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Hakkasan - new luxury Chinese restaurant in Midtown

Opening tomorrow.

From NY Times Diner's Journal: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

"High-quality ingredients, including seafood that is often sustainably sourced; waitress dressed by Diane von Furstenberg; and a lavish interior are designed to appeal to an international clientele. Prices reach as high as $888 for an entree of Japanese abalone with black truffle; whole suckling pig is $295 and Peking duck with Kaluga caviar is $345."

Restaurant website here: http://www.hakkasan.com/newyork/

So.... anyone planning on trying this place anytime soon?


I noticed the menu (linked in the NY Times article) says the following:

"Prices include VAT at the current rate. A discretionary service charge of 13% will be added to your bill."

Basically, the prices include tax and the tip is an automatic 13%? Or maybe it was a mistake and the restaurant was using the UK menu template and forgot to delete that line....

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  1. Ate at the Miami location a couple of months ago. The food was delicious, but the space was over-produced and the prices were ridiculous.

    1. I've got dinner there on friday night. Looking forward to it - Cantonese is my husband's favorite. I'll report back on Monday.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chloes

        I look forward to your report. Hope this is a place that I can take my parents to. Cantonese food in a refined environment is defintely something they'd enjoy if the food is good.

      2. A quote from the article: "Hakkasan is how the West wants to celebrate Chinese food."
        What's wrong with presenting Chinese food as it should be celebrated?

        Sounds like Red Farm on steroids. I can picture the Kaluga cavier but Peking Duck?

        1. i went to the London one about a year and half ago and i disliked it...but open to trying this one if people find it worthwhile...

          1. I've made a reservation and I am going there soon, but god, I hope the 13% won't be that silly 'mandatory service charge' which is not a part of gratuity, meaning we have to pay an additional gratuity on top of that, like Masa.
            The prices already look expensive enough. :)
            It will be interesting for me to compare this place with its London counterpart.

            34 Replies
            1. re: kosmose7

              Hakkasan sounds more like japanese sake, then a chinese name

              1. re: foodwhisperer

                Maybe "Hakka" refers to the Hakka people? No idea what "san" is in this context.

                They probably just wanted to come up with a name that sounded "exotic".

                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                  Yes, the "Hakka" part of the name does refer to the Hakka people. A fair bit of the food served was based on/drawn from Hakka cuisine rather than pure Cantonese cuisine.

                  Also: some tidbits about the current background of Hakkasan (and siblings):

                  1. re: huiray

                    Forgot to mention:

                    The Chinese phrase/name of the restaurant the organization uses and transcribes as "Hakkasan" is "客家人" [(Cantonese)Yale: Haak3 Ga1 Yan4] which literally means "Hakka people" with "Hakka" meaning the subgroup of folks described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakka_pe... .

                    1. re: huiray

                      How in the world did 人become transliterated as "san"? Or is "san" the pronounciation of 人 in the Hakka language?

                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                        That's a good question. In Hakka "人" would be pronounced something like "ngin".

                        1. re: huiray

                          Wow, you guys are good! Always find something interesting here.

                        2. re: Cheeryvisage

                          Perhaps it is the original owner being playful - and using the Japanese honorific suffix san?

                          1. re: scoopG

                            scoopG was *exactly* right - in an interview with Straits Times Singapore last year, Hakkasan founder, Alan Yau, did mention that he attached the Japanese honorific "-san" to the back of Hakka (a reference to his Hakka-Chinese roots) in a rather playful manner, and also to reflect his use of Japanese-inspired aesthetics in his restaurants' concept. I couldn't find an electronic copy of that article, but this article from the Mid-Day Guide of Mumbai seemed to have repeated that line:


                            1. re: klyeoh

                              Thanks klyeoh for finding that!

                              1. re: klyeoh

                                Even if this may be the case, "san" is a common word in Chinese and not an indicator of Japanese derivation.

