game spectating from various points around the stadium without going to our last-row bleacher seats.

The Mets won that game and one other that I went to — which were prob the only games they won all season.

South Street Seaport: NYC’s Best Place for Outdoor Concerts

I don’t go to too many concerts these days, and when I do attend one, it’s usually a free summer show. There’s no shortage of them, and that’s one of my favorite parts of summertime in NYC.

After seeing shows at various venues over the course of several summers, I noticed something strange: I enjoyed the concerts at South Street Seaport’s Pier 17 much more than anywhere else. This surprised me because I generally try to avoid the Seaport at all costs. (Well, except for Front Street, which is a little restaurant row north of Pier 17 where tourists rarely venture, for some reason.) I find Pier 17 to be an oddity; it can best be described as hollow. There’s nothing distinctly New York about the place. In fact, it feels more like a cross between a suburban mall and a circus, and I can’t figure out why tourists flock there to shop in stores they could visit anywhere, eat at overpriced restaurants, and gawk at cliche street performers. (Oh look, another silver-painted person!) You could transport Pier 17 to any waterfront city; just look at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Same vibe.

But somehow, when there’s a concert there, Pier 17 becomes great place to spend a Friday evening. The bands are usually unknown, so it never gets too crowded. There’s an area right in front of the stage where people can stand, but we prefer to sit off to the side, closer to the shops, which offers a great view of the performers, as well as other people walking around. And this is the real reason I love concerts at Pier 17: the people-watching is unparalleled.

For such a diverse place, New York can often feel quite segmented, with different groups never really mixing. At every other NYC outdoor concert venue, you get a homogenous group of people based on the location and the act. SummerStage shows that feature indie bands are filled with hipsters and, a bit strangely, with high school and college kids eager to spend a day in the city. SummerStage dance shows can be a bit more diverse, but when it comes down to it, it’s mostly the arty, well-educated crowd. Pier 54 crowds have a bit more variety, but most people tend to be 20 and 30-somethings of the not-quite-hipster-but-almost variety. And any Williamsburg concert? No explanation necessary.

So in that respect, South Street concerts are refreshing. There’s no dominant group there. Instead, it’s a nice cross section of people of all ages that includes locals from all boroughs, office workers hanging out at the end the week, some hipsters and arty people, U.S. and international tourists, families, people who just happened to walk by an see a concert going on, and so on.

Plus, watching the sun set over the water and the buildings of lower Manhattan is pretty sweet, too.

The Craziest Apt Set-up in NYC

My boyfriend spent the weekend apartment hunting with one of our friends. They saw several places, mostly in Hell’s Kitchen, the UWS, and Morningside; some were nice and large, others were tiny and unlivable. But the scariest/craziest/most ridiculous place they saw was in the West Village.

This two-bedroom was in a prime location near 6th Ave. and W. Houston. But it didn’t have a private bathroom. The toilets were down the hallway behind two padlocked doors. On the “upside,” though, it did have a tub and shower — that was conveniently located in the kitchen, right next to the sink.

This apparently led to an animated discussion about whether it would be worse to share a toilet or shower with strangers. I, personally, would rather share a toilet and have my own shower; there’s nothing grosser than dealing with other peoples’ hair. Except, maybe, washing your veggies in a sink right next to your shower.

The Best Part of My Current Office

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working at an in-house web editing gig. The offices are on the 15th floor of a typical, nondescript building in the 30s — there’s nothing remarkable about the space except for this feature: a tiny patio that looks out at water towers, rooftops, and other buildings. Sure, there are cigarette butts scattered around the floor and the railing and door are rusty. But it feels like such a luxury to be able to step outside and get a breath of fresh air every so often in a quiet spot in the middle of midtown.

Michael Jackson Remembered in Harlem

The Apollo Theater has become NYC’s unofficial Michael Jackson mourning spot. Soon after the King of Pop’s death, heartbroken fans transformed a makeshift wall next to the theater into a shrine covered with scrawled remembrances and photos. Yesterday, thousands of mourners attended an MJ tribute at the venue that included music, dancing, and a eulogy by Al Sharpton. Tonight, the Apollo’s Amateur Night will be dedicated to Jackson.

My gym is in Harlem, right across the street from the Apollo, and I stopped by after my workout. It was only 9 a.m. but people were already writing messages on the memorial wall; others were lined up outside the theater. Nearby, TV vans waited by the curb and vendors unloaded Michael Jackson merchandise onto folding tables.

It was hard to look at the makeshift memorial and not feel a little choked up. No matter how odd or freakish Jackson has been in the past years, there’s no denying the impact he had on music — or the impact his music had on the world — and an incredible amount of talent has gone to waste.