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Chinese in Manhattan for a mixed family- Dilemma!

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I'm an SF-based Chinese-American hound looking for some decent Chinese dinner grub in Manhattan that I can take my family and my boyfriend's Caucasian family to around Xmas.

My boyfriend's family desperately wants to get an "authentic" Chinese experience. And my Mom desperately wants to present Chinese people as extremely clean people who care about service. (She keeps recommending places in midtown).

Therein lies the rub! Are there any authentic delicious places that can fit 10 people with a reasonably clean atmosphere and decent service?

I'm paying for the whole thing, so I'd prefer a place that wasn't insanely expensive (<$500 total, with a little alcohol). I'm OK with almost any type of Chinese food, but probably prefer Cantonese, Shanghainese, then Fujianese in that order. Good Chinese greens are the only definite thing we must order. Will almost definitely want to avoid fusion.

I've looked up posts on this board and Fuleen and Oriental Garden appeal to me. My friend recommended Chinatown Brasserie, but I don't know if I trust his taste. (He's kind of a picky eater, Caucasian style, as offended as he'd be if he saw that).

Any other recommendations beyond Fuleen and OG? Anything else?

Thank you in advance!

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  1. If spicy dishes are ok, i highly recommend Cafe China...it's mostly Sichuan, but there are some non-Sichuan and non-spicy dishes on the menu too...the service/staff are very nice, the atmosphere is pleasant...they have some larger tables...and: it's BYOB so easily within your budget...

    Unless Sichuan is a dealbreaker, i think it's the clear choice...

    imo, Chinatown Brasserie is horrible: sweet junky overpriced food, like an Epcot Center scam...it'd be the culinary equivalent of taking everyone to a Charlie Chan movie...

    Fuleen is fine, but very seafood-centric and not as nice a vibe as Cafe China by a long shot...

    -----
    Fuleen
    11 Division St, New York, NY 10002

    Chinatown Brasserie
    380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

    Cafe China
    13 E 37th St, New York, NY 10016

    5 Replies
    1. re: Simon

      I wouldn't be as harsh on CB as Simon. I'd reserve his description for places like PF Chang's. That said, CB is more Chinese-style cooking than authentic.

      1. re: mahalan

        Chinatown Brasserie's features things like "Lobster cheese sticks", "tempura claws with guacamole", and slew of sauces including mango, coconut curry...and just to make sure they didnt leave anything out: noodle choices include everything from lomein to udon. Sounds like a PF Chang to me.

        1. re: Simon

          I respect your posts but I've had the tragedy of eating at a PF Chang, if you have not, then you don't know just how harshly you are condemning Chinatown Brasserie.

          1. re: Pookipichu

            True, i've never eaten at a PF Chang :) Sounds like i have been fortunate :)

      2. re: Simon

        I'd vote for Cafe China as well, if you're up for Sichuan food. Though I've only gotten take out there, everything I've read makes me think it'll meet your mom's specifications. The food is awesome (and I prefer it over Legend and Szechuan Gourmet)

        A Cafe China thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/808588

      3. I've taken my Taiwanese born family to Chinatown Brasserie multiple times for dim sum, and it's been good every time. Nice atmosphere and good service. I can't speak to the non-dim sum dishes.

        -----
        Chinatown Brasserie
        380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

        2 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          they didn't notice the "Chinese" photographs which include people in traditional Korean garb?

          1. re: kathryn

            I agree - and I only get dim sum items there...

          2. Chinatown Brasserie is authentically good but ridiculously overpriced. Fuleen would probably be too earthy. How about Szechwan Gourmet on 39th St.?

            -----
            Szechuan Gourmet
            21 W 39th St, New York, NY 10018

            15 Replies
            1. re: Chandavkl

              I would not say it is overpriced. Perhaps only to one fixated on the notion that Chinese food must mean cheap eats. (When was the last time you attended a private banquet in China where the sky was the limit!) Chinatown Brasserie is bright and clean, they serve cocktails, pay more rent than Chinatown joints and have higher labor costs.

              1. re: scoopG

                I've attended many elegant amazing private banquets in China. The food served at CB is not that kind of food. The fact its being pitched to NYers as such is, imo, sad.

                1. re: Simon

                  I am not claiming it is. I am responding to Chandavkl's "overpriced" complaint.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    I agree with ScoopG, I don't think CB is overpriced. It's not banquet style food and I just noticed after Simon's PF Chang comment that the menu has changed a bit. I'd never seen cream cheese lobster, etc. Personally I detest cream cheese and am perplexed but I guess Chef Ng is being playful.

                    That being said I have eaten fantastic Chinese food in my life, in China, Taiwan, Japan, France. I've eaten multiple times at the top dim sum places of SF, Toronto and I can say unequivocally, imo, Chinatown Brasserie does the best dim sum in NY. That's worth something. Furthermore while I've had crap dishes there, I've had amazing experiences as well. They did a knockout suckling pig platter with steamed buns that was to die for. Their Peking duck is consistently crispy and delicious. I had a terrible filet mignon and spring ramps dish but elegant and fresh steamed bass that was practically still alive. Their spare ribs are consistently good and their avocado/black bass tarts are delicious, soup dumplings excellent. I've never tried any of the noodle dishes and I'd avoid the chicken dishes but their dim sum is consistently good.

                    It's not an all-around contender but based on the dishes that it does do well, it's one of the top Chinese restaurants in NYC.

                    1. re: Pookipichu

                      As crappy as Chinatown Brasserie may be, their Peking duck is really really good. I wish I could dislike the place for various reasons, but that duck keeps me coming back.

                      1. re: NYJewboy

                        Merry Peking Duck to all my Jewish friends http://www.chow.com/photos/697582

                        1. re: Pookipichu

                          LOL

                    2. re: scoopG

                      Well it is overpriced in that we can get the equivalent in the San Gabriel Valley or the S.F. Bay area for much less.

