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Jan 24, 2008 05:49 AM

Chinatown Brasserie (Review)

I've been wanting to try this place for awhile, despite the mixed reviews, so we went for lunch this weekend. Nice room - sort of evocative of 1920s Shanghai (in my mind at least!) and we were seated quickly after being shown to the bar area briefly. Our waiter seemed a bit clueless at first - took my husband's order for Lillet, and then when my husband asked if they keep it cold or not, he wanted to know what it was. So my husband put in a beer order just in case, which was good since they don't have Lillet. I was interested in the Blood Orange Martini but didn't know what "aperol", an ingredient, was - neither did the waiter, so I went with the Lychee one, which I enjoyed. We ordered a bottle of Sancerre and then started ordering dim sum. We ended up having:

Crabmeat and Pork Soup Dumplings
Tempura Shrimp Stuffed Chiles
Shrimp and Chinese Chive Dumplings
Rice Noodle Rolls with Peanut-Sesame Sauce - the only disappointment - as described, but not so interesting.
Fried Oysters with Sweet and Sour Sauce - not too sweet, which I liked
Barbequed Duck Spring Rolls
Malaysian Eggplant with Shrimp
Hoisin Pork in homemade Mandarin Pancakes

All except the rice noodle rolls were very good - the different sauces for each dish worked well with them and the flavors were very clean. I think the duck spring rolls, the oysters, and the soup dumplings were our favorites. The place isn't cheap - I think the total bill was about $200 - but we did eat a lot and I would go back. And, we warmed up to our waiter who was perfectly affable if a bit hesitant and the host came by our (and the other) tables on several occasions to check on things. The table next to us seemed to be having issues about waiting too long for their food, but we did not have that experience.

Chinatown Brasserie
380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

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  1. Thanks for the review. I love Chinatown Brasserie - especially the room which I agree is like a movie set. The last time I was there, I saw a gorgeous woman with a man in one of the comfy banquettes who looked just like the beautiful actress Gong Li. Man, this room beats anything in Chinatown for ambiance.

    Now to the food: everything I had was delicious and so fresh. I intend to go back.

    Incidentally, lots of places don't know what the French aperitif Lillet is. It was a popular drink in the 80s but never really took off in the States so I wouldn't blame the waiter if they didn't have it.

    Mmm, I think I'll make a reservation for Chinatown Brasserie. I need a little glitz with my dumplings!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Beau711

      It wasn't so much that they didn't have it, it was that the waiter wrote something down as my husband said it, and only when my husband inquired further did the waiter "let on" that he didn't know what it was - not a big deal though! We actually find it quite often at restaurants in Manhattan.

    2. I've been wanting to try Chinatown Brasserie. What is the dress code? Are reservations necessary? Thank you!

      2 Replies
      1. re: MizYellowRose

        We called around 12:30 on Saturday for lunch for two - they said just walk in - and the place was only about half full while we were there. Casual dress - - don't know if it gets spiffier at night - but can't imagine it in any way being formal.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Thank you, MMRuth. That was very helpful. I certainly will get there at some point.

      2. What a great report. How do you remember all the specific dishes??

        I had lunch there a few weeks ago and liked the faux chino bordello look. $200 seems a lot for dim sum and a bottle of wine and 2 drinks! But I agree, the food is really good. I didn't try any of the other kitchen's chinese menu, just dim sum.

        The downstairs party room, which is saw, looked like a hoot, too.

        1 Reply
        1. re: simetrias

          We did eat an awful lot, and skipped dinner that night ... didn't make it downstairs to check out the party room, though liked the fish in the pond. I checked the online menu to get the dish descriptions, btw.

        2. if your husband likes lillet, he may like aperol, a bitter (think campari but less sweet). there are some drinks that call for both.

          your menu choices sound quite nice; seems you ordered well and were thusly rewarded.

          1. Great review, MMRuth. Thank you. I went with a party of 10 people for dinner a few weeks ago and also enjoyed myself. I do think I've had better individual dim sum items in other places, but Chinatown Brasserie does a good job of bringing a lot of competently made items under one roof.

            I had an almost completely different selection of items from yours. My favorites were the shrimp and chive dumplings (the only dish we had in common), Peking duck, and taro root shrimp. I think I remember the fish being fresh and well prepared, as well, but don't have a strong recollection of it because I was pretty stuffed to the gills (hoho) by the time that course came.

            Again, I really appreciate your detailed review. Now I know what I want to try next time I go!

            6 Replies
            1. re: cimui

              Thanks - any thoughts of where we should go to lunch (not Brunch - husband hates brunch) today? Sitting here ruminating and searching!! Would like to try some place newish ... but not particularly formal - husband's foot in a bit of a brace, etc.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Hopefully this isn't too late for you! If it is, perhaps you can look into it some other time. My favorite lunch (and brunch) places in Manhattan are the Neptune Room on the UWS and Home in the W. Village (loooove the biscuits and gravy and the duck hash). Both do a good selection of lunch, as well as brunch, dishes on weekends. I'm not sure if either is convenient to you geographically, though (you eat out in midtown east more, no?). What are some of the places that you've tried and liked?

                1. re: cimui

                  We ended up going to the new Blue Ribbon on W. 58th Street - will post fully, probably tomorrow. We actually live in Carnegie Hill, but are very flexible in terms of neighborhoods etc. My husband wasn't a big fan of Home on one visit w/o me - he's hard to convince to go back to a place. I'll have to look into Neptune. Thanks for replying!

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    I look forward to reading your review!

                    Fair enough about not liking Home. I think there are some "boring" items on the menu that are competently executed, but don't to me justify the prices (I always feel this way if I think I can make something at home just as well). But some things they really do well. I was at the Cornelia St. location last night and had a really well prepared grilled brook trout and tasty mulled hard cider.

                    Have you tried Aquavit for lunch / brunch? they have a lovely buffet with mostly savory (non-traditional brunch) items, including their wonderful smoked herring and Swedish meatballs. It takes a lot for me to voluntarily head to this area on weekends since I work there, weekdays. Aquavit's brunch is one of the only draws strong enough to get me there.

                    1. re: cimui

                      Have you tried Perry St. for Sat or Sun lunch? It's a real food (not brunch) menu, bargain prices, great atmosphere, and people come dressed super casual all the way to more business-y.

                      1. re: simetrias

                        I haven't - and will add that to my list - thanks!