Where to Eat Brooklyn Chinatown's Best Asian Fare
SUNSET PARK — Move over, Manhattan — the city's top Chinatown cuisine is now being served in south Brooklyn.
For more than 20 blocks in Sunset Park, chefs from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China are serving savory dishes at bedrock-bottom prices, crafting hand-made sandwiches, stir-fries, noodles and dumplings sure to satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
Heck, some of the selections are even healthy.
DNAinfo.com New York reached out to local cops, firefighters, politicians and community leaders to find the best stops in Brooklyn's Chinatown. They range from hole-in-the-wall noodle bars that would have been at home in Blade Runner to sprawling dim sum meccas to the neighborhood's last remaining pub — and all are worth a visit.
The list below proceeds geographically from north to south, starting in the 40s and ending in the 60s near Bay Ridge. Got an eatery to recommend? Add it to the comments section and we'll check it out.
4222 Eighth Ave. at 43rd Street
Specialty: Vietnamese sandwiches
Good for: Banh mi, lunch on-the-go
Try: The No. 1 or the No. 9
This spot's a favorite among officers from the 72nd Precinct. "It's spicy and healthy compared to the other places," said crime prevention officer Leif Andreassen, who recommended the No. 9 sandwich, made with chicken, carrots, cilantro, hot sauce and cucumbers.
The No. 1, which includes pork roll and ham, is also a favorite, sandwich-maker Thanh Ly said. "It's cheap, delicious Vietnamese," he told DNAinfo.com New York. "Tell your friends — this is a good place."
The shop closes at 6:30 p.m. every day.
MAI THAI KITCHEN
4618 Eighth Ave. at 45th Street
Specialty: Authentic Thai
Good for: Sit-down lunch or dinner
Try: The Drunken Noodle
Chef Nicky Seow and his staff serve hand-made Thai dishes in this warm, wood-paneled corner restaurant. The restaurant's signature Drunken Noodle — stir-fried flat noodles with chili basil, bell peppers, baby corn and carrots — as well as its curries and pad thai, are among its most popular items. Andreassen said the spot's chicken dishes are especially tasty.
Asked what made Mai Thai a popular spot, Seow laughed. "The food is just good," he said.
YUN NAN FLAVOUR SNACK
775 49th St. at Eighth Avenue
Specialty: Authentic noodle dishes from southwest China
Good for: Take-out; noodle dishes you won't find anywhere else in the city.
Try: Beef stew with rice noodles, spicy-beef stew with rice noodles, cold rice noodles, or dumplings with hot soy sauce
Don't let this micro-sized noodle-shop's torn green awning and streaked windows scare you away — the spot draws diners from across the city in search of Yunnan noodles, a specialty of Yunnan Province in southwest China.
"This is a unique flavor," owner Lisa Li said through her daughter, who served as an interpreter. "This is special. The way that we cook is famous in China, but America doesn't have it."
The menu is as small as the shop, but the dishes pack big flavor, relying heavily on spice and mushrooms.
4823 Eighth Ave. at 49th Street; 6317 Eighth Ave. at 64th Street
Specialty: Smoothies, bubble tea
Good for: Cold or hot smoothies or teas
Try: Mango or coconut smoothies with tapioca, mocha creme frappucino
These neon-green shops are the places to stop for your smoothie or bubble-tea fix. The smoothies are made thick, and the servers don't skimp on adding tapioca-balls for bubble aficionados.
"It's super-fast, super-clean, super-efficient," said Sue Crane, teacher and director of religious education at St. Agatha's Church on Seventh Avenue, adding that she typically orders hot bubble tea, hold the bubbles.
The shop has two locations on Eighth Avenue, one at 49th Street, the other at 64th Street.
5323 Eighth Ave. at 54th Street
Good for: Sit-down lunch or dinner; vegetarians; alternative to mainstream Indian, Chinese or Thai
Try: Roti canai, sarang burong, nyonya tofu, coconut jumbo prawns
Escape tikka masala and pad thai purgatory at this popular Malaysian restaurant, which offers unique spins Indian, Thai and Chinese fare. Community Board 7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer counts Nyonya among his favorite lunch spots, and recommends the noodles-in-soup dishes.
"It's the first Malaysian place I've ever eaten at, and it reminds me of both Indian and Thai," he said.
The menu is huge, and the restaurant can get packed during the lunch and dinner rush-hours — consider arriving early or late to avoid the crush.
813 55th St. at Eighth Avenue
Specialty: Dim Sum
Good for: Big brunches; adventurous eaters; large groups; late-night
Now this is an experience. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., waiters roam the aisles of this enormous, Zagat-rated restaurant, pushing carts piled high with Cantonese soups, stews, stir fries and more for Pacificana's daily dim sum. Simply pick the dish you'd like to try, and enjoy.
"If you've never experienced Chinese dining, this is different," Andreassen said.
Assemblyman Peter Abbate agrees.
"A lot of people just order straight Peking duck. I try, almost every time I'm there, some sort of different soup," he said.
Pacificana also proves popular among the neighborhood's restaurant workers, which Abbate called "a very good sign."
NAH TRANG PALACE
5906 Eighth Ave. at 59th Street
Good for: Sit-down lunch or dinner; quick meals
Try: Pho, com soun nuong
Residents flock to Nah Trang for fast, inexpensive authentic Vietnamese fare.
"It's very traditional," manager Leeson Le said.
The restaurant's menu boasts close to 200 items, but the most popular are its pho — rice noodles in beef soup — and com soun nuong, or grilled pork-chop on white rice.
The restaurant can attract a crowd during the main lunch or dinner hours — arrive mid-day or late to make sure you find a seat.
NEW BELACHAN RESTAURANT
5918 Eighth Ave. at 59th Street
Specialty: Chinese and Malaysian
Good for: No-frills lunch or dinner
Try: Hainam Chicken
New Yorkers travel from across the city to New Belachan, which they hail for its enormous menu, savory dishes and quick, attentive service. Hainam chicken on rice is a favorite, but like New Belachan's neighbors, the restaurant's menu is enormous.
72nd Precinct Community Affairs Officer Dean Hanan likes the restaurant's "old-fashioned Chinese" fare, but diners can also branch-out by trying its Malaysian dishes.
6004 Eighth Ave. at 60th Street
Good for: Watching the game, darts, cheap drinks
Try: Bringing your own food to grill on the bar's barbecue
Soccer Tavern, once a bar for Sunset Park's Norwegian and Irish dockworkers, has stood near the corner of Eighth Avenue and 60th Street for more than 70 years, manager Jimmy Gillick said. As one of the only remaining pubs in Chinatown, it's become a veritable melting pot, attracting local Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Thai, German, Italian, Polish and Irish residents, plus students from Park Slope searching for cheap beers and easy conversation.
"This is their home away from home," Gillick said. "There's a lot of history in this place."
The bar has multiple dart boards, wide floor space, and a large-screen TV for soccer matches, plus a rear patio and barbecue, which patrons are invited to use to grill their own food. Come Feb. 10, the bar will be hosting a free pig roast for Chinese New Year.
"It's your basic gin mill," Gillick said. "We cater to everybody."