                      1. re: Chandavkl

                        It's all relative. NYC is the most expensive city to live in the USA.

                        1. re: scoopG

                          Yes but I'd say that the average food cost in Manhattan Chinatown is less than Los Angeles. No 4 or 5 for $1 dumpling places in LA, nor places like Hua Mei or Inexpensive Delicacies with menus of everything $4 or under. The reason why Chinatown Brasserie is so highly priced is that it's the only place in NY serving what I might call 21st Century Chinese food, while there are a number of that ilk in California, with the competition knocking the price down (relatively speaking),

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            I'll stick with 20th century Chinese food

                            1. re: Chandavkl

                              The cost of living in NYC Manhattan and Brooklyn is higher than LA. Chinatown Brasserie is not in Chinatown though. It's in a different location with higher rent, fancier digs, higher paid staff etc. Restaurants compete on much more than price alone.

                      2. re: Simon

                        If you like Chinese food, try banquet style (NOT a la carte) at Pearl East. 8-10 person minimum for the chef to shine.

                        1. re: Simon

                          Chinese food, particularly Hong Kong/Cantonese food continues to evolve. What is considered authentic Cantonese today in Hong Kong or Vancouver or Los Angeles today may not resemble what you would have considered authentic 20 or even 10 years ago. I do see where you are coming from, as there is a fine line between new versions of authentic Chinese food and imitation P.F. Chang junk. Indeed, before I ate at Chinatown Brasserie I had classified it in the P.F. Chang category.

                      3. re: Chandavkl

                        SG is excellent. IMHO, it's the best real Chinese restaurant in Manhattan. Their chef has a light hand, their food is always fresh, the dining room has ambiance, and their staff is equally skilled in handling Chinese and Caucasian clients. They take cards, they have decent drinks menu, the maitre'd speaks both good English and at least 4 Chinese dialects. I love the place, and we've had numerous remarkable meals there, from corporate parties to the Chinese New Year dinners.
                        They have two negatives.
                        (i) They can get insanely busy: please consider reserving a couple days in advance. (Their maitre'd would still waive you off if you you are concerned about their food selection, unless you have, like, a wedding banquet or something)
                        (ii) They are a Sichuan restaurant: their most marvelous dishes can be relentlessly greasy, hot, and spicy. This is manifestly not Cantonese, Fujianese, or Shanghai food.

                      4. I would go to the Peking Duck House on 53rd between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Comfortable, good service, great duck.

                        -----
                        Peking Duck House
                        236 E 53rd St, New York, NY 10022

                        1. I've only eaten there once, but Legend might work if Sichuan is an option. The menu is very extensive, so the families would have a lot of choices (including Vietnamese food), though I've read no compliments for the non-Sichuan items. It's a clean, modern-looking space, and a lot cheaper than Chinatown Brasserie.

                          http://www.legendrestaurant88.com/

                          -----
                          Legend
                          88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: small h

                            IMHO, Legend has a smaller selection of very well-executed dishes. Don't get me wrong: whatever they do right is top-notch. And the ambiance is there, techno-style, delicious Sichuan appetizers, an outstanding lamb dish and a fantastic hotpot. Can be a great Caucasian alternative to Sichuan Gourmet for Western folks. But in my experience, they still have to pass the dou miao test, sigh ;-)

                            -----
                            Legend
                            88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                          2. Another good option is Tang Pavilion on W. 55th. White tablecloths, good service, authentic. Probably within your budget and you can find the menu online. They also might have a course set. A bit more upscale but classic (and authentic) are Tse Yang on E. 51st, Shun Lee Palace on E. 55 st and Shun Lee West on W. 65th (perfect if it is a nice day and you can spend some time in Central Park). Good luck. Now go check out the reviews!

                            -----
                            Shun Lee West
                            43 W 65th St, New York, NY 10023

                            Shun Lee Palace
                            155 East 55th Street, New York, NY 10022

                            Tse Yang
                            34 E 51st St, New York, NY 10022

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

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: olympusnyc

                              I think Shun Lee West might strain that budget.

                              1. re: olympusnyc

                                The Shun Lees are awful and a waste of money.

                              2. Thanks for the recs guys! Cafe China and Peking Duck House are now definitely under consideration. Chinatown Brasserie sounds interesting for my Chinese family but probably weird for my bf's fam. Will want to avoid super upscale anyway.

                                22 Replies
                                1. re: thejulia

                                  I have not been to Cafe China but I would advise you, truly, to avoid Peking Duck House. It is a disgrace, their signature dish is done poorly and everything else is even worse. I've eaten at both the Chinatown and Midtown locations. The service in Chinatown is abysmal, the environment less than pristine and the duck is just not good. Both locations can not do entrees, the sauces are gloppy and overly sweet or salty. I just don't understand how they stay in business. Although the Midtown branch is usually pretty empty the Chinatown one seems to do ok. It's a mystery to me.

                                  As for Chinatown Brasserie. I could not recommend it more highly, I've done Chinese New Year's there, family gatherings. It's a crowd pleaser. Stick to the dim sum, the duck, the barbecue dishes and you will navigate the menu fine. Many of the dishes have a twist but that doesn't make them un-"authentic". For instance, steamed fish with scallions will sometimes have citrus peel added, a twist on an authentically prepared Chinese dish.

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6890...

                                  1. re: Pookipichu

                                    Hi Pookipichu, where would you recommend going for peking duck? I've eaten at Peking Duck House in Chinatown and thought it was barely adequate as far as authentic peking duck went. The skin wasn't crisp enough. The duck slices were too thick and the duck itself too fatty. The knifework was pretty abysimal too (very obvious in the way the duck was carved, and in the cutting of the scallion and cucumber). At least they served the duck with pancakes rather than buns. After eating real peking duck in Beijing, I guess I'm pickier than most about peking duck. I was resigned to the fact that New York probably couldn't do anything better than Peking Duck House.

