Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Graphics: Dining at 14 Mott Street in New York Chinatown, Part 1: 1885–1898

October 11, 1884. The entrance to 14 Mott Street 
is seen next to the raised left hand holding an object.
16 Mott Street is left; its stairs parallel with street.

Wong Chin Foo wrote two articles for the Chicago Daily News. The restaurant at 14 Mott Street was described as a Delmonico

January 10, 1885, page 3
The Chinese in America.
Special to the Chicago Daily News.
Chinatown, New York City, Jan. 7.—Nothing gives the average Mongolian more pleasure than the fact that his civilization and that of the western barbarians are daily approaching nearer and nearer. And we are doing it, and doing it in a way that would bring a blush to the cheek of that mythic creature of the American imagination, the brass monkey. Ten years ago we Chinese were moral and pious (more or less). To-day we have all the modern improvements and accomplishments. We have with considerable trouble erected temples to Bacchus (or Silenus), Venus, Morpheus, and Fortunatus. I am uncertain, being a so-called almond-eyed heathen myself, as to whether my mythologic references are correct. What I mean is that in Chinatown to-day we have bar-rooms and beer saloons, beds of asphodel, opium-joints, and gambling houses ad infinitum. What is more, their fame has spread about, and the lounger and man-about-town daily drop in to interview or investigate the variegated attractions. On Monday I met two well-known lawyers and a state senator who were vainly endeavoring to study the Chinese elephant. They were endeavoring to learn something from an ignorant laundryman. They understood no Chinese and he no English. When I arrived upon the scene they had concluded that he was a lunatic, and he that they were drunken hoodlums. A moment’s explanation settled affairs, and we went off and dined at the Chinese Delmonico’s, 14 Mott street. Our bill of fare, though admirable, was misunderstood, and consequently not quite so much enjoyed as it might and should have been. What it really was, and what my friends in their hearts believed it was, is well shown in the following tables:

What they thought it was. What it really was.
1. Hashed kitten. Hashed beef, orange, orange-
peel, ginger, and curry

2. Stewed puppy. Ragout of chicken, celery, 
bamboo shoots, and young 

3. Stewed worms. Hashed macaroni with egg, 
cochineal, beef, and chicken
4. Bisque of rats. Chicken soup.

5. Mouse pie. Pate of quail, from which the
head, feet, and most of the 
bones had been removed.

6. Spitz-dog en tortue. Dragon-dish sauce with rice, 
black beans, and shalotts.
The Chinese names for these delicacies (I give them because perhaps some of your readers may desire to try the same experiment) are: 1, Yo-Yo-an; 2, Gai-bien; 3, Chow-mien; 4, Gai-Gan; 5, Chow-an-Tszun; 6, Yung-Goi.
I commend this bill of fare in the highest terms. It represents the culmination of the Chinese cuisine; just as the bisque of crabs, the Chateaubriand, the filet de sole, and the pate de foie gras are emblematic of French gastronomic art and science. And next to my own race the French are the best cooks of the universe. Restaurants are well enough, so far as they go. We have also Chinese barbers, tailors, pawn-brokers, grocers, druggists, doctors, lawyers, musicians, officials and journalists (I say lawyers and journalists in the plural), for thus far I am the only one in the trades referred to, and am consequently sui genesis). We have, also—and I regret to say it—a Chinese cut-throat and thief. But we made short work of him. The moment we learned of his depredations we offered rewards for his arrest, rewards for his conviction, and some of us rewards for his death. Those who are responsible for the last regard him as a disgrace to our race, and desire to have him and his name wiped out. And, though it may be opposed to your American notions, they’ll do it, too.

Besides the rewards, detectives were employed and committees appointed to hunt the culprit down. How well the work was done you already know by the telegraphic reports. The crime was committed Friday, and no clew was visible. Monday the criminal was delivered to the police, and, furthermore, all the necessary evidence was put into the hands of the district attorney, so that in a public letter the next day he thanked us for our public spirit and enterprise. Can any American community show a similar example? Yet I feel sorry for the poor devil. He was a man of heroic mold, and in the Jeannette and Greely relief expeditions to the arctic circle displayed a courage and devotion fitting the grandest cause. His downfall and ruin are attributable to only one thing—the tiger. He played and lost all. He borrowed, begged, and pawned—and lost. Then, crazy for food, crazy for the necessary cash with which to gamble again, he robbed and murdered—and lost again. In the greatest and richest city of the world this uneducated, unintelligent lion of a man was allowed to gamble day and night under the very eyes of the police, and then waste his life, his substance, and his future. 

We are much amused at the tone of the hoodlum California press. It lauds the anti-Chinese law to the skies, and day by day declares that the immigration has ceased. The truth is the very opposite. The Chinaman who can afford it sails straight to San Francisco and pays the United States inspector $50 and is put through. The poorer or more economical coolie goes to Vancouver’s island by sailing vessel, and skips across to the soil of Uncle Sam. Last night, at the club-rooms 16 Mott street, a newly arrived immigre said: “New law d— nonsense; only job to give money to inspector. Fat man with big mustache wanted $500. I d— fool and give him $250 and come along in all light.”

I am glad to see, however, that a better feeling is growing up here in the east. When people read the police reports and find that only one Chinaman is arrested in 50,000, and then for a trifling offense; when the county democracy appoints one of my race a New York policeman; when a Chinese interpreter is attached to the courts, a Chinese editor to the great dailies, and a Chinese contributor to the leading weeklies and monthlies, you can safely bet that the anti-Chinese craze is dying out and that we flowery-kingdomites are going to be somebody and have some say amid this vast mixture of Germans, Irish, negroes, French, Italians, English, Swedes, and Yankees which make up the American people. New York has almost learned the lesson that ere long will be taught to the United States. A Chinaman who has brains, education, and honesty will get along just as well as the citizen of any other land. You can’t keep him out and you can’t keep him down. Make friends with him, show him that he is an integral part of the nation, and some unborn Ah Sin will occupy the chair soon to be held by our friend Mr. Cleveland. 

