Urban Hawker (Manhattan)

Eh, i don’t think anyone is getting hung up on marketing descriptions


I walked through on opening day. It was mobbed so I didn’t actually try anything. With the paucity of choices for lunch a lot of people were checking it out. I have not been to Singapore but my impression is that it’s very inauthentic unless Singaporeans eat a lot of vaguely Asian themed burgers. I might try again today as it’s Friday and far fewer people are at work.


I went today for lunch.

These are the vendors


Some of the kiosks are empty and others haven’t finished setting up their spaces. Will write later about my lunch.

“Street food” is the widely used term within Singapore itself, even though such vendors have operated almost exclusively within hawker centers for many decades. A less common term in neighboring Malaysia is “stall food,” which captures the idea of fixed premises but just doesn’t have the same ring.

During the soft opening this past Wednesday, the food hall was slammed, and what food there was, was probably not at its best. I’ll give Urban Hawker a couple of weeks before diving in again, although I might drop by the coffee vendor for kopi O, kaya toast, and a half-boiled egg. Hard to muck that up.


I also stopped in on Wednesday, since it is really close to my office. It was nuts. I did get somethings. Lady Wong and Kopi are good to go. I rally wanted that chili crab, but that one was not open. I might give it another try next week.

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I’ve been there twice recently.

Visit 1 was 6ish and the place wasn’t particularly slammed, but that (as it turned out) was because many vendors had run out of food. Lady Wong had shut down, and Mamak’s Corner was out of all biryanis and was down to three noodle dishes.

I got two fried rices from Mr. Fried Rice and the crab special (deep fried softshell) from Wok N’ Staple.

The crab was decent, but the chili sauce with it was disappointingly unchallenging, the bok choy limp and the “special sushi roll” they threw on on top a horrid, loose mess of vegetables and rice hastily dressed in nori. This was all atop a mound of rice.

Cost: $21.56 (pre-tip) plus a 3.5% credit card surcharge.

I was tempted by the chili crab but it was aimed at 2–4 diners, was twice as expensive, and the chili component seemed to consist of a few Thai chili slivers sprinkled on top of the crab shell. The service was comically inept. A diner who had asked for crab to go was served it a large ceramic bowl. There was confusion about which softshell crab was mine or was someone else’s, and the other customer and I were left to duel it out with crab claws at dawn. OK, I exaggerate – but it was left to us to compare order numbers and sort it out, while the counter person chuckled at the comedy of it all.

The rice component of my two fried rices were identically bland. Rice with bits of egg here and there. The chicken version did have a bit of pleasing chicken fat in it but the prawn paste the menu promised was entirely absent, at least to my coarse palate. Those of you with more sensitive tongues/noses may catch a whiff. Saving the best for last, the stingray version was very good (those crunchy bones!) and I’d get that again. There were also two small but tasty dabs of prawn past hidden in it, like little gifts.

Cost: Around $18 apiece.

Visit 2 was noonish and the place was indeed slammed. But I wanted Lady Wong, and, for better or for worse, I got some of her. They had four savory pastries and I got them all. I’m a sucker for savory pasty, but breathes there a human with soul so dead who isn’t? The sardine was by far the best, but – hard to believe – the inner sardine was chewy. So was (but more so) the chicken in the black-pepper chicken one (with no discernible black pepper), and even more so the pork in the char siu, the chunks of which challenged my teeth. My teeth won, but that’s only because I have such sharp teeth, dear. The standard curry puff was the biggest disappointment with slightly undercooked and entirely underseasoned potato. The last curry puffs I’ve had were at a Malaysian popup in Boston and they were less expensive and vastly better.

Plus, once again, comically inept staff – trouble with what I wanted, and an eventual stuffing of too much intended-to-be-crisp pastry into one small box.

On the whole, a disappointment, with food clearly watered down for the midtown office crowd, but worth a future visit once the kinks are worked out.

Let me add: What’s with all the dark decor? Do these food places aspire to Batrman-cave? Chelsea (the market not the great comedien) started it and this place continues the trend. Fight it, people. Ask for lighter floors, better lighting , in short Essex Strreet.


So far I haven’t seen any reason to give this place a try. long lines and I’m guessing the food is a pale imitation of singapore hawker food.


I’m responding because I’m a fan of Trading Places … and feel the same way you do about chili crab!

I’ve gone 3 times now. Been too busy to actually post about my meals until this weekend.

First time I went I tried the laksa here:

Added the shrimp for $3 and also the side of meatballs.

While it was spicy, it didn’t have much flavor. The shrimp were well cooked, tender and not rubbery at all. The meatballs were the star though. Expensive for lunch as with the CC surcharge and tip, it was about $29. A friend had the curry and he said it was very good.

Tried the chicken cutlet and curry from here:

Forgot to take picture of the food. Was okay.

Last meal was here:

Got the noodles with chicken cutlet and as I was in a fried chicken mood, also ordered the karaage.

This was the winner of my three meals. The karaage was ok but the noodles and broth were really tasty. If I hadn’t been in office, I would have picked up the container and drank the last of the broth.


I went with a group of eleven for brunch yesterday. We arrived a bit before the stalls opened at 11 (except for the coffee guys who were already open, and the crab guys, who open at 12) and snagged a table big enough for all of us. Then we split up to wait in the various - still very short - lines. We ordered an insane about of food, much of which was taken home, but a good deal of which sadly went to waste. (I’ll say no more about this, but I have thoughts.)