                                    So, I'd be really happy if there are better places that do authentic peking duck in the city. Do such places exist?

                                    -----
                                    Peking Duck House
                                    28 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                      The Peking duck in Beijing is simply not going to be equaled in NY, sympathize because it's my favorite dish. That being said, the PD I've had at Chinatown Brasserie has been very good and I've had it there multiple times (I order PD everywhere they serve it, I've ordered it at a Korean restaurant). They make the pancakes from scratch at Chinatown Brasserie.

                                      The PD at Mr. K's was excellent but I can't recommend that restaurant anymore, other than the duck, everything was so sweet, and poorly executed and lazy.

                                      I've had the PD at Peking Duck Restaurant on Prince Street and Deyi, but neither were as good as Chinatown Brasserie.

                                      I agree with you regarding the knife skills and the fattiness and lack of crispness at Peking Duck House. Those elements are what elevates Peking Duck as a culinary masterpiece. The rendering of the fat, the caramelization of the skin and the crispness of the thin outer skin with the wisp of soft duck fat remaining, almost like biting into a macaron, make it a transcendent dish. Married with crunchy, cold cucumbers, and the acidic tang of slivers of spring onions, earthy sweet sauce and thin, pliable pancake, it's simply my favorite food.

                                      -----
                                      Mr. K's
                                      570 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022

                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                        Thanks for your vote of confidence on Chinatown Brasserie. Best dim sum and best peking duck in one place? Fabulous! I'll be sure to visit in the near future.

                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                          >The rendering of the fat, the caramelization of the skin and the crispness of the thin outer skin with the wisp of soft duck fat remaining, almost like biting into a macaron, make it a transcendent dish. Married with crunchy, cold cucumbers, and the acidic tang of slivers of spring onions, earthy sweet sauce and thin, pliable pancake, it's simply my favorite food.

                                          These have got to be some of my favorite sentences I've ever read on CH!

                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                            PD does not serve authentic Beijing Duck. They don't even have a concept of a multi-course PD dinnerl (soup etc.), they cringe if somebody is interested in the duck carcass and the dishes made out of it. I tried them once at each location, and felt like I should continue looking.

                                          2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                            Duck is inherently fatty. Actually the best Peking Duck is served up in Hongkong and Taipei, not Beijing. In NYC, try Deyi in Flushing.

                                            1. re: scoopG

                                              Duck is indeed inherently fatty, but I'm not convinced that real peking duck should be so fatty. It just makes me think the fat wasn't rendered properly during the preparation process.

                                              There's something ironic about what you said that the best peking duck is not served in Beijing, but Southern China. :) What makes Hong Kong and Taipei's peking duck better? I have not eaten peking duck in either Hong Kong or Taipei, so would be glad to know the differences.

                                              Thank you for letting me know about Deyi. I'll take note of it and will do a little comparison of my own when I sample the duck from both Chinatown Brasserie and Deyi.

                                              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                I think the prep in Hongkong and Taipei is lighter and with a more deft hand. (Also there are serious pollution and food safety issues in China - enough to give Fuchsia Dunlop pause). Have not been to Deyi in a awhile but original review is here:
                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763840

                                                1. re: scoopG

                                                  Looks like peking duck in Hong Kong or Taipei is something I need to experience in person then. :)

                                                  Yeah, I agree with you about pollution and food safety in Mainland China. They are very real and serious issues.

                                                  And thank you for the link to your review.

                                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                    I love Peking Duck. Beijing has amazing restaurants, their best are shoulder to shoulder with Hong Kong and Taipei. But you can't go wrong with these three cities or Shanghai for that matter. Taipei has one of my favorite Peking Ducks, at Yi Yuan.

                                                    In the US, if you are in Las Vegas, try the Peking Duck at Wing Lei. It's hard to find good Peking Duck in the US, because in general, Chinese food is not appreciated or given the same respect as Italian or French cuisine or frankly any number of cuisines. People are willing to pay $16 for guacamole (which takes no knife skills or special training) without batting an eyelash but balk at $8 elaborately prepared dim sum that might have ingredients that took hours to prepare.

                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                      Exactly! The words "over-priced" never pop up on this board when the talk is of high-end Western places. I've not heard any price complaints about Scott Conant's delicious $24 plate of Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil.

                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                        there are actually quite a lot of price complaints about the Scott Conant's $24 Spaghetti (but not from me: i love Scarpetta and dine there regularly -- though i usually eat the fish dishes and the soups)...if you want to hear the complaints: do a search here and you'll find dozens (though i disagree with them: i think Scarpetta's one of the best restaurants in NYC and quibbles about a couple dollars on the spaghetti is silly)...

                                                        I disagree that (among the Chowhounds at least) the "double-standard" on Western/Asian places is mainly due to a cultural/racial/etc basis: i think it's do the fact that most of the expensive/high-end (non-Japanese) Asian restaurants in NYC serve bad food: food which would be laughed at if it was served for the same prices in Hong Kong...if a restaurant served awful Shun Lee quality food at a top HK banquet place, it'd be out of business in a week...

                                                        1. re: Simon

                                                          I respectfully disagree. French, Italian and upscale American tend to get a pass when it comes to pricing. I've had mediocre dishes at Cafe Boulud, Gotham Bar and Grill, Del Posto, etc. etc. etc. Dishes that would rival CB for "PF-Chang-ness" in their mediocrity so to speak. And yes there is a double standard, because while a few may complain about the prices at Western establishments, in general, people accept the prices because of a belief they are superior cuisines. Furthermore, these establishments receive accolades (3-4 star ratings) irrespective of their value.

