For the longest time, my family didn’t have a go-to Chinese restaurant in New Jersey. In New York, yes, but in New Jersey, no. There was one place in Fort Lee we went to a good number of times for dim sum, but after several unwanted encounters of the creepy crawly variety, it was time to stop giving the restaurant a chance. Finally, about a year ago, my brother discovered Petite Soo Chow in Cliffside Park, and since then we’ve been slowly eating through the entire menu.
We even ended up at Petite Soo Chow this Thursday. For the first time since I can remember, I did not have one bite of turkey this Thanksgiving. I’m not sure exactly how it happened. I know a few weeks prior there were a few rumblings in the family of not having turkey and only having ham, but never did I imagine a turkeyless Thanksgiving would happen. But it did, and although I b*tched and moaned a fair amount, I made do, and then some.
For Thanksgiving, we had numerous dishes including the very popular lobster with ginger and scallion sauce. I think most of its popularity is due to the fact it’s not on the menu. Some people like things like that; being “in the know.” Personally, I found the sauce okay but the lobster too stringy. People also love their xialongbao, but unfortunately the skins are too thin in relation to their handling so when the steamed buns get to the table, a third have already popped and the magical soup lost. Such sadness.
What I do like at Petite Soo Chow is the lion’s head ($13.95; pictured at beginning of post), large pork meatballs adorned with cabbage manes to resemble lions’ heads. On the menu, it’s listed in English as something generic like “minced pork in sauce,” so I always have a hard time finding it to point out to the servers. To keep things simple, I just ask for lion’s head with sauce. There is one stickler of a waiter there though that insists on calling it pork meatballs in brown sauce, so if he happens to be your waiter, ask for pork meatballs in brown sauce. No need to delay food by making a fuss.
I like lion’s head at Petite Soo Chow because the meatballs aren’t too packed and dense like at other restaurants, and hence, are more juicy. However, you must like five-spice and sesame oil to like Petite Soo Chow’s version. As with most dishes at the restaurant, it tastes very strongly of both.
My other favorite, so far, is the oyster pancake ($5.95), a fluffy oyster omelet with slightly crisp edges topped with a red tomato-based sauce. What the sauce lacks in strong flavor is made up in quantity, and the oysters and the eggs are wonderfully soft in texture. It’s a lot of sauce-drenched mushiness, but fortunately it translates into a lot of deliciousness also.
I’m not sure I’ll be going back to Petite Soo Chow next Thanksgiving, but any other day, definitely. After all, the menu has yet to be completely conquered.
Petite Soo Chow
607 Gorge Road (b/n Lincoln & Oakdene Ave; map)
Cliffside Park, NJ 07010