When a 6-year old passenger named Alice told me that the soup dumplings at Grand Sichuan were the food she loved most in all the world, I knew I had to try them.
I liked Alice from the moment she got in my cab with her two Dads and her curly-haired sister. She’s one of those curious kids who’s smart without being obnoxious, uninhibited but still able to listen.
She and her family were on their way to see more family in Connecticut, where “the kids are going to hide the Easter eggs and the parents have to find them.” This was news to her dads.
I wondered, when I walked into Grand Sichuan yesterday and ordered her dumplings, whether she’d been able to pull off her egg hunt for adults.
And I wished, as I bit into a dumpling and watched broth squirt all over my jeans, that Alice were there to show me how I was supposed to eat them.
I waved a waitress over and asked her instead: she told me to poke a hole in the top, pour a little ginger/vinegar/soy dipping sauce inside, and eat them off the Chinese soup spoon. By the time I slurped my way through all eight, I was stained all over, but it was worth it.
The dumplings – minced pork and scallions and broth encased in wanton wrappers and steamed – were tasty and comforting (as dumplings should be), although their skins were a little tough (they probably have to be to contain the broth).
Still, at $5.75 for eight, they’re something I’ll stop for when I’m on duty, especially since there’s a taxi stand close by (on 28th St. between 9th and 10th Avenues).
I wasn’t far from that taxi stand when I hailed Gardy and asked him to take me to Union Square.
After 17 years of hacking in New York, he now drives just one day a week – the rest of the time, he works as an X-ray technician at the Hospital for Special Surgery on York St.
I was curious about why he continues to drive when he doesn’t necessarily have to.
“You meet a lotta nice people,” he said, “And you learn a lot about yourself. You get the pulse of the city.”
Gardy thinks of himself as an ambassador, as someone who’s privileged “to provide service to other human beings,” which didn’t surprise me after he told me he was bringing medical supplies to his home town on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti next month.
Since the earthquake hit Haiti in January, Gardy and his buddies have been organizing a collection for victims of the disaster: “A lot of people think they can’t help out, but nothing is too small to give.”
A lot of their strategizing happens at Ambiance Caribbean Restaurant in Brooklyn, where they eat dishes (like fried snapper and griot) that remind them of Haiti while they “cool our heals and talk about home.”
I’ll be dragging a few friends out there on Friday to taste as much of the island as we can. Stay tuned for the play-by-play of our feast.
229 Ninth Avenue (at 24th St.)
Open: 12pm-11pm, Mon-Sat; 11:30am-11pm, Sun
Credit cards accepted
Note: There are several other locations around Manhattan and in Jersey City – this is the one Alice recommended)
Ambiance Caribbean Restaurant
9413 Avenue L – Canarsie, Brooklyn
Tel. (718) 272-1787