Chinese breads and buns might just be poised for crossover success at two new downtown spots. Province Chinese Canteen in Tribeca makes a flatter, sandwich-friendly version of the steamed wheat-flour rounds called mantou, toasts them on the griddle, then stuffs them with Asian-style fillings like tender, aromatic braised pork shoulder with pickled cucumber.
“Fantastic little sandwiches,” raves dennison, who’s won over by their simple, well-conceived combinations and clean, strong flavors. Short rib with kimchi and grilled chicken with cilantro and cucumber round out the short but growing list of fillings (a recent daily special was spicy pork with pickled radish). They’re small–three to four inches across–so you may need a couple for lunch ($3.50 to $3.75 for one, $6.50 for two).
Also on the menu: tofu salad with soy vinaigrette and fresh-tasting cold sesame noodles with chicken or roast pork. Look for vegetarian options, dumplings, and more sandwich and noodle choices as the menu expands. “This joint has serious potential,” dennison adds. “It’s an interesting concept–upmarket but affordable Chinese sandwiches in a hipster lunch counter setting. Only time will tell whether it’ll work.”
In the Village, Flushing’s Unique Pastry has opened its long-awaited Manhattan shop, dubbed Roll and Dough, where it’s winning new fans for the stuffed wheat-flour buns called bing. Early favorites among the fillings include spicy pork, cabbage-mushroom, spicy beef, and hot-and-sour vegetable. “Overall, pretty good and cheap. The bun is nice and chewy-bready, with good fillings,” sums up janethepain, who pronounces this a tasty budget lunch option ($1.50 to $1.95 for bing).
Don’t overlook the sweet bing varieties: banana, lotus, and red bean. The banana bing is amazingly good, bursting with fresh mashed banana, says Chelsea Pearl: “I’m going to want this for breakfast every day for the foreseeable future.”
Beyond bing, they’re gradually phasing in congees, noodle soups, and other dishes, while feeding the neighborhood with liberal free samples–baked bao and the like. Service is uncommonly pleasant. “Everyone there was extremely friendly and clearly happy to have you as a customer,” reports alex m.
Province Chinese Canteen [Tribeca]
formerly Burrito Bar
305 Church St., at Walker, Manhattan
Roll and Dough [Greenwich Village]
135 W. 3rd St., between 6th Ave. and MacDougal St., Manhattan
Unique Pastry [Flushing]
a.k.a. Roll and Dough
135-23 40th Rd., between Main and Prince Sts., Flushing, Queens