                                                          Pasta is almost always egregiously bad value proposition. $40 on a pizza at Lucalis. Etc. etc. etc.

                                                          It's hard to establish a great Chinese restaurant in NYC. There are a few good ones, and a few with chefs that can produce great food. But the deck is stacked against a cuisine that doesn't have cultural familiarity or the shiny patina of Japanese superiority.

                                                          No one is going to argue with you that guacamole crab legs is authentic. But Chinatown Brasserie is very capable of making good food. They've obviously tweaked their menu over the years to accommodate the market. I ignore those dishes but they do what they need to survive. The problem is there are a plethora of options and the devotion to Chinese food in this city is minimal. Even a place like Shun Lee Palace would be able to surprise you if the chefs pulled out the stops and cooked the way they want to cook. I ate there in group that was the guest of the owner and it was FANTASTIC. It was a banquet menu of various preparations of everything from ostrich, bison, pigeon and abalone. The ostrich was wok seared like a pepper steak and prepared to perfection.

                                                          Look at Susur Lee, obviously a talented chef but Shang is pretty mediocre. His whole menu was retooled to appeal to the New York market. That's a pretty strong condemnation of New York's appreciation for Chinese cuisine.

                                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                                            It looks like Chinatown Brasserie excels in dim sum and peking duck. Is there anything from their regular menu that you particularly like? This thread made me think CB is great for taking parents to, if only for the dim sum and duck. But, it'd be even better if there are some fantastic dishes on the regular menu as well. I plan on dropping by soon for a dim sum lunch, then maybe a peking duck birthday lunch a month later. :)

                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                              I'd focus mainly on dim sum with the roast duck/barbecued meats (the ribs are quite good, like sticky meat candy). As far as other entrees, sauteed sea bass, manila clams. The general tso's chicken is not terrible, not great. I haven't tried the crispy beef, but the crispy beef at Red Farm is very good., so I'd say it's a safer bet. If you can wait until Chinese New Year, they usually have a special menu. Last year they had suckling pig, and the skin was the most luxurious crackling, cut into rectangles on moist pork.

                                                              -----
                                                              RedFarm
                                                              529 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                Thanks again for the great info, Pookipichu. The suckling pig sounds wonderful.

                                                                I sympathize with the OP. My mom too, is extremely picky about cleaniness. The last time she was in the city, she refused to set foot in Chinatown. I ended up taking her to Szechuan Gourmet. She thought the environment there was only so-so, but enjoyed the food.

                                                            2. re: Pookipichu

                                                              i think the problem isn't the NY market itself, but rather the timidity of the people financing so many of the restaurants (i.e. their misperception of the market)...they feel compelled to dumb-down/broaden/fusionize/etc their menus out of fear that New Yorkers won't like it, not realizing that what so many of us want is authentic food (and we're willing to pay for it)...

                                                              re: expensive Chinese food: mediocre versions have been successfully scammed on the NY diner in the past: the Shun Lees, Mr. Chow and it's clones, etc...but those places aren't gaining new fans, because diners now are getting more sophisticated/worldly (Bruni's brilliant scathing review of Mr. Chow Tribeca a few years ago really says it all)...so given that New Yorkers have been successfully conned into paying high prices for mediocre Chinese food at those places, i don't see why a place that serves the kind of amazing high-end Chinese cuisine one can get in HK and Shanghai couldn't succeed..."build it, and they will come" :)

                                                              re: Japanese vs Chinese and the NY Diner: places like Shun Lee and Mr. Chow were charging high prices long before NYC had the plethora of high-end Japanese options that exist now...i don't really think cultural familiarity is the problem...even the some of the more unusual dishes at a 12-course Shanghainese banquet are more common to the Western palate than a lot of the Japanese dishes that are now eaten widely in NYC...

                                                              1. re: Simon

                                                                I'm appalled to see how many million dollars these faux Chinese restaurants in NYC (e.g., Mr. Chow, Ruby Foo) gross in sales. Fortunately this is something that is relatively uncommon in the rest of the country.

                                                    2. re: scoopG

                                                      Try it at SG in Manhattan or, better yet, at Xiao La Jiao in QNS. You might be pleasantly surprised at how lean and delicious it can get (most of my HK friends were). A dripping-fatty duck is an East Chinese artifact, although I love it over rice. :-)
                                                      IMHO, Deyi can really be a mixed bag, but it's arguably one of the better places in NYC.

                                              2. re: Pookipichu

                                                imo, "tempura claws w/ guacamole" (featured on the CB menu) is a lot more than a "twist", and i don't believe that anyone here can make a case for that being remotely authentic...

                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                  Thank you Pookipichu!

                                              3. Chinatown Brasserie is decent, but a little more Americanized. If you want to go Cantonese, then for what you're looking for, yeah - Oriental Garden and Fuleen are probably the top choices. OG is the more "refined" of the two, at least in ambience. At Fuleen you'll find more esoteric ingredients (black moss, geoduck, etc) but for tremendously prepared ultra-fresh seafood, OG is hard to beat.

                                                Only other two I'd mention would be Ping's (which might a little "cheffy" for your group - there are very traditional things on the menu, but he also embraces the occasional non-Chinese influence) and South China Garden. Cheaper than OG or Fuleen, but still very good - a good option if you're leaning toward mostly mammal & bird fare. For seafood, though, stick with one of the other two.

                                                -----
                                                South China Garden
                                                22 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                                                Fuleen
                                                11 Division St, New York, NY 10002

                                                Oriental Garden
                                                14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                                                Ping's
                                                22 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: sgordon

                                                  Nothing wrong with the xo lobsters at 22 Elizabeth.