                                It could easily have been Hakka "mountain" (san) 山

                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                  True, "san" could mean mountain - but the name of the restaurant is "客家人". The USAmerican, UK, Middle East and Indian websites (or searches for suitable images of those sites) don't show the Chinese name they use for themselves, but the Canadian website does, ditto the blogspot page for the Vancouver location. (Not unexpectedly so, as it would be in Canada that there would be significantly larger numbers of Chinese folks (and Chinese-speaking and reading) with large disposable incomes as part of the clientele) I very much doubt it would be different at any of the other locations or for the parent organization?

                                  In any case, klyeoh reports that the founder of Hakkasan himself said what he reports in his post, and provides a suitable reference for what Alan Yeo said. Is there a reason that you specifically know about to question that?

                                  1. re: huiray

                                    My post was not to refute klyeoh's post or question the derivation of Hakkasan, it was to point out that "san" does not necessarily = Japanese, especially when "san" is such a common sound in Chinese.

                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                        Does the morpheme "san" exist in the Hakka language? I know Hakka has 15 tones. 山 in Mandarin is shan.

                            2. re: huiray

                              Hakka (or 客家人) really means "guest households" - so named to distinguish them from the "host people" (地人- Běn dì rén) among who they lived in south China. Though they had been around for centuries, it was only in the 18th century that the label Hakka itself began to be broadly used.

                              1. re: huiray

                                its sort of weird that they have alot of stuff that says its hakka so 客家 <blank dish>, hakka food is sort of hard to find and its not like some common cuisine that is all over the place. i wonder if those dishes on hakkasan's menu are actual hakka dishes, ive only been to a hakka restaurant twice i think which was when i lived in asia and the only dish that ive eaten alot of yong tofu which i believe is hakka in origin. i could use some of yong tofu right now, now that im thinking about it

                                1. re: Lau

                                  Well, their "Hakka three treasures in black bean sauce with tofu, aubergine and pepper" (客家煎釀豆腐) under their "Tofu" section would be yong tofu if correctly named. :-) You would presumably get tofu [豆腐], aubergines (chinese-type long-shaped eggplants) and peppers (hopefully chinese-type hot chile peppers) stuffed [釀] with a ground meat/fish/(shrimp) prep, pan-fried [煎] and served with a probably brownish sauce, in Hakka [客家] style.

                                  BTW consider making your own Yong Tau Foo (yong tofu, 釀豆腐) (YTF) - it's not hard, it just requires a little labor. If you look at my avatar carefully you will see a batch of YTF I made myself not that long ago, using seasoned fish paste for the stuffing. I make it from time to time as the mood strikes me.

                                  I think some of the dishes on the NYC menu, at least, are - as I mentioned previously above - drawn from, or based on, some Hakka dishes rather than their being strictly authentic Hakka dishes.

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    I think has been established that Hakkasan is not specializing in Hakka food. The only Hakka spot in the USA that I know of is in San Francisco. NY pals were there last year and it was so delicious that went back for a second meal days later.

                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      One of the stands in Boston's grungy Chinatown food court used to specifically Hakka. But last time i was there was years and years ago when i was in college.

                                      1. re: scoopG

                                        Especially since the chain is now run by an Abu Dhabi conglomerate. I can't visualize much authentic Hakka cuisine (certainly not involving pork) being heavily promoted by such an ownership over simply making money.

                                        1. re: huiray

                                          oh i wasnt saying the menu was mainly hakka, just pointing out whether or not the dishes listed as hakka dishes are actually hakka dishes

                                          from a restaurant catering to the crowd they will be catering to, id be extremely surprised to have it be some authentic hakka restauant haha

                                          1. re: Lau

                                            My guess is the "hakka" used on the menu is a reference to the restaurant name, a la "House Special so-and-so"

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              The place is in Times Square. That's all you need to know.

                                              1. re: Lau

                                                My wife is froma majority-Hakka city in taiwan. The few Hakka home cooked and restaurant meals were really good, and I am not sure I would characterize them as "Catnonese." hakka folks travelled from Korea all the wway down through China and eventually out to Singapore/Taiwan/Indonesia/Malaysia. Accrodingly, hakka food is a bit of a mix. i found a lot of pickled and salted foods. It also seemed a little more noodle-than rice-centric, but my sample size was pretty small.
                                                I did pick up a Hakka cookbook a few years back. again, i see an emphasis on pickles and preserves.

