When I started coming up with a list of topics for my Freelance Diet series, I never imagined that lobster would qualify for inclusion: That crustacean hasn’t screamed “budget cuisine” since the days when it was known as poverty food and only deemed suitable for prisoners and indentured servants.
To say things have changed would be an understatement, but fortunately for the modern-day lobster-lover, deals are still there if you know where to look—or even if you don’t. It’s not just $29 rolls (or even $14 rolls, for that matter) in this town.
I stumbled on this particular one blindly, during a routine trip to Chinatown for the restorative, hangover-curing powers of roast pork and wonton-and-noodle soup. It was then that I saw it—the sign. $20 for two lobsters. Now, it’s no secret that Chinatown is a bargain-hunter’s paradise, but that’s a price that’ll make you sit up and take notice in any neighborhood.
In a show of remarkable self-control, I didn’t order them on the spot (in my defense, I was getting takeout and traveling back to Brooklyn), but I couldn’t hold out for long; a week later, I returned to Big Wing Wong (yes, that’s the restaurant’s real name) to sample the goods. The meat may not have been the sweetest, most flavorful I’d ever eaten, but the ginger-scallion sauce—simply addictive—and, of course, the low, low cost more than made up for it. My friend and I polished off the entire platter, plus a plate of steamed dumplings and one of pak choy, in record time and to great satisfaction. Our total bill? $36.
As any veteran of the freelance world will tell you, there are times when work is scarce, and there are times when you’ll have more than you can handle. Though my sad, neglected savings account would beg to differ, I strongly believe that some things—especially during those fallow periods, when morale can be low—are worth the extra expenditure, even if that means subsequently subsisting on beans and rice until the next check comes in. A meal like this one offers the best of both worlds: It allows you to feel like you’re treating yourself without resulting in sticker shock. For twenty bucks apiece, you can’t do much better than that.
Big Wing Wong
102 Mott Street
New York, NY