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Chatham Sq Restaurant - best dim sum ive had in Manhattan

l
Lau Aug 5, 2008 12:06 PM

So my roommate and I decided to try Chatham Sq Restaurant at 6 Chatham (not to be confused with the old school place at 9 Chatham). Its a kind of long narrow banquet hall with two floors we ate at the upper floor. Typical banquet hall decor of kind of yellow / gold with red. Place is pretty new, so its reasonably nice

It's a sort of mix of order and carts (i'd say 75% ordering to 25% carts), the carts come by occasionally, but we ordered everything off a check list (which i like much better). Not sure if its different on the weekends. Probably 90%+ chinese clientele although I don't think language is a barrier as the people next to us ordered everything in english and the waiter's english was pretty much perfect. Service was surprisingly good b/c of the layout and the # of waiters they have, they are constantly passing by you, so its easy to grab someone.

We got alot of stuff:
- ha gow (steamed shrimp dumplings): pretty good, skins were a little thinner than I like, but the filling was good and the shrimps tasted fresh
- siu mai (steamed pork dumplings): this was the only think I thought was so so, the skins were fine, but the filling was minced fine enough and was chewier than it should've been
- niu rou cheung fan (beef rice noodle crepe): very good, they minced the beef properly (i hate when its like chunks of beef) and the ratio of rice noodle to beef was better (most places skimp on the beef
- lo bat go (pan fried daikon cake): good, would've been excellent as the cake itself was minced finely (hate when its big chunks of daikon) and had a good flavor, but i could tell that it'd been sitting out for a bit as it was luke warm (prefer mine fresh off the grill)
- pai guat (pork spare ribs in black bean sauce): good, the quality of the pai guat was good as the meat was nice and tender. the sauce was good b/c it wasn't overally oily, but i prefer more chili peppers and black bean
- zha liang (fried donut stick with a rice noodle wrapped around it): good, typical zha liang, but just well executed
- steamed cha siu bao (steamed roast pork bun): decent, im pretty particular about these, they were definitely fresh which is a big plus, the bread was nice and soft, but the filling was the red kind that is sweeter, which isn't my favorite (prefer the mei lai wah / sun say kai recipe of more savory brown sauce)
- zhong zi (sticky rice in a lotus leaf): surprisingly pretty good, came with lap chong (sausage), shrimp, chicken and a salted shrimp...these were tasty
- stuff eggplant: pretty good, eggplant stuffed with a minced shrimp cake that had been breaded and fried on one side...these were pretty tasty
- dan tat (baked egg custard): decent, but had been sitting around for a while and i also think the crust was slightly undercooked (like it to be a bit brown), but the filling wasn't bad

Overall, we both agreed this is the best dim sum we've had in manhattan, its not as good as some of the places in flushing (jade asian, ocean jewel, gala manor, perfect team), but its not that far off although i'd say it doesnt have quite the breadth of dim sum dishes as those places. Definitely think dim sum fans should try this place out as its substantially better than the other dim sum places in manhattan, which i think are garbage for the most part.

Based off the dim sum execution im pretty curious to try dinner. Brian S or others - anyone try it yet?

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  1. Miss Needle Aug 5, 2008 01:05 PM

    Thanks for the review, Lau! I haven't gone to Chatham but must do so at some point in the future. It's so disappointing when the turnip cakes aren't fresh. Actually, since I've been making them at home, I don't like to order it out as there's no comparison.

    Did you try the soup dumplings? I read in a post somewhere on these boards that they sere actually good. I have to say that I was a bit skeptical of that comment. But as we pretty much see eye to eye on Asian food, I was wondering if you tried them.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Miss Needle
      l
      Lau Aug 5, 2008 01:12 PM

      i didnt try it, but i was actually thinking about that when I was there as i read that post as well (im skeptical as well, but who knows?), but we had already ordered alot (all of the above was for 2 people, the people across from us were gawking at us b/c we ordered so much food haha) and it wasn't on the menu at least not that i noticed

      1. re: Lau
        Miss Needle Aug 5, 2008 01:24 PM

        Wow! I thought you guys were a party of three or four. Quite impressive!

        Yes, I agree with your "who knows?" comment. That's why I was curious about the soup dumplings. I've had some pretty good ones at Yank Sing in San Francisco -- not exactly the place I would have expected to find good soup dumplings.

