In a calculated strike against the livers and the overall health of Americans, the Gregorian calendar delivered a four-day weekend for Independence Day. For me, the damage came via barbecue attendance, extreme dehydration, and the replenishment of lost fluids through a flamingo-shaped beer bong.
As the weekend wound down, my body screamed for a respite from grilled meat, beer, and whiskey. A scream is hyperbole: As a result of the cumulative hangover, my body was really only capable of releasing a low guttural whine. That whine led me to order from XO Taste, a restaurant that, in addition to traditional Chinese fare, serves some Japanese-style items.
On this occasion, I ordered the Japanese-style soft-shell crab and the Japanese-style pan-fried dumplings. The soft-shell crab dish is inspired by a well known recipe, which involves panko-crusting the crab, frying it, and serving it with a ginger ponzu sauce.
The 40-minute delivery time felt like an eternity, as these were to be my first calories of the day. The crab was served in a foil tray alongside a slice each of cucumber and tomato as well as a dollop of mild coleslaw, all of which had been warmed by a combination of their proximity to the fried crab and the summer heat. The soft-shell crab was cooked to an ideal delicate and flaky texture; the legs broke from the body with precision, like the rare amicable dissolution of a romantic relationship wherein the separation occurs in the most tidy and predictable of manners possible. The ponzu ginger sauce, transported in a styrofoam coffee cup, was light and offered a pleasant tangy citrus flavor suitable for coating the freshly exposed wounds.
The dumplings featured a gyoza shell fried to the texture of a soft potato chip, containing a dense combination of scallions, traces of shrimp, and sweet, moist pork. The dumplings were accompanied by a small container of a tangy dipping sauce of soy and vinegar.
The Morning After: The night spent in the refrigerator caused the crab and dumplings to take on a spongier texture. The chilled ponzu sauce on the crab resulted in a starker contrast at each bite and left a lingering flavor. The crisp shell of the dumplings was no longer and, as a result, the shrimp, pork, and scallions asserted complete control of the experience.
Repeatability: Based on the flavor and execution of the selections, this order was highly repeatable, though achieving the $20 delivery minimum required some effort. Fortunately, there are a number of inexpensive filler items to experiment with on the menu.
Establishment: XO Taste, 41 Elizabeth Street, 212-343-8625
Hours/Limitations: $20 delivery minimum, noon to 10 p.m. daily
Delivery Estimate: No estimate
Delivery Time: 37.47 minutes*
Distance: 0.6 mile, 5 minutes**
Ordered at 1:52 p.m., sunny/hot
*Time is measured from confirmation page to door buzzer.
**Distance and time estimate is based on biking via Google Maps.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 8, 2013