                                                2. For Chinatown try Shanghai Cafe Deluxe @ 100 Mott St.
                                                  If Murray Hill is convenient check out Mapo Tofu or Hunan Manor across the street on Lexington near E 39th.
                                                  All of these places have fabulous authentic Chinese food.

                                                  -----
                                                  Shanghai Cafe
                                                  100 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                                  Mapo Tofu
                                                  338 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                                  Hunan Manor
                                                  339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Motosport

                                                    Mapo Tofu is not a destination Chinese restaurant in NYC.
                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/710598

                                                    1. re: scoopG

                                                      Mapo Tofu may not be one of NYC's "best" but the ambience and menu would appeal to the Chinese and Caucasian family members. It may also be a convenient location.
                                                      I personally prefer hole in the wall places in C-town but they may not be to the taste of the feint of heart.

                                                  2. I'd never take anyone to Fuleen...yikes, the horror.

                                                    First of all, i don't think it's 'classy' enough to take your in laws. Secondly, it's dirty. Last time I went there, their bathroom overflowed and I can't even begin to write what I saw...i left immediately..almost puked my way out.

                                                    I have also been to the peking duck house on 53rd street. I'd try to avoid that place as well. Nothing too memorable including the duck itself.

                                                    -----
                                                    Fuleen
                                                    11 Division St, New York, NY 10002

                                                    9 Replies
                                                    1. re: Monica

                                                      Yea I just ate at Fuleen a few days ago and its gritty as hell, its like the chinese restaurant owned by Chow Yun Fat's character "Ken" in "A Better Tomorrow 2"

                                                      1. re: AubWah

                                                        >its like the chinese restaurant owned by Chow Yun Fat's character "Ken" in "A Better Tomorrow 2"

                                                        Great description, succinct.

                                                        1. re: uwsister

                                                          Experiences differ. IMHO, Fuleen is easily the best Fujian food place in NYC, but it helps to speak their dialect.
                                                          In my past experience, a respected 70-yo South-TW guy was deemed a (non-worthy, ha-ha) foreigner simply because he decided to stick to speaking PTH. C'mon, the guy was an elite diver in the TW marine force back in the days. He and his wife are wonderful people.
                                                          What is this shootout all about?

                                                          1. re: diprey11

                                                            I'm super impressed w/ myself that I actually remembered what PTH stood for.

                                                            1. re: uwsister

                                                              I am really sorry for being cryptic I meant 普通話 /the standard Chinese, of course. You were absolutely right!

                                                      2. re: Monica

                                                        ITA w/ Fuleen .. Must have been the same night that we were there .. lol
                                                        We used to love that place when it was the original owner ..
                                                        I think the fukienese bought it over about 3-4 years ago, this is not a rumor.
                                                        It was more family night than an invite your in laws kind of place ..

                                                        There has been many changes within Chinatown in the past many years and unfortunately, most of the better chefs are now retired and the new breed are just not purists in techniques and seasonings.

                                                        As someone mentioned, we just want well prepared authentic food not the mish mash of fusion and calling this Chinese or Asian .. Where is the integrity!?! I think we foodies should get together and map out a strategy .. LOL

                                                        1. re: panjuice

                                                          Where is this fusion? Other than Ping's, I'm not sure I can think of one Chinatown restaurant that does what I'd call "fusion" - yes, there might be more than one Chinese region represented (it's a bit odd seeing Ma Po Tofu on the menu at, say, Oriental Garden, I admit) and there are the "for the tourist" dishes occasionally (like Gen Tso Chicken, etc) - but they're not there at the expense of other menu items. They're not fusion, like, Momofuku or Shang are/were fusion.

                                                          What at Fuleen is "fusion" to you? What inauthentic techniques or seasonings are they using, specifically? Are they filling their woks with butter? Using low-sodium soy sauce? Meyer Lemons? The menu's been essentially the same for the last decade - probably longer. Maybe you don't care for the current chef, but in the time I've been going I haven't noticed any major changes.

                                                          ----

                                                          Mind you, I write this while not feeling that "authentic" means much of anything. After all - everything was new at some point, everything has an earlier version - what's the cutoff date for "authentic" and who decides it? 1927? 1382? 654 BC? And that's aside from the fact that no one knows who the first person to make, say, black bean sauce or ginger-scallion sauce was - so what are the "authentic" versions of them, anyway? If there's only one proper recipe, we wouldn't need restaurants, we could all just make it exactly the same at home.

                                                          But THAT aside, I don't think "authentic" is anything to be held in high esteem in the first place. If you only want to eat truly "authentic" food, heck, go catch local small wildlife and eat it raw with no utensils, then forage for leafs, roots and berries. THAT'S the most "authentic" food you can get, of course.

                                                          1. re: sgordon

                                                            amazing 66's pastrami fried rice sounds pretty fusiony (and its been calling to me for a while) but that is just one example.

                                                            -----
                                                            Amazing 66
                                                            66 Mott St, New York, NY 10013

                                                            1. re: tex.s.toast

                                                              True that. Though it was Fuleen I was really asking about. Had I remembered it, I'd have included A66 with Ping's, though their fusiony flights of fancy are fewer. IIRC, their chef isn't even Chinese.

                                                      3. I gave a lot of thought to your question. For in laws and for convenience and to go along with your mother's wishes, it sounds like you should stay out of Chinatown and eat in Midtown. In the recent past, finding real Chinese food in Midtown could be a big problem. However, recently "Hunan Manor' opened on Lexington Avenue a few blocks south of Grand Central. It is authentic Hunan food. They have a very nice range of Hunan dishes sure to satisfy your party and the restaurant in very nice. If you decide to go to Chinatown, go to Oriental Garden

                                                        -----
                                                        Oriental Garden
                                                        14 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10013

                                                        Hunan Manor
                                                        339 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: AubWah

                                                          Thank you so much AubWah.

