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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Going Down at Richland Center, Chinatown

Posted By on 10.28.10 at 10:53 AM

they cut your okonomiyaki for you

When someone told me you could get okonomiyaki from a relatively new food stall in the basement of Richland Center in Chinatown, I sought it out, even though this savory mayo-and-barbecue-sauce-drenched octopus-and-onion pancake, sprinkled with shivering bonito flakes—aka "Japanese pizza"—is something you probably could only love if you grow up with it. It's a gloppy, sloppy, mushy mess, and the stand's octopus balls (takoyaki) weren't much better, unforgivably undercooked and filled with gooey wet batter.

takoyaki

What I find remarkable and hugely promising is that someone sees enough potential in the concept to open a dedicated teppanyaki stand in a relatively isolated basement on the heretofore desolate far end of Chinatown Square. Kylin Teppanyaki is one of three food stalls to stake themselves one floor below Tony Hu's much-hyped small-plates spot Lao You Ju. Apart from Kylin, there's only a little buffet and a sushi bar right now, along with a few retail shops—but there's room for eight more food stalls.

Jing He of the Richland Group tells me there's a Korean noodle stall on the way, and Hong Kong sandwiches and Thai food in the planning stages. "A lot of little entrepreneurs I come across don't have enough revenue to start a full-fledged restaurant," he says. "But here it is much cheaper for them to run. The goal is that each stall will be different. There will not be overlapping food items."

I can't help but be reminded of the magnificent food courts in Flushing, Queens. Surely there's room for a lamb-face salad stand in Chinatown.

Noodles go here please

With the Chinese liquor store and a few other retail spots, as well as great soup dumplings at Tao Ran Ju and a handful of newer Hong Kong-style cafes—to say nothing of a real live noodle puller working the window at Hing Kee (a place that serves something called "sushi pizza"), is it premature to say that Chinatown Square is undergoing a renaissance?

Maybe it is. But I'm still going to keep my eye on that food court, if only to test the theory that everything tastes better from a basement.

Richland Center

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