Greasy Chinese to the Rescue at Win Won
I feel like there’s a shortage of good, greasy Chinese food in the Financial District. The only one ever covered here on Midtown Lunch: Downtown NYC was Yip’s, written up by my partner in crime Kevin. And with Chinatown so close, there probably isn’t much of a need for a lot of these kinds of restaurants, but that doesn’t make the walk or subway ride up to Chinatown any more enjoyable. Sometimes you want Chinese food and you want it now. That’s when I head to Win Won.
In my very first post, I made reference to a Chinese joint tucked away down a dank, dark alley, the kind you’d imagine tourists being lured down shortly before they’re featured on Unsolved Mysteries. Win Won is that place. Located on Liberty Place, it’s accessible from either Maiden Lane or Liberty Street, though you get more of an ominous feel if you enter from the latter since it’s covered in scaffolding. After that, it’s as easy as following the throng of overweight, middle-aged men that are usually a good indicator that the food is certainly unhealthy and possibly delicious. Lucky for us, it’s both.
On this particular trip, I decided to go for one of my old favorites, shrimp with lobster sauce. For those of you uninitiated, it’s not as elegant of a dish as you might think. The shrimp part is pretty straightforward but the lobster sauce doesn’t actually contain any lobster. At least not in any of the restaurants I frequent, Mr. Moneybags. And without lobster, it makes it difficult for the sauce to taste like lobster too, so you can throw that idea right out the window. Quite frankly, the origin of the sauce baffles me (please submit enlightenments in the comment section below), but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the dish and it shouldn’t stop you either.
I had the best shrimp with lobster sauce of my life while in Toronto visiting my friend Tim and have been chasing the high, so to speak, ever since. This one looked like it might fit the bill. The shrimp were large and plump, the sauce unnervingly viscous. A good fit so far. I ordered mine on a bed of vegetable lo mein for a total $6.50, but you can get yours on anything from white rice to shrimp fried rice with accompanying fluctuations in price. By the way, prices are subject to change without notice, as I’ve experienced in the past, so don’t rely on the pricing you see on any menu, even the one in the shop. And be sure to ask for chopsticks if you want them because they rarely, if ever, include them in your “to go” bag or on your “to stay” tray.
Did this dish unseat my Toronto experience as the best shrimp with lobster sauce of all time? No. But it was a good start. The shrimp were big and juicy and the sauce had a gorgeous, gelatinous texture, but it all lacked a bit of flavor. The lo mein really came through to add the right amount of saltiness to it, so I was really pleased that it was there to backup my main feature. All it really needed, though, was a good shot of soy sauce, so don’t leave the restaurant without it.
Bottom line is that Win Won is exactly what you’d expect. Good, cheap food, but not quite Chinatown. But that’s not a bad thing. With its decent portions and cheap prices, Win Won won me over awhile ago and I’ll keep going back until there’s an express train that takes me from the FiDi straight to the heart of Chinatown and back in less than an hour.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I don’t have to trek all the way to Chinatown for a decent, greasy meal
- Big plump shrimp and nice sauce consistency in their shrimp with lobster sauce
- Walking down the alley to get to this place makes me feel like a bad ass
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Why eat Chinese food in the FiDi when you’re so close to Chinatown?
- The shrimp with lobster sauce lacks flavor
- Dark alleys scare me
Win Won, 10 Liberty Place (btw. Maiden Lane & Liberty St.), (212) 732-8264 or (212) 732-2861