Congee comfort beyond Chinatown

Riffs on Asian street food, from spring rolls to bao, have become common in mainstream restaurants. But the gruel-like rice porridge known as congee had yet to make that leap beyond Chinatown - until now. In Queen Village at the Living Room, which replaced Cups & Chairs in September, Ting Wang was hoping to create her own version of the American-style brunch places that have apparently become trendy in her native China. That means that while there's room for challah French toast, pancakes, and eggs Benedict, there are also a number Asian specialties dotting the menu, from potato-and-beef-stuffed lumpia spring rolls to a breakfast banh mi. The congee, though, is the comfort food champ that's my choice for the chilly season. Wang and her husband, Steven Zheng (who also owns Sushi Planet), cook seasoned rice until it's a silky white  porridge, then top it off with ingredients that spark with contrast: sweet coins of Taiwanese sausage, earthy ribbons of soy-tinged shiitakes, shredded scallions, minced ginger, and a hard-boiled egg. With crispy chunks of Chinese doughnut and a skewer of fresh fruit, it's a complete Chinatown-style breakfast making a fresh cameo just a few neighborhoods south.

- Craig LaBan
Congee with Taiwanese sausage, $12, the Living Room, 703 S. 5th St., 267-930-8388; the-livingroom.com