After reading about Eddie Huang’s Xiao Ye for so long, it was almost a relief to finally stop in there for the first time last night and have a taste — we discovered that we love the fried tofu, like the idea of the unagi corn, and overheard a manager telling friends that Sam Sifton has already been in twice.
That tofu ($6) is cut into giant, pillowy pyramids, covered in a thin, crisp fried skin likely made from sweet potato starch. Inside, the bean curd is soft and silken, falling apart into rich curds. It’s drenched in a sauce that tastes like a mix of peanut butter, Sriracha, cilantro, and mayonnaise, and therefore can’t help being extremely delicious.
The grilled corn ($6) is slathered in red pepper and unagi sauce, that sweet and sticky potion that lacquers broiled eel at sushi bars. (Sometimes unagi sauce is made with eel stock, so if you’re a strict vegetarian you may want to ask.) It’s a genius idea, but the corn itself is more starchy than sweet, lacking that ultra-fresh, crisp, sugar-bomb character that corn should have right now.
Though most of Xiao Ye’s really good stuff isn’t vegetarian, there are plenty of meatless dishes with which a vegetarian might cobble together a meal.
198-B Orchard Street
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 8, 2010
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