Nice Green Bo
Nice Green Bo located in the thick of Chinatown, is one of my favorite places to come for a casual experience and some delicious authentic Chinese cuisine, most notably from the region of Shanghai. There are no frills here, fluorescent lights strung across the ceiling glare off of the white, dirty tile floors. There are about ten tables, four of which are communal round tables and five or six across the opposite side for smaller groups. When you walk in immediately to your right is the cash register and a prep area where the soup dumplings are made. You are curtly greeted by a small Chinese woman who brings you swiftly to your table drops a pot of rough green tea and some menus and almost intentionally ignores you until she decides that you are ready to order.
The menu is massive, spanning almost six pages and if you aren’t ready when she comes around, you get a glare and ignored again for a longer time as if she’s punishing you for interrupting her flow. Now I don’t come here for the service, and in fact I actually enjoy how these ladies control the room and you’d be wise to order your soup dumplings as soon as you sit down, I’ve found over the years of coming here that this is an unspoken code with the staff that indicates you are “cool” and know how to fall into place in their seamless flow of ordering and bringing out food.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years, the menu never changes. Not a thing that I can tell is different, and I kind of love that. In the dozens of times that I have come, and this is one of those places that I tend to binge eat at, I have yet to try everything on the menu. One thing I always get when I come are the soup dumplings, in my opinion they are the best in the city and I have eaten my fair share of soup dumplings since moving here years ago, delicate pork and salty broth wrapped in a chewy dumpling wrapper that is then steamed until they are blisteringly hot inside. You would be wise to wait a few minutes and let them cool, I have made that mistake in the past and it never ends well. My companion did not heed my warning and I watched in a bit of twisted amusement as his eyes turned red and he tried to pretend like he was not in agony, they come eight to an order, get more than one you wont regret it.
Another dish that is perfection here are their scallion pancakes, something I’ve had plenty of lack luster ones in the past as well. About as thick as a magazine with a crunch and chew that is unmatched anywhere else in the city, it comes with a fermented vinegar with a few paper-thin slices of ginger that lifts the saltiness. At three dollars a pop there is no shame in ordering several of these as they are incredibly addicting.
Yummy scallion pancakes
Another solid decision here is anything that comes cooked in brown sauce, particularly the fish. Brown sauce is soy that has been fortified with other spices and then thickened. We opted for the fish belly, which at the time was red snapper. Again the presentation was minimal, a few julienned strips of leek and a slab of belly doused in sticky brown sauce. This was one of the only other times our waitress spoke to us directly while we were dining and it was to offer a word of caution that there would be bones in the fish. We dove into the belly, which was cooked perfectly and its fishy flavor was heightened by the salty sweetness (a staple flavor profile from Shanghai) of the brown sauce. The warning about bones was a gross understatement, as we spent the majority of the time pulling tiny pin bones out our mouth while trying not to be forced to administer CPR to one another.
Lastly we ordered sour pork and cabbage, which when dropped on our table I noticed it was not cabbage, but in fact cactus pads. Which in my opinion was tastier and much more interesting than what the menu had previously dictated. The pork itself was definitely sour, and the crunch of the cactus, which is a bit like Aloe but firmer, made for an interesting pairing. This was by a bit under seasoned but a healthy drizzle of chili oil over the top rounded out the entire dish and was nonetheless still very pleasing to eat.
As a staple in Chinatown I tend to find my way down here on an off night like a Monday or Tuesday as the place is quite full at all times of the evening. This will always be a place I frequent for as long as I still live here in the city. Great for groups and there are plenty of options for the cautious and the more adventurous diners. I hope this place never goes out of business, else I’ll be hard pressed to find somewhere else that makes me as nostalgic as Nice Green Bo does.