        ETA: I remember going out for dim sum 15 years ago at Jing Fong with a couple of guys and a girl. One of the guys ordered so much food that we ended up paying $50-70 EACH! The guy who ordered more (and ate more) paid the $70. That's quite a lot for dim sum.

        1. re: Miss Needle
          l
          Lau Aug 5, 2008 07:33 PM

          haha yes i didn't feel so hot after eating that ridiculous amt of food

    2. r
      racer x Aug 5, 2008 01:31 PM

      Great review (as always), Lau.
      I agree 6 Chatham is a winner for dim sum

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/481518

      I just hope it doesn't become *too* popular ...

      1. scoopG Aug 5, 2008 01:40 PM

        Thanks for this - I think they do a lot of wedding parties there. Have had lunch there but not dim sum yet!

        1. k
          kobetobiko Aug 5, 2008 01:52 PM

          Hi Lau,

          I went there before for a banquet-style menu, and we had quite a few dishes. I think their dim sum is definitely better than their dinner. Their stir fried dishes are fine, but the seafood weren't as good as oriential garden. It was above average Cantonese, but I woulnd't say it was excellent.

          Their service was very good though, much better than Oriental Gardens. And they have TVs so if you like that, it will be a plus.

          1. financialdistrictresident Aug 5, 2008 04:29 PM

            Lau, thanks so much for the report. We've been going to Jing Fong (and sometimes Dim Sum Go Go) and Chatham is next on my list to try. Now I'll have to walk there sooner!

            1 Reply
            1. re: financialdistrictresident
              financialdistrictresident Aug 10, 2008 07:09 AM

              Went yesterday. Dim Sum and the Olympics in Beijing, does it get any better? We also had the eggplant stuffed with shrimp (much better than Jing Fong's, we had to ask for it and when ready they brought us some), some vegetable dumplings (round ones and crescent shaped ones) and salty fish and diced chicken fried rice (from menu). We were seated way in the back at one of the two large round tables (street level floor). This made it a little hard for the carts to come by. Nonetheless, the service was so attentive, servers always called to/stopped by our table. We shared our table with a family who ordered chicken feet, tripe, some of the same dishes we did. Very good. Our new favorite, thanks to Lau and this post.

            2. kelea Aug 5, 2008 09:19 PM

              I'm glad you enjoyed it! It is definitely my favorite dim sum place in the city. It's not too oily, everything is cooked just right - nothing too soggy or too raw. I felt like everything was made fresh and not a factory like Jing Fong.

              1. r
                Renguin Aug 6, 2008 02:20 PM

                I've been endorsing this place for a while now - I think I have made comments on "what's the best dimsum in Chinatown" posts before. While I have always gone for dimsum on the weekends when i've ordered exculsively off the carts I actually went one day on a week day recently when there were no carts. At first I was disappointed, but after i ordered teh same dimsum stuff and it came out it was actually better than on the weekends b/c everything was made fresh to order. I never get fried stuff on the weekends off the carts b/c if its been sitting even 5 minutes it gets cold and soggy. But when I ordered off the menu it was fresh and tasty. I particularly like the chili peppers stuffed with shrim and the fried eggplant shrimp sandwich things they do.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Renguin
                  l
                  Lau Aug 6, 2008 02:52 PM

                  ahhh see now u see why the carts are a nostalgic relic of the past in HK / LA etc

                  much much better..understand why people like the carts, but it hurts the quality of the food and im always against just about anything that hurts the quality of the food

                  1. re: Lau
                    r
                    Renguin Aug 6, 2008 03:25 PM

                    Yeah, i must say i've always been a fan of the carts in theory. I think my affection for them dates back to the time before i knew what everything on the cart was and i actually needed to look at stuff to figure out what I wanted. While i value food quality much more now, the carts are definitely advantageous to novices who want to try things but don't know what.

                    1. re: Renguin
                      l
                      Lau Aug 6, 2008 03:27 PM

                      yeah i hear u...some of the great places in LA have menus with pictures, which i really think is the way to go

                2. Brian S Aug 10, 2008 03:38 PM

                  It was great to read this! (in a masochistic way, since I'm still in Oklahoma...) I went to dinner a few times in 2006 and liked it a lot... but then I started going to the Cantonese places in Flushing and once I tried those I never went back...

