Last week, we got a chance to preview Zai Lai and their homestyle Taiwanese cuisine, who also recently had their Grand Opening.
This shop, located in Turnstyle Market under Columbus Circle, is the first brick and mortar location of Zai Lai, a Taiwanese concept from Chef Edward Huang, which previously operated as a pop-up at Madison Square Eats and UrbanSpace Garment District.
If you were wondering, Zai Lai (再來) means “come back soon” in Mandarin. Zai Lai pretty much aims to deliver home cooked family meals for on the go New Yorkers.
Chef Edward Huang’s has worked in kitchens from Taiwan to Manhattan, including James Kitchen in Taipei and Fung Tu in the Lower East Side. His most recent was with Mission Chinese Food before going off on his own and opening Zai Lai.
Zai Lai serves food with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and big flavor. The menus include “Breakfast,” “All-Day,” and “Street Eats”. It also cool to know that each dish represents, and is named after, a different individual from Edward’s family or extended family who has helped shape his understanding of Taiwanese food and culture!
For you breakfast eats you can get traditional Taiwanese morning dishes such as Scallion Pancakes, Sesame Flatbread with scrambled egg, Ham Egg and Cheese Bing, and Rice Porridge with pork belly, sous vide egg, bamboo, pickled cucumber and pork floss. For beverages, Taiwanese Soy Milk, made fresh in-house daily, is also an option.
The “All-Day” menu, available only during lunch and dinner, focuses on authentic, rice bowls like:
Ama’s Five Spice Pork with shallots, tofu, mushrooms, quail eggs, and morning glory greens
Mama’s Special Chicken with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, eggplant, baby spinach and water chestnuts
Lion’s Head Meatballs with ginger, scallion, water chestnut, rice wine, Taiwanese cabbage and carrots
Ayi’s Bamboo Eggplant with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, eggplants, carrots, baby spinach and water chestnuts
If you’re a noodle lover, two popular noodle dishes include:
Cousin’s Beef Noodle Soup with slow-braised beef shank, mustard greens, and wheat noodles
Mama’s Stir-Fried Rice Noodle with pork shoulder, bamboo, carrots, and mushrooms
Zai Lai’s “Street Eats” menu, available starting at around rush hour, 4pm daily, consists of:
Auntie’s Steamed Pork Bun
Caleb’s Braised Beef Roll
Ex-Girlfriend’s Oyster Omelet … big LOL at these names!
There is also a special offering for commuters…New Yorkers at heart: the Family Festival Meal, which promotes traditional Taiwanese “family-style” eating. This shareable combo, serving up to four people, consists of two entrees, two vegetables, four pork buns, rice and pickled vegetables for just 50 bucks!
As for beverages, Zai Lai offers hot and cold Specialty Milk Teas in three flavors: Jasmine, Lavender, and Taro, in addition to Apple Sidra, a Taiwanese Apple Soda, Sarsaparilla, a Taiwanese Root Beer, and a speciality guava drink.
The interior of the space consists of an open kitchen, and the decor includes black & white family photos of Chef Edward’s relatives from the 1950’s.
During their Media Preview, we got to sample a few dishes mentioned above, which included:
Ama’s Five Spice Pork , Mama’s Special Chicken, Lion’s Head Meatballs, and Auntie’s steamed pork bun. In addition to the housemade milk tea that were served in capri-sun like containers.
All the dishes that were served were delicious and tasted like mom’s home cooking.
A fun fact that Chef Edward Huang shared with us is that he wanted to be eco-friendly and use paper plates. The milk-teas can be taken home and re-used as a water bottle.
Come check out Zai Lai which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Again they are located at Turnstyle Market under Columbus Circle. Hours are Monday- Friday for breakfast from 8-11am and for lunch and dinner from 11am-8pm. On Saturdays, Zai Lai is open for lunch and dinner from 11am-7pm. Closed on Sundays, and in coming weeks, Zai Lai will offer home, office, and event catering as well as takeout and delivery via Caviar. So keep an eye out for that as well!
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