Xie Xie and Bikinis (sorta)
July 21, 2010 4 Comments
I love Asian flavors. No Reservations piqued my interest with row after row of turning, crisping pig, then Korean friends in college sort of brought my whole ship around. Kimchi, Ramen, big soups and stews full of tofu and pork belly that burn going in and out. These are things that dreams are made of. I mean, c’mon—PORK BELLY. When I tried Momofuku Noodle Bar for the first time, I wanted to chain myself to a table so they couldn’t make me leave.
Slight Digression: I love Sandwiches. I’ve always wanted to open my own fancy sandwich shop (and one day I will!). I get really excited about constructing perfect stacks of protein, veggies, mushy stuff and crunchy stuff and just going to freakin’ town with condiments and crusty, pillowy bread. [/digression]
Xie Xie, at 45th St and 9th Avenue, appeared to be tailor-made to my palate. I mean, it’s an Asian sandwich “project” where almost every component has some touch of yellow fever: Kimchee brounoised carrots, cabbage, kewpie mayo, Thai and Japanese beers, buns. BUNS I SAY! In fact, there’s a Bun ’n’ a beer special for $5. I don’t care who you are, that’s savings (nom nom savings).
But, truth be told, I wasn’t knocked out the first time I ate there. Maybe I was asking a lot, but I think we can all agree I’m pretty easy to please. I missed pretty much every review of Xie Xie, Jim brought it to my attention after Angelo Sosa showed up on Top Chef (but before I could spend a Saturday morning catching up… thanks for the constant reruns, Bravo!). A few weeks ago we did post-work drinks/dinner and who do you think was sitting next to us, working out that week’s schedule? Well it was Mr. Sosa himself! Having not seen the show yet I didn’t know and didn’t really care; I get cranky when I’m hungry. Jim launched into a thorough ass-kissing, asking him about the show and shit like that. I was drinking my “33” Lager and getting bored with the conversation. So I turned it around a little bit by asking, “What’s Tom Colicchio like?” with a full on reverent hum in my tone. To his credit, Sosa kept the party line with an awkward stutter and “What you see is what you get,” he’s Buddha in the kitchen, et cetera.
And then the food came.
I had ordered a sweet glazed pork bun and a Vietnamese BBQ beef sandwich. The actual bun of the bun was just… mneh. Compared to the fluffy, perfectly formed buns from Momofuku (and those that I constructed at home… not to toot my horn or nothin’), these seemed store bought and like they had stuck to the steamer. Also: a little gummy. I guess I can’t fault the bun thing in a tiny shop when D. Chang was outsourcing his. The pork itself was, as Zack Mamacita pointed out in her review, a little sweet for me, but I was pretty happy with it. Adorn something with Cilantro and Sriracha and I’m there. It was the beef that I had a problem with.
The sandwich consisted of braised, shredded beef with carrot kimchee and a mayo-y sauce. The issue was that it looked/tasted like the cook took a handful of the beef and threw it on the flat top until there was a char on both sides, essentially making it a dry patty-type thing. Besides the mayo there was no moisture to be found throughout the sandwich. I was sad. But I had beer, so that was nice.
I felt like Xie Xie was owed a second chance so I went back last night with Jim and Wes. This time I stuck to the buns and beer (there were tales of Maialino leftovers waiting for me at home) and ordered a chicken bun and then a beef bun (for fairness, you see). The chicken was good. That was pretty much it. It wasn’t too sweet, sort of looked like shredded pork, and came with an egg salad on top of it. I enjoyed it, but Wes, for whatever reason still getting over the fact that he was eating something foreign, was less thrilled about it.
The beef again. This time, it was amazing. It was presented in it’s little (get ready for it) unctuous bun, sauce glistening in the fading 9th Avenue light while an old dude expertly parked a far-too-large Mercedes in a far-too-small spot. It was moist. That’s all I wanted from it the first time. It was awesomely moist and perfect. It was gone in two bites. I was happy. It totally made up for that first depressing experience, and as I stumbled down the block to Rudy’s, I was happy I came back. Plans are obviously in the works for a pub-crawl that only involves establishments that offer beer and a ____ happy hours. Suggestions in the comments per favor!
The night ended, just by-the-by, at Rudy’s (we didn’t stay long enough to want hot dogs) and Port 41. If you’ve ever been to either of these you know how the night ended. Being awkwardly carded by a most-certainly underage Russian woman in a bikini and making friends with a man in a furry red Kangol hat.
Sigh, Manhattan in the summer!