The self-imposed redistricting of New York’s Chinese restaurant population from Chinatown to Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn, has been gradual but inexorable. If you’re going to open a Chinese restaurant in the shrinking market south of Canal Street in this day and age, you’d better have a trick up your sleeve.
The trick at year-and-a-half-old Full House Café, which is no trick at all really, is authenticity—the full cultural monty. Witness a recent press-only dinner, which opened with sugar-dusted deep-fried cream puffs, described as a “palate cleanser” and as unmistakably a dessert as you are likely to encounter. The meal ended equally improbably with something given as “pumpkin paste short cake,” a savory concoction that had been nowhere near a sugar bowl.
What occurs in between the start and finish of your meal is likely to be equally—and unabashedly—non-western. Often delicious, too. Take these “soup dumplings,” as they are called, filled with steamed pork or a combination of pork and crab. They are not served in soup, as the name might lead you to believe. Rather, there is soup (clear broth actually) inside each plump dough bundle, which may leave wondering how you go about dispatching an order. However you manage it (I opted for “sloppy”), the dumplings are marvelously tender, the fillings warming and satisfying.
Steamed shrimp rice rolls are an interesting variation on pot stickers, the noodle casing slightly charred in spots, and pan fried stuffed shrimp cake is handsomely craggy for the shards of deep-fried taro that encase it.
Braised sea cucumber with shrimp eggs is the sort of thing you need to have grown up with to appreciate—this is what I imagine blubber must taste like—but the braised pork belly is fabulous. You wrap sections of the moist, fatty meat along with Chinese broccoili in steamed pancakes and eat.
Another dessert, “sweet bun with milky egg yellow,” emerges as a thick warm custard sealed in a steamed bun—not bad. The best end to a meal is one of the “bubble teas.”
Prices for dim sum, snacks, soups, and dishes range from $2.50 to 14.50; noodles and rice dishes run from $3.95 to 14.50, main courses from $2.50 to $31. Full House Café, 97 Bowery, between Hester and Grand Street, 212-925-8083.
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