A +/- Look at NYC Food

Chinatown Brasserie

A lot has been made about whether or not this place is “good” or “bad”, “worth the price” or not.  But these are all silly arguments, because in the end- it all depends on the diner.  Can you get a cheaper meal in Chinatown?  Of course you can.  You can get a cheaper chinese meal on almost every street corner in New York City… and some of them might have General Tso’s Chicken that tastes better then the one at Chinatown Brasserie- but that doesn’t mean it deserves to dismissed outright.  If you want to have a fancy meal out, at a destination restaurant- and you want the food to be straight up Chinese, well then, Chinatown Brasserie would be the perfect place for you.  If you are a Dim Sum nut looking for an authentic (and cheap) Chinese food experience, then steer clear of this place.

I’m a huge fan of Chinese food.  I love Dim Sum, and have eaten at Dim Sum in many Chinatowns (including NYC, San Francisco, Boston & Los Angeles).  When I lived in Boston we practically lived at a place called China Pearl every Saturday for a year.  My girlfriend indulged me (and it’s one of the reasons we’re married today!).  I also love cheap Chinese food.  The take out kind, and the kind you find at crappy buffets.  I like it all.  In my mind, Chinese food is already perfect… not a lot of room for improvement- so with that in mind, I went into my meal at Chinatown Brasserie, expecting exactly what I got.  Decent Chinese food, in an upscale setting that would appeal to any eater… something I can’t say about any of the places I’ve been in Chinatown.  And for that… you pay a price.

Shrimp & Snow Pea Leaf Dumplings ($9)

How could you not want to eat a dumpling that has eyes?  All the Dim Sum we ordered was very tasty.  My personal favorite were the Shrimp and Chinese Chive Dumplings… but that’s because I’m partial to chive dumplings.

Shrimp & Chinese Chive Dumplings ($8)

Roast Pork Bun ($8)

It says Roast Pork Bun on the menu, but I think that’s a typo… you get three.  And they were very good.  One of the people I was with had never had a steamed pork bun, and he enjoyed it.

Shanghai Style Soup Dumplings ($10)

If you never had a soup dumplings, they’re exactly what they sound like.  Dumplings that are filled with soup.  They should be eaten with a big spoon, so that when you take a bite, the soup fills the spoon rather then your lap.  They may not be the cheapest or best soup dumplings in Manhattan- but they’re very good, and none of the people I was with had ever had soup dumplings before, and they were pretty much everyone’s favorites.

Chicken & Garlic Rolls ($8)

It is very difficult to improve immensely on the concept of a spring roll.  Most things you fry taste good.  These were fine… nothing extraordinary.

Entree food porn and the +/- after the jump…

General Tso’s Chicken ($17)

I’m a huge fan of General Tso’s chicken.  It’s a weakness I developed when I was in college.  This General Tso’s is not significantly better then some cheaper places in New York City- but at least you know it’s made with real chicken.  Very good, with some decent heat (but not too hot- unless you accidentally eat one of the chilies)

Crispy Skin Chicken ($19)

The only dud of the night.  It was basically just chicken that had fried crispy skin.  No flavor whatsoever, and the four dipping sauces added nothing.  Skip this one…

Roast Pork Fried Rice ($9)

Also nothing spectacular… but it was good enough.  And you know the ingredients are quality.

Peking Duck ($48)

Best dish of the night.  Comes with pancakes, hoisin, shredded scallions and cucumbers.  Perfectly cooked, and plenty of delicious crispy skin.  Really delicious.  I’ve heard some complaints about this dish, but I think they’ve worked it out.

Chocolate Fortune Cookies

Always better then regular fortune cookies… these have weird “fortunes”.  My fortune was an Annie Lebowitz quote: “Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he’s buying”.  Appropriate not only because I was there with my dad, but because like most expensive restaurants, Chinatown Brasserie was definitely more enjoyable with someone else paying!

THE + (what people who like this place will say)

  • You can really taste the quality ingredients, making it worth the extra money
  • Perfect if you want Chinese food, but are eating with people who don’t like going to more “authentic” Chinese places
  • You want a hip, chic atmosphere- but still want to eat standard Chinese food (not fusion)
  • Really good drinks (try the Frozen Mai Tai)
  • Fun place to go with a group so you can order everything and share

THE – (what people who don’t like this place will say)

  • I can get better Dim Sum at my favorite Chinatown place for 1/5 the cost.
  • I can get better General Tso’s and pork fried rice at the take out place around the corner, for 1/2 the cost
  • If you go with a party of 2, you won’t be able to order as many things (the more you order and share, the better the meal will be)

Chinatown Brasserie, 380 Lafayette St., 212-533-7000


July 23, 2006 - Posted by | Food: Chinese, Location: East Village, Price: Expensive, Price: Moderate


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    Comment by pinknest | July 24, 2006 | Reply

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