Location: 45 Mott St.
People: 19 Ramen and Friends: ALev, MLev & Matt, MGru from Dessert Landscapes, JLam from MeSoHungry, MGill, Jill, Sekita from KikaEats, Rich, SaSha from Tea Happiness, MerryL, BLee, Rich, Punj & friend, MKang, Jocelyn, RB and myself
Feelings: If there is a such thing as "reverse fusion" (as StevenC appropriately put), Hong Kong style diner and tea house, Cha Chan Tang could be labeled so. This tea house where they serve affordable Western fusion dishes and tasty tea is widely popular in Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong. You may think people in Japan are always eating some authentic exotic cuisine, but in fact, many younger generations in the city prefer these Western fusion dishes.
I tried to show people this experience at the Tokyo Bar (now closed) outing, but I received rather negative reviews from the group. It was a complete nostalgia for me, but the food got lost in translation.
Cha Chan Tang in Chinatown also created the similar stir from the group. While the group raved about their Hong Kong style iced milk tea, "the food was generally disappointing," said MerryL. "I guess it was born out of the coffee shop idea, which makes sense--the drinks are the main attraction and the food it an afterthought."
BLee agreed that this spot "evoke(s) nostalgia for those from or familiar with Hong Kong." She did add that she would probably will not return despite their large servings and reasonable prices. "It isn't one of the outstanding places in Chinatown."
Rich also felt this was not really proper dinner food; it was after school comfort food. "Probably it has its uses, but with so many great places right nearby, why bother?" said Rich.
The restaurant was packed with young, rather hip and fashionable Hong Kong natives on Tuesday night. The servers are also quite attractive here with the on-trend Asian makeup and hairstyles. Although the food was not reviewed well, their sweet glazed bread balls with condensed milk were soft and scrumptious. Also Portuguese style chicken, baked spaghetti, and seafood cream dishes were one of the better ones. I would not recommend ordering any Chinese dishes here since you can get better food nearby.
So what is this diner's purpose? Asian natives, especially women, often don't drink alcohol due to a high percentage of alcohol intolerance. While many Americans go for a Happy Hour, the Brits to a pub, and the French to a cafe for a pint or a glass of wine, we go to these tea houses/diners. I still miss going to the tea houses pre or post dinner, or just to have a quick bite. So if you are ever on a date with a girl from Japan, I would highly recommend meeting her at a tea house. Your Japanese girlfriend can drink like a fish? Well, you hit a jackpot.