100 Allen St (at Delancey St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 941-1818
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: Cantonese
Walking down Allen Street, you may notice a bizarre assemblage of wood paneling and gaudy lettering. At night, you would notice it – a low lying building festooned with neon signage, adorned on top by the Chinese character for congee, wrought like a glowing bowl of green matter. Behold: Congee Village.
None of this probably sounds good, much less appetizing – but to dismiss Congee Village would be a porridg-ious mistake. (I’m sorry, I had to try.) This restaurant has been a dependable staple of Chinatown for over a decade. The diners are remarkably diverse, ranging from Chinese families to college students, and from local Lower East Siders to tourists. They come for the food, which impresses in spite of the outré setting.
The $4 congees, for example, are nearly impossible to go wrong with. As a safe choice, order the sliced pork & preserved egg porridge, rich with savory morsels of gelatinous egg. Or try the abalone and chicken, a bit more expensive, but noteworthy for the bits of elastic abalone that pair well with the watery congee. Besides the congee, the menu is still quite robust. The house special chicken is memorably flavored with ample garlic, and given crunchy textures with the fried chicken skin. The snow peas leaf with garlic in rice broth is also worth trying as a veggie dish with heft.
For a smaller party, I prefer sitting in the dining area with the fake leafy canopy and bamboo shoots lining the wall. This is as close to a tropical forest as you’re going to get in downtown Manhattan. Otherwise, the dining area by the bar is best for larger parties, given the more open space. Service here is adequate and operates quickly; the waiters may be curt, but this is only par for the course in Chinatown. All in all, Congee Village is definitely worth a visit.
Review By: Eric Wang