Eric Sze, the Tang’s cofounder, and partner Andy Chuang are behind the restaurant, located at 26 St. Marks Pl. between Second and Third avenues, and they’re combining Sze’s Taiwanese upbringing with current American trends to make a decidedly hip menu that’s focused on stir fries. Though cheeky dish names and neon lights seem geared toward millennials, Sze says the flavor profiles are very classic and familiar. And some dishes, like the oyster omelet or pineapple and shrimp, don’t stray from tradition.
On the modern front, there’s a take on the fried chicken sandwich at McDonald’s in Taiwan, which Sze grew up eating. Here, he fries a marinated, deboned, skin-on chicken leg and tops it with daikon slaw and a ketchup-based hot sauce, squeezing it all on a sesame bun. In another dish, the sauce from the Taiwanese classic dish three-cup chicken — named for its use of one cup each of soy sauce, sesame oil, and cooking wine — is cooked down into a glaze for chicken wings.
“It’s a fun, easier way to eat three-cup chicken, which traditionally has a lot of bones,” Sze says. “We wanted to do Taiwanese food in a more modern sense.”
That playful thread also runs through to the way dishes are named. Sticky rice-wrapped pork sausage, which translates to the cumbersome small sausage in large sausage, is instead given the moniker “sausage party.” Shaky fries again take inspiration from McDonald’s, based on shaker fries there that come with seasoned powders to shake over the potatoes. Powders here are mala, seaweed, or curry spice alongside kewpie mayonnaise. The full menu is below.
Taiwanese food has become an increasingly crowded genre in New York City — see Win Son, Ho Foods, and Happy Stony Noodle — and Sze thinks 886 has a more contemporary approach that will set it apart. In the space, designed by Scott Kester (Uchu), that means lots of neon lights and playful murals. Purple lighting and mirrors throughout make the entire restaurant glow, in an attempt to channel Taiwanese nightlife, and a mural shows some Taiwanese celebrities playing games, drinking beer, and eating hot dogs.
“We’re definitely going for a bit of a younger crowd. We’re off Saint Mark’s, so we’re just trying to let our personalities shine,” Sze says.
886 will be open from Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.