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3107...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Brian S
                    l
                    Lau Aug 10, 2008 04:23 PM

                    ah thx for this

                    yeah i hear u on the flushing cantonese restaurants....i was pretty blown away by imperial palace the other day

                  2. vvvindaloo Aug 10, 2008 04:26 PM

                    Thanks for the excellent review, Lau. I haven't gone for dim sum in Manhattan in years. I am not sure why (I've had it other places). Now I must try this place out- preferably with a friend (or five) so we can order at least as much you did!

                    1. MMRuth Aug 18, 2008 06:42 AM

                      Thanks for posting this rec. I have to admit that I tend to be a bit nervous about going to restaurants in Chinatown for fear of lack of ability to communicate. We went for dim sum this weekend and enjoyed it. We had about a 10 minute wait for seats for two of us (they seem to have a good system of handing you a little post-it note with your number on it), and were then seated at one of the large round tables with some other diners and managed to point our way to things that looked good on the carts. Our two favorites were some lovely dumplings with shrimp and pea shoots, and some beef ribs in a broth - we also had the eggplant dish you mentioned, as well as what I think was a large flat rice "noodle" wrapped around shrimp. I was impressed with the quality of the shrimp in both shrimp dishes. Four types of dim sum and a diet coke added up to $13. There was a menu on the table, but it seemed to be for non-dim sum items - so I'm guessing that on the weekends it's carts only? We didn't have much luck communicating with the women pushing the carts, but fortunately for us, there was a couple at the table who helped us identify what things were. The jasmine tea was great.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: MMRuth
                        Miss Needle Aug 18, 2008 07:05 AM

                        I could be wrong, but I think you probably had steamed pork ribs as I've never seen steamed beef ribs at a dim sum parlor. The large rice noodle wrapped around shrimp is called cheung fun. It's one of my favorites, and we generally order it every time. The menu that is placed on the table generally has dishes to be ordered in addition to dim sum. For example, DH's family always orders a large noodle dish for everybody to share along with dim sum.

                        I've also sometimes encountered difficulty communicating with the servers. Some cart ladies always seem to be in a foul mood and not very helpful. The best dim sum experience as been at Jade Asian in Flushing where a lot of the dim sum ladies speak some English and are very helpful and sweet.

                        1. re: Miss Needle
                          MMRuth Aug 18, 2008 07:08 AM

                          I actually wondered if they were pork, but they tasted like beef, and both a waiter that I flagged down to ask about it, and the man sitting next to us, said that it was beef. Thanks for the name of the shrimp dish. The people next to us also recommended a dim sum place in Flushing that they said is wonderful, but couldn't remember the name - started with "Eastern".

                          1. re: MMRuth
                            Miss Needle Aug 18, 2008 07:19 AM

                            That's interesting about the beef. Was it by any chance in a black pepper sauce?

                            There's an "East Manor" in Flushing and an "Eastern Restaurant" in Fresh Meadows. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

                            1. re: Miss Needle
                              MMRuth Aug 18, 2008 07:33 AM

                              No - they couldn't remember the full name. I though maybe there was a touch of anise, but it was definitely more a broth - rather than a sauce.

                              1. re: MMRuth
                                Brian S Aug 18, 2008 09:26 AM

                                Gala Manor? I believe the first word in its Chinese name is 東, which means Eastern.

                                1. re: Brian S
                                  MMRuth Aug 18, 2008 09:55 AM

                                  Thanks - I'll try searching the Outer Boroughs board - they spoke of it as a very well regarded place that people go to from far and wide - fwiw, but as I said, unfortunately they couldn't remember the full name.

                                2. re: MMRuth
                                  k
                                  kobetobiko Aug 18, 2008 09:49 AM

                                  Traditionally the "ribs" in dim sum are pork, but nowadays more restaurants are also having the beef ribs (thinly cut into the style of Korean short ribs but only 1 to 2 bones attached per piece), steamed with some garlic (and the broth is mostly meat juice + fat from steaming)

                        2. kelea Aug 18, 2008 07:13 AM

                          I was there this past saturday for dim sum, and I have to say despite previously raving about it, I was disappointed. Some dishes were still on par like the spare ribs cheung fun but a lot of the stuff we got was cold and my soup dumplings were definitely cold and dry. One of the people there with me said that they used to love the place but found it a little inconsistent. I think I have to agree. But regardless, I would still give it another chance.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: kelea
                            k
                            kobetobiko Aug 18, 2008 09:52 AM

                            It looked like there might be a difference in quality when going on Saturdays vs Sundays. Seemed like most of the worse reviews were on Sat and better ones on Sundays. Perhaps Sunday they have the best dim sum team and have higher turnover?

