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Dec 15, 2008 11:16 AM

Great Chinese, For Christmas DAY

Must be a nice looking place with great food
Price is nor an object

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  1. Probably every Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, and most Chinese restaurants elsewhere in Manhattan will be open on Christmas, so in terms of great food, just do searches on "Chinese" and "Chinatown" on this board. But if you elaborate on "nice looking" a little, that will probably narrow things down considerably. I will say this: It's quite unlikely that paying a lot of money for hoity-toity Chinese food catering to uptown non-Asians will give you an equal, let alone better standard of deliciousness than inexpensive to mid-priced food catering to a mixed crowd including a lot of Chinese people. For example, my favorite Chinese restaurant in Manhattan today is Szechuan Gourmet, on 39 St. between 5th and 6th. Expect to pay roughly $20-30/person for your meal. I haven't checked whether they'll be open on the 25th.

    1. Wall Street Journal column from about 3 months ago pretty much concluded that exact combination did not exist in Manhattan.

      1. Shun Lee Palace has always been the standard...

        1 Reply
        1. re: MichaelG

          Standard for what? I used to like it, but gave up on it years ago, when I was served a bad meal with attitude. Do you find its food is tastier than much cheaper places that cater to a primarily Chinese clientele?

        2. You might look into Chin Chin, which has become our favorite for upscale Chinese. Tse Yang has a very elegant dining room and usually excellent Peking Duck - I've posted about both of these places in the past. I also started a similar thread for Thanksgiving, though we ended up going to Chin Chin.

          58 Replies
          1. re: MMRuth

            Thanks gang, I've been to all the places mentioned here, they are all the same old, same old...i thought perhaps there was some place new that i haven't been to.
            The one place that I have not been to is Szechuan Gourmet, can you tell me a bit more about that.

            Is is a nice looking place? I'm bringing guests there and i wasnted to take them to a nice looking place.

            I love Grand Szechuan
            's food, but i wanted a niced looking place for that day

              1. re: BGee

                I think if you really need a very good looking place (more modern looking) and don't mind having Chinese food that has some fusion twist, then Chinatown Brasserie or Buddakan are the two better options. They are both contemporary Chinese and definitely not authentic, but the food is fine (relatively to other Chinese fusion) and the rooms are gorgeous. Of course they are much more expensive than your normal Chinese restaurants.

                1. re: kobetobiko

                  I agree with kobetobiko and happen to love what Joe Ng does at CB.

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    I have to concur with you on Chinatown Brasserie, except that it's so dark who knows what it actually looks like? Also it's probably as noisy as the fluorescent lit palaces in Chinatown. Actually I wouldn't be so fast to classify it as not being authentic. It's really in line with the new higher end places in the San Gabriel Valley and the suburbs of SF, Vancouver and Toronto which serve Hong Kong style Chinese food with a creative twist. Nobody refers to those places as fusion restaurants, but rather consider them to be authentic Hong Kong cuisine with a modern twist.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      I've only been druing the day, but it is lovely. Don't recall it being noisy.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Twice at dinnertime and it was very noisy. Seems to be a gathering spot in the evening with lots of socializing.

                        1. re: Chandavkl

                          I can see how it could be different at night.

                        2. re: MMRuth

                          Same here - daytime visit, you can see everything, and the decor still looks great. My one complaint was price/value, but per the op's requirements, thats' not a concern.

                        3. re: Chandavkl

                          Yes, dark and noisy, but it could also be called festive. And the thing is, the cocktails are really excellent, which is a rarity at pretentious, overpriced restaurants. :-) (The cocktails, by the way, aren't overpriced.)

                          1. re: Pan

                            Yes - I do like the cocktails there too!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              I agree!! cocktails are great-- I was there around the holidays last year and found it enjoyable and very festive. If i remember correctly the shrimp and snow pea leave dumplings were enjoyable.

                              1. re: STA1985CH

                                Yes, I remember those being good as well. I did post about the dishes we had and liked when we went, but it's been awhile now.

                                1. re: STA1985CH

                                  Yes, with those little dots of shrimp eyes on the dumpling wrapper starting back at you.

                            2. re: Chandavkl

                              I agree. Chinatown Brasserie is actually surprisingly authentic, given its non-Chinatown location and high% of non-Chinese customers. I have had some pretty good dim sum there as well as other non-dim sum dishes. I think I ordered some type of Omlete Rice dish with beef and Chinese broccoli there that was quite good.

                              1. re: bearmi

                                authentic?...about as authentic as an Epcot Center food court...