June 29, 1885, page 2
Chinese Cooks and Cooking.
Special to the Chicago Daily News.
New York, June 22.—In the last two years New York fashionable society has cultivated a new craze—Christianizing and educating John Chinaman. Every church patronized by the creme de la creme has its Chinese class, its Chinese teachers, its Chinese night-school, Like most crazes, it accomplishes but little in the way sought. It has done much, however, in turning attention to Chinatown and in making known many things that heretofore were celestial mysteries. Among these is the Mongolian restaurant. It is safe to say that in 1880 not more than a hundred New Yorkers had ever dined in oriental style. In 1885 the number is far up among the thousands. The average American when he first approaches the Chinese table, does so in fear and trembling. Vague presentiments of ragouts of rats, mayonnaises of mice and similar luxuries float through his mind. Nine times out of ten he leaves table with the conviction that he has learned something, and that the almond-eyed sons of the queue are the best cooks in the world. So he goes again, and with him brings two or three inquisitive or adventurous friends.

There are six Chinese restaurants proper in the Mongolian settlement. Each is famous for some dish or style of cooking. The Delmonico of the number is Yu-ung-Fang-Lau, at 14 Mott street. Here repair Canton importers and Hong Kong merchants, Mongolian visitors from ’Frisco, flush gamblers, and wealthy laundrymen. All of the restaurants are run on the same plan. A plain wood floor, swept and scrubbed hourly till it fairly shines; simple pine or walnut tables, small stools, crimson banners and mottoes on the walls, and a lavish display of curious porcelain vessels in racks and stands characterize one and all. 

You have never dined, reader, under such auspices. With two friends you enter Yu-ung’s and perch upon a stool near a large square table. The next moment the attendant has put down in front of you a tea-pot filled with fresh, boiling tea, a tea-cup one-third the size of those used by Americans, two ebony chop-sticks, a porcelain spoon, a tiny liqueur-bowl, and a saucer filled with a chocolate fluid called se-yu. This is a hybrid between  salt and dilute Worcestershire sauce. From its name comes the familiar British term soy. The first course is cold roast chicken, served with pickled perfumed turnip. The flesh is tender, snow-white and free from sauce. It is cut into small pieces, but these are arranged so as to preserve the outline of the fowl. You seize a piece with your chop-sticks, dip in the sauce, and then eat it in solemn silence. The next course is fresh fish, steamed, boiled, or fried whole and covered with a dark and very aromatic sauce. With it is served a bowl heaped to overflowing with rice. It is cooked as only the Chinese can—each grain soft and tender but distinct from its fellows. Next appears a bowl of chicken-soup, on whose surface float a few thin slices of some green vegetables. Then follow roast duck with pickled carrot, chow-chop-sue (ragout of chicken liver, lean pork, bamboo-tip, celery, bean-shoots, and onion), dried fish, steamed chopped pork, macaroni and chicken, and dainty dumplings filled with spiced hashed meats. 

With the foods are served tiny pitchers of liquors. One is a brown rice arrack, the second a date brandy, and the third an orange gin. The nearest approaches to these in the American bar-room are Batavia arrack, pear brandy, and green curacoa. 

All the dishes are well cooked and served, and all are a novelty to the most blase gourmet. The made dishes especially are new and strange.

The next surprise is the bill. The same or an equivalent dinner at an average restaurant would cost a party of three seasons at least $5.50; in a firs-class hotel, $8.50. At Yu Ung’s, however, the cost is but $2.48. Of course the Mongolian has luxuries, and pays for them “Allee same Melican man.” A duck half boiled and then stuffed with almonds, chestnuts, raisins, watermelon seeds, imported spices, and roasted is worth $2. A suckling pig similarly treated brings $5 to $7. Bird’s-nest soup at 50 cents a portion, shark’s fins fricasseed at 40, dragon-fish ragout at 35, and sea-worm at 75 are other instances in point. It is not uncommon for a Chinese dinner to cost $5 a plate, exclusive of wine, and on state occasions $40 a head has been the price paid by the giver of the feast.

At these great dinners a feature of the cooking is the element of surprise. A dish of apparently hard-boiled eggs is placed before you. You open one and it is filled with a purplish custard, flavored with violets, a second has a brown filling, colored and flavored with chocolate, and a third a rose-tinted and perfumed cream. A second dish of eggs will contain assorted ices and ice-creams. Again, the attendant deposits before you what seems a well-boiled trout. Your chopstick removes the fish head and skin at one touch and discloses a long dumpling filled with delicious chopped meat or game. Another charming dish consists apparently of small, well-fried potatoes. Each one, however, is a thin shell of flue, thoroughly cooked dough, containing vegetables, poultry, fish, game, or meat.

While dining you have a good opportunity to study the domestic habits of the Mongolian race. However crowded the restaurant may be, quiet reigns, broken only by the orders of the steward and waiters to the cooks and the “thank you” of the guests. In English the latter practice would become monotonous. In Chinese there are seven expressions for our one, and a happy variety therefore exists. They eat leisurely, and almost invariably leave a portion of their food untouched. Each, as he beings his meal, pours a tablespoonful of tea into his cup, and then, by a dexterous swing of the wrist, throws the liquid in a semi-circle on the floor. The custom, or ceremony, seems to have had a religious meaning in remote antiquity, but to-day is kept up for luck, or perhaps from mere habit.

Another feature is the simplicity of their diet. At four tables the meal being eaten consists of tea, a bowl of rice, a small fish, a piece of chicken, and a saucer of sliced perfumed pork. In ordering a dish they order by value only. It is “10 cents fish,” “15 cents chicken,” and never “plate of roast beef,”“piece of pie,” etc., as with Americans. But few indulge in stimulants. Those who do combine into pools of two, three, or four, and them order “18 cents arrack.” The whole amount is hardly more than the straight whisky of a Chicago rounder.

