Lunch for One: Chicken Chop Change at Saint's Alp

Check out Krista Garcia's Fast Food International write-up for more background on this much-loved Asian chain.

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[Photo: Kathy YL Chan]

Nearly a year ago, I wrote of the Succulent Chicken Chop Bowl from Saint's Alp, a excellent meal deal at $5.50. Since their re-opening in late June, the price inched upwards, bringing the bowl to $6—still a very reasonable price for a dish of hot jasmine rice topped with ground pork, fried chicken chop, fried onions and radish, baby bok choy, and half a tea egg.

More of a disappointment? The changes made to the dish. First the Taiwanese-style ground pork mixture—saucy and savory, plentiful in shallots with a hint of anise in its former life—is now single-dimension sweet as if someone tripled the sugar to mute all other flavors of the dish. They've also toned down the quantity of the pork mixture - what was once heaped over the surface of the rice (beneath the chicken chop), is applied with a cheap hand, certainly not enough to support the massive serving of rice. The chicken chop itself suffered an equally sad fate. It previously boasted a golden breading peppery and light, neither too crisp or soft. And now? The thickness of chicken is cut in half, and the thickness of breading doubled! Please, raise the price another dollar and bring it back to it's original state. It's not the end of the world, and I'll return, but always with a pang of regret just remembering how awesome the Chicken Chop used to be, and how just passable it is now.

But there's an upside.

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On a brighter note, one of the waitresses recently recommended her favorite drink combination—black milk tea, iced with wheat germ, and nata de coco. It sounded quite odd at first, but I found myself returning for that specific combination more times than I can remember. A few heavy spoonfuls of wheat germ are mixed into the tea, some sticking to the surfaces of the sweet cubes of nata de coco. It's a combination of all the flavors and textures at once which makes this drink work—the slippery crunch of the nata de coco and the chewy wheat germ, all swimming in with cold, milky black tea. Between nata de coco's high fiber content and the abundance of vitamins and minerals in wheat germ, this could almost pass as a health drink in place of dessert! Make sure to give the tea a strong stir before drinking—the wheat germ quickly settles into a cloudy mass at the bottom.

Saint's Alp Teahouse

39 3rd Avenue, New York NY 10003 (map) 212-598-1890
saintsalp.com.hk