Can a simple bowl of soup do what Tony “Mr. Personality” Hsieh’s millions could not?
Could a kick-ass sandwich:
…. accomplish what all the well-intentioned-yet-ultimately-tepid redevelopment plans could not? Mainly, create a sense of neighborhood economic accomplishment among the downtown denizens who are hungry for the barest glimpse of something substantive, beyond cocktail bars and used furniture stores?
Quality is diametrically opposed to quantity. – Lionel Poilâne
We recently were talking doughnuts with a prominent local chef.
“What’s the best one you ever had?” we asked.
“A little shop in a small town in Texas,” he replied. “All they sold was a small, right-from the fryer yeast doughnut, with a vanilla glaze that melted in your mouth. The line was down the street every day for them.”
“And you?” he shot back at us.
We returned the volley fast without missing a beat: “The Downyflake in Nantucket, Massachusetts. They only did three, small cake doughnuts every morning: plain, sugar and chocolate glazed. So rich, yet so light and tender and soft they practically evaporated in the mouth. Never had anything close before or since.”
And yes, there was a line out the door every day for our ethereal little circles of carbo-sugared bliss on Nantucket, just like there was for the chef’s favorite in Texas.
What was the common denominator(s): size and perfection. The pleasure of eating something human scale, made with love, and with a commitment to quality over quantity.
As you can see above, none of these prerequisites of refinement burden the operation at Donut Bar, where the doughnuts are, first and foremost, big.
Niu-Gu is an experiment of sorts. In the few months it has been open, it has gone from a simple noodle parlor, with a limited menu of Chinese soups and starches, to a full service restaurant serving everything from the formal farm-to-cup Chinese tea service to the best, freshest friggin’ fish we’ve ever had in Chinatown:
(Silky, rich, true Pacific black cod)
How well they succeed is going to tell us a lot about just how sophisticated people want their Asian food to be.