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do NOT go to Midtown Joe's Shanghai

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  • wonki Apr 5, 1999 04:15 PM
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went there sunday for my brother's b-day. prices there
are LUDICROUS! soup dumplings were good as always, and
prices not prohibitive, but everything else was
ridiculous. crispy fried yellow fish fingers with
dried seaweed were good, but at $26 a plate they were
hardly worth it. General Tso's chicken was $25 . . .
can you believe it -- $25! for General Tso's chicken!
And the worst part was that it SUCKED! You can get
good general tso's at every hole in the wall in the
city for $5. We didn't get anything else because it
was too damn expensive. They should have never left
chinatown, and neither should you. Go to the Chinatown
branch, or the one in queens, and wait the hour or so.
it's worth the wait for the excellent soup dumplings
and the unpretentious ambiance. it is definitely not
worth the money to get a reservation and eat in a fancy
room in midtown and pay for chinese food that's being
marked up like rare wine.

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  1. wait a minute, wonki. The fact that the food sucked (I'm not surprised...the Joe's dynasty has shown all the inconsistency one expects from overly-extended restaurant chains) makes all the following moot, but there's something about your point I hope you'll reconsider...

    there are some good midtown restaurants serving $25 entrees, many of them versions of dishes available cheaper elsewhere. There's no reason really good Chinese food (even General Tso's Chicken, $10 versions of which--despite of what you say--have lots of room for improvement) shouldn't fetch a similar price, especially since this is such a great cuisine (I mean, we're not talking bangers and mash or bygos here).

    It's insulting to quality Chinese restaurateurs and chefs that so many outsiders walk into their places and shun the shark's fin, the abalone, the lobster, the bird's nest, the baby vegetables and razor clams (ok, yes I AM talking Canton here) which constitute the real treasure of the cuisine. We bridle at their prices...yet unblinkingly pay much more than that for a plain old broiled STEAK, fer cryin' out loud.

    There's no reason "ethnic" food can't fetch high prices if it's made with uncommon care and great ingredients.

    But I'm awfully sorry about your Joe's nightmare...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      jim,

      please don't misunderstand me. i totally agree with
      you that it's worth it to pay $25 a dish for good
      chinese food, or most any other food for that matter,
      when it's prepared with care and justifies such a
      price. sure, anyone can pick up a steak at a butcher's
      store and stick it in the broiler, but we go out for
      steaks at morton's and smith and wollensky because it
      takes more than a cut of meat and a broiler to make a
      great steak. i think there are chinese places midtown
      like shun lee and tse yang and chin chin which are
      expensive but still worth it. however, the reason i
      panned joe's so badly because the food was exorbitant
      even beyond those upscale places and definitely
      definitely not worth it. i agree that we only partook
      of a very limited number of dishes and certainly did
      not eat many of the delicacies which i'm sure might
      have been good. however, i'm also sure that every
      single one of those dishes are at joe's other
      locations, and can be had for much cheaper there,
      whereas there are no shun lees or chin chins downtown.
      i was by no means making a general commentary about
      expensive midtown restaurants. i simply was saying
      that in my opinion, limited as it was to this one trip,
      the total experience at joe's shanghai can be much
      better had at one of its other locations. i mean,
      would you pay $20 for a big mac in midtown if you could
      have it for $1 on wall street? frankly, now that i
      think about it, i think i was more offended than
      anything. i really felt that joe's was deliberately
      trying to rip customers off with their prices. i could
      think of no possible reason justifying the kind of
      prices they were charging. although i suppose the
      final arbiter will be the paying public. if people are
      willing to pony up those prices, then they deserve to
      stay there. sure, steaks and certain other dishes are
      overpriced at other restaurants, but that's the price
      you have to pay to get that kind of steak, and people
      have confirmed this by paying those prices. but i
      don't think anybody's going to pay $25 for really bad
      chinese food. now, show me a spread like in eat,
      drink, man, woman, and i'll pay just about anything you
      want. anyway, hope i understood your point correctly
      and hope i didn't sound too testy out here. the bad
      thing about email is that you can't judge a person's
      tone from their message. i hope you know i would never
      be disrespectful to the big dog, as heated as i
      sometimes get when a restaurant pisses me off. well,
      take care, jim, always exciting to get a message from
      you.

      1. re: wonki

        Argh, I was afraid you might misunderstand, Wonki.

        I was taking very specific exception ONLY to your comment re: 'who'd want to pay $25 for General Tso's Chicken?' And I KNEW you agreed with me on this...was just questioning your language, mostly for those reading along (heck, I realized I was preaching to the converted as far as you're concerned!)

        Your complaints about Joe's are--I'm quite sure--justified (for the reasons I stated...they're WAY overextended, and not even their Flushing branch is anywhere near consistent these days). I wouldn't pay even $2 for food as lousy as you described!

        And don't worry about dissing the big dog! I built this place so we could all have a place to argue and shmooze with each other, so if you guys act all deferential and everything to me, I won't get to enjoy the give-and-take!

        Remember...I am a chowhound like y'all...only I get to do it (nearly) full-time. There but for the grace of God go many of you, as I totally realize.
        ciao

        1. re: wonki

          >show me a spread like in eat, drink, man, woman, and i'll pay just about anything you want

          This should probably go in Not About Food, but here I am so I'll say it here: those of you who love food movies in general and Chinese in particular should seek out a movie called in English (at least when I saw it a couple of years ago at a HK film festival) The Chinese Banquet (n.b. *not* The Wedding Banquet). This amazing movie features a duel between two culinary teams competing to run a famed restaurant, and culminates with the most amazing banquet scene I have ever seen (whichever set of dishes impresses the judges most wins the restaurant). At one point the camera dashes madly through a chaotic kitchen which my ex-wife (a professional cook) called "the only authentic-looking restaurant kitchen I've ever seen in a movie." It's never been released over here that I know of (and I've been keeping an eye out), but maybe Kim's has it. Anyway, if you get a chance, see it!

      2. Wonki-
        I completely agree with you. We were at the midtown location about 2 weeks ago (just a few days before that we'd visited the Flushing branch) and I was disappointed with the whole place. Firstly, an order of the soup dumplings is a few dollars more than the other branches...and 6 to an order rather than the standard eight. That was fine with me, figuring midtown rents and all. Then I flipped to the page on menu that lists the lion's head meatball. $23! For ground meat? It was $10 in the Flushing branch just a few nights ago...my, my. When did cows become that scarce? We decided to go with a Shanghai noodle dish instead. Greasy as all hell. Limper than Bob Dole. And completely dumbed down. More than anything I was insulted that they'd try to pass off such fare at those prices. Although I did get a kick out of the tongs they provided for the dumplings...FANCY!
        -cheers!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Maria

          LOL :-)

          Maria,
          that was funny. yeah, those tongs were something else
          weren't they? my family used to use those to take hot
          dogs out of a pot after we boiled them. glad you
          agreed with me, although i can't imagine how someone
          could go there and not feel like they took one up the
          back alley. :-)

          later.

          wonki