Chinatown is confident. It’s one of the things I love most about the neighborhood. After all, restaurant owners here don’t simply know their food is good. They often bank their entire ‘brand name’ on it. That said, I didn’t originally intend on going to Excellent Pork Chop House. Its large, intrepid sign caught my eye as I was cutting through Doyers Street, once known as the ‘Bloody Angle’ for its violent past, on my way to Pell. It was a public display of self confidence too grand to ignore. If their pork chops really were excellent, I was going to find out for myself.
Chinatown’s culinary scene is often criticized for its purportedly heavy use of monosodium glutamate, MSG for short. Used as a flavor enhancer by tons of industrial food manufacturers, it’s generally the easiest way to make things taste really great. While most users of the additive aren’t proud enough to brag about its prominence in their food, it seems that Excellent Pork Chop House couldn’t be more excited about it. This meal likely wouldn’t be healthy, I realized at that moment, but it would doubtlessly taste amazing. I headed inside.
Often, the first thing I do when I’ve decided my SIC location is check its FourSquare page. Call it a socially destructive habit stemmed from my day job writing copy for Facebook and Twitter’s biggest brands, but I learn a ton about a restaurant from the platform’s “tips” section. In this case, I was looking for a decent appetizer to go with the restaurant’s staple dish. The audience recommended the wonton with spicy oil, $3.50 for a large plate, in overwhelming numbers. Lathered in spicy chili oil, spiked with garlic and served soft and warm, they were every bit as good as FourSquare promised, and a welcome addition to the bill.
The main event, however, was the pork chop over rice, just $5.25 for a plate as filling as any in Chinatown. After adding a marinated egg endorsed by my server to the mix, I was ready to go. The pork chop arrived exactly as I hoped it would – piping hot and coated with spices, seasonings, and yes… MSG. You’re dealing with an eclectic mix of textures in this one, so break up the marinated egg and mix it into the bed of rice to offset the toughness of the pork (served on the bone, of course). Add a dash of soy sauce, and you’ll reach a level of guilt-ridden bliss only possible in Chinatown.
I promised myself I wouldn’t overuse the word ‘excellent’ in this post, but the folks running Excellent Pork Chop House know that the dishes they’re serving are exactly that. Like many of the best low budget joints in Chinatown, EPCH is old, claustrophobic, and full of locals. And while its Taiwan-inspired food may be loaded with MSG, it’s important to remember that the FDA has classified the additive as GRAS (generally regarded as safe). So, have at it!