It’s hard to recommend Lucky Plaza. It’s divey, but not as bad as some other places in Chinatown. It can be inconsistent, but so are many restaurants in Chinatown. It has to do with service. Yes, it’s a common problem in Chinatown, and Lucky Plaza is no exception. At Lucky Plaza, no one is downright rude, but there’s a certain indifference in the air. It’s like, ‘Why are you asking me a million times for something when I rather stand here looking off into space listlessly?’
In a particular instance, a few months ago, there was a poster on the wall advertising an oyster pancake (pictured above) with rice and soup for around $5 during lunch. When my pancake arrived, glistening in all its oily glory, I waited, but no rice and soup ever appeared. I asked the waitress. Still nothing. Later, my Chinese-speaking friend asked the manager passing by. Nothing yet again. After some time had passed, he asked one more time, and this time the manager responded begrudgingly, “OK, if you really want it.” Sure, there’s nothing special in the rice or the soup which is just broth made with whatever bones and scraps they had at the restaurant, but when you want an oyster pancake as a meal as opposed to a snack, you need rice and soup. Regardless, the oyster pancake was delicious, slightly crisp at the edges while eggy and floppy in the center. As for the oysters, they were small, but creamy and not fishy at all. Alas, perhaps they got tired of bringing people rice and soup because the poster disappeared not long after.
There used to be a great rice casserole (bo zai fan) special at lunch too: $5 for a handful of selected casseroles. Now you get a choice between two, and the adjusted poster says “$5.50 and up.” For rice casserole, that’s still dirt cheap (granted “and up” isn’t that much up), but if you’re a connoisseur of rice casserole, I’d skip it. I ordered rice casserole pork with salted fish, and the amount of meat was meager to say the least. Also, I think my pot may have been halfway off the burner. One half the bottom was golden and crunchy, the other half, nothing at all.
What I do recommend though is the roast pig over rice. It’s my current favorite in Chinatown. The lunch price has gone up a bit, but it’s still ridiculously cheap at $3.95. The price is great, but the quality makes it even better. The meat is tender and well-salted, and the crackly skin is thick, bubbly, and crunchy. Lip-smackingly munchable. Some days the cooks are a bit more generous with the portion than others, but that’s how it is at Lucky Plaza. Some days you’re lucky, some days you’re not.
Lucky Plaza (CLOSED)
81 Chrystie St (b/n Canal & Hester St; map)
New York, NY 10002