                                                          My mother actually did recommend Hunan Manor for us (along with Peking Duck House, which I am discarding as an idea). I have always associated Hunan food with a lot of Americanization, so my first instinct was to avoid it. Do you have any recommendations for dishes?

                                                          1. re: thejulia

                                                            Forty years of faux Hunan food caused a lot of damaged perceptions of Hunan style food, which is just now reversing. While authentic Hunan food was introduced in California nearly 20 years ago, it's only been about five years since it really took a foothold in California, and has now reached New York. See Lau's blog on the specifics on Hunan Manor.

                                                            http://www.lauhound.com/2011/11/hunan...

                                                            1. re: Chandavkl

                                                              http://www.chow.com/digest/90790/real...

                                                        2. Update: My mom visited Hunan Manor and had a plethora of complaints that she voiced in her loudest Chinese-Mom-Complaining, ear piercing whine. Basically, she refused to taste the food because it was too small and too dirty for a meeting of the in laws and she thought the service was extraordinarily rude.

                                                          At this rate, I think we'll end up at Chinatown Brasserie and do the Peking Duck and an assortment of dim sum. I trust Pookipichu because her writing is lovely and evocative, and I found myself drooling over her Peking Duck description, but I find it very scary that CB has no menu written in Chinese. I'll literally have to translate the menu at this Chinese restaurant for my Chinese mother!

                                                          24 Replies
                                                          1. re: thejulia

                                                            Don't do it!!! :)

                                                            ...you'd be turning your entire meeting of cultures/families into a bad joke from an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm"...seriously: go to the website and look at the menu: do you think your mom would be pleased w/ tempura being on the menu not once, but twice?...or the various coconut curry, sweet mango, and guacamole choices?...

                                                            imo, CB is the antithesis of authentic Chinese food...Shun Lee Junk tailored for Lower Manhattan...

                                                            1. re: Simon

                                                              Thank you Simon. I expressed this dilemma to my boyfriend and he opined that it'd actually be hilarious, albeit in a painful way. Oriental Garden sounds amazing. I forget why I'd discarded it as an idea in the first place.

                                                              Btw, I don't see any guacamole choices- but yes, the mango and coconut curry choices are concerning. This reminds me a lot of a Chinese restaurant I was taken to in Paris- Chez Vong, super high end and super hilarious.

                                                              1. re: thejulia

                                                                the guac is on the left side of the menu, evidentally for dipping w/ "tempura claws"

                                                                1. re: thejulia

                                                                  re: Oriental Garden, i only went once, at least 8 years ago...i remember the food being very good Cantonese seafood, but the service/vibe being on the rude/crowded side, which seems to be what your mom is trying to avoid...but i haven't been in a long time, so i'd say check recent threads and/or drop in for a quick meal to see what you think :)

                                                                  1. re: Simon

                                                                    I agree -- I doubt OG is going to be "nice enough" for the OP's mom.

                                                                  2. re: thejulia

                                                                    Consider taking your mom to Flushing, there is an express bus from 2 bridges (but no Peking Duck, haha) What kind of Chinese food do you guys prefer?

                                                                    1. re: diprey11

                                                                      honestly, we love them all. i'm personally over sichuan right now, but the rest of my family loves it, and americans love that ma la taste. i have a severe fondness for cantonese, i would be delighted to find some decent taiwanese, i don't know fujianese that well, and i like hunan when done well. i think flushing could work, although i have to check with my boyfriend's family.

                                                                      1. re: thejulia

                                                                        Let me try to think of this one. :-)
                                                                        Cantonese seafood: Imperial Palace @37 St in Flushing, across the street from HK Supermarket (please check out Lau's recommendations on this board). Non-seafood/casseroles/bo zai fan/my mother-in-law favorites: Canton Gourmet on Prince St. Both places are within 4-5 blocks from the subway.
                                                                        The best TW I am aware of is North Harbor (aka, Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet) on Main St, just south of the Flushing C-Town, yet quite a detour. You won't regret it: this is the only well-recognized TW dining spot I am aware of (but I do suggest you call them to see how American-friendly their offerings are--should be just fine, really).
                                                                        Also, would you consider a good 山東 restaurant? The name is 美而特 , (M&T in English) on Kissena Blvd. Call them: the lady's name is Mei and magic is her specialty :-) we always order a takeout for holidays' dinner.
                                                                        Happy dining!

                                                                        1. re: thejulia

                                                                          what about something in brooklyn chinatown? some place like pacificana? food is great, and it's clean.

                                                                        2. re: diprey11

                                                                          Deyi serves Peking Duck Three Ways. I get the feeling the OP's mother will prove too fussy to please. The Joy Luck Club Sequel: Nightmare in New York. Hunan Manor is small but dirty it is not!
                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763840

                                                                          1. re: scoopG

                                                                            Actually, I like The Manor quite a lot. I went there on your recommendation , and I am really glad I did. Thanks Scoop!

                                                                            1. re: diprey11

                                                                              Happy you liked it!

                                                                      2. re: Simon

                                                                        the OP and her Mom and BF's Family at CB:

                                                                        thejulia's Mom (in Mandarin, pointing to menu): "They don't have Chinese characters! What the hell is this?"

                                                                        thejulia: "Guacamole. You know, like in Mexican places? Avocado?"

                                                                        [thejulia's mom shoots her a horrifed look and disowns her daughter on the spot]

                                                                        someone in thejulia's bf's family: "Hey, alright! Tempura! I love it. Julia, you told us this place is real Chinese, but tempura is kind of Chinese? That's really interesting. Does your family cook tempura?"

                                                                        And on and on...