                                                1. re: Westy

                                                  hakka food is definitely different than cantonese food from my experience with it, but i think there is some association b/c there is a big hakka population there

                                                  like technically chaozhou food is guangdong (cantonese) food since its in the same province, but its a totally different food

                                                  1. re: Westy

                                                    I've not read that the Hakka ever originated in Korea. My understanding is north China and that they started migrating south around 500 CE and eventually settled in Fujian and Guangdong. Through centuries of intermarriage and isolated living they gradually developed a distinctive physical appearance and cultural identity based on dialect, cuisine and social practices – they rejected footbinding for example. The Hakka diaspora essentially fanned out from Guangdong’s Mei County. And of course living in Guangdong and Fujian shaped their cuisine.

                                                    1. re: scoopG

                                                      Yes, Hakka cuisine as we know it today is largely influenced by their millennia-old settlement in Guangdong and Fujian. Despite distinct differences between those cuisines, there's no denying the cross-influences, etc. Hakka cuisine, as we know it in Singapore or other South-East Asian countries, will have some common dishes with Cantonese and Hokkien cuisine. I've had Hakka, Cantonese and Hokkien friends, even relatives, all claiming certain dishes (like braised pork with yams) as being their own, whilst others attributed those very same dishes to the other dialect groups! Oh, what a mixed-up world we live in :-D

                                                      As for those Korean or Northern Chinese roots, let's leave those to antiquity. After all, going back far enough, aren't all of us Africans? ;-)

                                              2. re: scoopG

                                                The place named in that thread is new(er) but not the only one - grew up in SF eating hakka food. My dad had a long-time fascination with the hakka style bacon clay pot with preserved mustard greens at Ton Kiang (a dish referenced in that thread that triggered my memory). This was before pork belly was as popular as it is today, and the prep involved white-bread sized slices of 10% lean belly, cooked into jiggly submission and so fatty that every time my dad would order it the waiter would send over the manager - with better english - to explain that it was VERY fatty and make sure he knew what he was getting into. every. single. time. I see a similar item on the Hakkasan menu, the "Hakka Pork Belly Clay Pot" - though im far from an authority on hakka food, and it seems to include veg different from the version im familiar with (leek and mushroom), it seems like there could be some actual connection between the menu's use of the term hakka to describe dishes and their origins in hakka food.

                                                1. re: scoopG

                                                  Lots of Fujian Hakka folk in Taiwan, so some Taiwanese places might serve a number of their dishes. But yeah, not specialised as such.

                                        2. re: foodwhisperer

                                          well the CEO did say he is trying to build a Chinese Nobu - so maybe there is a reason for that!

                                        3. re: kosmose7


                                          Re: "Prices include VAT at the current rate. A discretionary service charge of 13% will be added to your bill."

                                          Since we don't have a VAT in the US, as Cheeryvisage commented, it sounds as though they copied this from their London menu.

                                          If it happens that they do include a "discretionary" 13% service charge, you should not feel obligated to leave more than the standard 20% gratuity. So, just add an additional 7% -- presuming, of course, you are pleased with the service you receive.

                                          When my husband went to Masa with our son-in-law and a friend, they considered the 20% "administrative cost" the restaurant added to the bill as the gratuity and did not add anything extra. (I didn't go because I have yet to make my maiden sushi voyage, and our daughter didn't because she can't eat that much sushi.)



                                          1. re: RGR

                                            RGR, thank you so much for your kind advice! That is indeed very helpful! :)

                                            1. re: kosmose7

                                              You're welcome, kosmose! I've never cared much for Chinese food (though I do like soup dumplings). Maybe Hakkasan could change my mind, so I look forward to your review because I value your opinion with regard to Asian cuisine. :)


                                        4. Interesting, the menu from the Fontainebleu/Miami Hakkasan versus the purported one from the NYC Hakkasan (assuming the VAT and 13% SC is indeed a holdover from the UK version). The menu in Miami seems much more Americanized, even a tad "Asian-fusion-y"; also more expensive than the NYC one.

