There’s a treasure trove of eateries near the intersection of Jones Avenue and Spring Mountain Road. Restaurants, new and old, continually reinvent themselves and amidst this cornocopia is Niu-Gu, an unassuming Chinese restaurant, located in the same shopping center as District One and Asian BBQ.
The setting is unpretentious, with the feel of a small family-run, Mom and Pop establishment. But the food displays a high level of culinary savvy, with a sophisticated menu that includes dishes that would be seen, and enjoyed, in fancier, fine-dining destinations. This dichotomy is, at least initially, jarring and will affect the dining experience of each person differently.
My favorite dish is Niu-Gu’s Braised Short Ribs ($35). It’s a tender, flavorful piece of beef, served with the bone, cave-man style. Eaten alongside the Fried Rice, it’s as good as it gets.
Their seafood is fresh and made-to-order. I’ve had their Double Chili Shrimp ($18), whilst fiery red, it tastes mild.
A less-than-stellar dish was their Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (ramen?). The soup is served with tender pieces of beef still attached to the rib bone in a slightly spicy broth with (ramen?) noodles. It gets points for presentation, but the flavor was lacking, not a re-do for me.
Although never a favorite of mine, I bowed to peer pressure and tried their beef tongue salad - thin slices of tongue served on top of cucumber slices and doused with a fiery chili oil. To those who love beef tongue, this is the dish for you, but as for me, I can’t get used to the texture.
Niu-Gu also does a great rendition of Xia Long Baos ($8) and pan-fried dumplings ($5). There’s also a farm-to-tea service for tea aficiandoes. As a rare find, they have a separate dessert menu, although the last time I went, they did not offer it.
While the prices are not unreasonable for the quality and craftsmanship of their food, you should not expect a cheap meal, even given the modest setting. For now, Niu-Gu has not entered my regular rotation, but I highly recommend it as an adventure, if only to experience their sublime short ribs.