                                                                        1. re: Simon

                                                                          You've probably heard the comment "I wanted to like the restaurant, but..." With me, after hearing so much about the restaurant before I went there it's a case of wanting to dislike the restaurant, but not being able to. It still bugs me that a large portion of the clientele doesn't appreciate what they're getting (i.e., that portion which is attracted to the place because they think it's an upscale P.F. Chang).

                                                                        2. re: thejulia

                                                                          yea i think oriental garden is a much better idea check it out

                                                                          1. re: thejulia

                                                                            Both Cafe China and Legend have Chinese characters on the menu and nice decor. What about those?

                                                                            1. re: kathryn

                                                                              i haven't been to Legend in a while: not sure if they've sorted out the consistency issue which had plagued them and had been documented here...it was awesome sometimes and right up there w/ some of the best Sichuan in NY, yet other times it was beyond dreadful (and one of the staff confessed to me that there are two chefs, evidentally of extremely varying skill)...but i haven't been there since late spring...

                                                                              1. re: Simon

                                                                                not sure Legend is nice enough atmosphere for OP's request

                                                                                1. re: AubWah

                                                                                  "Chinese characters on the menu" is a new part of the request.

                                                                                  I don't think Oriental Garden is nice enough either.

                                                                                  1. re: kathryn

                                                                                    It's not part of the original request because I can't imagine an actual Chinese restaurant not having a Chinese menu! But I might be wrong.

                                                                              2. re: kathryn

                                                                                When I went to Legend recently, the service ranged from grumpy (old staff and service I recognized) to completely clueless (new guy). I knew lot more about the menu than the server, and I don't know that much. I doubt it would meet thejulia's mom's specifications

                                                                                1. re: rose water

                                                                                  When we went we had a young guy who was great at recommending dishes and explaining things. I think he was bilingual, too.

                                                                              3. re: thejulia

                                                                                I am from Taiwan and I go to Chinatown Brasserie all the time. I don't see anything wrong with their food and I have been to numerous PF Changs and Chinatown Brasserie is much better than PF Chang's. As long as you stay away from the more fusion dishes, I am pretty sure you will get a relatively authentic dining experience (in terms of food). You can order Dim Sums (which are made to order) during dinner time (I know traditionally they are served during lunch time but if they taste good, why not eat them as appetizers at dinner?). Their Wok-Fried Thin Egg Noodles (similar to Cantonese Pan Fried Noodle) are pretty good as well as the beef stir-fry (last time I ordered beef with asparagus, the beef was very tender, just like what you get at a Chinese restaurant minus the baking soda taste). Their mini custard baos (as dessert) are also really good. Chinatown Brasserie is not cheap but if you want to go to a clean and presentable place that serves pretty authentic Chinese food, I would recommend it. Honestly, this would be the place I take my non-Asian friends to when they visit from out of town, although I personally would go to Chinatown with my Chinese friends. I totally understand where your mom is coming from!! I feel awkward (and embarassed at times) taking my non-Asian friends to Chinatown, where they see the not-so-clean restaurants and not-so-great service and you will end up having to explain every single dish to your non-Asian friends because there is no description and all the daily specials posted on the walls are in Chinese. That in itself will ruin your evening. Let's be honest, many Americans (even if they live in NYC or California) are not foodies and they don't know what they are getting into when they want "authentic experience". You are better off playing it safe so you don't give them an impression of what you and your family is like based on what they see in Chinatown because that can reflect on you.

                                                                                As to Oriental Garden, I have not been for a couple of years but it's pretty good too. I think their cuisine is more Cantonese style and they specialize in Seafood. However, keep in mind that it is in Chinatown (and service is still not as good as CB) and your mom would prefer a non-Chinatown location but you can figure it out among yourself. By the way, last time I went to Oriental Garden, they only accepted American Express for charges over $60 (I am sure $60 would not be a problem there since their price is pretty high for Chinatown standar). So you might want to call ahead to double check in case you don't have an AE.

                                                                                Another place you might be able to try is Red Egg (202 Center Street...located north of Canal Street). I have ordered some of their entrees (noodle dishes and salt pepper pork chop) before and they were pretty good. I believe you can also order dimsum during dinner time as well but the decor is a little "modern", not sure if it's too much for your mom. I have not been to Red Egg for a while so I don't know if anything has changed recently. Perhaps other folks can comment on that.

                                                                                Whereever you decide to go, please report back and let us know how it went. I wish you good luck in entertaining your boyfriend's family. I would love to hear what your mom and your boyfriend's family think about the "authentic" Chinese restaurant you went.

                                                                                1. re: bearmi

                                                                                  Beg to differ PF Changs is not authentic Chinese food .. It fills a void where Applebee's meets Foo Man Chu .. They never met but if they did it would be PFChg ... lol

                                                                                  I know for a fact bcos one of the franchise owners had us tweaked their flavor profiles due to lacking sales back in its inception around 1996-7 and lots has changed since then.

                                                                              4. IPop into one of the more dressed up dining places on Eldrigde, on that is just below Hester on the East side of the street. It is called Rong Hang and has that in English over the yellow sign. Not to be mixed up with Best Fuzhou which has a smaller dining room and is not really family dining. Rong Hang is first block below Hester and an attractive large table clothered dining room.

                                                                                Or a really busy place that has nothing but large round tables almost across the street from 144 East Broadway。 These places have 2 dollar hein, bud or Qingdao, and could bring your own wine. For this one it is just down the stairs but has a bg window across the front of the dining room. That is my best bet for authentic。

                                                                                Imight recommend Legends on the West Side, up near 20th on 6th or 7th, but really you would be cheating your guests, becuase the places I have just mentioned will be very authentic and catering to (99% of customers that is) Fuzhou people and there big families siting around the big round tables, long meals and the like. It is cheaper than the others and some great interesting food.

                                                                                Good luck.

