A wander through Manhattan’s Chinatown is always a pleasant and effective way to satisfy any number of my most frequent food cravings, whether for dumplings, or soup dumplings, or cold noodles, or pineapple buns, a visit to the classic Wo Hop, or for a simple plate of roasted meat served without fuss over some rice. You know the sort of spot that specializes in the latter, with the carcasses on display, hanging in the front window?
Tourists haven’t returned to Chinatown in anything close to the numbers the neighborhood needs to survive, which remains bad news for businesses — so right now is the ideal time for us New Yorkers to get over there and roam the (relatively) uncrowded streets, stuffing our faces with all manner of delights. And when you go–and please go, and soon–you should consider checking out Hay Hay Roasted, a new takeout-mostly spot that opened about three months ago on prime Mott Street, just below Canal.
Hay Hay, which the amiable counter person told me basically means “happiness,” has a stylish, contemporary vibe to the signage and interior design, but the ducks, chickens, and slabs of pigs dangling in the front window are what we’re here for. Much of the menu involves those roasted creatures, which you can order straight-up by the pound (half-pound minimum) or laid across a pile of white rice.
The move here is definitely the Hay Hay combo plate, your choice of two or three meats, a ton of rice, a bit of greens, all for well under ten bucks. I got the Crispy Skin Pork, which was excellent, as juicy as you’d hope and nearly crackling on the outside, and the Roasted Duck, also a winner, featuring plenty of funk and fat. There are also several brined beasts (or parts thereof) on tap, including Pig Ears, Duck Wings, and some lovely, unbelievably tender Cuttlefish.
You’ll find some “House Specials” as well, which are prepared in the kitchen in back and arrive in a sealed container that looks like something you’d find in the frozen food aisle. Peel off the thin plastic top for your steaming-hot Char Siu Scrambled Eggs, or Pumpkin Pork Ribs, or Golden Tofu. I went with the Beef Briskets with Daikon, which had great flavor–the big chunks of soft-boiled radishes really added a nice punch to the brown sauce–though the meat in this case erred a bit too much on the side of fat and gristle.
You can sit inside and eat at Hay Hay Roasted at a long counter that runs towards the back, or, soon, at one of the tables they’re setting up, but Columbus Park is only a block or so away, with its tables, benches, and big turf lawn all suitable for a quick picnic. No desserts are served, unless you count those bottles of Fanta Pineapple.
Hay Hay Roasted is located at 81 Mott Street, just south of Canal Street, and is currently open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (917-675-6651; @hayhayroasted)