                                          Still, I wonder what the position is of folks here nowadays, or what their expectations are, of how much high-end Chinese food should cost? Would they still blink if we were talking about the latest swanky restaurant from Daniel Boulud or Joel Robuchon or any of their contemporaries and the food was European or Modern American? Just wondering.
                                          (BTW high quality abalone *does* cost extraordinary amounts of money. :-) )

                                          59 Replies
                                          1. re: huiray

                                            The prices at Hakkasan are not out of line in my opinion, if the food, service, and ambiance meet my expectations of what similar prices command at other high end establishments in New York City.

                                            However, I feel a lot of New Yorkers don't think highly of Chinese cuisine and have this misconception that "Chinese food should be cheap". So, I'm also expecting to see some dectractors dimissing this restaurant right off the bat as "overpriced" and/or "pretentious".

                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                              Thanks for your comments.

                                              Yes, what I gathered in the past was that the attitude you describe was prevalent (but not universal, of course) in NYC. I remember reading of restauranteurs (like from Hong Kong) who declined to set up shop in NYC because they felt that New Yorkers (by-and-large; not necessarily Chowhound Chinese food aficionados) would not pay the high prices they would wish (or need) to charge for truly high-end food in sumptuous surroundings. I was wondering if that was still the case.

                                              Mind you, even in rag-tag places that some Western folks might consider revolting and utterly beyond-the-pale some dishes would cost upwards of several thousand HK dollars (for example) for a single dish - let alone what such a dish might cost if recreated in the US - because of the ingredients used and the labor expended on them...

                                              1. re: huiray

                                                Prices in Cantonese food tend to be very ingredient driven. Many of the more expensive items tend to be those that many Westerners (NYers, CHers even) are not familiar with at all. And even then, if you didn't grow up with the stuff, it's harder to differentiate the subtle differences in flavor that result in large differences in price. eg. I happily spent US$300 for a 2lb fish on my last visit to Hong Kong, and I just can't imagine NYers doing the same (that's almost two full meals at Le Bernardin!)

                                                1. re: huiray

                                                  Not just in NYC but around the USA. With over 46,000 Chinese restaurants in the country and the vast majority serving up inexpensive American-Chinese fare (or worse: all-you-can-eat deep-fried buffets) there are some folks who simply cannot unwrap their minds from that. I've seen people walk into a Chinese restaurant in Flushing, ask the cashier if they serve egg rolls and when being told no, walk right out!

                                                2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                  I don't know about "Chinese food should be cheap".
                                                  Many people frequent places like Mr K, Mr Chow, etc. where the prices are far from cheap.

                                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                    i agree with you on this, thats why ive always said people would be sort of shocked if they went to HK and ate at a high end chinese restaurant as the food would be nothing like what they are used to etc. unfortunately, the chinese population in NY seems to be too low income to support that, you don't have the same HK influx as you do in canada etc. so i'm not sure itd be successful even if you were to open a good place

                                                    i'm sort of curious about this place, my gf ate at the one in london and thought it was pretty decent, but very expensive for what it was, so i guess ill have to judge myself

                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                      I've also eaten at the London location and thought it was good. Looking forward to trying the NY location -- though I'll probably pass on the abalone with truffle unless somebody else is paying.

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        haha yah abalone can get really expensive, it gets crazy expensive in HK although its one of those things that while i think its good if done right (awful when done bad), i almost feel liek abalone is some status thing people order since its so expensive

                                                        that stir fried bird's nest with lobster and scrambled egg whites sounds good, if its what im thinking of its a really good dish that is impossible to find here (i used to eat it alot when i lived in asia except it used crab meat instead of lobster) and so does that whole suckling pig

                                                        1. re: Lau

                                                          Heh. Here's one website (for other readers primarily) showing the prices in HKD for various sizes/grades of Japanese Kippin abalone: http://www.hkjebn.com/Products/index....

