April 18, 2007 | BITE: My Journal
Chinatown Brasserie Revises
Asparagus adds a spring crunch to seafood in a taro basket. Photo: Steven Richter
It’s my first time back at Chinatown Brasserie since the Thai-Chinese executive chef decamped and the dim sum master Joe Ng was officially put in charge of the kitchen. Eight of us came Christmas Day for brunch and ate nothing but Ng’s perfectly fried rolls and exquisite little dumplings, each in a different skin. Nowhere, not in Hong Kong or China or Taiwan, have I tasted better dim sum. Ng claims to have a thousand variations, savory and sweet, in his repertoire. One evening at his old post in Brooklyn, we tasted almost 50.
Is it my imagination or are there more dim sum options on the dinner menu? Yes, I know the turnip cake is half lard but I have to finish the extra cake anyway. There are other Chinese restaurant veterans in the kitchen, according to Eddie Schoenfeld, who is my friend, an amazing Chinese chef himself, and consultant here. He tells us he has been working with them, letting them suggest favorite dishes and bringing them on the menu. Anyway, I haven’t told anyone I am coming. The taste of anonymity is bitter. As when the hostess refuses to sit us in the nearly empty room until all our party arrives.
“I’ll sit down now in your empty dining room,” I say after checking my coat. And she rolls her eyes, but leads us up a few stairs to an area on the side which is much busier. “We’re not sitting here,” I tell her. “We’ll sit in the main room.” A bit taken aback but not ready to argue, she finds us a four top with a view of the kitchen door. By that time I have to shut up because I am even embarrassing myself.
Well, it was as always, a revelation to be anonymous (I always try), but it’s more fun to be recognized. Joe Ng pops out of the kitchen, his one silver earring dangling, and kisses me on the cheek. The waiter brings an order of fried pork potstickers and sensational new mini beef buns that we didn’t order. We taste a few of the new non dim sum dishes – fine seafood trio with XO sauce in a taro root basket, sensational barbecued roast duck, and sliced pork with spring ramps that did not capture the best of spring for me. But I simply could not stop eating the chunks of soft tofu with bits of gently steamed seafood in clay pot - lobster, shrimp, and scallops.
I would take the leftover tofu home for breakfast, but I tell myself, tomorrow is another day, and guess what we’ll be doing? Eating again.
380 Lafayette at Great Jones Street, 212 533 7000