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Tang Pavilion

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Just wanted to let you all know, my SO and I tried Tang's Pavilion this past Sunday and were disappointed. The food was QUICKLY served to us so it was already PRE-PAPERED in the back. Plus, it wasn't really good. It was lacking flavor. Overall, it just wasn't worth it! The price was not worth it at all, especially for Lunch, and I don't care that it was NYC. It was definetly a MISS.

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Tang Pavilion
65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

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  1. What did you order?

    1. Surprised at this, we've eaten here probbaly 20 times at least - mostly at lunch, most recently about 3 weeks ago - and like it very much as have people we've brought with us. We order Shanghainese dishes from the regular menu though (they're listed on it, not on a Chinese-only menu). They have a very good chef and their special dishes are delicious and authentic (tofu skin with green soybeans and pork, chicken with yellow leeks, and scallops with pickled vegetable and bamboo shoots are particular favorites).

      7 Replies
      1. re: buttertart

        Having been there in the past and enjoyed it, I was surprised to see such a negative review. I went there this past Sunday for dinner, and everything was quite good.

        We had the soup dumplings (not the best I've had, but certainly above average), the salt and pepper shrimp, sliced duck with pineapple, lamb with scallion and tofu sheets with green beans (new dish for me, it was basically pasta made with tofu).

        The waiter was a bit gruff, but otherwise no complaints.

        I'm really curious to know what the OP had!

        1. re: lexismore

          Me too, big time. The tofu sheets with green beans is a particular favorite and the one you had is probabaly the best (most refined) one in the city. That's an actual Shanghai home cooking dish. I love the slight texturing on the beancurd sheet, made by its being drained on a cloth. OP refers to wanting Shanghai shrimp - as far as I know there is no one specifically Shanghai shrimp preparation - what was s/he expecting? The service is very professional if not terribly warm (although the owners of the restaurant are very charming.) The room is nicely appointed with gorgeous oxblood ceramics any one of which I would be delighted to own - and the CC Wang paintings in the corridor to the main dining room are beautiful.

          1. re: buttertart

            Those tofu sheets with green beans sound interesting. I wonder if they bear any resemblance to a dish that I love at Fu Run: Tofu sheets with chunks of somewhat spicy green peppers and bathed in a very light broth that is probably chicken based.
            The tofu sheets have that texture you are referring to--like they have been pressed against fabric. This dish is so simple but so wonderful.

            1. re: erica

              That sounds great - Fu Run had escaped my notice, love Beijing-style food, must get there. The xue cai mao dou bai ye rou si (pickled veg/green soybean/doufu skin/pork strips at Yeah Shanghai for example is less refined than Tang Pavilion's - and the chicken sauce you noticed is I think a result of its being cooked in chicken fat. Umami city.

              1. re: buttertart

                Oh, YES! Let us know how you like them. I really like Fu Run and would like to explore their menu in much more depth.

        2. re: buttertart

          Sorry, I didn't order anything Shanghai. Maybe I should have.

          1. re: littlecmad

            Given that the menu specifies Shanghai and Soochow (also spelled Suzhou) cuisine, I would think if one were looking for especially good Chinese food and not just a cheap lunch one might inquire as to their specialties and get something one might actually enjoy. I only hope that parties who might consider this restaurant don't just see your what I believe to be very unfair trashing of it and say "well, cross that one off the list". This is a serious Chinese restaurant run by two gentlemen who are epicures and connoisseurs of Chinese art as well as cuisine. It is not a chop suey joint.

        3. Did you order the bargain lunch special?

          2 Replies
          1. re: erica

            I wasn't shown or offered any bargain lunch specials. Maybe I should of tried the Shanghai noodles but I was in the mood for shrimp and they didn't have Shanghai shrimp.

            1. re: littlecmad

              Again, what did you eat there?

          2. We had another great meal at Tang Pavilion Saturday - scallops w xuelihong pickled vegetable and bamboo shoot; nian gao rice cake w little coins of xiangchang (Chinese sausage), splendidly chewy and savory; nubbins of peeled asparagus, and yellow leeks (a New Year's special), great tender shizitou lion's head meatballs; and doumiao and chunky-cut FRESH bamboo shoot in a thin clear wine sauce served on a rectangular plate w a separate pile of perfect doumiao. That was a New Year's special too. Love their food, the Shanghai specialties are delicious indeed.

