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The Early Word on Eddie Huang's New Xiao Ye

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Following months of anticipation and a months of teasing the public with previews of his new menu items, Eddie Huang's Xiao Ye finally opened for dinner service last week, with a new roster of a la carte items set to debut on Thursday. The Taiwanese spot builds on the success of Huang's BaoHaus, but this time in a full-scale sit-down restaurant that serves borderline-gimmicky named dishes like "concubine cucumber" and "Big Trouble in Little Hainan Chicken." With his second restaurant in just eight months, has Huang shot to the top of the Lower East Side dining scene? Or has he stretched himself too thin, too quickly? On to the early word:

The Excellent News: In a food-porn laden recap of the opening night, My Name is Yeh delivers glowing words for each dish. She has this to say about the "poontang potstickers," filled with Pat LaFrieda meat: "these are your wildest dreams come true. summa the most outrageous dumplings you'll ever have. in true pat lafrieda fashion, these melt-in-your-mouth puppies don't need any condiments.
just love. all love." As for the concubine cucumbers: "they're deliciously sweet and garlicky pickled cucumbers with a touch of salt that i imagine give you way more joy than a concubine." [My Name is Yeh]

The Kind of Bad News: While Yelper Deborah H. enjoyed most of the meal, she also recounts a few failures, including the restaurant's seating situation. "The backless (and footless) chairs are more than a little uncomfortable, and make me question the design, since they are also unappealing to look at, and not particularly functional." Beyond that, she also pans one of the restaurant's signature cocktails. "The Milky Skywalker [soy milk, Bailey's Irish cream, Jack Daniels, boba] was an utter failure. Maybe it's because we ordered it without the boba, but it tasted like watered down Jack and milk. The waitress (who was sweet throughout our whole meal) brought it back to the bartender, who made it taste a bit better, but it was still ultimately not worth the $12." [Yelp]

The Great News: During a preview lunch last month, Serious Eats' Joe DiStefano was impressed by most of the dishes he sampled. The salt-cured pork is particularly noteworthy: "Huang bathes the belly in soy sauce and wine for a day before double cooking it. First comes steaming, then batter frying. The end result is meltingly tender, unctuous slices of pork with a crispness around the edges. So what if it doesn't have a wacky name. It's still delicious." As for the "Trade My Daughter for Fried Chicken," DiStefano says "since I don't have a daughter, I can't say whether I'd trade her for a plate—but the succulent fried chicken dusted with crushed peanut and crushed chilies is certainly addictive. It's so juicy that one might be forgiven for mistaking it for a pork chop." [SE]

The Mostly Good News: An Eater reader writes in with a fair amount of praise for his meal. "The best dishes we had were the 'poontang pot stickers' - pork and scallion pot stickers, and 'brick sit on wall tofu' - deep fried tofu with chili mayo. The pot stickers were served upside down ("So you can see I fried them good," Eddie explained) and topped with chopped scallions. The dough had an eggy consistency but the pork was juicy and well-balanced. The tofu cubes are also served at Barbao in their tofu bao and are very good; though what deep fried isn't?" However, he wasn't as impressed with the "Big Trouble in Little Hainan Chicken" and the pork on rice dish, called both disappointing. "The whole chicken is served room temperature with sides of minced ginger, scallion oil, and a chili sauce. The chicken was tender but a little slimy and the sauces lacked spice. The pork was nicely braised but also could have been spicier. Both dishes were too salty." [Eater Tipline]

The Bad News: Writing with my Mouth Full walks away disappointed: "They got the Asian weather down all right; it was steamy and it was hot and all I wanted was to eat comfort food that reminded me of home. But there’s a reason why they call such nights “soft openings”, and in my case, Xiao Ye was having a very, very soft night...The Taiwan Most Famous Pork on Rice by name alone had so much promise. This is a Taiwanese joint, yeah? Wrapped in mustard leaves, my rice was hard and crackly as if it had been sitting out for quite some time. There may have been a trace of pork somewhere, but most of what I tasted was the pieces of scrambled egg that was mixed in. My ghetto Chinese take-out place in Harlem would have done a much better job." [WwmMF]

The Good News: From the tipline: "If you prefer to avoid pork, this probably isn’t your place. They go long on cucumber. In fact my two favorite dishes were Concubine Cucumbers ($6) which were pickle-like, chilled cut up cucumbers in a sweetened vinegar dressing with garlic and Mom’s Cold Noodles ($9) which were spaghetti- like in chili oil with black vinegar and a lot of slivered cucumber." [Eater Tipline]

The Tweetable News: Over on Twitter, @MyInnerFatty has trouble reconciling the restaurant with its roots: "I'm torn on Xiao Ye. I'm glad Taiwanese food is finding it's way overseas, but I can't stand the way it's marketed as something it's not... last I checked, street food was cheap and usually of questionable quality... not haute cuisine =_=;;" Meanwhile, @meniscuszine isn't entirely on board: "Overall take on Xiao Ye: not sold on food, although Milk Skywalker drink is addictive. Bubble tea with Johnnie Walker Black." And @whogrrl was impressed by one of the restaurant's signature dishes: "interesting take on Chinese food... definitely worth visit but the everything-but-the-dog-platter definitely serves more than 2." [Twitter]
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Xiao Ye

198 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002

Xiao Ye

198 Orchard St., New York, NY 10002

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