The kitchen is not only visible to the guest, but is in reality a portion of the dining-hall. All the utensils and paraphernalia are before your eyes; even the meats, vegetables, and the cooks themselves are practically on exhibition. To those who have believed that the celestial cooked in some primitive way a visit to and inspection of his culinary arrangements is a revelation.

The Chinese kitchen greatly resembles the American. A sink with an unlimited supply of fresh water, a stove, and a table, are articles common to both. Besides these it has, what every civilized kitchen should have, a butcher’s chopping-block, a pastry-table, and a condiment-case. The pastry-table differs from the ordinary kind in having a hard-wood top of extra thickness. The rolling-pins that accompany it are three in number, of hard wood, three inches in diameter, and about five feet long. The condiment-case is a flat-box about three by two feet, and usually contains the following: salt, black, white, and red pepper, mustard, dried lemon and orange peel, ginger, both plain and pickled, saffron, soy, vinegar, lemon-juice, garlic onion, cassia buds, tamarind extract, sweet oil, walnut catchup, tarragon, savory, thyme, mint, and dried celery. These make up the condiments used in ordinary cooking. On great occasions other and more expensive articles are employed.

Culinary utensils have one peculiarity. Almost all are globular and made in one piece. The Chinese cook dislikes the angles, corners, and edges of American pans and pots, as these involve much more trouble in cleaning and are liable to hold dirt or drying organic matter beyond the reach of a dish-cloth of a dish-brush. Most pans and pots are segments of a globe two or three feet in diameter. Kitchen spoons, strainers, cake-turners, stirrers, and scoops are made with the same curvature, so that the cook has no difficulty in managing any article he may be cooking.

Fires are made of both coal and wood, though the latter is universally preferred. They are built generally inside, but at times outside, the stove. In roasting, smoking, or drying any food the article is suspended by a wire in the center of the fire-pit, and the fire is built on a pile of bricks just outside the ash-pit door. The draught carries the flame and heated air through the fire-pit to the chimney, and so accomplishes the work to be done. Where slow roasting would dry the juices of the food the article is first suspended over a very hot, sharp fire until the skin is browned, and is then treated in the way just described.

Chinese cooks vary from their American colleagues in other ways. The keeping of raw meats is not tolerated in a first-class celestial kitchen, ice-box or no ice-box. A chicken or duck is carefully kept alive inn a little pen until an hour before dinner, and is then killed. Pork, beef, and mutton are cooked as soon as delivered by the butcher. The reason is that in warm climates raw meats turn bad and decay in a few hours, while, when cooked, especially roasted, they would keep as many days. The empyreumatic oils of the smoke in roasting act as a preservative, and will keep duck and pork sweet and wholesome for more than a fortnight. In fact, prominent Chinese exports are smoked duck and pork, which are sent and sold all over the world. 

Nearly all Chinese kitchen utensils are provided with a hook, ring, and eye in order to hang up. Over the stoves is an iron bar or heavy wire to which spoon-stirrer and cake-turner are alike attached. Even knives and cleavers, forks and prongs, are treated in this way. In a good Chinese kitchen every article is required to be spotless, ready for use, and visible to the guest. 

Business begins about 7 o’clock and continues till midnight. Despite the small prices charged, it pays fairly from an American and very well from a Chinese standpoint. The proprietor of a good restaurant seldom clears less than $1,000 a year. In five years he can return to his native village and there be a social mugwump for the rest of his life. Many of them become Americanized and endeavor to live accordingly. Not long since Yu Ung said to a party of New Yorkers dining there:

“Melican man buy gal when he mally?”

“Yes, some do,” answered one of the party.

“All velly good!” said Yu Ung, with a grin of the most intense kind permitted by the Mongolian physiognomy. “Me quite lich. Got six thousand dollies in the bank; got a velly good business. Me velly good man. Me no dlink, no smoke, no gamble, no fight, no get mad. Me velly lonely, and want velly good, nice, little, pletty wife. You sabe heap gals. You tell them allee about me, and you say if she mally me give gal allee my money, be velly good husband, take good care of baby, and lettee wife do allee she please allee same Melican man.” It is reported that Yu Fung’s desires are soon to be gratified.

The Wayne County Herald (Honesdale, Pennsylvania), August 20, 1885, reprinted an article from the New York Sun.
Chop Scou.
Almost every day in the early morning a crowd of Chinamen can be seen buying fresh pork at the stalls in Washington market. The purchases range from five to fifty pounds in weight, and are selected with great care. Yesterday, among the Celestial buyers, the reporter ran across Fang Low, who is cook and steward for a large club in Chinatown. In a capacious basket, half full of green vegetables, Fang had twenty pounds of “fresh pig.”

“Me takee him home. Velly well, me smoke him,” said the bland Oriental. “You come ’long and see him.”

The reporter accompanied him to his kitchen, which is on the second floor of No. 14 Mott street. Here Fang went to work industriously. He washed the pork thoroughly, and with a sharp knife removed all the bone, cartilage, and skin. A second and more energetic washing ensued, after which the pork was cut into strips about fourteen inches long, four wide, and a half inch thick. The strips were laid in a pan, and over them was poured a brown fluid resembling Worcestershire sauce, in appearance and flavor. After a few minutes soaking in this aromatic bath, each strip was fastened to an iron rod by a wire hook. The rod was then laid across the open top of a brick oven, so that the strips hung suspended in what with Americans would be the fire pit. The top was then closely covered with pine boards. Outside of the oven on a pile of bricks built continuous with the ash door, Fang then made a very hot fire with small pieces of dry hickory wood. The draught, regulated by pieces of sheet iron on either side of the fire, carried the flame and smoke into the ash pit and thence through the fire pit into the chimney. In the bottom of the ash pit was a pan which received the melted fat from the strips of pork.