                                1. re: Simon

                                  What do you say to the claim that it's authentic as current Hong Kong style food, which is influenced by Southeast Asian and Western styles among others?

                                  1. re: Simon

                                    Joe Ng strives for contemporary Chinese food, along the lines of what Chef Ken Tam is doing at Lai Wah Heen in Toronto. (I sampled some of his delicacies last month.) And you will pay more at both places for dim sum but in my mind, well worth it.

                                    1. re: Simon

                                      Hey you are entitled to your own opinions (and me too!). I am Chinese and I thought the dim sum at CB was authentic!

                                      1. re: bearmi

                                        Hi all,

                                        I am sorry that my comment about CB not being "authentic" have confused people. What I really meant was that CB is not "traditional", but I agree with sccopG and bearmi that it is actually authentic contemporary Cantonese food, esp. dim sum. In fact the analogy to Lai Wah Heen is right on. In fact this type of contemporary dim sum is much more popular and readily available in Hong Kong nowadays than the traditional dim sum like the ones served at Goldern Unicorn. Jing Fong is sort of half way, like not exactly too old school but not contemporary enough to make a refined taste. Most importantly, the quality is bad. I don't really mind traditional or contemporary as long as the food quality is good and delicious, but Jing Fong to me is just quite mediocre.

                                        I am not familiar with the dim sum served in other Canton provinces in mainland China, so my comparison is mostly based on the dim sum in Hong Kong.

                                        I do think that CB excels in dim sum more than the main dishes. Well, the comments about having peas and carrots in fried rice, that actually isn't that uncommon even in Hong Kong! But whether I like it or not is another question.

                                        Bearmi, good analogy about the car. (I did see it)

                                        1. re: kobetobiko

                                          Kobetobiko, glad you read my message yesterday:) No need to apologize. Like I have mentioned before, people are entitled to their own opinions but it's good that some of us at least tried to get our point across.

                                1. re: BGee

                                  Szechuan Gourmet is nicer looking than all of the Grand Sichuan outposts. Mind you, we're not talking about the Eleven Madison Park standard of beauty but it's at the higher end of Chinese places.

                                  SG has long been a Chowhound favorite. Here's a recent 70 post thread -

                                  In July of 2008 Frank Bruni of the Times awarded it 2 stars.

                                  Here's some links to pictures of the interior


                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                    How does it compare with the China Grill?

                                    1. re: BGee

                                      China Grill is about the scene. SG is about the food.

                                    2. re: Bob Martinez

                                      SG is nice looking but not all by that much.

                                    3. re: BGee

                                      Grand Sichuan has opened up a charming restaurant on 7th Avenue South. Unlike the other locations, there is far more atomsphere: exposed brick, white table cloths, tasteful art and I think the food is best at this particular location. You might give it a look; it sounds roughly like a place you might like.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        that sounds interesting.

                                      2. re: BGee

                                        It's not very fancy, just a little (i.e., white tablecloths). Why don't you go there for dinner this week and scout it out? I had dinner there on Sunday for about $21 plus tip - appetizer plus main dish.

                                        Chinatown Brasserie seems like a good suggestion to me. Great cocktails, some lovely dim sum items, but pretty expensive and you might deal with some bullshit from the host about where he wants to seat you that's not the same as where you want to sit or some very loud dance music bleeding into the main dining room from a reception in the basement (both things that happened to us when we went there just under a year ago, but to be fair, the coat-check women were terrific - they located a hat my father lost behind the couch in the lounge). With that caveat, I think it's a worthwhile suggestion, and you stand to have an excellent meal if you stick to dim sum items.

                                        1. re: Pan

                                          Is the food here (other than the dumplings) really good?

                                          1. re: Nancy191

                                            I haven't tried anything but dim sum items and cocktails. Not all of the dim sum items were dumplings; I think we had crab claws, and we certainly got some buns, too.

                                            1. re: Nancy191

                                              The rave reviews all seem to be more towards the dim sum...and it's questionable how well deserved those are. The food will not suit most Chinese cravings, in my opinion. Far too dumbed down, and bland, and more long the lines of mall food chinese.

                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                I assume your claim that they're serving tasteless food similar to typical cheap takeout stuff is directed only at the non-dim sum items? Because if it's directed at the dim sum, unless the place has gone totally into the toilet in the last year, I would have to say that description is contrary to my view of what reality is - somewhat akin to likening Babbo's pasta to typical cafeteria food, though not quite as drastic (I would appraise Babbo as a better restaurant and also better value for my money). It's certainly fair to say that you prefer less Western influence in your dim sum - my father said just that, especially in reference to the beef balls we had last year - but "mall food Chinese" is going not merely too far but totally off course, in my opinion (again: if you're referring to the dim sum - I can't comment on food I haven't tried). Mall food Chinese and Chinatown Brasserie's dim sum are different not merely in degree but in kind.