                            1. re: kobetobiko
                              MMRuth Aug 18, 2008 10:03 AM

                              I was there on Sunday, but I have no base of comparison re: either Saturday or other places. I'm hoping to go back during the week so that we can order off the menu instead of from the carts. Nothing we had though seemed to suffer from being on a cart, as far as I could tell - the place was packed and every thing seemed quite warm - if not too hot to eat right away in some instances.

                              1. re: kobetobiko
                                l
                                Lau Aug 18, 2008 11:50 AM

                                i can tell u that based on my experience the weekdays are better than the weekends mainly b/c there basically aren't any carts during the weekdays, so the stuff is much fresher

                                when i went last sunday, some of the stuff was fresh and some had been sitting around.

                            2. s
                              ScarletB Aug 19, 2008 08:16 PM

                              Not to hijack the thread but I'll be visiting NYC soon and am looking for good steamed cha siu bao. Since you said you are particular about the bao I was wondering if you could recommend some good places to find it - preferably not the upscale Momofuku type places.
                              Thanks in advance!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ScarletB
                                l
                                Lau Aug 19, 2008 08:24 PM

                                two places:
                                - sun say kai
                                - mei li wah (may show up as mei lai wah as that is the old name)

                                get them steamed (not baked at both places although baked are solid as well, but steamed are better), also mei li wah has great coconut buns although i think i very slightly prefer the cha siu bao at sun say kai now

                                look them up on yelp.com and they'll give u the address

                                1. re: Lau
                                  s
                                  ScarletB Aug 19, 2008 08:44 PM

                                  Thank you! Can't wait.

                              2. f
                                foodieintraining Aug 20, 2008 08:42 AM

                                Chatham was great dim sum but their cha siu bao was not outstanding. I'd try the other recommendations first.

                                1. s
                                  sugartoof Aug 21, 2008 04:26 AM

                                  Thanks for the review. I was looking for pictures of the food at 9 Chatham and stumbled on pics from 6 Chatham that looked...well....far better to my eye! So I was curious and really happy to read your report.

                                  1. r
                                    rgifford Oct 7, 2008 10:38 AM

                                    I just read your review. Thanks. I love the detail.

                                    Tell me, is this a good place to take seven young girls and two moms from Nebraska? I am touring them the end of October and I want to find a good dim sum restaurant that doesn't break the bank!

                                    Would you recommend lunch or dinner?

                                    Thanks so much!
                                    Robin

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: rgifford
                                      Miss Needle Oct 7, 2008 12:00 PM

                                      I haven't been to Chatham Square yet, but wanted to let you know that dim sum is a breakfast/lunch kind of deal. The only place I know of that serves dim sum during dinnertime is Dim Sum Go Go and Chinatown Brasserie (not in Chinatown and a lot more expensive than the Chinatown dim sum restaurants). Both of these restaurants do not offer cart dim sum -- you order from the menu.

                                      Quality is definitely better at restaurants where you order your dim sum. But I think that with seven young girls carts tend to be more fun, especially if it's their first time, as you can see the stuff first before you get it.

                                      1. re: rgifford
                                        l
                                        Lau Oct 7, 2008 12:27 PM

                                        as Miss Needle pointed out, you really need to go on the earlier side, arriving between 10-12:30 is optimal. I'd avoid going later as you tend to get the left overs that have been sitting around.

                                        Also as Miss Needle pointed out, Dim Sum Go Go and CB are the only places that serve it later really.

                                        In terms of breaking the bank, if you go to any of the places in ctown it should be very cheap like in the $8-12 per person type range (which is super cheap for NY)

                                        1. re: Lau
                                          Miss Needle Oct 8, 2008 05:58 AM

                                          Yeah, it's pretty cheap. I've gotten away from dim sum a few times spending just $5 to $6. The $50-70 price quote that I have above is totally atypical for dim sum. One of the guys I was with was just a bit of a piggy.

