So what exactly happens when one opens a restaurant on one of the most heavily trafficked sidewalks in East Village? Nothing really in this case. For the same reason that visitors may not even notice one of the most beautiful churches around, the Ukrainian Catholic church. They usually miss Streecha, the church cafeteria serving homey stuffed cabbage and pierogies. They miss the Hebrew Actors Union, the headquarters of Yiddish actors forming the US first actors union. And they walk right passed Le Sia, a new gem serving Beijing style street food. They miss all that because they are on a mission to get to the Taj Mahal of New York pubs and the oldest bar (disputed by some historians but thats for another time in another life), McSorley’s. It feels like at any given time, 90% of the tourists in East Village are inside McSorley’s, while 5% are looking for it.
But a quick peak inside the French sounding Le Sia, a few doors up and you see a bustling crawfish and skewers fest, packed with locals. But that wasnt the case during the first few months. A perfect example of a mom/pop (more like mom/friend in this case) relying almost exclusively on word of mouth which is spreading like wildfire. And fire is what you get when ordering their seafood boils and some of the other dishes. They did finally get some coverage from Eater, but that was already after waits started to form.
You get the sense that the folks at Le Sia have the kitchen experience but not so much restaurant managing experience, but you got to start somewhere. Head chef and one of the owners used to work at the famed DaDong in Beijing. The idea here is to create something common in Beijing, somewhat available in Flushing and Sunset Park, but lacking in Manhattan. In fact I didnt even know crawfish boils were a thing in China until I passed by the Sunset Park place too many times. The Cajun/Louisiana connection mentioned by some of the Yelpers, is purely coincidental. And to add fuel to the fire, or maybe showing some humor they offer Chinese Jambalaya.
And that sweet and spicy Jambalaya ladened with crawfish, peas and egg is a sharp upgrade over the common Chinese Fried Rice. The skewers are cheap ($1.50-3) and mostly good but somewhat uniform in flavor. Liberal use of Cumin seeds is like an homage to the shuttered Biang! nearby. My favorites so far are the chicken wings, gizzard, sausage, and beef wrapped with Enoki. They have some interesting cold dishes like Sichuan Cabbage which I’d pass in favor of the Spicy Mung Bean Jelly (Liang Fen) with one of those fermented black beans sauces you want to dip your fingers in, which I did. This could be the dish to get here besides the crawfish.
The boiled crustaceans are sold by the pound. Between the crawfish on one night, and crawfish and crab combo on another, the crawfish was fresher tasting and the clear winner. You select the spice level and the sauce. I went for the Herbal and “medium” which in this case proved spicy enough. The crawfish comes from Louisiana at the moment, and most likely that will be the case until June when the season ends. Then they will either get it from California or serve frozen.
Another winner one night was the butterflied garlicky eggplant side. Some of the dishes like the standalone Enoki missed the mark. While I normally like Enoki prepared as such, the seasoning here proved a little too strong for the delicate mushrooms. The grilled scallop featured some tasty glass noodles but not the scallop itself. They just got the liquor license but the beer list is a little pedestrian at the moment.
11 E 7th St (2nd/3rd), East Village
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Crawfish, Chinese Jambalaya, Spicy Mung Bean Jelly, Eggplant
Skewers: Chicken Wings, Gizzard, sausage, and beef wrapped with Enoki