                                                      2. re: Lau

                                                        The other thing is that USAmerican folks may simply NOT like what they might be presented with in HK or in China, especially when they insist on trying "authentic" dishes. Which is why there is so much discussion about "Americanized" and "adulterated"/"altered" Chinese (or, for that matter, SE Asian) food - here (on CH), there and everywhere.

                                                        Here's a post about a SE Asian place in London that might be amusing - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8288...

                                                        ETA: In fact, many USAmerican folks have very fond memories of "American-Chinese" or "Chinese-American" food, with its gloop aspects, such that they - who have disposable income now - still might tend to view "Chinese" food through the prism of what they remember about gloopy C-A food. Here's another recent thread with regards to this aspect:

                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                          yah that could be true although ive found that if you know american tastes you can order "authentic" and people will love it, i think once you get them into it after that its really easy, but you need to be careful the first time u take them b/c if u turn them off once its like a forever stigma type of thing

                                                          in general i think you have to be careful with:
                                                          - weird stuff: you're going to have to ease people into offal and things like that
                                                          - textures: you need to be careful about textures particularly anything slimy
                                                          - fishy / gamey / pungent: anything that is any of those things you need to be careful with

                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                            My wife introduced my parents (both wonderful folks, but used to "Polynesian" Chinese restaurants (Think: tiki lamps) to stir fried water spinach with matchstick ginfger.
                                                            They loved it and eagerly awaited the next thing she would cook.
                                                            I can't see ordering offal, etc., but I am always surprised at how well simple well-made chinese food goes over. It always cracks me up when my mom says "It isn't heavy."

                                                            1. re: Westy

                                                              haha i think thats a typical reaction

                                                            2. re: Lau

                                                              Well, your "need to be careful with" categories covers a lot of traditional Chinese food. :-) Just saying.

                                                              Then, we have "chiliheads" [predominantly a Western phenomenon] who seem sometimes to value extreme hotness over taste, regardless of whether a dish is supposed to be chili-hot or not...

                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                Oh lord! That's a pet peeve of mine. What's UP with all these people who apparently have (or want to have) asbestos taste buds?!

                                                                "This food is bland and boring. I like my food to set my tongue on fire!"


                                                        2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                          I couldn't agree with you more. New York definitely needs more haute cuisine Chinese restaurants, which I really miss a lot! All those subtle and delicate flavors of true Chinese cuisine that are not overly sweet or overly sour...

                                                          1. re: kosmose7

                                                            Or drowned in gloppy, greasy sauce that contains enough salt to off an elephant....

                                                            Hopefully Hakkasan can broaden people's horizons when it comes to Chinese food. Chinese is a far more complex and intricate cuisine than what's already represented here in the city.

                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                              agreed, while chinese food is ok in NY, its def not up to par with other big cities with large chinese populations unfortunately

                                                              1. re: Lau

                                                                Sadly, I'd not found good Chinese food in any city in the US, even those with large Chinese populations like San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles :-(

                                                                1. re: klyeoh

                                                                  next time you're in LA, post up there or send me a msg and I'll tell you some good places

                                                                  you do happen to live in an area with some of my favorite chinese food in the world though!

                                                                  1. re: klyeoh

                                                                    Then you have not been here long enough to find the good ones!

                                                                    1. re: scoopG

                                                                      Too true! At least for LA, but I spent a bit of time in SF Bay Area, but wasn't abke to find a HK standard one there.

                                                          2. re: huiray

                                                            I think the pricing at Hakkasan is out of line for any type of food, regardless of whether its Chinese. But in all fairness, it is true that good Chinese (or Chinese-American) food can be obtained relatively cheaply in NYC, which comparatively is generally not the case with French food, so I don't think your Robuchon/Boulud analogy works. Why would I pay $60 dollars for an entree at Hakkasan that I can pay $15 for at a good locally owned Chinese restaurant? But to answer your question, I would pay the same amount for high-end Chinese food that was unique, interesting, compelling, singular... as I would for the same from French, Mexican, or any other type of food.

