EAST SIDE OBSERVER
Checking Out a New Shun Lee – City life’s making a comeback. Despite the fears and edginess about COVID, businesses around Manhattan are opening or re-opening or expanding. Some old restaurants are returning, but not necessarily to the same locations. Others are expanding with locations in different areas of Manhattan. In the latter group is Shun Lee Cafe, which is an addition to the Shun Lee chain of Chinese restaurants in Manhattan. Presently they have locations in Midtown East. on West 55th St, and Lincoln Center on West 65th St. The new Shun Lee Cafe, in the storefront on Third Avenue near the corner of 82nd St., has taken over the space previously occupied by Mad River Bar and Grill which closed almost two years ago. The cafe is open and airy and casual unlike the other more traditional and decorated Shun Lees.
In addition to wanting to try the casual, new Shun Lee, I wanted to compare it to the equally upscale Tri Dim Shanghai several blocks down on Third between 78th and 79th Sts. So off I went. Tri Dim is a personal favorite, particularly for their Peking duck rolls. The almost knish-sized square appetizer, plump and juicy and meaty, is served in two pieces and is only $6. With a $4.50 egg drop or wonton soup, you have a satisfying, cheap light lunch.
Can’t say the same thing about the Shun Lee Cafe where the Peking duck roll is $13.95 for two puny rolls, each cut in half leaving only one half of each roll with meat and it’s way way overpriced. And while the egg drop soup was served in what seemed like a slightly larger bowl than Tri Dim’s, it did not deserve a $9.50 price tag. I mean there’s just so far you can get away with blaming inflation for that kind of pricing. I was worried about getting the tab for tea, but turns out tea’s free in these Chinese restaurants and refilled throughout the meal.
I wasn’t going to try the entire menu and thought I’d compare pricing and preparation of the dim sum part of the menus at the two restaurants and I enlisted the culinary company of a friend to repeat the ritual and order the same dishes at each on a second visit. Concurrence on all counts. Here goes: Cold Sesame Noodles with Sesame Paste, $15.95 at Shun Lee Cafe, $8 at Tri Dim. At Shun Lee the noodles were a little thicker and the peanut buttery sesame paste was served atop the noodles. While Shun Lee’s was preferable, it was definitely not worth the price differential. Next came the Scallion Pancake, $13.95 at Shun Lee, $8 at Tri Dim. The Tri Dim version was crisp, Shun Lee’s had more scallions and wasn’t crunchy. Wouldn’t order either again. Then came the Steamed Shrimp Dumplings, $14.95, Shun Lee, $8, Tri Dim. Each came with four dumplings. Both good. Not worth the price differential. And there was no comparison when it came to the Peking duck roll.
Shun Lee’s awaiting their liquor license and there’s no BYOB. According to Upper East Site, a representative of the restaurant says there will be a seating area on the second floor and there are plans to build an L-shaped bar near the front of the restaurant’s ground floor. Tri Dim’s been at the same location for several years. If I recall correctly, they may have changed the restaurant’s name. Don’t know if that was related to ownership. The times that I’ve visited, it’s always been busy. it’s an efficient and professional operation. A special shout-out to Ari Rodriguez who has worked at other Shun Lee locations for excellent service.
Update on Judgment Day – After many meets and greets and forever forums, Manhattan Democrats convened at the ethereal Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Aug. 9 and nominated sitting Civil Court/Acting Supreme Court Judges for Judge Sabrina Kraus, Dakota Ramseur and Lisa Sokoloff to fill the three open seats on NY County’s Supreme Court. The nominated judges will appear on the November ballot. Now onto next year’s race for open seats. Among the contenders are Civil Court/Acting Supreme Court Judges Lyle Frank, Jim Clynes, Suzanne Adams, Phaedra Perry, Judy Kim, Leslie Stroth.
Prediction stands – By the time this column appears online and in print, the County Committee for the 76th AD will have chosen a Male District Leader to replace Alex Bores, who won the Democratic Primary for Assembly and will be stepping down as District Leader in the 76th. After the primary, I predicted that Gabe Panek would be the choice. I’m sticking to it.
Transplant donor needed – When you talk Manhattan Democrat politics and the judicial selection process, everybody knows Al Handell. He’s everybody’s favorite. Unfortunately, Al is undergoing dialysis and needs a kidney transplant. Anyone who can help, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
This article has been updated to correct the name of the restaurant Tri Dim Shanghai.