NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Chatting over dinner one night, Kiyomi Wang and Karen Song had an idea. What if they could create their own restaurant that served only their favorite dishes? The menu would highlight Chinese specialties from Chengdu and Shenyang, their respective hometowns. When they came upon a vacancy on the Lower East Side, their dream became reality. They named it Public Village.
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Wang and Song highlight the regional distinctions of the food they grew up on. They appreciate the salty stews of Northeast Chinese cuisine and the tongue-numbing spice of Sichuan cooking.
“Each item, we put heart and effort in it,” Song said.
It takes sixteen hours to prepare the beef noodle soup, whose homemade noodles get their black color from squid ink. Even the chili oil is homemade.
With their soft, barbecue-flavored fries dusted with sesame seeds, they like to surprise newcomers, who sometimes don’t recognize the dish as potatoes.
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At Public Village, Wang and Song have manifested a sort of clubhouse, where they listen to their favorite music and challenge each other to games of mahjong.
“It’s like a home to us,” Song said.
The restaurant celebrated its opening in March. After less than a week of service, it was forced to close in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly two months later, Wang and Song were able to reopen with an emphasis on takeout and street-side dining.
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Song acknowledges the challenges the pandemic has presented, but she remains optimistic.
“We are young, and we are very confident with our food,” she said. “It’s just a matter of time.”
23 Essex Street North
New York, NY 10002
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