                                                1. re: Pan

                                                  Sorry, but everything about the food reminds me of mass produced generic Chinese food meant to please American taste buds.

                                                  I've only found similar tastes in California suburban greasy spoons 20 years ago, before the suburb had many Asian residents, or in malls. That's the best way I can relate it. The only notable dish I had was the turnip cake. Chinatown Brasserie is not good. The service is awful to boot.

                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                    One objective point is that the quality of the ingredients is not comparable. Another objective point would be that you won't find such thin wrappers or finely-minced fillings in mass-produced dumplings. As for taste, the only thing I can add to my comments above is that there's no accounting for it.

                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                      Ingredients, and supposed technique are secondary if they do not manifest themselves in the final product.

                                                      It's also important to note that CB is very overpriced.

                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                        Where do you go for dim sum then? Jing Fong?

                                                        1. re: bearmi

                                                          I haven't found truly reliable dim sum in Manhattan yet...haven't tried Jing Fong.

                                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                                            Too bad they erased many of our comments earlier :( Must have been that I went off track and started talking about cars!

                                                            I have been to Jing Fong a few times and thought it's ok... it's more of a "traditional" dim sum place, I would say. However, it's popular with a lot of folks here. If you are still searching for a reliable place, I am sure you can find some threads here and see if there are other places (I think some folks here also like Golden Unicorn) that suit your taste. In addition to CB, I also like Dim Sum GoGo but it's quite polarizing (just like CB!). Some folks here love it and others thought it's overpriced and overhyped. But it's still cheaper than CB though and I would say it's got more "authentic" dishes than CB. I would consider Dim Sum GoGo serves a somewhat "Contemporary" dim sum selection, which may or may not be what people like but everyone is entitled to his/her own opinions.

                                                            1. re: bearmi

                                                              Dim Sum Go Go is really not expensive for dim sum. I can pig out and still pay less than $20 for lunch there. It's their main dishes that cost more.

                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                I know... I agree with you too... A few years ago, I paid something like $40 per person in LA to eat Dim Sum so $20 isn't bad. However, I think some folks here would say Dim Sum Go Go is "expensive" because they would prefer to pay $10 or $12 a person... if you know what I mean... Ha..

                                                              2. re: bearmi

                                                                I didn't see your last reply before the conversation about authentic contemporary and all that was deleted, just to note. I'm still not sure what contemporary means in this context.

                                                                I tried to go to Jing Fong on Xmas day, but we were stopped (perhaps with other non-Asians) and told there was no dim sum service that day. There were large families shooting up the escalators without warning though. Odd.

                                                                I've tried 6 Chatham Square, and thought some dishes were pretty good, while others were just grease fests. I probably wouldn't go back.

                                                                1. re: sugartoof

                                                                  I'd speculate that Jing Fong may have been rented out for a private party that day. I've never had any sense of being discriminated against there.

                                                          2. re: sugartoof

                                                            Yes, it's expensive, and the place can be pretentious, too, which is why I haven't been there in over a year. But that doesn't affect my attitude toward the food. And the ingredients and technique do manifest themselves in the final product, for example in exactly the ways I say they do. People can have different viewpoints about the taste, but there are some objective facts to deal with that make the place different from some cheap, lousy takeout place.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                              CB is expensive, I'm not sure it is overpriced. To me, it seems a bit like comparing apples and oranges to compare it to places in Chinatown.

                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                That's it. I think it was unfortunate of them to use "Chinatown" in their name. Some folks associate Chinese food with being inexpensive or cheap.

                                                                1. re: scoopG

                                                                  To rehash what I've said in previous threads....

                                                                  It has nothing to do with it's Chinatown name. Based on quality of dim sum, and other Chinese available at cheaper price points through out the ENTIRE city, CB is a rip off. A total rip off. The food does not taste superior, nor does it offer anything you can not find cheaper and better at neighborhood places....many of which do attempt to be hipper and healthier in approach.

                                                                  Personally, I have an aversion to cheapish in Chinatown....I come from San Francisco where many Asian places are celebrated simply because of price point, so that isn't a factor. What is a factor would be that the egg roll you get at CB is no different, or better then one you get across the city at a much cheaper price....and I find CB's version to be inferior if anything.