“Makee fire velly hot, pig cook quick and allee fat lun out,” said Fang. “Makee little fire, pig cook velly slow—two, thlee hour, and fat no lun out.”

The reporter tasted two pieces. One which had been quickly cooked was crisp, and in flavor half-way beteen [sic] well roasted chicken and a thoroughly cooked tenderloin. The other, which had been cooked three hours, was almost like first-class English breakfast bacon. The flavor of the sauce and of the hickory smoke, however, made both different from anything he had ever tasted.
“Chinaman call him chop scou,” remarked the cook, “and like him evely time. Like him heap much. Him velly cheap—little plate, 5 cent; big plate, 10 cent.”—N.Y., Sun.

The Daily Sentinel (Rome, New York), September 12, 1885, published the following.
The Second Chinese Baby in New York.
Last Friday Lo Chow, the junior member of the Chinese importing house of No. 5 Mott street became the father of a boy—the second Simon-pure Chinese child born in this city. Lo Chow’s wife boasts that her feet are only three inches long. Yesterday a party was held to name the child. The head of the infant was shaved in Mongolian style and the outline traced of the future cue. Friends and relatives made many presents to the child, including Jade bracelets, chain and lockets, girdle, anklets and necklaces. After the reception a feast was spead [sic] at the Chinese Delmonico’s (No. 14 Mott street,) where the consumption of shark’s fins, bamboo shoots and bird’s nest soup lasted until a late hour. The baby was named Foh Sheou, meaning endless prosperity.—N. Y. Tribune.

The New York Sun, May 30, 1886, reported the visit by Minister Chang Yen Moon. 
... A banquet was to have been given to the Minister at 14 Mott street last evening, but it was postponed. As the Minister will return to Washington in a day or two, the banquet may not take place during his visit. ...
Wong Chin Foo noted the changes in Chinatown for the New York World, September 6, 1886. It’s not clear if the restaurant at 14 Mott Street had a new owner and name. 
... Then 14 Mott street, the Chinese Delmonico, was refitted throughout with imported furniture and other delicious, and subsequently its bill of fare was changed and its high rates reduced. The owners sent out flaming colored posters. ...

Wong Chin Foo was the host of a dinner reported by the New York Sun, November 23, 1886. 
A Wrong Side Up Dinner.
Commissioner Andrews  Tackles a Bill of Fare from the Other Side of the World.
Excise Commissioner William S. Andrews, who has for years been ambitious to eat a regulation Chinese dinner, ate one last night and thinks that he will be able to get out to-day. Wong Chin Foo was his host. Dressed in an American derby and overcoat and other American things, Wong led the way to the Chinese chop house at 14 Mott street. The Commissioner was in evening dress. He brought along two New York friends to help him, and when they had mastered the chopsticks they drove right through fourteen courses of dinner without quailing. It took nearly three hours, and this was a bill of the performance:

1. Tea served in costly china cups.
2. Cake.
3. Lichee nuts.
4. Sweatmeats,
5. Roast duck.
6. Roast chicken.
7. Boned ducks feet fried with mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.
8. Chicken bones fried in lard until the bone was soft as the flesh, and dressed with Chinese sweet pickle, ginger and celery.
9. American pike fried, with mushrooms and water lily potato.
10. Cuttlefish, with Chinese sweet turnips and saifun beans.
11. Tchowmien macaroni, flour stewed with chicken, celery and mushrooms.
12. Chinese sausages, composition uncertain.
13. Citron soup with shrimps.
14. Lotus seed and apricot seed soup.

Commissioner Andrews washed it all down with three kinds of Chinese wine. One was the nomaidayo pear wine, the second a white wine distilled from rice, and the third Chinese gin made of apricot seed.

An article published in the New York Herald, February 26, 1889. 
Dong Fong’s Soft Snap. 
“Ya-che-fu-haa-a, Yang se Kiang hua so y ba-a.” 
These mellifluous words reached my ears while I was standing in the corridor of the County Court House yesterday. The Celestial who had addressed the remark to a fellow countryman was directing his footsteps toward the equity branch of the Court of Common pleas and I followed, as I translated his remark to mean “There will be some fun at the trial in there.”

Judge Van Hoesen looked down from the bench upon a score of clean shaven Chinese mugs, which belonged to the distinguished men interested in the suit of Dong Fong against Dong Ing, Dong Ah Chew, Ong Ping, Ah Mow, Leon Coon, Chung Yack, Willie Hung, Yuck Yon and other members of the firm of Hong Wah Hing Kee, doing a general business in teas, medicines, swallow nests, glacé rat tails and other delicacies, at No. 14 Mott street. Mr. Fong, who is a big boned gentleman of the brunette type, wearing a faded coal, with voluminous sleeves, and a china bracelet, was at one time a member of the firm, and he enjoyed the duties assigned to him so much that when he received a vigorous kick that sent him flying out of the business his feelings were deeply hurt and he retained the law firm of Booraem, Hamilton & Beckett to sue for an accounting. It all came about in this wise. Mr. Fong borrowed $200 from Ho Que to invest in the firm. When he was asked to repay the loan he stood Mr. Que off. Mr. Que induced Yuck Yan to give him the $200 and had Mr. Fong’s name scratched off the firm’s books and Mr. Yon’s put in its place.

Fong said on the witness stand that he had originally borrowed $260, and had kept $60 in his own pocket to spend. Ah Mow, who seemed to boss the business, started him to work at a soft snap. The firm ran a game for treats in the basement, and Fong was given $30 a day for about five weeks to play with and to treat customers. One day he advanced some money to a friend and Ah Mow kicked. The result was that Fong drew out of the game. Fong referred to Mr. Mow yesterday as the biggest skin that ever was. The trial will be continued to-day.