            1. Seems to me that the OP knows she might have made a mistake in terms of what she ordered, and there's no need to keep asking her to tell us what she got. I also wouldn't worry that her review would deter others from trying the place. In fact, if anything else, the other reviews in this thread have piqued my curiosity and now I'm adding this restaurant to my list of places I want to try! So sometimes a negative review that begets contradicting opinions can actually help create more interest in a restaurant.

              1. I've been to Tang Pavillion 3 times now and think it's only decent, rather than phenomenal. Maybe something's wrong with my taste buds? Why don't I get it?

                I've had the following:

                1. Dong Po Pork

                Deliciously fatty and came with white buns. Maybe this dish works better when you're sharing it with a big party. After eating 2 pieces each, finishing the rest between my dining companion and me became more like torture because the fattiness became too overwhelming.

                2. Rice Cakes with Yellow Leeks

                I was not particularly taken with this and thought the rice cakes weren't soaked long enough. The hardy chewiness was not to my taste. I'd have preferred softer rice cake slices.

                3. Eggplant with Garlic

                This was a pretty good dish, though if only it had some pork in it, it would have been first rate. I thought that it was serverely missing the pork element needed to round out the flavor and texture.

                4. West Lake Vinegar Fish

                Did the restaurant "murder the sugar merchant"? Holy crap, this dish was sweet. The sweetness completely overwhelmed the vinegary sourness that was supposed to be the dominate flavor. And the fish, it was pretty darn small. Ugh, what a disappointment.

                5. Lion's Head Meatballs

                Hm, the meatballs are large, tender, and not too terribly fatty. Though I can only rate this as decent. It felt like the flavor could have been deeper and better developed.

                6. Sponge Squash with Mushrooms (the menu calls the sponge squash "zucchini")

                This was well done. The sponge squash was cooked to the perfect doneness. I dislike it when some restaurants undercook the squash so that the outside was still crisp. This place's version got it exactly right. Very very good.

                7. Xiao Long Bao

                I don't have much to say. The meat buns are juicy and decent, but probably not the best I've had.

                My experiences at Tang Pavillion have been a bit hit-or-miss, or mostly, just "decent". I really want to like this place since it's classy, has good service, and affordable. But honestly, what's up with having so many (IMHO) "just decent" dishes?

                I see that the tofu sheet with green beans dish is recommended here. I'll give it a try next time I visit the restaurant.

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                Tang Pavilion
                65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                1 Reply
                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  I went to Tang Pavilion for the first time last month and my experience was similar to the OP: the shredded pork with yellow leeks (which my server recommmended as a Shanghai specialty) was served lukewarm within a minute of ordering. The xiao long bao were also stuck together and ripped when I picked each one up, spilling most of the juices. Other tables complained of the same thing.

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                  Tang Pavilion
                  65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                2. I'm sorry to hear of people's dissatisfaction with Tang Pavilion - everything we've had there over the years has been very good and the people we've taken there have enjoyed it very much as well. It's a cuisine that's dear to our hearts for a number of reasons and their renditions of the Shanghai specialties are everything we expect them to be.

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                  Tang Pavilion
                  65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: buttertart

                    Hey buttertart, I've been a long-time lurker in the Chowhound forums and have been definitely noticing how particularly helpful your posts are. I appreciate the recommendations you've made for Tang Pavilion in this thread and will be sure to try these dishes in future visits.

                    And thanks for mentioning Fuchsia Dunlop's upcoming book in the CotM thread. I spent a better part of my childhood in Jiangsu province and it'd be fantastic if Jiangzhe cuisine will indeed be the subject of Dunlop's next book. I feel the cuisine is so overlooked here in the US. I'm definitely keeping a close watch for the US publication date. :)

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                    Tang Pavilion
                    65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                      Thank you! Nice to know. Where in Jiangsu if I may ask?
                      The men who own Tang Pavilion are from Taiwan - I'm sure if you discussed the menu with them you'd be more than happy with the food you're served.
                      It seems that the Dunlop book will have dishes from "all over" China (a big place to have dishes from), not just the southeast (darn it). I really can't wait to see it.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        My family used to live in Northern Jiangsu, however our cooking was heavily Southern Jiangsu-influenced (mostly by the cuisine of Nanjing). We used to travel regularly to Shanghai. I've also been to Suzhou and Hangzhou and have sampled their specialties as well.

