Some people will tell you not to bother with fried rice when you’re out feasting with friends, but don’t listen to them: not only is the dish, when prepared with love, a “side” that can outshine everything else on the table, it can even function as a satisfying entree. There are, of course, more good fried rice dishes in this town than one could eat in a lifetime, but the following are all outstanding examples of the genre, and happen to also be served in restaurants that make a lot of other great things, too.
Nyonya (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Nyonya: This high-spirited Malaysian restaurant on Grand Street has a ton of dishes that’ll buckle your knees with delight (picking out the salted fish bits from the Eggplant Casserole is one of life’s great pleasures), but whatever else you get, also get the Pineapple Fried Rice, the wonderfully chewy grains loaded up with chicken, shrimp, egg, veggies, mushrooms, and tangy chunks of fruit. I could eat at Nyonya three times a week and not get bored.
Nyonya is located at 199 Grand Street between Mott and Mulberry, with additional locations in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge (212-334-3669; ilovenyonya.com)
The Wei (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
The Wei: Located on a somewhat dreary Downtown Brooklyn corner, this year-old spot is one of the borough’s great under-hyped gems. The Wei follows the now-familiar ordering procedure: choose a base (which should be the bright-green Scallion Fried Rice, a surprisingly rare and boldly-flavored find), a meat, some veggies and pickles—though that may sound a bit ho-hum, the result is anything but. Everything at The Wei is wonderfully fresh and made with considerable skill, and these vibrant bowls are one of my favorite $10ish meals in town.
The Wei is located at 30 Dekalb Avenue at the corner of the Flatbush Ext. (718-260-8888; thewei.nyc)
Chinese Tuxedo (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Chinese Tuxedo: It can be a disaster when a fancy-ass restaurant does an upscale take on a basic comfort dish, but when they get it right, as they do at Chinese Tuxedo, it can be heaven. This overly-moody subterranean spot on historic Doyers Street may be pricey, but the food is well worth a splurge, especially the Johny Fried Rice, the bowl of perfectly-cooked grains generously studded with fat whole shrimps, chewy chunks of roast pork, crisp bits of chicken, plus lots of peas and scallions and crunchy puffy bits. Total date night material.
Chinese Tuxedo is located at 5 Doyers Street between Bowery and Pell (646-895-9301; chinesetuxedo.com)
Park Asia (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Park Asia: In the heart of Sunset Park, NYC’s largest Chinatown (yup, it’s bigger than the downtown Manhattan and Flushing communities), Park Asia has everything you’d expect in a huge dim sum hall—linen-covered chairs and tables, large friendly staff, garish/fancy decor, rolling carts, and this terrific platter of fried rice. The House Special, pictured above, features lots of salty fish bits, tiny pieces of ginger, egg, peas, and it packs plenty of crunch. Or get the one with raisin and “dry seafood.” Or the Twin Flavor with chicken and shrimp. No matter what, ask for a little bowl of the “house special” sauce to really liven up the party.
Park Asia is located at 6521 Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn, between 65th and 66th Streets (718-833-1688)
Hop Kee (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Hop Kee: Everything I love about eating in Manhattan’s Chinatown, I love about eating at Hop Kee. The ramshackle subterranean space, the old-school waiters cracking each other up at the non-Chinese-speaking-diners expense, the large parties of regulars gorging on an impossible number of dishes at the big tables. Any of the fried rice offerings are good here, but old pros know to request the off-menu Duck Fried Rice, which features big hunks of that fatty, gamy bird. This place is for everyone who’s ever thought: “I miss the old New York.”
Hop Kee is located at 21 Mott Street between Mosco and Worth (212-964-8365)
Spicy and Tasty (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Spicy and Tasty: The Chinatown in Flushing has an insane number of good places to eat within easy walking distance of the 7 train, and one of those places is Spicy and Tasty. The fiery delights from the buffet case up front should garner most of your attention—just order… well, pretty much all of it, but the Yang-Chow Fried Rice offers an excellent way to ease your way through the heat. There’s a bit of everything in this dish, from chicken pieces to whole shrimps to bits of roast pork, eggs, peas, red onions, and scallions, so just remember that proper manners dictate that you only pick out the stuff from the section of the platter nearest you.