                                                                  Add to the much discussed awful clumsy service (I've previously related my story of an ice bucket being spilled on me, and them just leaving the ice on the ground to melt, at lunch, when the place was mostly empty)...they don't even know how to place a plate of food on the table. The place is a joke. No knife techniques in the world will save it, and the ingredients aren't some farm sourced organic specialness to brag about. It's a theme restaurant with okay food. By most accounts you have to be careful what to order there, in order to get a good meal. If I loved Chinese food and wanted a good Chinese meal, I doubt this would fit that craving, but there are worst places to go.... assuming you're not paying yourself.

                                                                  1. re: sugartoof

                                                                    That incident is really bad, and I hear what you're saying on the rest (no comment on the eggroll, which I haven't had), but did you go to World Tong when Joe Ng was still there? If so, what did you think of his dim sum items when they were served in a cheaper place with the normal ambiance of a frenetic, crowded dim sum eating hall?

                                                                    1. re: Pan

                                                                      I don't imagine I would have been thrilled with this food at any price point, it just happens that it's marked up to give the illusion of higher end dining, which made me feel like a sucker.

                                                                      I can't say I've ever had Joe Ng's cooking though really... nothing I was served at CB resembled anything I've seen or heard about his cooking. I can't imagine anything I ate would have pleased the delegation he hosted of Chinese master chefs in November.

                                                                      1. re: sugartoof

                                                                        That would have been Chef Ken Tam and his crew from Toronto here for the James Beard Foundation Chinese food gala.

                                                                        1. re: sugartoof

                                                                          Oh to answer your question about "Contemporary Chinese". aspect of CB's Dim Sum. I think the following things made me feel that CB's Dim Sum was more "contemporary Chinese": a) dumpling wrappers had different color/shade, b) more unique shapes of the dumplings (I think some of them were shaped like little fishes, which requires more work to make), c) the filling of dumplings tend to contain larger pieces/chunks of shrimp or scallop (rather than minced shrimp/scallop in more traditional places), d) the use of mango in various dim sum items, e) use of X.O. sauce in some dim sum and f) the higher price (which may be a turn off for a lot of folks who enjoy more traditional dim sum).

                                                                          In addition to that, typical "Contemporary Chinese" restaurants tend to offer more exotic seafood such as live king crabs or coral shrimp, etc. Another category of menu items often available at "Contemporary Chinese" places would be Chaozhou-style boiled goose (boiled or smoked), goose intestines, duck tongues, etc. These are items that are a little harder to come by than chicken / pork or beef. Finally, there is usually a big shark fin/abalone section on the menu at "Contemporary Chinese" restaurants. In this respect, CB is only "Contemporary" in its Dim Sum offerings. Its entrees do have some Americanized Chinese dishes... that's probably where the disconnect is for many folks here in determining whether CB is authentic or not.

                                                                          An example of "contemporary Chinese" restaurant would be Koi Palace in Daly City. You might have been there since you said you are from SF Bay Area (me 2!! but I have moved away a long time ago.) You can check out their website at the link below to view their menu. I think you will get a better sense on what we mean by "Contemporary Chinese". If you have not been there, I would encourage you to visit next time you are in the Bay Area. Now, here is the link:


                                                                          I was too tired last night to retype my previous comment because many of our comments were erased for unknown reasons! Anyway, hopefully you will see what I am trying to say about "Contemporary Chinese". Let's hope this one doesn't get erased!

                                                                          1. re: bearmi

                                                                            Thanks for the explanation.

                                                                            Aside from the mango, and sauce you mentioned, I really do believe much of those techniques were previously found in high end Chinese cooking. I suppose bringing it to America, and offering it at the price point we're talking about is contemporary.... but even the greasy spoons in Chinatown do this sort of thing now.

                                                                            I guess I really didn't see anything served with the inventiveness of Koi Palace.

                                                                            1. re: sugartoof

                                                                              I have been having brain freezes the last few days due to jetlag coming back from Asia...zzz.... I forgot to mention the most important one. At "Contemporary Chinese" places, the dim sum dishes are usually made to order and brought out to your table, instead being premade and served on dim sum carts. CB did exactly that.

                                                                              I think this one is perhaps the most debated item related to dim sum on this site. A lot of folks would prefer to see their dim sum served on little carts (maybe mostly for the ambiance?) but some of us would prefer to have them freshly made to order. Again, it's all what about what you like and nothing wrong with enjoying either one of them.

