Under other circumstances I'd have upsized this eel-with-rice casserole (small, $10), but my dining buddy had a limited appetite, and we'd also ordered a bowl of clam and young taro with bok choy (not shown, $12.95) to tide us over. Our eel dish would require about a half-hour, said the server, which was a good sign. In bo zai fan, another name for this sort of Cantonese casserole, the rice should be cooked together with the featured ingredients, and not in advance, so it will absorb all the flavor it possibly can.
Lian Won serves ten varieties of bo zai fan, which sport the likes of chicken with black mushroom, cured duck leg, and veal short ribs. Only the eel casserole, however, is served in a variety of sizes — the largest ($40), intended for a party of four to six diners, includes the aforementioned eel bone soup — and it's the variety given pride of place in the restaurant's front window.
The fragrance and flavor were more subtle than that of the bo zai fan at A-Wah. At that small Hong Kong-style restaurant in Manhattan, a dispenser of dark, thick, faintly sweet soy sauce sits on every table, but at Lian Won, the only soy sauce available for mixing in with the rice, once we asked, was a thin salty version from a squirt bottle. Lian Won's chef comes from Guangdong, and so perhaps some regional variations are at play; the chef also employed a healthy dose of finely chopped green onion. Or perhaps it's that much of Lian Won's business seems to be takeout, and customers are adding soy sauce from their private stock, at home.
Lian Won Cafe
2012 86th St. (20th Ave.-Bay 25th St.), Bath Beach, Brooklyn