                                                                                -----
                                                                                Rong Hang
                                                                                38 Eldridge St, New York, NY 10002

                                                                                Legend
                                                                                88 7th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                                                                1. went to Chinatown brasserie last Friday for late lunch. It was my first time there and from what I have been reading from this site, I kinda had a high expectation. All the staffs were non asians, not that there is anything wrong with it but if you want to show your in laws some authentic experience, i totally don't think this place fits the bill. Also, according to their website, it doesn't seem like this place is owned by Chinese.
                                                                                  Now food, we ordered dimsums and a whole peking duck. Dimsum was ok but I've had better dimsums in Chinatown. I had a high expecation for their peking duck as people from here have been saying it's probably the best peking duck in NYC. Did i go on a wrong day? The duck was nicely presented but it was dry and not flavorful at all! After spending more than $100 for two for lunch, I left kinda disappointed and I won't be returning to place.

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Chinatown Brasserie
                                                                                  380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Monica

                                                                                    Sorry you had a bad experience, that's always disappointing, especially when the meal is not inexpensive.

                                                                                    I believe the restaurant is owned by Ed Schoenfeld (not Chinese) and Joe Ng (Chinese) the chef.

                                                                                    I'm curious where you've had better dim sum and if there's a Peking duck place you prefer over CB?

                                                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                      Interestingly, the best peking duck I had was when I was invited to an event sponsored by Harvard Univ through my friend. It was at the Sotheby's in midtown. I wish I had asked them who the caterer was. It was just amazingly flavorful and tasty. I kept going for more until I actually got a bit embarrassed. lol
                                                                                      As for the dimsum, I thought dimsums at the typical dimsum restaurants in Chinatown were better. Places like Jing Fong. The dimsum at Chinatown brasserie just didn't seem fresh and moist enough though again, the presentation was nice.

                                                                                      1. re: Monica

                                                                                        :) Catered Peking duck at Sotheby's for Harvard, that is a first. Sounds delicious though.

                                                                                        Although I wouldn't say to go back, I've always had good experiences with the Peking duck and dim sum at Chinatown Brasserie. The dishes have been less successful but one thing about CB is that when you mention something, they are quick to correct it. They've comped dishes, replaced items. The management and customer service there is phenomenal.

                                                                                        The duck is always crispy and the skin is completely rendered which may make the duck less moist than at some other places but it is similar in style to the Peking ducks I've had in Taipei and I always prefer complete rendering over leaving the fat.

                                                                                        As for the dim sum, I had awful xiao long bao at Red Farm but Catherine subsequently had a great experience. Usually the dim sum is pretty consistent at CB, in my experience, but who knows? At least the presentation is always stellar. Joe Ng's presentation is better than the upscale dim sum specialists in San Francisco and his creativity with shapes, colors, whimsy set the bar for dim sum presentation in the US.

                                                                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                          Perhaps it's because I don't appreciate the real peking duck as I am so used to eating greasy fatty duck meat. The skin was very crispy but not moist crispy..crispy like how crackers are crispy. My husband too wasn't very impressed though we did end up eating the whole thing thanks to the sauce. haha. The table next to us ordered soup dumplings which looked really good.

                                                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                                                            I'm quite happy to read about the crispy skin and the fat-rendered peking duck at CB. Fat-rendered and crispy skin are the characteristics of a true peking duck. I'm now really looking forward to my peking duck lunch at CB now. I'm hopeful that this is the authentic peking duck I've been looking for.

                                                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                              Okay, I finally had both dim sum and the peking duck at Chinatown Brasserie. For the photos of my meal, see: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjy8rGUz

                                                                                              The dim sum for the most part were great. In terms of quality, taste, and presentation, I can totally understand why they're considered to offer the best dim sum in the city when all factors were considered. However, if you don't feel like spending double / triple the money of actual Chinatown restaurants, I think Dim Sum Go Go is a perfectly good cheaper option given its sheer variety and delicious food even though it has the tendency to over steam food.

                                                                                              I can understand why Monica complained the duck was dry. I was happy to see that the fat under the skin was indeed almost completely rendered. The skin was so crispy that it was almost approaching crunchy territory. The meat was a bit dry if eaten all itself. But, you're not supposed to eat the duck meat by itself since you should be eating the meat with the sauce along with the other components in a wrap anyway. I'd probably not have noticed the meat was dry had I not seen Monica's comment because I never eat the duck meat by itself. So, while the peking duck at CB wasn't perfect, I'd still choose CB over Peking Duck House because I care far more about the skin and getting the fat rendered correctly. CB's defect ended up not mattering when the duck, slathered in the sauce, was eaten along with cucumber and scallion wrapped in a pancake.

                                                                                              Also, the peking duck at CB is actually cheaper than the Peking Duck House if you eat there for lunch. Nice.

                                                                                              -----
                                                                                              Dim Sum Go Go
                                                                                              5 E Broadway, New York, NY 10038

                                                                                              Chinatown Brasserie
                                                                                              380 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012

                                                                                  2. Where did you end up going? Cantonese food in NYC is probably not as good as SF. Maybe try Flushing or Sunset Park. I am very partial to Grand Sichuan on the Upper East Side (2nd Ave. and 55th/56th St. -- not the other ones), but your New York family probably already knows it and your West Coast Cantonese mom might not like it. Any whole fish, fresh chicken with Chinese broccoli, sliced fresh pork (a plate of pork belly and hot peppers), and sliced pumpkin with ginger are very good. They have every Chinese green you could want, most off menu. The atmosphere is pleasant and so is the service. It's now BYOB since they lost their liquor license, and they have brown rice. I also love the frog legs but they are too spicy. Do not bother with duck or shrimp -- if they have a good shrimp dish, I haven't found it.

                                                                                    -----
                                                                                    Grand Sichuan
                                                                                    1049 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10022