I had originally intended on beginning this piece with a “Welcome back, friends of Chinatown!” until I remembered that it was me who abandoned you. For that, I apologize. Taking a summer sabbatical from Chinatown was not an easy decision, but it was a necessary one.
Well, after weeks spent traveling Europe and the Northeast United States, I have made my return. So, let’s talk about tacos.
Wait! Do not fret. Sunday in Chinatown has not taken a turn for the confusing and nonsensical. I originally discovered Diamond Hill’s hook, Asian-inspired tacos, from a bout of Foursquare exploration. After weeks at the top of my “to eat” list, I headed there with an impressive group of more impressive folks, one of whom was celebrating a birthday (and what better way? Happy Birthday Connor!).
Diamond Hill sits right next to the Fung Wah bus station on the corner of Bowery and Chinatown, and couldn’t look more out of place. Modern, clean and inspired, it’s easy to spot, and even easier to be drawn into.
For frequent flyers of taco purveyors Chipotle, the setup will make complete sense to you. Follow the guy down the line, and load your tacos (or burritos) up with anything you could ever imagine (well, we actually cannot guarantee this).
The inspiration hits you right away — you’ll have your choice of grilled teriyaki chicken, Chinese sweet bbq pork, grilled Korean galbi beef, slow cooked braised duck, and something called “tofu.” If the choice is as impossible for you as it was for me, get one of each of the meats (you’ll pay an extra $2.50 for the fourth taco”¦. just do it).
A check-in on Foursquare will score you an order of Japanese sweet potato fries, so don’t be afraid to flex your smartphone. Finally, a green tea or red bean milkshake will ensure you’ll barely be able to move on your way out the door.
Our favorite of the night was the Korean galbi beef taco with kimchi salsa, an incredible blend of spicy, sweet, and savory. A few hours in the slow cooker did the duck taco well – it tasted exactly as we hoped it would, and recalled some of our favorite duck dishes in town. The sweet bbq pork was perhaps the most complex of the bunch, while the chicken teriyaki served as the most “accessible.” It’s truly a feast for the senses in every way, so be excessive.
Though we couldn’t figure out what made our sweet potato fries “Japanese,” we loved them all the same. If potatoes are grown in Japan, it’s news to us, but we’re not concerned enough to check. Those fries can call themselves whatever they like.
Discovering restaurants like Diamond Hill in Chinatown is wildly exciting to me. The idea of modern fusion is largely unknown to the traditional, steam-laden windows of Canal Street and Bowery. But Diamond Hill has proved that it can be done both deliciously and cheaply. Here’s to hoping that it’s the first of many to transform the neighborhood’s restaurant scene into one that’s as complex, eclectic and surprising as the people who call it home.