After watching Giada sing praises about the dumplings at Chinatown Brasserie in her Weekend Get-Away show on Food Network, I put the Noho restaurant at the top of my must-try list. Unfortunately, my craving for Chinese food only comes around once a blue moon (or along with every incurable hang-over), but when it arrives, I rarely have the energy to trek to Chinatown where the real stuff is found. After my meal at Chinatown brasserie this weekend, I think I’ve found the perfect lazy woman’s substitute.
The restaurant has the stature and dim lighting of other well-known swanky spots like Buddakan or Beauty and Essex, but the decor, waitstaff uniforms, and furniture are a mix of French and Chinese by design. Though the place looks fancy, the menu has pretty wide coverage of the typical Chinese staples that I grew up on, such as crispy Peking duck with all the fixings. But to cure my empty stomach, we ordered a variety of dim sum and traditional mains. The most memorable dumpling was the Shanghai Soup Dumplings, which, as my friend instructed me, are consumed by biting the top, sucking out all the hot soup incapsulated in the skin, and then eating the remainder whole. The broth was rich, flavorful, and creamy, and it helped me slow down the process of eating as many dumplings as fast as I could.
I absolutely loved the mushu shiitake, which I expected to be bland. The heartiness of the mushrooms and saucey vegetables totally disguised the fact that there wasn’t an ounce of meat in the dish. Served traditionally with plum sauce and thin rice pancakes, it brought me back to my weekly Chinese food take-out night with my parents that I used to dread like the plague. Now that I’ve had a long enough break from practically the only food delivery option in San Francisco, I can appreciate the irreplaceable, satiating quality of hot, comforting chinese food.
The glass noodle salad was a refreshing yet somewhat boring break from the grease of the rest. Plain glass noodles stacked on top of a hodge podge of mixed greens and random vegetables was a welcome palette cleanser, but nothing exciting.
There’s no mystery behind Chinatown Brasserie. The food is over-priced, and you can definitely find better Chinese food if you go the extra mile and navigate the overwhelming land of Chinatown. But if you want traditional Chinese food in a traditionally posh New York setting, there’s no better place than this restaurant.
Location: 380 Lafayette Street @ Great Jones Street