Me Hong Low, also spelled Mee Hong Low, was the name of restaurants in New York City, Pawtucket, Rhode Island and San Francisco, California

Harper’s Weekly, November 22, 1890. 14 Mott Street, 
a four-story building, is the fourth building from the left.

14 Mott Street on the far right;
date unknown

The New York City Me Hong Low was located at 14 Mott Street and, I believe, was in business in the early 1890s. Proceedings of the Commissioners of the Sining Fund of the City of New York 1895, 1896 and 1897 listed several establishments that paid fines “for Violations of the Sanitary Code or Health Laws”. On December 19, 1894, “Mee Hong Low” paid five dollars.

The address of Me Hong Low was mentioned, near the bottom of the articles, in the New York Sun, November 10, 1895, and East-Hampton Star (New York), December 13, 1895.

New York Sun

East-Hampton Star

The Century Magazine, November 1896, published an illustration, by F. H. Lungren, of Mott Street.

14 Mott Street restaurant on the right;
Hong Yuen Restaurant at 16 Mott Street.
Scan from the author’s collection

The New York Journal, January 21, 1897, reported the following dinner.
Bet and Ate Birds’ Nests
Southern Pacific Officials Dined in Chinatown by Chinese Six Companies’ Officials

Members of the Six Companies gave a dinner last night to several officials of the Southern Pacific Railway Company at the establishment of Me Hong Low, Sing Kee & Co., No. 14 Mott street. 

The dinner was in payment of a wager to which the principals were Lee B. Lok, of the firm of Lung Quong On, and Mr. John D. Newman. Lee Lok is a nephew of Lee Choup, the high priest of the joss house in Chinatown. Choup is a cousin of Li Hung Chang, and is a big official in the Six Companies. 

The menu included birds’ nests, sharks’ fins and Celestial delicacies—in all thirty-seven courses.

After dinner the party were shown through the temple and the Chinese theatre. 

The New York Herald, August 15, 1897, wrote about Colonel Robert M. Floyd’s dinner for Professor Charles G. D. Roberts at Me Hong Low. 
Gave His Friends “Si Wo Opp.”
Colonel Robert Mitchell Floyd, a retired merchant whose home is on Jersey City Heights, gave a Chinese dinner yesterday in honor of Professor Charles G. D. Roberts, a Canadian writer and poet, who recently came to this city to reside.

Colonel Floyd entertained his guests, twelve in number, at No. 14 Mott street. They sat down at two o’clock, and devoted the next three hours to Chinese delicacies. This is what they ate: 

[Chinese characters in four columns] 
A Key to the Chart

For the benefit of readers who may not care to read this bill of fare it may be stated that Colonel Floyd’s dinner consisted to twelve courses. The first included almonds, watermelon seeds, lichee nuts, peanuts, fresh lichee, pineapple, wheel fruit, pears. Canton ginger, Cumquat oranges, melon rind and chow-chow.The guests came under the wire after this round, in seventeen minutes. They next tried some “bok ne quay chow,” with “no omi zoo.” This course consisted of fowl in the nest and white rice wine. It was followed with “yong yee chee,” which tasted better under the English name of shark fin rolls. The “si wo opp,” which was served next, was declared by all present to be the best Chinese bird in the bush they had had since the visit of Li Hung Chang to this country.

The next four courses consisted of “neyung dun goo,” with “mow gung zoo,” “guy yic,” “yen wa gong” and “suey be gop,” with “moy guen sco.” While all this was under way Colonel Floyd’s guests were partaking of mushrooms and chopped fish, with wine of the roots; stuffed chicken wings, bird’s nest soup and boiled pigeon, with rose wine.

On the Last Four Laps.

Four courses remained to come after four o'clock. These consisted of “abalone yung bow ye,“ ”gow gook chop suey,” “linsin gong gow atzer” and “sue sin char.” All of which, being expressed in ordinary English, means that Colonel Floyd and his guests finished their dinner with boiled abalones, stuffed with pork; beef chop suey, bean sprouts, water chestnuts and boiled rice, white nut broth, sweet cakes and water lily tea.

Colonel Floyd gave a similar dinner in April last to forty friends. His guests yesterday, besides Professor Roberts, were John J. Rooney, Francis Bellamy, Duffield Osborne, Robert Wentworth Floyd William C. Roberts, Joseph Bayan, Whidden Graham, Stephen B. Stanton, John Find, Patrick O’Mara and Vincent S. Cook.

The dinner was served on a small, round table, about which the guests seated themselves on high stools. The table was of a sire usually used to accommodate four persons.
New York Herald

The New York Times reported the same dinner and its story was reprinted, to some degree, or mentioned in the Watertown Daily Times (New York), August 21, 1897; Buffalo Evening News (New York), August 25, 1897, “A Stuffed Novelist”; and Vancouver Daily World (British Columbia, Canada), September 1, 1897, “Roberts, the Poet and Novelist, Entertained at a Chinese Dinner”. 
A Dinner in Chinatown
The Peculiar Pungency of Rose Wine Described

Shark Fins, Nut Broth, Bird’s Nest Soup, Water Lily Tea, and Other Oriental Dainties Offered for Occidental Appreciation.

New York Times:
A Chinese dinner of 12 courses was served yesterday afternoon in honor of Prof. Charles G. D. Roberts, the Canadian novelist and post, who is one of the founders of the Canadian club of this city. Col. Robert Mitchell Floyd was the host.

One of the events of the occasion was rose wine, which came with the eighth course. It looks like, spring water, is served in delicate clear glass receptacles about the size and shape of large rose leaves and has the lifting power of a jackscrew and the explosive force of dynamite. As it touches the palate all feeling departs, and the world vanishes for an instant. The drinker then becomes conscious of his throat and knows that it has become a spot of scorching flame. His lungs go out of business and his breath ceases. As the heal runs like electric flashes down his windpipe and through bis body and limbs, he knows that he is yet on the earth and living, and his entire being is permeated with a faint, evanescent suggestion of the breath of a living rose with the dew on it.

