>> Qing Dao Restaurant 青岛饭店 | Eat the World NYC

11 January 2021

Qing Dao Restaurant 青岛饭店


COVID-19 UPDATE: Qing Dao Restaurant is in a modest 3-stall food court. They are currently takeout only, with the food well-suited to reheating. In normal times there is proper seating upstairs.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Written by Joseph Gessert, photographed by Liv Dillon.
New pan-Asian steamed rice roll vendor Rolls Rice has been getting great press since their 2020 opening, in all the major New York City outlets. Their innovative rolls are really good, and the stall is worth a visit. While you are there, you should also pick up a truly inspiring takeout meal from their neighboring eatery Qing Dao Restaurant, who used to be the sole tenant at this address but has since welcomed company and reduced their footprint.

The rather desultory google maps listing is limited to simply Qingdao, and files it as a "Mandarin restaurant." In practice, Qing Dao slings a wide variety of wares from their namesake city in Shandong province. Qing Dao’s menu items show off the city’s unique history and geography—it is just across the Yellow Sea from the Korean peninsula and was occupied by Germany for two decades early in the twentieth century. Influences from both countries are evident in the cooking, and the Germans left behind a famous brewery—Qingdao can also be translated as Tsingtao.

Though it may prove useful to be well-versed in Mandarin, everything is ready to serve in trays, so it’s easy enough to point at what you want. Most items are priced by weight. The first four trays are all protein mains. Beef tendon ($5 for a small serving) is served cold with scallions in a light chili oil. The flavor is mild, but the dish is a textural experience, reminiscent of pigs feet but more user-friendly.
What the servers describe as simply beef ($10 for a large serving, above bottom left) is beef jerky in entree form. The jerky is cooked down until crunchy, saturated in sugar and chili oil that’s heavy on the Sichuan peppercorn, and finished with sesame seeds. Though not something you can eat a huge serving of, this dish is unique and memorable, bringing to mind Indonesian and Southeast Asian dishes as much as anything Chinese.
Over in the vegetable section there are plenty of options for vegetarians, with small containers of everything costing $5. Sour cabbage is again served cold in chili oil, and is aggressively fermented (hello kimchi, guten tag sauerkraut). Shredded potatoes, wood ear mushrooms, and cucumbers with garlic are all of the mild variety. Julienned celery and baked tofu is mild but soaked in Sichuan peppercorn oil, leaving your lips tingling. The star of the vegetable case defies easy translation, being described as “preserved vegetable” during two recent visits. It is green, has a ridged stem, and when preserved ends up very crunchy and a little sweet, which is balanced out perfectly by, you guessed it, a mild chili oil dressing. Whatever it is, get a container or if, or more, as both the flavor and texture are hits. Be forewarned that the crunch comes through clearly during Zoom calls.

Past the vegetables is a collection of beautifully homemade sausages ($10 a pound), which stand head and shoulders above other recent sausage entries from Chinatown. Qing Dao’s are larger than most Chinese sausage, dominated by whole chunks of pork meat and fat. The seasoning relies on the familar five spice, but is less sweet and more savory than many Chinese sausages. It appears cured, but also holds up well to a few minutes in the frying pan. Don’t forget to drain it on paper towels—these things do not lack in grease.

Besides the glass case items, the desserts in the entryway are also part of Qing Dao’s offerings, as are the bread products opposite the main counter. Amidst the buns and other options are containers of impressive guotie, or potstickers ($6 for six), longer and wider than other Chinese dumplings. These fry up nicely in the leftover oil from that sausage.

Shandong cuisine is one of the eight formal culinary traditions of China, but is far less well-known to New York eaters than its cousins such as Sichuan and Cantonese. Qing Dao Restaurant offers a great introduction to this food that’s no less memorable for how affordable it is. And for exploring new foods, you cannot beat the point and scoop method.


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