                        I hope the next Dunlop is 5-10 times the number of pages as her Sichuan and Hunan books to account for the fact the dishes will be from all over China. :P

                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                          Here's hoping - that would be fabulous. Please at least 2x as long!
                          We were just talking about the Suzhou specialty of lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice and simmered in sugar syrup recently. That is a really lovely dish.

                  2. Fourth time's the charm?

                    I took a detour after work to dine at Tang Pavilion, specifically to give the restaurant another (and final) chance. While flipping through the menu, I remembered buttertart recommending the tofu sheet dish. Except, there were two on the menu. One was Green Beans with Tofu Sheets (毛豆百页) and the other was Pickled Vegetable, Green Beans, and Tofu Sheets (雪菜毛豆百页). Upon the server's recommendation, I chose the latter.

                    Wow, I have to say, this dish was exceptional! The green beans were actually edamame. I've always liked edamame and they were fun to sink my teeth into. The pickled vegetable (雪菜) gave a nice umami lift to the dish. And the tofu sheets... oh, they were heavenly. Perfectly tender and pliant, and cut beautifully into ribbons The dish was just a tiny bit on the sweet side, but the seasoning was nicely balanced that the sweetness only enhanced instead of detracted. The dish brought up lots of good memories. Very comforting and wonderful.

                    I was treated extremely kindly and warmly by everyone. I wasn't sure if it was because I was a solo diner, or if it was because I was seated in the front area. The previous times I came here, I was always accompanied by others and seated in the back. While the service was perfectly adequate then, I didn't get the same sort of ultra warm vibe I received this time.

                    One of the owners chatted with a tourist from Shanghai about the real estate market in Shanghai and Manhattan, while I eavesdropped openly (haha). Everyone was all smiles and so friendly and attentive. I was really made to feel at home. It was truly a wonderful meal.

                    I'll definitely return in the future if only to get the Tofu Sheet dish again. I'll try to get seated in the front area too, since that's where the owners are and the service seemed far more attentive and warm there.

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                    Tang Pavilion
                    65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                      I am very happy to see this indeed. That is a lovely dish (and slight sweetness is a Jiangnan characteristic, as I don't have to tell you of course). We have it a lot, when we're not having the scallops with xue cai and bamboo shoot, which has a somewhat similar flavor profile.
                      Have always said, if you're looking for real, refined Shanghainese/Jiangnan food, and if you make your desires known to the very charming and cultivated owners (those are C.C. Wang paintings in the front, and the oxblood and other ceramics in the back room are the real thing), you will have a very good meal at Tang Pavilion. It's not a lunch special General Tso's kind of place.

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                      Tang Pavilion
                      65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                      1. re: buttertart

                        Scallops with Xue Cai and Bamboo Shoot, I see. I'll be sure to try that when I return to Tang Pavilion. :)

                        Yep, I understand the Jiangnan flavor profile is slightly sweet. Though I appreciate dishes in which sugar is used judiciously for its umami properties and the sweetness doesn't overpower the entire dish. You're absolutely right that it's important to communicate your preferences and desire to the server. The owners don't exactly visit every table, especially not the tables in the back area. Definitely recommend getting a table in the front area.

                        As an aside, a Shanghainese restaurant that I really liked was the old Evergreen in Chinatown. They seemed to have gotten the perfect balance between sweet and savory down. Though since they moved to Midtown, I'd only been back once. The dishes I tried on my one visit were limited, but they seemed solid. The place went from a hole-in-a-wall to a quite nice restaurant with Jiangnan-style wooden interior. The service had improved immensely too. It's another excellent option for Shanghainese in Midtown.

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                        Tang Pavilion
                        65 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                          We went to the Evergreen both places and liked the food reasonably well. Haven't been back in quite a while, though, should retry. We tend to go either to Tang Pavilion or Old Shanghai in Chinatown, which isn't as refined but puts out a lot of good dishes - including shredded pork with jiaobai, talk about umami...

                    2. I haven't been to Tang Pavillion in a while but it's always been good.

                      As for your food being served quickly, that doesn't necessarily mean it was preprepared. I grew up in a Chinese restaurant and can tell you it doesn't take long to stir fry most dishes. All of the vegetables, meat, and everything else are prepped between lunch and dinner shifts so that all the cook has to do is cook and assemble everything as ordered. It only takes a few minutes - literally.