                                                            1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                              Yet that relatively cheap good Chinese (or C-A) food would be had at places that do not care much for ambiance or decor (or service, from the horror stories one sometimes hears/reads about). [The decor is secondary to the food, yes, to many Chinese folks too] The quality of the ingredients matter too, but may not be fully appreciated - as discussed briefly in the subthread above too. Excellent French food often goes hand-in-hand with service, decor, etc - a la Boulud/Robuchon - and with a high price tag to match; so I beiieve my analogy is valid, because it takes into account more than *just* the food.

                                                              Still, I presume that you would happily spend that US$300 for a 2 lb fish that fooder referred to?

                                                              p.s. Thank you for your response.

                                                              1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                IG, You have to unwrap your mind around paying more for Haute Chinese, as the link Pookipichu elucidates below.

                                                                These high falutin' price questions never enter the discussion when talking about per se, EMP and other high end Western spots in NYC. There are 47,000 Chinese restaurants in the USA - I think we can afford one or two over-the-top, dollah-busting joints as long they deliver the good goods.

                                                                1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                  The reasons the cheaper Chinese restaurants can serve their food cheap are:

                                                                  1. Service - Lower level, less polished service
                                                                  2. Decor - Less investment in decor and ambiance
                                                                  3. Ingredients - Less expensive ingredients, less variety
                                                                  4. Preparation and presentation - Comparatively less care in both
                                                                  5. Real estate - Lower rent location and/or smaller venue size, etc.

                                                                  We should not neglect to consider all of the above factors when evaluating a restaurant's pricing.

                                                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                    Absolutely. I am not comparing the entire Hakkasan experience with the entire experience at a lower-grade Chinese restaurant. I was comparing the food, apples to apples. The service, dining room aesthetic, and so forth are obviously high at Hakkasan, and got good marks in my review. Speaking of the food component only, and taking everything else away, was the point I was trying to make. To ScoopG's point, I have been to around 15 Michelin 2-3 star restaurants in America in Europe so far this year, and paid less than Hakkasan. There is something very very wrong in that picture. The value isn't there at Hakkasan, and they really don't deliver the goods imo. For a large-format Asian NYC eatery with excellent marks around Cheeryvisage's points, Buddakan is a far better option, for example.

                                                                    1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                      What are some of the restaurants you are comparing Hakkasan to that you do feel meet a value proposition?

                                                                      1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                        To ScoopG's point, I have been to around 15 Michelin 2-3 star restaurants in America in Europe so far this year, and paid less than Hakkasan.
                                                                        IG, have they been Chinese restaurants? Would you be complaning about the prices and food quality at per se or EMP or whatever if you had eaten there? Again this is only an issue it seems on price when it comes to Chinese food. No one complains about price/quality when it comes to high-end Western restaurants!

                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                          Well, I have. When I went to EMP and had a meal that was merely good, perhaps very good, but not memorable, and with surprising service glitches, I felt really punished by the tab, under those circumstances. And Per Se costs more than I'll pay for any meal unless I get a lot richer.

                                                                          1. re: Pan

                                                                            Agreed. There are many restaurants, many outside of NY or the US, that I feel stunned by the lack of value, and exorbitant bills are shocking and unjustified. There are just as many - at higher price points than Hakkasan - that I am amazed by, and feel that artistry and innovation are being rewarded by patronage and spend. This has recently been the case in America, Europe, Japan, South America. Some feature cuisine that is American, French, Chinese, or Martian - that's not the point. Value is value. To ScoopG's point, I wouldn't pay for a $60+ entree and Daniel nor Hakkasan, regardless of the genre of food, unless it was mind-bending and opened new doorways. Stir-fry lobster will never be that mind-bending, nor will a stock dish at a Boulud restaurant that "pays homage" to the chef's bank account. As we have mentioned in this debate, there are multiple factors that determine the overall quality of a restaurant experience. Value is definitely one of them, which I think we are focusing on here.

