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Chinese in Manhattan for a mixed family- Dilemma!

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...

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    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.

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        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.?

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            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.

                    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.

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                        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/

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                          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