A few months ago, Bo Ky was closed by the DOH. Some people get scared when things like that happen. Me, I pretty much accept it’s part of the restaurant game. Restaurants screw up, they clean up their act (literally), and then they open again. Dwell on the details too much and you’ll never be able to eat out again.
Other people get mad at the DOH. I’m guilty of that too. I get annoyed when I’m denied food, but sometimes Big Brother means well. For example, before Bo Ky closed, there were signs all was not right. I remember on one visit before they closed, the Curry Chicken with Flat Noodles that I loved so much and wrote about two years ago tasted off. The chicken didn’t taste fresh and the soup was incredibly salty. Another time I was filled with dread throughout the meal because my waitress was obviously sick. By the way, one of Bo Ky’s citations was “food worker prepares food or handles utensil when ill with a disease transmissible by food, or have exposed infected cut or burn on hand.” Yikes! But again, you can’t dwell on these things too much. You just hope when the restaurant reopens, most of the problems will have been fixed.
Since Bo Ky opened again (they were closed for a week and recently received a B), I’ve been back several times (including today for lunch) and on the surface everything seems to be back up to speed. Today I got the Combination Rice Noodle ($5.50), which is a noodle soup with an assortment of offal and seafood. For the choice of noodles, I usually ask for flat noodles, but last time the silver needle noodles were also good. The short noodles with tapered ends have more bounce to the bite, so if you’re in the mood for more chew instead of soft slippery flat sheets that slide down your throat, they’re worth getting. As for the offal, if you like offal, you’ll like this soup. I don’t see the Combination Rice Noodle soup making converts out of the offal-shy. It is what it is, a bowl of chewy rubbery innards packed with lots of irony flavor, some pieces more gamy tasting than others. Even the few pieces of seafood in the soup taste of offal too, so again, you must like offal to like this noodle soup. I personally like the Combination because it comes with a lot of liver. I love liver. Dipped in some of the chili vinaigrette available on the table for a little acid and a little heat it’s even better. The chili vinaigrette is similar to Vietnamese nuoc cham, but less sweet and with lots of chopped spicy red peppers. Also good is their thick chili oil with peanuts which tastes of fermented shrimp. A few spoonfuls usually find their way into all of the bowls of noodles I order.
As for the Curry Chicken Noodle Soup, I actually haven’t had it since the last time it wasn’t so great. Not because it was horrible, but these days when I go to Bo Ky in the mood for a fine feathered friend, I order the Country-Style Duck ($4.75/quarter; pictured at top). Unlike roast Cantonese duck, the Country-Style Duck or lo soi duck is braised in a master stock made of soy sauce and various spices, including cloves and star anise. I’ve read online a lot of people call this duck “old water duck,” but according to Taiwai (my coworker and authority on Chinese food), this is completely wrong. The Chinese character for lo isn’t the same character for “old” but for “submerged,” in reference to the braising of the duck. Technicalities, but just wanted to put it out there since people keep referring to the duck as “old water duck.” Braised duck is probably a more apt and definitely more appealing translation.
In any case, since the duck is braised, the skin isn’t crisp but it is very flavorful and the meat is wonderfully moist and tender. The duck is served with slices of pickled daikon and a light chili vinaigrette for dipping (it’s a less spicy variant of the chili vinaigrette found at the table). For Korean readers or for those in the know, the daikon is practically identical to the pickled daikon in Korean cuisine that is eaten with samgyupsal (삼겹살, grilled fresh pork belly). It serves the same purpose here, to cut the richness of the blubbery skin, delicious but indeed fatty skin. It goes well together, that and the tangy vinaigrette which adds some more needed sharpness.
The duck, alongside a bowl of noodles, is the perfect lunch. One that I probably have a little too often, but why not? Bo Ky is open for business. For how long? Let’s not think about it.
80 Bayard Street (b/n Mulberry & Mott St; map)
NY, NY 10013