                                      2. g
                                        gorlanko Oct 18, 2008 01:28 PM

                                        The wife and I went this morning and we were very disappointed. The har kow was not fresh at all, the chicken feet was okay. The beef cheung was good but the wrapping was thick. Best was the shrimp spring rolls but I'd say inferior to Jing Fong in everyway.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: gorlanko
                                          l
                                          Lau Oct 18, 2008 05:14 PM

                                          thats too bad...maybe an off day or there is always the possibility thats its going down hill that happens pretty quickly in ctown

                                          jing fong is horrible btw, go make the trip to flushing, its worth it

                                          1. re: Lau
                                            s
                                            Simon Oct 19, 2008 10:06 AM

                                            i hope it's not going downhill already as i haven't had a chance to try it yet!...it's near the top of my list to try because a couple weeks ago i went to one of my standby spots, 88 Palace and it was awful...was hoping Chatham would fill the void...will give it a try soon and see...

                                            1. re: Simon
                                              l
                                              Lau Oct 19, 2008 10:53 AM

                                              yeah u should try it

                                              ive noticed that its better on the weekdays vs weekends (although obviously its not as easy for most people to go on the weekdays)...also try to sit upstairs as opposed to downstairs if possible

                                              1. re: Lau
                                                s
                                                Simon Oct 19, 2008 03:50 PM

                                                i can do weekdays...i'll try it soon...have never been inside so i didn't realize it was two levels...

                                          2. re: gorlanko
                                            r
                                            randumbposter Oct 20, 2008 11:31 AM

                                            While I don't think it was a disappointment, it certainly wasn't the best dim sum I've had in manhattan. I've been to that place twice, once last year and once earlier this year (maybe things improved). I know there are lots of detractors out there but I really prefer oriental garden or dim sum go go.

                                          3. r
                                            racer x Nov 15, 2008 06:01 PM

                                            I've always gone to 6 Chatham Square for dim sum during the week, so I decided to try them out on a Saturday today. Arrived about 12:15, after the rain of earlier in the morning had finished. It was a MADHOUSE. The whole waiting area was full, and people waiting for seats spilled out onto the sidewalk out front. I've never seen it so crowded on weekday visits. I tried walking around Chinatown for 45 minutes then went back to see if things were any better. All the tables and the waiting area still PACKED at 1:00.

                                            With so many seated customers to attend to, and still more waiting for a table, I wouldn't be surprised if the quality of the experience is off on busy weekends.

                                            1. a
                                              armaity Nov 16, 2008 10:00 AM

                                              For my money, the best dimsum in town is at chinatown brasserie, [corner of great jones street and lafayette]. great dips with each one, and combinations that you do not find anywhere else. You order off the menu.

                                              1. r
                                                racer x Nov 17, 2008 09:53 AM

                                                Went back to try again for lunch today (Monday).
                                                Arrived about 11:45. Most of the tables on the entry level were occupied, but both I and an elderly Chinese woman who arrived at the same time were seated immediately.
                                                I ordered from the menu: har gow, deep-fried shrimp wrapped in bacon, and panfried turnip cakes.

                                                I went to wash my hands, and on returning to the table 3 minutes later, the turnip cakes were already there. They weren't even close to warm, and they were mushy. Yuch. Very disappointing. But the other two orders came straight from the kitchen, steaming hot. The shrimp/bacon was delicious, and the har gow were good.

                                                The yellow cloth seatcovers were somewhat soiled. Some of the staff were affecting that 'I couldn't be bothered' sort of air that is endemic to NY but which had been conspicuously absent during my past visits. The bathroom is still much nicer than you'll find in most Chinatown restaurants, but it has acquired that Chinatown bathroom smell.

                                                I'm sad to say this rose has lost its bloom.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: racer x
                                                  l
                                                  Lau Nov 17, 2008 06:26 PM

                                                  i unfortunately have to agree...i was actually going to post about this soon

                                                  so the place is kind of inconsistent...when its on its very solid, but when its off its not better than the average ctown dim sum (meaning its blehhh). also the other thing ive noticed is that sitting upstairs makes a difference (try to avoid sitting downstairs)

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