Though part of the thrill in eating New York's Chinese food today is the thrill of discovering something new, old school classics have an undeniable pull. I'm talking about the staples of Americanized Chinese restaurants: egg foo young, lo mein, and egg drop soup. But there's a lot of mediocre American Chinese out there; where should you go for food that's good, and vegetarian-friendly to boot? Chinatown is a good place to start, and Nice Green Bo (formerly known as New Green Bo) is a great choice for vegetarians.
The vegetable shu mei ($4.95) were initially disappointing. The open-top dumplings had pasty dough and almost tasteless filling. But dipping them into soy sauce brings them into focus. The greens and mushrooms in the filling, though under-seasoned on their own, became fresh and vibrant in the bath of soy and vinegar. The dumpling skins were thick, yes, but pleasantly chewy. Eight shu mei come with each order, more than enough to share.
It would be a good idea to order a plate of spicy cabbage ($4.50) to accompany your meal. The refreshing vegetables come chilled and bathed in a sweet and slightly spicy vinegar. I found myself going back to it to cleanse my palate between other bites.
I love the chewy texture of rice cakes, so I was excited to see they have a whole section on Nice Green Bo's menu. The vegetable rice cakes ($5.25) did not disappoint. Yes, they were tossed with slivers of standard stir-fry vegetables—carrots, cabbage, snow peas, and mushrooms—but they added good, crisp texture to the dish.
It may not be chic to say it, but Chinese American food (when done right) can actually be really good. Sitting at one of the large, rough, communal tables, I had an opportunity to reflect just how good it can be. And at Nice Green Bo, your meal comes plenty cheap. $15 is enough to generously feed two.
Nice Green Bo
About the author: Howard Walfish is a Virginia native who has been living in New York since 2003. He is, in fact, a vegetarian, and is the co-founder of Eat to Blog and the creator of BrooklynVegetarian.