Welcome to Best Thing We Ate This Week, where each week, we'll have a special guest or Thrillist staff member talk about a New York dish they recently tried and loved. This week, chef Dominique Ansel, the brains behind the almighty Cronut®, talks about the steamed, spice-coated beef at Cafe China.
Imagine medium-thin slices of beef tenderloin, pounded until tender, then marinated in spices. Then picture each slice being coated with a thin layer of broken rice, steamed on top of sweet potatoes in a bamboo basket, and finished off with a dollop of minced fresh raw garlic and a handful of parsley. Now know that this dish exists at Midtown's Cafe China, which was a sleeper spot when I first discovered it, but has since gotten busier each night as more people are let in on the secret.
On cold, chilly days, it's my go-to for a Sichuan food fix. For me, it's not about straight "I dare you to eat this” kind of spice, but a really great balance of that numbing Sichuan peppercorn with the zing of the fresh garlic, and how it all mellows out with the coated rice "batter" and the tender sweet potatoes. Once steamed, the rice absorbs all the flavors of the beef, which stays tender with the gentle cooking. You don't often find those dishes that you go back for and order time and time again. This is one of those for me.