Real Deal

O ne of New Haven’s newer Asian eateries serves its food pickled, fried, braised and—as its name will tell you—Steamed. The Chinese restaurant on Whitney Avenue south of Trumbull Street was opened in September of 2018 by experienced restaurateur Hu Ping, who also owns Taste of China on Chapel Street as well as restaurants in Clinton and Madison.

The Steamed menu is divided into Appetizers, Dim Sum and Noodle Soup. On a lunchtime visit, I asked manager Haining Lee to bring me a customer favorite from each, and so my meal began with Scallion Pancakes ($6) from the Dim Sum portion of the menu. This large, light pancake, halved and then cut into eight slices, had a lightly fried crisp on the outside and a soft inside laced with shreds of scallion, a delicious start to the meal whether plain or dipped in soy sauce.

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From the Appetizers side of the menu, I tried a more adventurous dish, one recommended by Lee as authentically Chinese. The Nanjing Salted Duck ($12) is a marinated leg of duck sliced and, like most of the appetizers on the Steamed menu, served cold. Visually, it’s a simple dish with not much color or even a garnish, and it’s served on the bone with a marrow center in every slice—a surprising presentation. But the meat itself was tender and consistent, salted to enhance without overpowering.

As for the Noodle Soups, I sampled two popular items: Chong Qing Pork with Cold Noodle ($9) and Braised Beef Brisket Noodle Soup ($10). The pork with cold noodles is actually neither cold nor a soup. It’s a hearty bowl served warm and topped with tiny morsels of pork, chopped scallions, bean sprouts and a bottom layer of spicy red oil sauce. You can choose rice, “regular” or potato noodles, Lee told me, though you have to know to ask. I dug in my chopsticks and stirred it all up before feasting, picking up just a hint of sesame in the oil, which also includes garlic, vinegar and a spicy kick.

I requested my Chong Qing Pork medium spicy, as suggested by the menu’s two chili peppers, but you can order anything on the Soups menu as flaming or as mild as you’d like, Lee says, with the exception of the Braised Beef Brisket soup. This Szechuan-style dish was more matched to its name—a hot soup packed with noodles and a warm, spicy aroma that instantly drew me to it. Chunks of tender beef were accompanied by sliced bamboo shoots steamed to just the right balance of soft and firm.

Currently, Steamed offers seven cold appetizers ($6-$12), 10 dim sum ($5-$12) and nine noodle soups ($9-$10), with nine options for vegetarians (most if not all of them vegan) and nine for those who eat gluten-free. Throughout the menu, which is rounded out by eight tea offerings, good portions at reasonable prices seems to be the rule.

A new menu coming soon will keep many favorites and add some new items, Lee says, including Sliced Beef and Tripe with Chili Sauce. Its name, literally translated, means something like “beef made by husband and wife,” Lee says, a reference to the fact that many Chinese restaurants are run by couples. Other coming attractions include Steamed Chicken with Chili Sauce, Szechuan-style Chengdu dumplings and a series of “clay pot” casseroles—seafood, beef brisket, ribs, pickled cabbage, intestines—all served with rice in clay pots. Lee describes the menu as a mix of authentic Chinese dishes and a few calibrated to the tastes of local diners—for example, a sticky rice sweet potato pancake dessert planned for the new menu that will be sweetened a bit for American palates.

I dined on Steamed’s lower level, a dark and potentially romantic spot with stone walls, colorful paintings and a small window looking into a stairwell decorated with potted plants. Upstairs, closely packed tables enjoy more natural light from the restaurant’s front window. Late lunch on a Tuesday was busy, with several tables occupied both when I arrived and when I left.

There are plenty of other Chinese restaurants in greater New Haven, but among the charms of Steamed is that it offers no duck sauce, fortune cookies or General Tso’s chicken, all American inventions. Instead, its website promises a “modern interpretation of classic dishes.” You may not know what’s authentic and what’s not from reading the menu or looking at the dish placed in front of you. But you’ll know what’s delicious when you pick up your chopsticks and take that first bite.

Steamed
77 Whitney Ave, New Haven (map)
Mon-Sun 11am-10pm
(475) 238-7545
www.steamednewhaven.com

Written and photographed by Kathy Leonard Czepiel.

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About Kathy Leonard Czepiel

View all posts by Kathy Leonard Czepiel
Kathy Leonard Czepiel is Daily Nutmeg's associate editor. She's also a fiction writer, writing teacher and book club troubleshooter. Her perfect New Haven day would involve lots of sunshine, a West Rock hike, a concert on the green and a coffee milkshake.

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