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Jul 28, 2009 02:25 PM

Review: Mr. Chow [Tribeca]

Full Review with Pictures:

My last week in New York is conveniently and luckily NYC Restaurant Week. Since 1992, this event has celebrated fine dining at the city's top restaurants. This year, more than 250 restaurants are offering prix-fixe three course meals at lunch and dinner for $24.07 and $35, respectively.

To begin my crash course in NYC fine dining, I went to the Tribeca location of the famous Mr. Chow. The restaurant offers Beijing-style Chinese in a very hip, modern and trendy-looking atmosphere. The smell of roses and jasmine welcomed my two friends and me when we entered the restaurant. We were greeted and taken care of by five different people: the matrie-d, our server, and three busboys. It was a little annoying at first because they just kept refilling our water after every sip. We couldn’t begin a conversation. After we finished our bottled water, they left us alone. I appreciate the attentive service, but it was overwhelming.

The semi prix-fixe dinner at Mr. Chow had some great choices and well-known dishes, such as the squab and lettuce and the lobster and Mr. Chow noodles, which are all served family style. Each of us was given the choice of one dish per course (appetizer and entrée). In addition, the meal came with Vegetarian Fried rice with Dried Scallops (yea, not really vegetarian) and Mixed Vegetables.

We started off with the Squab with Lettuce, which included minced squab, diced cucumbers, and pieces of batter. It also came with a hoisen sauce. The flavors of the dish were there, but the minced squab was dry; it tasted like the dry white meat of chicken. The squab with lettuce was a solid dish, but nothing impressive.

The Mixed Steam Dumplings had a thick and sticky outer skin and a dominant mushroom taste. I thought it needed a dipping sauce because by itself, it just tasted like I was eating diced mushroom. It needed more flavors.

The style of the Chicken Curry Puffs was very unique and unexpected. The outside is flaky and very-pastry liked. I would have liked for the curry flavor to stand out more, but overall, it was my favorite appetizer.

Our second round of dishes began with the Mr. Chow noodles and fresh lobster with ginger sauce. The Mr. Chow noodles are lo mein noodles that are handmade in-house. During dinner, one of the workers came out to demonstrate how it’s made. The lobster was delicious, but the dish had a strong MSG taste. I was really thirsty after I finished this dish!

The Steamed Sea Bass Filet was really disappointing. Unlike the sea bass I’ve had at other Chinese restaurants or Chaya, these filets were dry. The sweeten soy sauce that went with the dish was really oily.

Finally, the Ma Mignon came out. Slices of filet mignon were a bit dry, but the sauce that was drizzled over the steak helped with that. The flavors of the Ma Mignon weren’t unique; I’ve had the same flavored sauce at other places. The Ma Mignon was my least favorite dish of the night.

Mr. Chow might be hip and happening, but that’s all the credit I’m going to give it. With drinks and the $35 prix-fixe meal, I spent $87 on my meal that night. Imagine if I paid the original price for the meal! I didn’t pay for great food; I paid for an experience at a “celebrity” restaurant. Because it is considered a top-notch restaurant, I expected better ingredients and more flavorful dishes; it should have been ten-times better than the seafood restaurants in Monterey Park. Instead, at the end of the meal, I felt like I could have ordered all the same dishes at let’s say, Capital Seafood. I would've gotten double the portions and paid half the price. Wesley and I have always tried to avoid the hyped up places, and after attending Mr. Chow, I’m going to stick to that rule.

Bistro VG
70 W. Crossville Rd., Roswell, GA 30075

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  1. your review is pretty much in line w/ reviewers from Chowhound to the NYTimes: overpriced mediocre food and fawning annoying passive-aggressive service...Mr.Chow is not considered a top-notch restaurant, but rather a trap for 1990's B-list celebrities and the people who love them...

    for a laugh, do a nytimes search for Bruni's review of the Tribeca branch: it's one of the funniest and most spot-on bad reviews of a restaurant i've ever read...

    Manhattan has a some very very good Chinese restaurants: Grand Sichuan, Amazing 66, Cantoon Garden, Red Egg for dimsum...any of those would have been a tastier meal at less-than half the cost...

    But, like you said, at least you didn't pay full price...

    Sidenote, re: Restaurant Week...i'm really not a fan of would be great if restaurants gave you their A-game at discount rates, but most of the time, you get a shoddy prix-fixe concocted for specifically for R-week that may or may not be indicative of the usual food they serve (not unlike the food you get served on Valentine's Day)...some people counter this criticism by saying that at least R-week gives you a chance to check out the general vibe of suggestion is that you if you want to take a very expensive restaurnat for a cheaper, trial run, then it's better to eat at the bar one night and sample a couple appetizers or go at very off-hours w/ a friend and share an appetizer or an entree...

    re: hyped up places...*no one* in recent memory (at least no credible source) has ever hyped Mr.Chow for the food quality...

    1. Sorry to hear about your disappointing experience, but I have no idea where you got the impression that Mr. Chow is a "top-notch" NYC restaurant. It has long been considered a joke and its clientèle is largely comprised of scenesters and tourists that seem to think all Chinese food is supposed taste like the bland, Americanized fare served there. The latest New York Times review gave it zero stars and as a food destination, this place has zero hype.

      There are many vastly superior Chinese options in Flushing and Chinatown (at a much lower price point to boot), and if you're looking for better seafood, there are literally hundreds of better options.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hcbk0702

        I totally agree w hcbk0702-where in the world did they read it was a top notch place!! I truly wish there was a top notch Chinese with the ambiance of Mr. Chow BUT top notch food!! Why is this such an impossibility in a huge city like NYC!!!!

      2. Sorry to hear about your bad experience. If you like upscale Chinese American food, you might be better off going to Chin Chin on East 49th street.

        If you are looking for more upscale, authentic Chinese cuisine, you may have better selections back in Southern California. Many non-Chinatown, "upscale" Chinese restaurants (including Chin Chin) serve very Americanized menu items so if you are expecting authentic stuff you will be disappointed. In Chinatown, I think Oriental Garden and Dim Sum Go Go are pretty good but they might just be fairly average when you compare with some of the better places in LA. I believe there are more Chinese immigrants (and some probably quite wealthy) settling in Southern Cal (and prob Vancouver and Toronto too) so there is more demand for better quality Chinese food there.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bearmi

          Absolutely, Toronto and esp. Vancouver. HKers are very knowledgeable and picky about their Cantonese fare in particular. Many of the best chefs emigrated or retired there, esp. with the then-impending 1997 handover.

        2. The funny thing is that you actually got out of that joint cheap since your food was prix fixe. They clipped you bad. Usually it is worse.