                                                                            1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                              May you share the Michelin restaurants you have tried this year that are value?

                                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                There are too many to count. Sons And Daughters (San Francisco), l'Auberge de l'Ill (Alsace), Kai Mayfair (London), and Cinc Sentits (Barcelona) come to mind readily.

                                                                                1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                  Have not been to Sons and Daughters, L'Auberge, Cinc Sentits, but Kai is not inexpensive. Have you been to Wing Lei in Las Vegas?

                                                                                  1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                    Nope, Kai is not inexpensive, but I felt like I got what I paid for. Haven't been to Wing Lei but I'm aware of it, what were your thoughts on it? Was it good?

                                                                                    1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                      Wing Lei, I dined there prior to the departure of their head chef and it was excellent, similar in quality to an upper mid-tier restaurant in Shanghai, Hong Kong or Taipei. It was however, VERY expensive, probably more so than Hakkasan if you discount the caviar Peking duck, 888 abalone etc. Of course as a duck lover I ordered the Peking duck and the table side carving was deft, as was all aspects of service.

                                                                                      Prior to Hakkasan (perhaps not even now), NYC did not have a Chinese restaurant that was as opulent, with refined service and food.

                                                                                      Mr. K's is opulent but the fabric is getting dated and the service is not what it used to be and the food, well that was always hit or miss and now nearly always miss.

                                                                                      Shun Lee is similarly a dinosaur, the service brusque and very 70's, the food superlative only when honored by Michael Tong, and otherwise average to mediocre.

                                                                                      Chinatown Brasserie is casual as is Red Farm, Yum-cha shuttered, 66 shuttered

                                                                                      Philippe is somewhat a joke, as is Chin Chin, as was Tse Yang

                                                                                      Chinatown spots don't aspire to the same stratosphere.

                                                                                      I really hope that Hakkasan can pull it together and put forth some world-class Chinese fare.

                                                                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                        Amen to your last sentence. I hope Hakkasan can succeed.

                                                                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                          ah i always wondered if wing lei was worth trying, ill have to try it next time im there

                                                                                          1. re: Lau

                                                                                            Wing Lei has a new chef, Ming Yu. I'd be interested in hearing how they've held up.

                                                                                          2. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                            I agree! NYC. I think NYC can handle high-end, modern Cantonese cuisine.

                                                                                            1. re: scoopG

                                                                                              or high-end Jiangsu, Sichuan, Zhejiang, etc. cuisine. :) The menu at Hakkasan is pan-Chinese and there are many items I'm interested in trying.

                                                                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                  I guess I should say "Cantonese" somewhat loosely. The original owner/founder was Hongkong Chinese (with Hakka ancestry) and the main Chefs through the years have been Cantonese. Certainly the cooking style is Cantonese in underlying philosophy and sensibility I think.

                                                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                    Sure, the menu's pan-Chinese, but I understood your point that the kitchen's sensibility, with a light hand in seasoning, is Cantonese. Appreciated the insight.

                                                                                                    1. re: squid kun

                                                                                                      squid kun, Cantonese cuisine that uses a light hand with seasoning. Other than Sichuan, Hunan, northern and western Chinese cuisines, that is the case. For instance Jiangsu cuisine like the regional food of Suzhou is delicately seasoned, etc.

                                                                                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                        Delicately seasoned indeed. And is the best in China, of course.

                                                                                                    2. re: scoopG

                                                                                                      IIRC the current exec chef is Malaysian Chinese.

                                                                                              1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                In your earlier post (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8421...) you said: "I think the pricing at Hakkasan is out of line for any type of food, regardless of whether its Chinese."

                                                                                                Does that mean you would consider the a la carte menu at L'atelier de Joël Robuchon in NYC (or any other place in this CHAIN) to be beyond the pale? If not, what is it about the dishes there (be specific, if you could) that would make you pay up gladly?

