Magazine article The New Yorker

Tables for Two: Beijing Pop Kabob

Magazine article The New Yorker

Tables for Two: Beijing Pop Kabob

Article excerpt

TABLES FOR TWO

BEIJING POP KABOB

122 Mulberry St. (212-966-6206)

Open daily for lunch and dinner. Dishes $1.75-$38.

It's easy to play a game of "one of these things is not like the others" on this holdout block of Little Italy between Hester and Canal: Casa Bella, Buona Notte, Il Cortile, Beijing Pop Kabob. It's easy to feel nostalgic for red sauce and cannoli, and for a romanticized neighborhood whose heyday has so definitively passed. But on a January night, when temperatures have dropped into the teens, it's easier still to dart into the clean, bright, tastefully decorated dining room of Beijing Pop Kabob, huddle around one of the ten-odd tables, and start blowing on the tall glass brimming with scalding hot black-and-jasmine tea that you are served immediately.

Warmth is a theme here, with the kitchen turning out the food of Beijing and, more broadly, northern China, where winters are long and cold. The menu has only a small selection of dishes explicitly designated as soup, but many others are liquid-based and served atop Sterno flames, accompanied by small bowls for sharing. "Boiled sliced whole fish in hot chili oil" and the "fisherman's spicy boiled beef with tofu" are indistinguishable but for their main ingredient: a big bony tilapia and oversized, thin-cut swaths of chewy beef, respectively. Both come in the same rich red stock, crowded with silky tofu, mandolined celery, and floppy wood-ear mushrooms, like deflated miniature parachutes. …

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