Then he draws in the good, cool air wipes his eyes, clears the perspiration from his brow, and says, “Thank you, yes,” as his neighbor proffers another libation of the beverage from the curved stem, not much thicker than a knitting needle, of a small and slender porcelain tea pot. The drinking of it is a progress through oblivion and fire for the moment of half conscious existence as the exhalation of roses.

The banquet began with nuts, fruits, and preserves, and ended with white nut broth, with sweet cakes and water nut broth, with sweet cakes and water lily tea. It was a new experience for most of the guests and was enjoyed. The scene was the restaurant of Me Hong Low on the second story of 14 Mott street. Between the courses everybody rose from the big round table and walked about or sat on the veranda and looked down upon the queer life in the narrow and crooked thoroughfares of Chinatown. At first they looked up at the windows of the opposite tenements where some rich Chinamen live, and their American wives and children were visible, clad in garments of many colors and fabrics and oriental fashion, but the heads of those establishments quickly drove their families out of sight and mutual curiosity was balked.

Col. Floyd makes a fad of Chinese cookery. He claims it is really the perfection of the gastronomic art, and is eager as a missionary in inculcating his opinions among his friends and introducing the remarkable things he likes into their systems. He had with him yesterday, besides Prof. Roberts, John Jerome Dooney, Vincent S. Cooke, Floyd, William Cannon Roberts, Joseph Bayan, Widden Graham, Stephen B. Stanton, John Find, an Americanized Chinese merchant and Patrick O’Mara, the botanical expert. They talked of Keats and ate boiled abalones stuffed with pork—“abalone yung bow ye”—and soften the contrast with rose wine; discussed Ibsen and high art over bean sprouts and water chestnuts with boiled rice, the same being “gow gook chop-suey,” and made of themselves perambulating warehouses of such assorted materials as wheel fruit, shark fins, Canton ginger, bird’s nest soup, chow-chow, and melon rind, broiled pigeon, stuffed chicken wings, mushroom, and chopped fish.

The bill of fare was printed in English with the Chinese names in English characters on an opposite page, and in Chinese characters for the guidance of the caterer, in the middle. It included all the best and most esteemed dainties of a high class Chinese menu, was prepared by a chef who would wear a blue ribbon if he was a Frenchman, and was served by a corps of Chinese waiters. Mr. Find explained the composition of the various dishes, and Mr. O’Mara strove conscientiously to identify and classify the vegetable portions. Chopsticks were used exclusively.

The consumption of the feast began at 2 o’clock and lasted until the big gongs were booming and the huge paper lanterns were lighted in the Joes house upstairs, and the sidewalks below were crowded with chattering Chinaman, resting after their day’s work; the clang of the cymbals in the Doyers street theatre was mingling with the shrill notes of Moody and Sankey hymns from the Salvation Army girls in the mission house. Then the company dispersed reluctantly, and the Chinamen along the sidewalks exchanged comments and criticisms, probably of a derisive and deprecatory character upon the invaders of their realm. Mr. Hong Long was a proud man and bowed to the floor in recognition of the merits of Melican men who could appreciate Chinese cookery and carry away in excellent style much white rice wine, wine of the roots, rose wine, and water lily tea. He took to himself the analect of Mencius printed on the menu—“The superior man has three delights * * * That he can get from the whole empire the most talented individuals and nourish them.”
Watertown Daily Times

There are seven restaurants in Chinatown which rank as first-class places, and four others of the second or lower class, some of which would more properly be called mere eating houses. Those of the first-class are the following: Hon Heong Lau, 11 Mott Street; King Heong Lau, 16 Mott Street; Me Heong Lau, 14 Mott Street; Way Heong Lau, 20 Mott Street; Gui Ye Quan, 34 Pell Street; Mon Li Won, 24 Pell Street, and Kum Sun, 16 Pell Street. The menu and prices charged in these several places are substantially the same. They each serve a variety of dishes classified according to the price charged as per the following. ...
According to the New York World, January 25, 1898, the Year of the Dog occurred the same day as a solar eclipse. 
Ominous New Year in Chinatown.
At Its Beginning the Sun Was Eclipsed—No Man Knows What May Happen.

Gloom Over Mott Street.
Baked Meats Were Offered in the Joss-House, but Who Can Tell What Foreign Devils Will Do?

Some Men Would Celebrate.
The Wiser Sought to Propitiate the Gods, Doubtless Angry and After Vengeance.

The shadow of the dragon still lies on Chinatown. 
The New Year has come and the face of the sun was hidden.

An evil portent lies in the eclipse, and the German fleet before Kiaochau is no more an ill-omen than the death here of the celebrated Pell street goat.

So gloom rests on Chinatown. ...

... An occasional burst of sound from behind some closed door told that a braver spirit still made effort to celebrate the day. But it was short-lived. In the Kwon [sic] Wah Tai, at No. 14 Mott street, a reed-pipe blatted and shrilled and wailed at odd moments, and a listless crowd stood about wondering at the man who so tempted the anger of the gods. 

In the Me Hong Low restaurant trade was at a standstill, and the feast dishes turned cold untasted. Along the curb an occasional throng watched with uninterested faces for what might happen, and even in the temple the tom-toms rested at evening. 

For the new year had come and gone in Chinatown, and gloom hung in the streets.
The entrance of 16 Mott Street

The shooting of a Me Hong Low cook was reported in these newspapers.

New York Evening Journal, March 28, 1898
Got Shot for a Bad Chop Soy. 
Four Cherry Street Toughs Create panic in a Chinatown Restaurant.

Chef Quong Won Dying.
Shot Down for Protesting in Me Hong Low & Co.’s Mott Street Place.

Wants to Be Buried in China.

