3 Restaurateurs Breaking Stereotypes in Chinese Cuisine

Earlier, we rounded up the most noteworthy Chinese entrepreneurs taking New York, as they are the heart and soul of The NuWa. As a publication that prides itself on shining a spotlight toward the young movers and shakers of New York City who actively tie their cultural heritage into their new endeavors, we’ve rounded up another slew of innovators to know. Meet three Asian restauranteurs who are doing just that. Each creative force listed is bridging the cultural divide between Asian cuisine and delivering it straight to the hungry mouths of Millennials in New York. Learn what inspired them to start a restaurant, how they break traditional stereotypes and the one item they could eat forever on their menu.


Amelie KangMala Project

Amelie Kang of MaLa Project & Tomorrow

How do you bring the culture of your heritage to NYC?

  • Of course, it’s food. By presenting original, regional Chinese dishes, I introduce my food culture to NYC. Also,  we incorporate other things like the interior decorations at the restaurants, the Chinese jokes and languages we put on the menu, and social activities we participate in. These are all different ways for us to bring our Chinese culture to the market and find a voice in NYC.

What inspired you to found a restaurant?

  • The lack of real, quality Chinese restaurants in the city inspired us to start MaLa Project and Tomorrow. Also, just missing my hometown food too much!

How are your breaking the stereotypes of traditional Chinese restaurants?

  • By not falling into the traditional stereotypes, we break the cycle. The typical stereotypes are qualities like only fast food standards, bad service, and poor environments. The best we can do is to offer the opposite of all those things!

How are you catering to millennial clients while keeping the authenticity of your roots?

  • I think millennials can appreciate authenticity. Just staying true to who we are and what we do brings younger customers.

If you could only eat one dish from your restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

  • Dry pot any day!

Yuchun Cheng

Little Ally

Yishu He – Owner of Little Alley

How do you bring the culture of your heritage to NYC?

  • We bring the culture of our heritage to NYC by offering New Yorkers authentic Chinese food and dining experience with a focus on Shanghai Long Tang (Little Alleyways) culture. The food is what we grew up eating in little alleyways. The small objects, such as our menus in the format of letter & envelopes and stone brick wall, remind us of the nostalgia of the old Shanghai. The new Shanghai is seeing more and more modernized buildings and streets, and in this small space in New York we hope to preserve the classic alleys in Shanghai and introduce it to Americans.

What inspired you to found a restaurant?

  • The team and community of transplants is our inspiration. My partner Yuchun Cheng, who is also the chef, and the whole kitchen staff is from Shanghai Long Tang. The restaurant is our comfort place where we can still gather, play and work together as before.

How are your breaking the stereotypes of traditional Chinese restaurants?

  • By offering high standard service and environment, we break the stereotype of traditional Chinese restaurants. Our food is authentic and does not compromise for the American palate. We keep what our ancestors have been doing for many years and stay away from the typical, Westernized Chinese food. On our Instagram, we also showcase the non-stereotypical side of Chinese restaurants through images and inspirations.

How are you catering to millennial clients while keeping the authenticity of your roots?

  • While we offer authentic food that rarely has a young twist, our interior is designed to attract millennial’s eyes. We have a phone booth in our restaurant that is great for photo opportunities. We also change our menu seasonally to keep the guest excited and wanting to come back.

If you could only eat one dish from your restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

  • Little Alley Lion’s Head. It has meat and egg in one dish. What more can you ask for?

Renzy Li

Tang Hotpot

Renzi Li of Tang Hotpot

 How do you bring the culture of your heritage to NYC?

  • We bring our culture to NYC by creating an authentic dining experience but also incorporating culture as part of the symbol for the restaurant. Combining food, ambiance, and service as a whole to present our customer a unique experience is breaking boundaries.

What inspired you to found a restaurant?

  • We really wanted to elevate the standard of Chinese restaurants in New York, pushing the boundary forward by creating a more authentic flavor that didn’t compromise its authenticity. Educating people who have no experience with Chinese food and making them fall in love with the experience is our inspiration.

How are your breaking the stereotypes of traditional Chinese restaurants?

  • Prioritizing the authenticity and educating people who don’t haven’t had a classic Chinese experience through service and food breaks stereotypes. We’ve created a modern dining ambiance, but keep 100 percent of the authenticity.

How are you catering to millennial clients while keeping the authenticity of your roots?

  • We tried to create a better dining experience, not only focusing on the food but also paying attention to our service and decor. Combing modern popular culture with food culture makes our space more attractive to millennial clients.

 If you could only eat one dish from your restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?     

  • Omasum Beef Tripe, Pig Artery, and duck tongue dipped in Spicy Beef Tallow Broth!

 

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Contributor

Madison Russell

As a Southern Belle turned Manhattanite, Madison Russell is a contributing editor based in New York City. Most days, you can find her writing in a coffee shop or cuddling with her rescue pup, Talullah. Her work has been published on Guest of a Guest, The Select 7, The Sunday Issue, and more. Visit MadisonRussell.com for the latest.