886: Soul-Satisfying Taiwanese Comfort Food
Answering the countless prayers of Taiwanese food lovers, 886 represents the country's pride, hopes, dreams, and even its country code. For years, Taiwanese food in Manhattan has been lukewarm at best. With a trendy atmosphere and exciting twists on traditional Taiwanese dishes, 886 is your ticket to enjoying the late-night spirit of Taiwan.
In July 2018, restaurateurs Eric Sze and Andy Chuang opened up their doors in the former TKettle spot. 886's high-end design features bright neon lights and a dope painting of famous Taiwanese celebrities playing mahjong. The restaurant's vibe is lively and electric. Here, the fun seems endless.
886 respectfully remixes authentic Taiwanese flavors and dishes. You'll see that their Tomato-Egg dish utilizes San Marzano tomatoes for its deep, sweet tomato flavor. Their San Bei Ji, or Three-Cup Chicken, comes in the form of fried wings rather than its usual saucy drumstick form.
To accompany your meal, enjoy the Brooklyn Kura sake on tap or some good old Taiwan Beer. The menu is structured for family-style dining and presents a wide variety of shareable plates. Some of my favorites include the Drunken Clam, Ge Song Lettuce Cups, the Lo Ba Beng, and, of course, the Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich. During my first visit, Steph and I aggressively ordered 8 different dishes (read more below).
I'm proud to say that 886 is one of my favorite restaurants of 2018. It has also revived my love for St. Marks Place, which has, over the last few years, lost its allure. I'm looking forward to frequenting this spot with more of my friends to introduce them to Taiwanese food. Good luck in 2019, 886! I'll be back... often.
Average Price per Person: $60 USD
Address: New York City, USA
Recommended: Water Spinach, Taiwanese Sausage Fried Rice, Lo Ba Beng, Drunken Clam, Ge Song Lettuce Cups, Sausage Party, Spicy Fried Chicken Sandwich
Overall Rating: 4
Let's do this. Steph and I knew we were going to go HARD on this menu so we opted for some simple Apple Sidra, a Taiwanese carbonated apple-flavored drink. This legendary drink is refreshing and almost always appears at any Taiwanese family gathering. I'm speaking from experience on this one.
Anyway, this sweet Apple Sidra was great for cutting through the incoming symphony of savory flavors. It helps reawaken the taste buds in between bites of different dishes, similar to the way a sweet white wine would go with spicy or salty foods.
Next time, I'm going to opt for their recently added sake-on-tap and some Taiwan Beer.
Can I convince you to order some Charred Cabbage? I will do my best. It comes with Smoked Bacon... and you should be convinced by now. That bacon is nicely fatty (not rubbery) and all that oil soaked into that cabbage in the sexiest way possible.
Anyway, it sounds simple but it'll surpass your expectations. Give it a try. [$12 USD]
Next, I wanted some clams. I needed some clams. At 886, they serve a Drunken Clam and Thai Basil dish. The clams are cooked in Taiwan Beer and Shaoxing (a popular Chinese cooking rice wine). So, as you would expect, the flavors had more depth. Cooking with rice wine also helps cut through some of the natural oiliness while accentuating the flavors of the clams, Thai basil, and garlic.
Also, using Thai Basil is the right idea here. It's strong, pungent and goes well with the powerful flavors of the clams/garlic.
The little bit of broth at the bottom was delightful and addicting. It tastes mostly of the chili, garlic, clams, and shaoxing. The wheat-aspect of the beer was a little more subtle. [$16 USD]
Next, the Ge Song Lettuce Cups were a lot of fun. Highly recommend. I think this was one of my favorite dishes at 886. Here, we have some minced pork, chives, fermented black bean, then cooked in more shaoxing (rice wine). On the side, there is a stack of lettuce cups.
Following this three-step process, you will achieve great things: 1) Grab a generous spoonful of pork, 2) Place pork onto lettuce cup, 3) Devour. [$13 USD]
Next, the Lo Ba Beng (also known as Lu Rou Fan) was awesome. I wish I could have this little lunch bowl for work every day. It's hearty, fatty, and well-balanced.
What's in it? It's essentially Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly over Rice. Also, it comes with all the fun accoutrements: Daikon, Bamboo Shoot, and Egg. The egg was cooked nicely but I'd like it a bit runnier.
Mix it all up before consumption. [$14 USD]
Chinese sausage has many variations as you would expect. From Northern China all the way to the Philippines, each of these regions/countries made its own twist on the original version.
Taiwanese Sausage is a national treasure. Compared to other varieties, Taiwan Sausage is much sweeter in flavor. It's life-changing. 886 tosses this in some fried rice, shacha, egg, and scallion. I didn't really share this one with Steph. [$13 USD]
I can't resist some good chicken wings, especially if you tempt me with the allure of Taiwanese three-cup chicken. This traditional dish is called "three-cup chicken" because it's often made with three "cups" of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil.
The resulting flavor is savory and sweet. It's also fantastic with a little bit of spice. The aromatics also benefit from that fragrant Thai Basil.
886 does this well. [$10 USD]
Pretty much every single Taiwanese person has grown up with some version of this Tomato and Egg dish. It's easy to make and nutritious af.
886 elevates this one by using San Marzano tomatoes. I like that a lot. This tomato variety is from Italy. With a deep sweet flavor, this plum tomato also has a really beautiful distinct red color.
Great dish - very tomato-forward. [$10 USD]
Eat your vegetables! Water Spinach is one of my favorites, given that I grew up on this. This low-calorie plant is high in Vitamin A so it's good for your immune system, bone strength, and vision health.
Water Spinach is called Kong Xin Cai (Mandarin) or Kang Kong (Tagalog). They are characterized by flat leaves and narrow, hallow stems. The flavor is pleasant and mild.
This dish tasted a bit Thai thanks to the shrimp paste. But, the water spinach is enhanced with garlic and crispy shallot. Very nice!! Reminds me of home. [$13 USD]