Spicy and Tasty is located at 39-07 Prince Street in Flushing, between 39th and Roosevelt Avenues (718-359-1602; spicyandtasty.com)
Amazing 66 (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Amazing 66: This place has long been my Chinatown go-to for a table-linen Cantonese dinner (the pricey but enormous Short-Rib Beef In A Pumpkin is a particular favorite splurge), and I can tell you that 90% of the dishes ordered over the years have been winners. No surprise, then, that all of the varieties of fried rice are good bets, but my most recent selection was the excellent, almost fusion-y Pastrami Shrimp, with big bits of the peppery beef nicely complementing the sweet crustaceans. It’s also a mini-mountain’s worth of food for twelve bucks, perhaps allowing you to try one or two of the more luxurious dishes under Chef’s Recommendations.
Amazing 66 is located at 66 Mott Street between Bayard and Canal Streets (212-334-0099)
Hao Noodle (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Hao Noodle: Critically acclaimed and rightfully so, Zhu Rong’s Hao Noodle and Tea is located on the Greenwich Village section of Sixth Avenue, and looks every bit as expensive as it actually is, with its dramatic lighting fixtures, forests of fresh flowers, and buzzed-about contemporary art on the walls (specifically: several of Arne Svenson’s surreptitious photographs of his Tribeca neighbors). Hao Noodle makes for a great date place, especially since the food is all so delicious, including the Seafood Fried Rice, an opulent serving of chewy grains laden with dried scallops, shrimp, and various other sweet and briny creatures.
Hao Noodle is located at 401 Sixth Avenue between Greenwich Avenue and Waverly Place (212-633-8900; haonoodle,com)
Asian Jewels (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Asian Jewels: If you’re hankering for a dim sum adventure in Queens, one can’t-miss destination is the cavernous, red-walled Asian Jewels. The rolling carts are never more than a minute or so away, the menu goes on for ages, and the Fried Rice with Diced Chicken and Salty Fish is a stellar rendition of the popular classic, with enough of those tiny, intense bits of dried sea-flesh to keep you digging around the mound until every last grain is gone.
Asian Jewels is located at 13330 39th Avenue in Flushing, between Prince Street and College Point Boulevard (718-359-8600; asianjewelsseafood.com)
Talde (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Talde: Dale Talde, John Bush, and David Massoni—officially called the Three Kings Group—have created something of a mini-empire since opening this Park Slope “in-authentically Asian” restaurant in 2012, but a recent visit confirms that the mothership still sparkles. The Crab Fried Rice, for example, is packed with crustacean meat along with firm bits of scrambled egg, then “iced” with some seriously spicy jalapeño aioli and topped with enough tobiko, or flying fish roe, to make an impact. Sold as side for sharing, this is also the perfect example of a two-meal dish (dinner one night, lunch the next day).
Talde is located at 369 Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, on the corner of 11th Street (347-916-0031; taldebrooklyn.com)
Golden Unicorn (Scott Lynch/Gothamist)
Golden Unicorn: One more big dim sum spot, this one on East Broadway, Golden Unicorn is a Manhattan Cantonese mainstay that, among its other pleasures, features a bank of tanks up front that are the (very temporary) home to an impressive array of sea beasts. Order from all over the vast menu with confidence, and pluck dumplings from the carts with abandon, but make sure you save a spot for the House Special & Dried Scallop Fried Rice. It may not be a flashy dish—though the pine nuts are an interesting touch—but it will be gone in minutes once it hits the table.
Golden Unicorn is located at 18 East Broadway near Market Street (212-941-0911; goldenunicornrestaurant.com)