Not many can say they are on the verge of opening their own restaurant while being a full-time student. Stern senior Alexander Yip, however, is doing just that. Clay Pot will open in late April and will be located on St. Marks Place between First and Second Avenues. He created the restaurant while balancing his classes, working as a resident assistant and being in a fraternity.
Clay Pot features a unique twist on a beloved and popular street food called claypot, a Hong Kong-style Cantonese dish.
The restaurant will boast an interactive food experience where visitors will be able to build their own claypot. There will be a wide variety of sauces and toppings such as chicken, beef, eel and pork sausage, as well as many vegetarian options including asparagus, broccoli and scallions. There will also be delicious additions that add twists on the traditional recipe, such as the option of pork belly.
“It’s not your typical rice because it is cooked in this claypot, which has pores that allow it to breathe so that all the flavor of the aged rice and ingredients stay and marinate, instead of the flavor getting killed and evaporated, which usually happens when rice is prepared, say, in a rice cooker,” Yip said.
Clay Pot ages their rice so that it readily absorbs all the flavor of the ingredients added to the dish. Yip also said the kitchen’s design will facilitate the cooking process.
“It’ll be an open-style kitchen where the dishes will sit over specialized stoves that will cook the pots at just the right temperature to get this crispiness as well,” Yip said. “You also get this great smokey flavor because of the ingredients and sauces being cooked in these porous clay pots.”
Unsuspecting banter between Yip and his older brother, Chris, who is Yip’s business partner and one of Clay Pot’s major investors, actually inspired Yip to open this restaurant.
“It started when my brother and I were on a hike in Canada,” Yip said. “We were just having a heart-to-heart when we joked about opening up a restaurant. Later in September, when I saw a spot open up on St. Marks — a street which I think of as home — I told my brother about it and we both said, ‘Let’s do this.’ It was a shotgun idea. It all happened really fast.”
Yip said creating and opening a restaurant in just a few months has been exciting, but he has also faced unexpected hiccups.
“One thing I learned is that not everything opens on time,” Yip said. “There’s always these rocks on the road, such as dealing with the New York Fire Department. It’s tough, but that’s why I think you really have to love the concept of what you’re doing or these challenges in the road will kill you. You have to be super crazy about the idea, and I guess I really am.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 24 print edition.
Email Tiffanie Hwang at [email protected]