Popular Chinese fast-casual chain Junzi Kitchen has opened up a new pop-up restaurant within its Greenwich Village location — at 170 Bleecker Street, at Sullivan Street — with a focus on American-Chinese classics like General Tso’s chicken, beef and broccoli, and inventive takes on old favorites like the shake shake shrimp, a re-imagination of orange shrimp.
Nice Day, which will only be open for delivery and takeout, serves as a model for the ambitious plan Junzi Kitchen announced last year to save Chinese takeout restaurants. With the decline in such restaurants in recent years due to the owners retiring, their kids wanting to pursue different careers, and the lack of modern business technologies, Junzi announced a $5 million effort to modernize several restaurants in danger of shutting down, and to enable them to continue serving American-Chinese food.
The first of these revamped restaurants was set to open earlier this year in Manhattan, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back those plans. Instead, that restaurant will open toward the end of this year, according to a spokesperson for Junzi, and in the meantime the company will test out some of the dishes it plans to serve at that spot, through the Bleecker Street location.
Aside from the classics, chef Lucas Sin has devised new takes on old favorites like the orange shrimp and fried chicken wings. The former is offered with three types of sauces — orange, General Tso’s, and sweet and sour — which then can be poured on top of the shrimp and shaken all together before eating. Serving it separately also keep the dish crunchy longer, according to Sin. The latter is marinated in garlic, onions, and some aromatics, before they’re fried.
Other popular favorites like Kung Pao chicken, Mongolian beef, and mapo tofu are all on the menu as well.
“Understanding how these old-school flavors can fit and operate in the modern restaurant was one of our main focuses when the food team created the menu,” Sin says, in a statement. “Nice Day is about honoring the classics while building a restaurant for the future.”
Since its launch in 2015 in New Haven, Connecticut, Junzi Kitchen co-founders Yong Zhao and Wanting Zhang have opened four locations of the restaurant in Manhattan and quickly established Junzi’s reputation as one of the most popular fast-casual spots in the city. Aside from their plan to grow Chinese takeout spots, the founders have plans to open as many as 20 Junzi locations across the city.
During the pandemic, Sin launched Distance Dining, a collaborative effort with other local NYC chefs like Adda’s Chintan Pandya and Teranga’s Pierre Thiam. Through the series, diners get to order new dishes highlighting cross-cultural influences, and get to plate them along with the chefs during a live-streamed session.
Nice Day is open for delivery and takeout Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and the delivery range stretches up to Downtown Manhattan and Midtown.