I’ve recently had a dinner with an old college friend of mine Char Sue since we haven’t seen each other for several months. Char Sue is the kind of place where you would want to hang out with a few friends and have a casual dinner. The Asian inspired food menu tends to be on the heavier side since it’s catering to the Lower East Side neighborhood where you’re primarily surrounded by bars and you would want to pad your stomach with something carby, fatty and preferably, delicious before you start imbibing.
While we aren’t going for a night out for drinking after this, the food was satisfying and the staff were friendly and were quick with getting the dishes on your table at the right time.
We had a very good sake-in-a-cup (I forgot the name; apologies) that is very clean tasting spirit with a touch of sweetness and it’s not too sweet that it pairs with our food well. We started off with the Happy Hour menu plates of duck wings and Pooty Fries. The duck wings were very tasty. It’s savory with just the right amount of sweetness of the palm sugar glaze, the sesame seeds and scallions added the more layers of savory flavors. We were informed that the wings were confitted (it’s cooked through enough that you can chew on the bone without too much effort) then deep fried.
The Pooty Fries were generally good. Besides the slight name issue for me (e.g. if you’re having a Freudian slip when saying the name of this dish), it’s a dish you want when you’re going deep with drinking. Greasy fries with some cheese curds that melt and topped with chunks of five spice short ribs. The best part was the short ribs. The cheese curds didn’t melt enough and the fries were a little too soft and greasy for my liking for poutine.
One of the items that was suggested to us was the monkey bread with fresh ground Thai green curry on a roasted sweet potato. I know how to bake and I know what monkey bread looks like and I was envisioning something else altogether when this small plate arrived at our table. It’s technically a butter flake roll since monkey bread is technically rounds or knobs of bread dough packed in a cake pan with flavors and it can be sweet or savory. Besides being all technical, this roll was incredible and satisfying. The just-baked, very buttery roll (I can taste the melted butter oozing when I bite of bread) was soaking in the delicious Thai curry.
The slice of roasted sweet potato tasted good but I think it should be chopped up and mixed in the curry so it’s not forgotten. The extras step of slicing of the sweet potato felt like an extra step to the whole eating process of what I am presuming their style of bread service (but you are paying for the bread).
We wanted to have their Peking duck (it’s supposedly their signature) except by the time we arrived, they ran out. Deflated and needed something substantial to this meal, we ended up having the smoked bone broth ramen topped with charred pork belly and poached egg, and a side of deep fried Brussels sprouts. The ramen was rich and dense from the broth using bones of chicken, pork, duck and beef. The ramen was cooked perfectly and the extra condiments worked well together. The Brussels sprouts were good, albeit a touch too greasy for me and I was hoping for crispier edges but otherwise the salty, subtly sour, sweet and spicy flavors of nuoc cham, peanuts, and pickled chilies were nicely done.
Generally I don’t have high expectations for dessert but the vanilla “cappuccino” was surprised me. The flavors worked very nicely and playful idea of an Italian classic, the affogato. It’s served in a cappuccino cup, layering vanilla ice cream, strong and bitter Vietnamese coffee, chocolate coffee crumbles for crunch, and a big puffy cloud of milk foam.
Overall, it’s a solid meal for the neighborhood. It’s filling, satisfying and priced fairly. The staff is friendly and knows the menu and we had a good time. If anything, I need to come back for their Peking duck.
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119 Essex St
New York, NY 10002
Phone: (646) 484-9241