By 11:30, there was not a seat to be had, and the lines were at least 10 or 15 deep at the more popular vendors, like Hainan Jones. Four orders of Hainanese chicken from there made it to our table, and no one liked it all that much. The black pepper crab from Wok & Staple was the highlight for me, although it wasn’t very spicy - nothing was, not even the mala seafood white bee hun, seen here with the non-spicy version.


I also enjoyed the prawn ramen from Prawnaholic, although I just ate the excellent prawns and a little bit of the noodles, 'cause I don’t eat meat and the bowl was full of meat.


The oyster omelet from (I think) Smokin’ Joe was very good, more and better oysters than the version served at Kopitiam, but not as skillfully made. Our laksa was bizarrely served without noodles - dunno what’s up with that - and it was pretty lackluster. And we had samosas, which were samosas. These definitely needed a sauce - I kept trying the various hot sauces scattered about the table, but what I really wanted was a mint or cilantro relish.

And the crab. We got the chili crab also, the sauce of which tasted more of tomatoes than peppers. It’s easily enough for four (which makes that price tag easier to bear), well-prepared, served with fried bread and probably rice. I wasn’t paying attention by that point, as I was slipping into a food coma that was only partly offset by the hypersweet coffee I had first while we were waiting for the clock to strike 11.


We had very little troubling getting everything we wanted within a reasonable amount of time. The service was fine everywhere, and we were given buzzers to signal when our various foods were ready.


Coincidentally, I was there yesterday as well. My destination was actually the ham and butter sandwich at L’Ami Pierre the new Eric Ripert bakery next door to Le Bernardin (about which I have mixed feelings), but then I thought, why not the biryani at Mamak’s corner (with the 51st St entrance to UH just across the street). The biryani was (as Eater had noticed) simply curry on rice. Possibly that’s how biryani is interpreted in Singapore, or equally likely this how Singaporean biryani is translated to New Yorkese. So many translations here that it’s easy to lose something. I got the lamb “biryani”. Tender, good quality meat, but not very tasty. Low on salt, even. Their “pratha” with egg was good, with a small cup of lamb curry to accompany it – but for a variation on roti canai this did not do justice to the original.

I also got their samosa. I presume that this was the samosa about which this was said

I would add that they were pretty bad samosas. Overly doughy, insufficiently crisp crust. OK filling.

Since I was there, I wandered off to Lady Wong for a sardine puff, but they had none. I was briefly tempted by their durian crepe cake but I glanced at my waistline and realized that it was blocking my view of my feet and forwent the pleasure.

Not to be argumentative, but my experience of the service there has been poor. Wok & Staple was not offering buzzers when I was there a couple of weeks ago, nor was Mamak’s yesterday. At both places you had to hang around till the order was ready. At W&S they plunked the food down on the counter leading to confusion (see above) of which crab was whose. At Mamak’s one customer had the audacity to pay in cash (every stall seems to have a credit card surcharge) but they seemed baffled by this. The cash register was locked and they had to hunt for the key.

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here is a soft shell crab laksa I had in singapore, seems like a far cry from urban hawker laska.


Based on my experience, I totally agree. I’ll still be back, though, for the sardine puff and the stingray fried rice and to try a few other dishes I’ve never had, while recognizing that what I might get here is only a glimpse of the real thing. It’s either that or Singapore and a caning.

Maybe it was more crowded when you were there, and everyone was crazed? I bought from the White Restaurant and the coffee place and had swift and gracious service at both (I did have to wait near the counter for my coffee). We were also seated right next to Wok & Staple, so they knew we were waiting on the crab and gave us a wave when it was ready.

I’ve never had a really great samosa. It’s a knish, basically, and they’re always either fine or not very good.

I’m no expert on Biryani. Yet, when i was in Sing and went to the Tekka center for Dum Biryani, it was not curry on rice. What you described seems like the PF Chang version of Chinese food.

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I feel ya about Samosas. A while back there was a place in Richmond Hill, Lahori something or other.they made fresh samosas. Hot out of the oven, they were great. Yes, they are a version of the knish or vice-versa

And what can you do to a mashed potato calzone/empanada/pasty to make it spectacular? Nothing, really.

Empanada? Oh boy, that’s a world away and when done right…ie Argentinian baked, yummy, and in Spain, the original empanada is an actual pie made w/tuna and red pepper. I’ve also had a square pie empanada made w/cornmeal in Santiago that was great, but w/cod and raisins. Most empanadas sold in the states just plain suck.

I was not trying to start a discussion of origins and authenticity, etc. I was noting that “stuff wrapped in dough” is a pretty common way to serve food

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Sucker that I am, I was back there today. I thought the Hainan chicken (I opted for poached over roasted) quite good. The rice was flavored with chicken broth/drippings and the accompanying soup had flavor. Even without the orange “chili” sauce (heatless) I thought the dish tasty in a subtle way. It’s no culinary crime if flavors just tickle the tongue, not tangle with it.

A word on Lady Wong and the sardine puff: ask, even if you do not see it displayed under their warming lamp. I did, and they said they would get me two in 4 minutes. They seem to have them refrigerated (one can only hope – if I post no more, you’ll know they hadn’t) . These were much better than my first try (see above) which was even then quite good. The filling was juicy, not chewy (moistly fish-oniony), and the crust nicely crisp.

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