Lunch Today: Eggplant in Garlic Sauce at Shanghai 456

Lunch Today

Lunchtime adventures from the Serious Eats editors.

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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

The lunch specials at Shanghai 456 aren't that different than elsewhere in Chinatown, but they're much higher quality. Fried items are more crisp. Vegetables are less greasy. And the sauces have a certain delicate pungency, more than you'd expect for a lunch south of $7. I suspect the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce ($5.75 as a lunch special, pictured, with a forgettable bowl of soup) will become a new personal go-to while lunching in the area.

It's everything stir fried and braised eggplant should be: slightly charred on the edges with a satisfying wok hei smokiness, and cooked until extremely tender but not falling apart. The garlic sauce is the same savory brown stuff you've encountered elsewhere, but less sweet and gloopy, and more intense as well.

The respectable (i.e. not enormous) portion, clearly meant for one, is joined by a bowl of rice on the side. There's an option to add meat, but skip it. This silky eggplant needs no protein distractions. Dig into it on a crisp fall day.

Shanghai 456

69 Mott Street, New York NY 10013 (map) 212-964-0003