Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy

So last weekend, New Yorks' Chinatown celebrated the beginning of the year of the Ox, represented by this cute litter bugger. And as I have been for the last few years, I was there in Chinatown for the parade. As it was superbowl sunday, the parade was much more sparsely attended ... I mean there were still lots of people, but there was only one point at which there were so many people we could not move. Joining Aviva and I at the parade were her cousin Daniel and her friend Melissa, who came down from Boston for only 24 hours just to witness the New Year! She said it was worth it, and it is quite a worthwhile spectacle.

So out chinese experience actually began the previous night, when we went out to dinner with Melissa at Amber, a swanky pan Asian place on the Upper East Side. It is one of our favorite restaurants in the city, very reasonably priced with pretty good sushi, sake and an assortment of other asian delicacies. We ended up having soup and sushi, which was excellent, particularly my coconut milk seafood bisque. Mmmmm.

After dinner, we met up with Daniel, who was staying with some of his other cousins a few blocks away, and went to a bar called Bradys at 82nd and 2nd. The place was great, but quite unexpected relative to the trendy bars all over the Upper East Side. It was kind of a dive, dimly lit and covered in old wood with a bunch of ratty tables, an underused dart board and a single pool table in the back. The place was pretty empty, especially for Saturday night and the friendly bartender, definitely a Guido type, young, greasy and muscled in his too tight shirt, was quick with our drinks. He was really nice, even running next door to get Aviva a tea, and we spent a really enjoyable couple of hours hanging out there, before calling it a night around 11.

We all met up the next morning around 1115 at the Chinese cultural center on 65th and park, where there was supposed to be a dragon dance at 11. We missed it, but Daniel saw it and said we did not miss much. So we went down to China town and after navigating the barricades and and the police trying somewhat effectively to control the crowd, we ended up a Wu Hop 17 for lunch. I had never been to this restaurant before, but had heard of it, its kind of an institution in China down. And I could see why ... the food was great, particularly the duck chow fun, which you can see me enejoying above. Best of all, the place, like much of china town, was dirt cheap, and the guys working there were very friendly and helpful, we are definitely going back there.

We emerged from Wu Hop onto a much changed street, with people packed off the barricades several rows deep on either side. The air was uncharacteristically warm and pleasant, encouraging wide smiles as well as the removal of coats, scarves and gloves as we watched. Confetti from paper fireworks streamed through the air and covered the ground and everyone else in multi-colored glitter, while children screamed and shouted and every agitated waiting for the parade. Because we were down towards the end of Mott street, we were at the end of the parade route, so we could hear the parade coming long before we saw it, allowing a lot of excitement to build. When the parade finally reached us, we were not disappointed, as we spent an hour and a half watching strangely colored fanciful lions, dragons and other creatures move down the street in front of us. In addition to dragons, lions and some sort of in between creature, we also saw human form cows, green bearded dancing men and juvenile martial arts displays. These dancing creatures were broken up by commercial floats, sponsored by everyone from the Foxwoods Casino to State Farm to McDonalds, and cloth placards and flags, covered in chinese characters. It was awesome.

The parade experience was only enhanced by the loud presence of a man whom I will dub Mr. Brooklyn, a tall, somewhat overweight guy standing next to us and hollering constantly for all he was worth. He was speaking to everybody who walked by, raving about how great this parade was, a speculating that nowhere else in the world could you see a Chinese New Years parade like this. I would speculate that the parades in China, not to mention in other china towns around the US and in other major cities, certainly compare and probably outclass this one, but it was still a great spectacle.

When the last lion finally passed and the parade crowd started to break up, we made our way down Mott street to Bayard, being greatly inhibited by the massive numbers of people going every which way. We stopped briefly to buy several large confetti fireworks that we will be using, as is our newly annual tradition. Last year we only had one medium sized firecracker but this year we decided to get three big ones, as Aviva is proudly showing off with Melissa in front of the subway stop where we sent her on her way back to Boston. After making our way out of the morass and sending Melissa back to Port Authority to catch her bus, Aviva, Daniel and I walked up to Union Square, stopping to gawk at the fact that the entire city is essentially on sale. I even got a bottle of scotch, Tomintoul 10, for 19.99, marked down from 55$. Eventually, after perusing the Bald guys chocolaterie, Crate and Barrel and FAO Schwatrz, we dropped Daniel off and made our way back to the Bronx, thoroughly exhausted ... although we did manage to stop by the chinese market on our way home :)

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