                                                                              I am ready to jump onto other threads now so I will end here but thanks for listening.

                                                                      2. re: sugartoof

                                                                        Which places would you recommend with better food and similar ambiance? I am, for better or worse, married to someone who, while he loves chow, is less than thrilled with going to what he considers to be divey places, and so I often have to compromise. I took him to one of the places on Chatham Square for dim sum, and while he liked a lot of the food, and the place looked pretty upscale to me, he just couldn't handle the communal tables and the hustle & bustle.


                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                          I wish I had an answer...and the communal seating is kinda weird. I've noticed Chinatown (and Korea Town too) are getting much hipper, with lots of bright lights though. If it's just atmosphere, then CB is tough to beat. I do like Fay Da Bakery for their limited dim sum selection.

                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                            I must be related to your husband! I hate sharing table with other people and I definitely have less tolerance than most fellow Asians for places with great food and poor ambiance. With all aspects taken into consideration, I would say CB would still be an option for you.

                                                                            Another place is Oriental Garden, it's relatively decent in terms of decor, etc. and it has quite a few tables that seat only 2 people but unfortunately I have never had dim sum there before. Based on what I see on the board, the review for their dim sum is mixed so you might have to find out yourself by trying it.

                                                                            A 3rd option would be Dim Sum Go Go (not sure if you are in the camp of anti-Dim Sum Go Go but I thought I will mention it here.). The decor is not as nice as Oriental Garden but it's sort of unique in its own way. I would recommend that you arrive at around 11 AM then you should be able to get seated at the small tables for 2. Otherwise, if you arrive later when they start getting crowded they will put you at a big table to sit with others.

                                                                  2. re: Pan

                                                                    I must say I both agree and disagree with some of the specific sentiments expressed by the previous two posters, sugartoof and Pan.

                                                                    I visited Chinatown Brasserie shortly after it opened several years ago, and I was decidedly under whelmed. I remember a beautiful, inviting space, quite confused service, and odd pacing from the kitchen.

                                                                    Mostly importantly, I agree with sugartoof that I found their Dim Sum strongly reminiscent of generic, Americanized fare, although it did look much prettier. I also agree with Pan that it undoubtedly used high quality ingredients and was freshly assembled.

                                                                    So what happened?

                                                                    I think the key of the matter is that despite using expensive ingredients and individual preparation, the dim sum I tried shared the major traits of Americanized Chinese cuisine: an over-abundance of meat, too much sweetness, little attention to texture, unbalanced preparations owing to relying almost exclusively on the protein for flavor. I recall Bruni's review saying something like the dim sum were "clean". That might be a virtue among the Italian ravioli on which his judgment is sound, but while Chinese dumplings shouldn't be "dirty", in the best dim sum there's a combination of flavors in which the protein may contribute only texture or at least be in balance with the flavors deriving from elsewhere. Chinatown Brasserie's dim sum didn't taste Chinese --- they tasted like French technique with Chinese ingredients and so hit the simple notes of Americanized Chinese food, not a complex harmony of flavors.

                                                                    Of course, it is ultimately a matter of taste, but I think there's an underlying reason that reconciles these two observations.

                                                                    I wish I could provide some specific examples from my meal, but it was so long ago I can't, but I do remember my general observations quite strongly as I went in a sizable group and I recall we discussed the meal afterwards. Perhaps I owe them another visit, since the first was soon after they opened.

                                                                    On an entirely different note, I've found the best Dim Sum in Manhattan (not after anything like an exhaustive survey, but still) to be at . . . the Buddha Bodai Vegetarian Kosher Chinese Restaurant on Mott Street.

                                                                    Dim Sum there is ordered off a menu, and there is an extensive variety of traditional Cantonese Dim Sum. Of course, there is no meat, let alone pork, although its absence is much less noticeable for Dim Sum than for any other meal. The Dim Sum there is made freshly, with great care, and perhaps because of the reliance on vegetables, with careful balance between flavors.

                                                                    I was surprised myself when I first was brought there for Dim Sum by a Chinese friend, but have returned several times, and been quite impressed. It is also a fun experience!

                                                                    Buddha Bodai
                                                                    5 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                                                    Chinatown Brasserie
                                                                    380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                    2. What about Shang--is that not Chinese enough? (I've not been, but am curious about Chef Lee)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: erica

                                                        Haven't been to Shang, but I had been to Susur Lee quite a few times when I lived in Toronto. His fusion food wasn't my favorite. I think my familiarity with Chinese / Asian food prohibited me from enjoying his fusion creation.