NYCReview

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

a spread of food and wine at Tolo
8.2

Tolo

Chinese

Chinatown

$$$$Perfect For:Drinking Good WineSmall PlatesDate Night

Included In

A new business trying to insert itself into Dimes Square has to do a whole lot to steer clear of unironic Fury Road cosplayers drinking too much natural wine. But Tolo has quickly found its place: The Chinese wine bar is where you go to escape some of the annoyingness of this microneighborhood, and to enjoy exciting food and wine without the constant reflections off of mirrored wrap-around sunglasses.

Lit with candles and golden lamps, the small restaurant is hidden behind a yellow and red awning from an old Chinatown cafe. Couples sit at a counter, drinking from razor-thin glasses—the wine is curated by the folks at nearby Parcelle, and there's an approachable short list of funky, juicy natural wines that pair well with the flavorful food.

On one visit, while sitting at the bar, we overheard someone complaining about the director of their art gallery taking curation to a place they could "no longer abide." Their companion, though, was distracted by the open kitchen, where a chef in a rainbow tie-dye hat can usually be seen tossing sticky rice and Chinese sausage in a large wok.

an old red and yellow awning hiding Tolo's front door

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

open kitchen with counter seating

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

a few tables and the bar at Tolo

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

salt and pepper tofu

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

dong po rou on rice

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

an old red and yellow awning hiding Tolo's front door
open kitchen with counter seating
a few tables and the bar at Tolo
salt and pepper tofu
dong po rou on rice

No matter where you're sitting at Tolo, the food commands your attention. Come with a few people and share a bunch of things from about a dozen small plates and five larger options, all under $40. The vegetables are consistently impressive: water spinach with fermented tofu that tastes like an old school Italian restaurant's garlic and broccoli rabe pasta, and salt-and-pepper tofu with a great texture on the crust. It's smart, soulful cooking, from the cold “mouthwatering” chicken—moist and full of Sichuan chile—to a plate of string beans with gingery minced pork.

We also love it here because it’s versatile. Need a fun spot for a date-night with a playlist of jazz and late ’90s hip hop? Tolo. Need to catch up with a few old friends over a $60 (or $335) bottle of wine? Tolo. Need somewhere to start your night with a juicy, natty pinot and a brown paper bag of nori french fries before heading out to show face in the neighborhood? You guessed it.

Food Rundown

a brown paper bag full of french fries

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Seaweed Shake Shake Fries

If you’re just coming in for a glass of wine with a friend, split these. At $9, they’re a bigger portion than most “side of fries” these days, and they’re covered in savory nori powder.
A plate of poached chicken in a szechuan peppercorn sauce

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Cold “Mouthwatering” Spicy Chicken with Cashews

This smaller plate of slippery, cold-poached chicken is served with a fiery, numbing chile oil, and pairs well with the fries.
a plate of water spinach with garlic sauce

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Water Spinach, Fermented Tofu, and Garlic Sauce

This small plate reminds us of garlicky broccoli rabe pastas, with the fermented tofu standing in for parmesan. If you’re prepared to deal with garlic breath, it’s a must-order.
a piece of fried fish

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Sweet and Sour Crispy Fish

If a fish-stick started acting all grown-up, it would be this fun dish. The sauce is a little sweet, and the fish has a very satisfying crunch.
four seared scallops with puffed rice

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Seared Scallop, Garlic, Seafood Soy and Puffed Rice

Beautifully golden scallops with an added texture from puffed rice, this is our favorite of the larger plates.
Crab fried rice

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Crab and Chinese Broccoli Fried Rice

A good choice if you like a good bit of crunch in your fried rice—though we’d have liked a bit more crab.
a bowl of diced tuna with sesame seeds on it

photo credit: Alex Staniloff

Raw Tuna, Sesame, Sweet Soy

Is it good? Yes. Are there better ways to eat raw fish in the city than this slightly sweet, sesame-forward $15 bowl? Also yes.

Included In

FOOD RUNDOWN

Suggested Reading

Parcelle image

Parcelle

If you care about wine and talk about it often, you’ll like hanging out at Parcelle on the Lower East Side.

Cervo’s image
8.6

Despite the wait times, we wholeheartedly recommend having a fun, seafood-dominated meal at Cervo’s on the Lower East Side.

Where to Eat in Dimes Square image

The best places to eat in the sceney microneighborhood of the Lower East Side known as Dimes Square.

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