Because four visitors from Cherry street objected to the “chop suey” he had prepared for them, Quong Won, chef in the Chinese restaurant of Me Hong Low & Co., No. 14 Mott street, was fatally shot in the breast this morning, and for two hours Chinatown was in an uproar. 

Four young men entered the restaurant at 8 o’clock and called for something to eat. Charley Low, one of the proprietors, took their orders.

One of the customers tasted the “chop suey” and then threw the dish to the floor, saying uncomplimentary things about Chinese cookery in Cherry street dialect.

From behind the kitchen screen Quong Won heard the discussion and came out to protest.

Diners Fled in Terror.

“My chop soy velly good,” said Quong Won, and then the Cherry street heathen fell upon him and proprietor Low. 

Several of the Chinese waiters went to the assistance of their fellows, and in the fight that followed tables and chairs were overturned and the other late diners fled in terror. 

Suddenly one of the visitors drew a revolver, and a second later Quong Won dropped to the floor with a groan.

Then the four assailants escaped. 

Policeman Peter Carter arrived after the fight was over and found only hysterical Chinese and the prostate Quong Won, who faintly expressed the wish that he be interred beside the bones of his ancestors, near Hong Kong.

Thinks Quong Will Die.

Dr. Rodman, of the Hudson Street Hospital, who came with the ambulance, said Quong would probably die, but Proprietor Low refused to have him removed. 

Detectives Finn and Bennett, of the Elizabeth street station, are looking for the dying chef’s assailants. ...

New York Evening Post, March 28, 1898

A Chinaman Shot During a Quarrel.

Quong Won, employed as cook in a Chinese restaurant at No. 14 Mott Street, was shot in his left side at half-past two o’clock this morning in the restaurant by an unknown white man, who escaped. Four men refused to pay their bill, a quarrel ensued, and in it Quong Won was shot. The four men then ran away. The wound was not serious.

New York Press, March 29, 1898
Bill Paid with Bullet
White Men Relished Chinese Food, But Not the Price It Cost.
“If you don’t like the grub, shoot the cook.”

This was once a favorite motto in Wild Western restaurants, but it was disastrous to cooks—of the cook didn’t get his gun out first. Although no such motto was displayed in the Chinese restaurant at No. 14 Mott street yesterday, four white men, names unknown, put the rule into effect and Now Quong Wong, the chef of the establishment, carried a bullet in his left side.

The men entered the restaurant and after dining on chop suey, lichee nuts and other delicacies, refused to pay the bill. In the fight which followed one of the white men drew a revolver and fired it at Quong Wong. He is not seriously hurt. The four men escaped.

New York Sun, March 29, 1898
Chinese Cook Shot
Badly Wounded by a Customer Who Didn’t Like His Cooking.
Quong Wong, one of the best cooks in Chinatown, was shot early yesterday morning in No Hung Low’s [sic] restaurant at 14 Mott street. Four Chinamen entered the restaurant a little before 3 o’clock and called for several Chinese dishes, which Wong essayed to cook. When the food was put before them they insisted that it was not properly cooked, and refused to eat it.

The proprietor called upon his cook to defend his cooking. An argument resulted between Quong Wong and the four Chinamen, which ended in one of them drawing a revolver and shooting Wong in the left breast. 

When Policeman Carter arrived the customers had made their escape. Carter called an ambulance for Wong, who appeared to be badly hurt. When it arrived a number of his countrymen barricaded the door and refused to allow him to be taken away. The wounded man was finally left to the ministrations of native physicians. 

The stabbing of a Me Hong Low waiter was reported in the following newspapers.

New York Evening Telegram, November 9, 1898
Chinaman Found Dying with Stab
Shue White, with a Terrible Wound in the Neck, Taken to Hudson Street Hospital.

His Assailant Not Known
Every Celestial Had Vanished from the Scene, a Restaurant, When Authorities Arrived.

Delay in Telling Police
Hospital Failed to Give Notice of the Mott Street Mystery.

With a terrible stab wound in his neck, evidently made with a large knife, Chue White, a Chinese waiter, fifty-six years old, was found in a dying condition early this morning in a restaurant at No. 12 Mott street. Because of his condition the man was unable to tell who stabbed him, and the police, so far, have been unable to find any clew that will aid them in unraveling the mystery. They have been greatly handicapped in their efforts to find White’s assailant, because the finding of the man was not reported from the Hudson Street Hospital for several hours.

White was employed in the restaurant where he was attacked. Me Hong Low was his employer. He lived next door, at No. 14 Mott street, and had been at work all the evening, serving chop suey, shark’s fins and other delicacies to Chinamen of the district, but shortly after midnight, when an ambulance was summoned not a person was in the place. 

Dr. Bailey, the ambulance surgeon, found the Chinaman lying on the floor with a pool of blood that had flowed from the wound in his neck near him. The man was so exhausted from loss of blood that he could not speak. The physician saw the patient’s condition was critical and hastened with him to the hospital without making any inquiry about the manner in which he had been hurt.

When Sergeant McNamara, of the Eldridge street station, learned of the case it was nearly three o’clock, and even then the word came from a boy and not from the hospital. The boy said a Chinaman had been stabbed in a fight at No. 12 Mott street, but could not give any particulars. Detective Brennan hastened to the restaurant where he found everything as quiet as if the place had never been inhabited.

He woke up Me Hong Low and several other Chinamen, but all, with the best English they could command, declared they knew nothing about any fight. Half a dozen detectives were put on the case at daylight, but, owing to the inborn reticence of every Chinaman in Mott street, they have been unable to learn anything. White’s condition was reported, as critical at the hospital this morning.

New York Press, November 10, 1898

Chu Wy’s Sad Soul Hungers for Cash
Will Ask Coin in Advance in Chinatown Restaurant

New Rule Made Because Customers with Election “Jags” Got Too Gay with Him.

