I ate at Cafe China twice this summer. My first visit was a solitary one but I managed to slurp down some passable, but not delicate or soup-y enough soup dumplings.
I was disappointed that I’d wasted the space though, when presented with a luscious tea smoked duck with moist meat and perfect, shatteringly crisp skin.
In an effort, to eat a somewhat balanced meal I ordered some bok choi which actually came out perfectly cooked – a crisp and garlicky compliment to the duck. The meal was a convincing argument for why this small Chinese restaurant earned a Michelin star.
On a second visit, the soup dumplings were still lackluster, but the lamb dumplings in chili oil were so excellent that we asked for a second order. There were also some delicious dan dan noodles. But sadly, it was busy and I don’t think the kitchen was prepared to keep up. The duck had floppy skin which took the dish from star-worthy to disappointing. We ordered a whole fish that was nicely cooked and beautifully filleted – but served in a cloying sauce. And the waiter steered us away from the authentic ma la flavors of a chicken dish to a beef and bell pepper dish that could have come as take-out from any Chinese take-out joint in the city. I’d certainly come back, but I’d make sure to do it at a less busy hour in hopes that that crispy duck skin could be a part of my meal.
First let me say the space can’t be beat. Really. By the time you’ve strolled through ABC Carpet and Home and into this delightfully decorated spot you just can’t help but be in a good mood.
And the food is, more or less delightful. Particular stand outs included peekytoe crab fritters with ramp mayo:
A plate of sizzling shrimp with chili oil and garlic packed a serious flavor punch with sweet shrimp and rich but sublimely spicy sauce.
Sadly, some of the larger dishes were let downs. The chicken and rice, while decent, wasn’t as good as what I make at home, and even the chicken crackling topping it was less crispy and delicate than what I can make in my own kitchen. But the biggest disappointment was a fairly tasty (and beautiful) bowl of brown rice and vegetables with an herb dressing. Why’s that you ask? Well the dish was described as having asparagus, and ramps and morels. It had one of each, otherwise, it was packed full of carrots and onions and other filler. Perfectly good vegetables those, but no carrot is going to be satisfying when you think you’re getting ramps and morels. Plus, for the price I paid for the dish I could have afforded enough carrots to keep Peter rabbit happy for a lifetime.
On a recent very quick trip to NYC my mom and I visited Kin Shop. I’ve been before, loved it, and thought it was a place she’d like. We tried some excellent (and super spicy) grilled shrimp.
Some lovely (though maybe slightly chewy) grilled squid.
A delicate fish curry redolent of coconut milk.
And some goat massaman curry that had some of the most tender meat I’ve ever eaten.
The best dish, however had to be a duck larb. I almost found it too spicy to eat, but somehow I couldn’t stop.
So I was thrilled when I found the exact recipe on serious eats. My home made version was slightly less spicy and I fried up the duck skin into chicharones to garnish with.
Everybody and their mom has posted about what a great deal the Bouley prix fixe lunch is. Adding to the chorus here. But seriously, excellent food, amazing service … don’t even mind that I was a little late to my meeting. Not to be missed: the warm, creamy asparagus soup that just tastes like a richer version of a steamed stalk and the porcini flan which does not skip on brilliant and tender sweet crab. You can’t really go wrong with anything you order here, but make sure you get those two if they are available!
I’m just adding to the chorus because it’s not as though you haven’t heard that the chicken for two at the NoMad is delightful. But let me tell you about it anyway.
First off, the space is just about as decadent as the chicken itself. Dark with ruby toned furniture, it conjures up hotels and clubs of yore. Also, there is actually space. Unlike many New York restaurants you can’t hear every word from the table next to you because it’s three inches away.
So you’re in gorgeous surroundings; you’re comfortable. You decide to order crudité. It is more beautiful than any crudité you’ve had before. It’s fresh, crisp, just what you want out of raw vegetables (though you wouldn’t mind some more). They bring you radishes coated in butter. You happen to love radishes in butter. As you sip champagne you wonder how they manage to coat them so you can do it for your next dinner party.
Then you look at the menu again. Starters are all appealing. You settle on the bone marrow gratinee with parsley shallots and anchovy. You try to ignore the other entrees on the menu because you know you came for the chicken. When the appetizer comes you wish you’d ordered your neighbor’s king crab tagliatelle because your marrow is just kind of fishy breadcrumbs and the pasta is delicate and redolent of crab. But that’s okay, you have that chicken coming.
And it does. First they bring it by to show it off in all its glory. Then they take it away and bring you and your dining companion each a breast with crispy skin covering that foie gras and black truffly goodness. Oh and they bring back a dish of the dark meat swimming in a mushroom and truffle cream (that’s where it’s at). It’s delightful. Really rich, as you’d of course expect. But somehow the chicken doesn’t get lost. You’re even pleased you gave up your champagne for the dark slightly bitter beer that’s been brewed especially to serve with this little bird.
Again you wallow in the decadence of the place. It makes you order a cheese plate. That’s good too. After a multiple hour meal you wonder how you’re going to make it home and wish you’d booked a room at the NoMad Hotel but are forced to wander out into the chilly winter night. At least you’re totally sated.
Yeah so go there and eat the chicken.
I saw this article in the NYT about dueling duck meals (http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/duck-versus-duck-pitting-ssam-bars-duck-lunch-against-wongs-duckavore-dinner/?ref=dining&gwh). First thought, why didn’t I think about doing that? Second thought, so doing that next time I’m in NY. Third thought, should just mention that the Momofuku duck on rice lunch is amazing. SO good. Also, a good price. Generally fabulous. So is the apple kimchi with pig jowl and maple labneh pictured below. Get that with your duck. Quack.