Lunch for One: Saint's Alp Tea House in the East Village

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[Photo: Kathy Chan]

When most people think of Saint's Alp Tea House in the East Village, the bubble drinks first come to mind. The options are indeed plentiful here—but one non-drink menu item in particular is worth a visit alone. The "Taiwanese Succulent Chicken Chop" bowl. Priced at $5.50, this has got to be one of the cheapest, most satisfying meals in the neighborhood.

The dish starts with a big bowl of Jasmine rice, half a tea boiled egg, bok choy, radishes and sliced peppers. Then comes the chicken, thin-sliced, batter and fried—not quite katsu, not quite fried chicken, but something in between. A crisp, light crust, savory and a bit peppery (there must be plenty of MSG in the batter), topped with a smatter of fried onions. I've had this dish many times over and never once encountered anything less than juicy and tender. And wait, it gets better! Hidden beneath the chicken, and smothered over the rice is a ground pork mixture in a savory sauce. The sauce soaks into the upper layers of the rice and makes everything all the more wonderful. Balance with the egg, some veggies, and you've got yourself a complete meal. One of my favorite East Village cheap eats.

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There's no doubt that you'll be quite full after the chicken chop bowl and a drink, but you must save room for the condensed milk toast, my favorite of Asian snack shop desserts. One slice thick-cut white bread, toasted and smothered in salted butter then doused in condensed milk. So simple and ridiculously good. It's easy to recreate at home, but guilt from potential sugar overdose prevents me from being quite as generous with the condensed milk in my own kitchen.

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As for the bubble drinks, my everyday, basic go-to is the green tea milk with boba. I also love the hot black sesame, a thick, almost creamy liquid with a base of ground black sesame seed paste. Make sure to check in the mirror afterwards—your teeth will certainly be speckled with the evidence, bits of black sesame.

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For lighter days, there is a clean, no nonsense green tea honey with boba...

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...and for something a little different, chilled and sweetened matcha with milk and tiny cubes of matcha agar. The drink options are seemingly endless. They've got everything from gingerbread and butterscotch black tea to grapefruit green tea with citron agar, and even iced lychee nectar with nata de coco. I hope to taste my way though the entire drink menu, but for now, my top three favorites: Green Tea Milk Tea, Black Sesame, and Ginger Milk Tea.

Saint's Alp

39 Third Avenue, New York NY 10003 (map) 212-598-1890‎
saintsalp.com