After Chu Wy recovers from his injuries and leaves the Hudson Street Hospital to go back to his duties as head waiter in Me, Hong, Low & Co.’s restaurant, at No. 14 Mott street, he will put a new rule into effect.

Chu Wy is not able to prepare “copy” for a sign painter at present, but he will have that rule printed in big black letters and hung all about the dining room. A narrow strip of red paper, a yard long, covered with Chinese hieroglyphics, will hang side by side with an English translation done by Chinatown’s best sign painter.

This rule, done into plain English, will read that Americans with large appetites, who desire to dine on Chinese delicacies, must “put up” a cash deposit in advance or give some other “guarantee of good faith.”

Not Real Gents, at All.

The mean, low-down way in which two Van Wyck rooters imposed upon Chu Wy on election night, and than slashed his lemon-colored countenance, is the cause of all this diplomatic ruling.

Calm and peaceful as a deaf-mute convention, was Chu Wy’s restaurant on Tuesday night. Whether Roosevelt or Van Wyck was elected, it disturbed not the sedate Celestials, and the shouts and cheers of enthusiastic rooters outside bad no effect upon them.

Shortly before midnight two husky-looking persons entered the restaurant. On their breasts were pinned Democratic buttons as big as saucers, from which hung streamers. Chu Wy salaamed his best salaam, and smiled his sweetest smile.

Bowery whisky and whisky of other parts of town had made the visitors reckless; so they didn’t stop to read the English-printed bill of fare. Somebody told them that Van Wyck was elected, so they did not care for expense.

“Bring us all you got in the house!” said, the man with the big mustache.

Many Delicacies.

Chu Wy salaamed again, shuffled to the kitchen and told the cooks to stir themselves. Roast duck, roast pig, birds’ nest soup, chow chop suey, pickled sharks’ fins, dried fish and other delicacies that delight the Chinese epicure were set before the hungry representatives of the Democracy.

While they gorged themselves Chu Wy retired to a corner and figured up the bill. It certainly was not small. The meal eaten, Chu Wy brought forth tiny, glasses of samshu, the fiery liquor distilled from rice. 

Over this the customers smacked their lips They called for more. The glasses were filled several times, and Chu Wy was about to go for the tea when his customers jumped up from the table and bolted toward the door.

Chu Wy ran after them, shouting in pidgin English and Chinese. Half a dozen pig-tailed heads were shoved out from doors, and soon there was more excitement in Mott street than it had seen for many a day. 

Got Him by the Queue.

Chu Wy seized one of the fugitives, demanding money for the meal. The man grabbed Chu by the queue and stabbed him In the face with a penknife.

All Chu Wy’s courage vanished then and he sat down on the curbstone to reflect. His brethren gathered around him, and while they chattered the Melican men escaped.

In the Hudson Street Hospital, Chu, with the gash in his cheek sewed up, is lying on a cot trying to think out a proper sign.

New York Herald, November 10, 1898 

Chinaman Found Stabbed.
Shue White, It Was Reported, Was Hurt in a Fight and Is in a Dying Condition.

With a terrible stab wound in his neck, evidently made with a large knife, Shue White, a Chinese waiter, fifty-six years old, was found in a dying condition early yesterday morning in a restaurant at No. 12 Mott street. Because of his condition the man was unable to tell who stabbed him, and the police, so far, have been unable to find any clew that will aid them in unravelling the mystery. They have been greatly handicapped in their efforts to find White’s assailant because the finding of the man was not reported from the Hudson Street Hospital for several hours.

White was employed in the restaurant where he was attacked. Me Hong Low was his employer. He lived next door, at No. 14 Mott street, and had been at work all the evening, serving chop suey, shark’s fins and other delicacies to Chinamen of the district, but shortly after midnight, when an ambulance was summoned, not a person was in the place. 

Der. Bailey, the ambulance surgeon, found the Chinaman lying on the floor, unable to speak.

When Sergeant McNamara, of the Eldridge street station, learned of the case it was nearly three o’clock, and even then the word came from a boy and not from the hospital. The boy said a Chinaman had been stabbed In a fight at No. 12 Mott street, but could not give any particulars. Detective Brennan hastened to the restaurant, where he found everything as quiet as if the place had never been inhabited.

He woke up Me Hong Low and several other Chinamen, but all, with their best English they could command, declared they knew nothing about any fight. Half a dozen detectives were put on the case at daylight, but, owing to the inborn reticence of every Chinaman in Mott street, they have been unable to learn anything. White’s condition was reported, as critical at the hospital last night.

New York Daily Tribune, November 10, 1898

Queer Crime in Chinatown.
A Cook Found with His Throat Cut—Won’t Say How He Was Hurt—No Arrests.

A citizen called an ambulance from the Hudson Street Hospital late on Tuesday night to care for a Chinaman who was found with his throat cut in a restaurant kept by Me, Hong, Low & Co., on the second floor of No. 14 Mott-st. The Chinaman was weak from loss of blood, and was unable or unwilling to tell how he had received his wound. At the hospital it was learned, after much difficulty, that his name was Chue White, and that he was employed as a cook in the restaurant. 

The police of the Elizabeth-st. station were not informed of the case until 1 o’clock yesterday morning, when a small boy entered the station and informed the sergeant that “a chink” had been cut in a “scrap” at No. 14 Mott-st. A detective was sent to investigate, but he found the eating-house closed. All of the Chinamen in the building were apparently asleep, and those who were aroused shrugged their shoulders and intimated that they knew nothing of the affair.

Another effort was made yesterday to ascertain how the wounded Celestial received his injury, but vainly, and as the Chinaman at the hospital still refused to say how he had been hurt or to accuse anybody the police could do nothing. The doctors at the hospital hope to save White’s life.

Shortly after this incident, the restaurant closed and reopened under a new name.

Related Posts

No comments:

Post a Comment