Yee Kee HK Style
1232 Ave U
718 336 2338

After stumbling onto Robert Seitsema’s Village Voice blog touting the virtues of Brooklyn’s relatively low profile strip of Asian restaurants in the Gravesend section, we have since made 2 trips to Yee Kee HK Style.
Both times we’ve been rewarded with finely crafted flavors and textures that rise well above your average Chinese fare.
The place is typically well lit but not a big room, maybe 20 or so tables. There are a couple of wide screen TV’s that feature what I’d guess are Hong Kong game show, soap opera type programs. They kind of add to the ambience. The clientele seems geared toward middle class Chinese family groups, most of the tables are of the big round variety.
One important tip if you go, make sure you bring the paper take-out menu to the table, it has everything on it. The regular table menus (at least for non Chinese) don’t have some items that are on the take-out version. No rhyme or reason for these seemingly random omissions.
Following Seitsema’s advice we ordered both his favorites, and they soon became our’s as well. Chicken Chow Zhou Style features an amazingly delicate garnish of deep fried spinach. The spinach is not battered, it comes to the table looking like dark green tissue paper, and melts on the tongue with a subtle garlicky essence.
The Farmer Special contains a wondrously varied mix of crispy and silky vegetables piled high in a sculptural display quite pleasing to the eye (not to mention the palate).
Don’t miss out on the Salt Baked Squid either. This standard dish is elevated to the next level with plump pieces of calamari coated in a smooth but crunchy coating, served on a bed of freshly shredded, mildly spicy little green peppers.
On our second visit we indulged and had Lobster with Scallions. I’d seen this dish go by on our first visit with pangs of envy, had to have it.
It lived up to its reputation. You actually get “twin” crustaceans, of the small soft-shelled variety hacked up into pieces. Most times when I order lobster in Downeast Maine I avoid soft-shells since they tend toward being watery and not as bold tasting. But in this case soft shell lent itself perfectly to the recipe.
The softer shells are actually somewhat chewable (proviso here; I like to chew chicken bones, especially the tender tips) which is all the better to savor the ginger/scallion sauce that clings to the delicate tasting meat and shell.
There are some adventurous sounding dishes on the menu I’d love to try sometime with a bigger group (Jeanne is not game):
#220 House Frog
#156 Crispy Fried Intestines
#157 Pan Fried Ground Meat (?) with Salt Fish
The only caveat I might apply pertains to a minor (I hope) sanitary issue we experienced.
There were some little fruit fly type things flitting about on our last visit. So it was with some chagrin when we learned after checking them out on NYC’s restaurant health violation list that they’d actually been closed twice in the last year for some rather egregious sounding gaffes. Their most recent inspections have been much improved, I’m wondering if they changed ownership. I inquired about the chef the last time we were there and I was told that he’s the current owner and previously had restaurants in Shanghai and Hong Kong. The place looks clean enough, but we were both feeling a little intestinal distress the last time, but that might be because we had a lot of spicy food.
Heat Waves in a Swamp: The Paintings of Charles Burchfield at the Whitney, until Oct 17

Before seeing this exhibit I had only a vague notion of Burchfield’s work, mid century American realist is about as far as I’d go. After viewing this exhibit though, I’d say he’s right up there with Hopper, Bellows and T H Benton. Its likely that he never received much renown partly due to being a reclusive artist that stayed far from New York City.
But that turns out to have been a trump card for him. He thrived in the hardscrabble industrial heartland of the midwest, painting mostly from nature but also some stunningly bold architectural visages that thrust his work into an architectonic realm. However his exalted watercolor landscapes, done with a spiritualist, shamanesque fervor are the mainstay of his oeuvre.
Then he’d turn around and do a magazine illustration for Johnny Walker Red. He also did some wallpaper designs that were inventive and ingenious.
For an artist and illustrator that was somewhat obsessed by motif, he still managed to transcend his prodigious skills as a draftsman to imbue his painting with otherworldly alien-like scenery. His nightscapes are especially eerie, and tend to evoke the silent midnight murkiness of the dimly visible.
Charles Burchfield, Pyramid of Fire (Pyramid of Flame), 1929, Watercolor on paper, 51 x 81.3 cm, The Charles Rand Penney Collection of Works by Charles E. Burchfield at the burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo State College, 1994.
Charles Burchfield, Black Iron, 1935, Watercolor on paper, 71.1 x 101.6 cm, Private Collection.
Charles Burchfield, An April Mood, 1946-55, Watercolor and charcoal on joined paper, 101.6 x 137.2 cm, Whitney Museum of American Art, Purchase with partial funds from Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman.
Breaking Bad, seasons 1 &2, on AMC
Available on NetFlix

The best part about watching series like Breaking Bad on NetFlix is that you don’t have to wait a week between episodes. The worst part is that after being glued to the screen for 2 seasons worth of all the Tarantino-like black humor gore, and gripping Hitchcockian suspense we have to wait a year for season 3 to come out on NetFlix. This is made all the more excruciating by the knowledge that season 3 is already over on AMC, and everyone but us knows what happened.
Oh well, its only TV, but what TV it is.
For those of you poor unfortunates that haven’t partaken of this twisty-turny, topsy-turvy humdinger of a yarn I will fill you in as best I can without spoiling it all.
The premise of this fascinating work of fiction tells the story of a humdrum but technically brilliant high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, and given little time to live. Oh yes, you might think, “how contrived/clichéd a plot device is that”?
But Walter White, chemistry teacher, turns out to not be your average “going to die, what do I do, kinda guy”. Instead he takes up with a former flunker meth dealing student of his to cook methamphetamine to make as much money as possible before dying for his broke middle class family, which consists of a 16 year old with cerebral palsy and a pregnant wife prone to cleavage.
Shot on location in Albuquerque NM, (beautiful cinematography and film editing) Walter tutors his former student Jessie on the nuances and niceties of serious meth cuisine in the back of an RV in the middle of the desert, while weaving a wicked web of deceit and mistrust at home.
After a few run ins with the local homicidal drug lord and assorted scum, Walter begins to rise above his Dr Jekyllesque view of ethical dilemmas, gradually shedding his reluctance to becoming a kingpin while embracing his repressed anger.
The writing for this show is inspired even if the storylines are not always believable. The Machiavellian nature of a plot revolving around a mild mannered, middle-aged loser living a secret life as a ruthless outlaw is more morality tale than reality show.
But episode-to-episode the tension builds effectively, and clever plot devices abound. That Walter’s brother in law also happens to be a macho, pistol packing DEA agent helps set the tone for a script that must have been a lot of fun to play around with.
One of the more routine (but eagerly anticipated) bits of drama in each episode is how Walter will pull a magic chemistry trick out of his hat to save the day. Whether its formulating a recipe for mercury fulminate that looks like crystal meth to blow away a rival, concocting a castor bean ricin weapon, or fabricating a battery charger from brake shoes and loose change to save them from dying in the desert, Walter becomes kind of a super hero science guy who uses his noggin to constantly keep one step ahead of disaster.
As season 2 concludes events begin to spiral out of Walter’s control, all the intricately intertwined relationships (including some key characters that affect each other unknowingly) gain a foreboding, apocalyptically karmic poetry.
Walter seems to be reaping what he has sowed.
Has anyone burned season 3 on DVD?
“Recombobulated”, Jeanne Tremel’s new Etsy store

This is Jeanne’s new Etsy incarnation featuring her handmade beach/sea glass jewelry, and valuable vintage items she has rounded up from various unsuspecting flea markets and yard sales.
All I can say is she has a good eye for diamonds in the rough and nimble fingers for assembling jewelry gems.