Bringing Chinatown to Central Avenue still a work in progress
Imagine a Chinatown in Albany, similar to but smaller than the one's found throughout the world in many cities. That is what owners Matthew Nhan and Jenny Liu-Nhan envision in the upcoming years after their grand opening of the Chinatown complex at 305 Central Avenue in Albany.
City of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings graced the grand opening ceremony, complete with a traditional red ribbon, while many University at Albany students were away for winter vacation in December. A traditional dragon dance typically seen at the Chinatown parade in New York City followed.
Two fierce Chinese Lion statues greet you at each side of the entrance of the Chinatown Complex. Beyond that, a hallway with bamboo plants separates the One Of a Kind Tea House on the right side with other storefronts on the left that will eventually become an Asian Jewelry Store and a professional office. In a large back room above a set of stairs, the Nhan's are waiting for a business offer to create a high-class Chinese restaurant. This scene is topped off with traditional Chinese roofs made of green ceramic tiles with a curved-end point.
"Sometimes you have a dream and don't see it, but I get to see my dream come true," said Matthew Nhan, who graduated from UAlbany with a degree in computer science and minor in business in 1996.
The tea house is unlike anything in Albany. "When you come in here, I want you to feel like you're in a different world…I want you to feel like you‘re in a tea house in China, but better," Nhan said.
The tea house is decorated with Chinese instruments on the walls, red Asian lanterns hang from the ceiling and throughout the dining room are custom-made, brown-colored Chinese tables and chairs. Behind the dining room is a private room decorated with bamboo on the walls, a fireplace, a TV and custom-made furniture that can fit 10 people.
The menu includes dozens items for half the price you would find at the Chinatown in New York City. The ambiance created by the relaxing Chinese music softly playing makes the wait for your dishes to arrive not only bearable, but tranquil.
Sandwiches like grilled pork, meatballs, lamb, shrimp, beef and chicken are reasonably priced at $3.95-$4.95. The specialty crispy fish fillet with one-of-a-kind sauce (it really is) and Hawaii paradise dishes (choice of chicken, beef or shrimp) with lava sauce are just some of the outstanding choices for a larger meal.
Drinks include a variety of flavored coffees for the caffeine fanatics and non-artificially flavored black or green tea (Mango, Green Apple, Strawberry, Lychee and more). The bubble tea is a unique experience served either hot or cold with a wide range of flavors. What makes the bubble tea different is that it contains soft, delicious balls of Tapioca at the bottom that can be sucked up through the oversized straw.
Matthew Nhan hopes to see dozens of more shops move to the area in the upcoming years to make Albany's Chinatown bigger. He also considered the possibility of a Chinese parade, and his dream of having a bigger Chinatown in Albany is just getting started.
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