In our continuing efforts to serve our readers, early this past Sunday morning we hit up Royal Seafood at 103-105 Mott Street just north of Canal Street. It’s changed hands a few times in recent years, and as a result signage can be confusing: For starters it used to be Dun Huang. And we didn’t go there for seafood, we went for the tiny plates of doughy steamed dumplings and shrimp- and green onion-filled rice cakes and beefy meatballs (eaten, traditionally, with Worchestershire sauce) and steamed balls of rice in banana leaves and baked buns — most ferried to your table by cart — filled with the day-glow red, additive roast pork called char siu. (Royal’s version was excellent: Not too sweet and not too fatty.)
Royal was actually named one of Robert Sietsema’s top 10 Chinese restaurants earlier this year in the Village Voice — he’s the man behind our trivia night this Thursday, btw. He called it out for its ginger-syrup soaked housemade tofu, which we regret we missed, but we can say to try, in addition to the above, the Chinese chive-stuffed dumplings — brilliant green little purses filled with nothing but the alliums — and what we were told was taro cake.
Though what it actually was is up for debate: Unlike the fried fat rectangles normally sold as taro cakes — which are insanely delicious — the latter was a fat brick composed of strips of dry rag-like strips with a cinnamony, nutty scent, a little like a wedge of day-old bread pudding, whose squiggly ribbons looked a lot like brainy folds and whose stacked layers our waiter cut with short scissors into wedges. (Any insights into its real name? Please share.) With the exception of yours truly, it was actually panned by our table for its earthy, dry taste, but I found it to be a lot like kasha, also funky in flavor. (Something non-Christians might keep in mind as they make their Christmas dim sum dining plans.)