A few months ago, my friend Peter told me about Optical 88, an optical shop in the heart of Chinatown, at 116 Mott St. I am all for money saving and he raved about the service and the prices. I looked on Yelp. There was not one bad word said about the place. In fact, everyone was wildly enthusiastic. Everyone except Andrew. He was slightly leery of a walk-in eye exam and the promise of a finished prescription in an hour. But since I’d worked in eye care in my ad career, I knew that whoever does eye exams has passed their own exams in order to be licensed. So off we went, I got examined and in one hour I walked out of the store with a new pair of eyeglasses. They cost all of $130. So when I ran out of contact lenses, I ran right back to Optical 88. I got more than my contacts. I got instructions on where to go to buy the best roast duck in Chinatown.
I gave Abe the names of the two places that seemed to have garnered the best reviews on the Web. He was having none of it. He insisted that the best duck was at a place just down Mott Street. It was called Big Wing Wong at 102 Mott St. Big Wing Wong was not to be confused with Big Wong King at 67 Mott or Hoy Wong at 81 Mott. And when asked if I could get the traditional pancakes and garlicky string beans there to go with our duck, Abe steered me next door. Abe insisted that at The Shanghai Café at 100 Mott, these dishes were better than the identical items next door. I dutifully followed Abe’s advice.
When we got home, I put the cut-up duck into a baking dish, and along with the string beans, re-heated both at 350 degrees until I could hear the sizzle. I carefully un-wrapped the folded pancakes, separated them with paper towel, and they went into the microwave for two minutes. Our duck cost $21 and the sides $9.50. For a little more than $30 we had a Chinese feast. We gave a little toast to Abe before we dug in.
This post originally appeared on www.chewingthefat.us.com
Monte Mathews (with one T) is a New York-based food and travel writer whose blog "Chewing the Fat" has more than 400 recipes and travel stories. Mathews is hard at work on his new cooking and lifestyle book "Hamptons Weekends."