                                                                                                When I look at the menu of Kai Mayfair (http://www.kaimayfair.co.uk/kai/PDFs/... ) I see it as being more expensive, overall, than the menu for Hakkasan NYC, even for very similar items. Sometimes much more. Even with dishes using very common and inexpensive ingredients. What was it about the stuff you got at Kai that made it so much more "value-for-money" in your view?

                                                                                                I'm curious.

                                                                                2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                  (Replying to Cheeryvisage)

                                                                                  Don't forget bathrooms.

                                                                                  I entered the bathroom of New York Noodletown once in about 1985.

                                                                                  I have never made that mistake again.

                                                                                  1. re: Sneakeater

                                                                                    lol, oh god. I refuse to go to the bathrooms in most Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                    I should also add, comfort (table spacing, seating, etc.) and amenities like coat check.

                                                                                    1. re: Sneakeater

                                                                                      I went to the bathroom at Cong Ly once.
                                                                                      That was scary.

                                                                                      I know most of the discussion about how expensive the restaurant is revolves around the $888 abalone or the $345 duck. The item that really gets me though is the $3.50 bowl (I assume?) of jasmine rice.

                                                                                      1. re: fooder

                                                                                        I love the bathroom at Cong Ly (well, not the room itself but the free tour of the kitchen you get with every trip)

                                                                                        1. re: fooder

                                                                                          I hear you on the rice. I mean, all of the other high end dining places in the city serve bread for "free". Rice is the equivalent of bread basically. It's a bit unusual to charge for it. I'd think the expensive dishes should more than cover the cost of rice.

                                                                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                            Good point fooder and Cheeryvisage. Perhaps they feel with their image they can't give anything away for free.

                                                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                              It's very usual to charge for rice in Chinatown, but I don't think the charge for regular steamed rice is ever higher than $1.50/bowl, if that.

                                                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                                                Agreed. It's just a bit ungracious of Hakkasan to charge $3.50 for a small bowl of plain rice. And when compared of other high end restaurants who serve complimentary bread / filler-starch, their decision to charge is even more ungracious.

                                                                                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                  Agreed, charging for rice is very unhospitable.

                                                                                        2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                          Cheeryvisage wrote:
                                                                                          The reasons the cheaper Chinese restaurants can serve their food cheap are:

                                                                                          1. Service - Lower level, less polished service
                                                                                          2. Decor - Less investment in decor and ambiance
                                                                                          3. Ingredients - Less expensive ingredients, less variety
                                                                                          4. Preparation and presentation - Comparatively less care in both
                                                                                          5. Real estate - Lower rent location and/or smaller venue size, etc.

                                                                                          We should not neglect to consider all of the above factors when evaluating a restaurant's pricing.
                                                                                          Also it is worth pointing out that over 60% of the Chinese who live in Chinatown(s) are foreign born and have less than a high school education. Fully half only speak Mandarin, Fujianese or Cantonese. Wages are 50% lower than the regional New York area average and 20% live in poverty.

                                                                                          All this from Kwong & Miscevic's "Chinese America: The Untold Story of America's Oldest New Community." Norton; NY, 2005.

                                                                                    2. Grubstreet has more photos of Hakkasan New York and some of their dishes: http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2012/04...

                                                                                      1. I've been super excited about it opening since I went to the one in London. And they have the dish that I tried and absolutely loved, which was the aubergine (eggplant), tofu and shitake mushroom hot pot. It was absolutely delicious, the tofu was nice and silken with a nice firmness in the skin without being greasy. The saucing was very delicate and not overly gloppy with cornstarch and the eggplant still retained some firmness to it instead of being cooked into a mush. When the waitress said they don't doggy bag, of all the dishes we had leftover, even though we were already full, we finished off every bite of that hot pot. *sigh*...hope the NYC one is going to be just as good as I remember.

                                                                                        9 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                            Not sure about the NYC doggy bag philosophy but might it make sense. Can you wrap the leftovers from our $888 abalone dish? Also of note: absolutely no photos allowed! I got a couple off before being asked to stop. More later...

                                                                                            1. re: scoopG

                                                                                              At those prices, it's surprising they wouldn't let people take their leftovers with them.

                                                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                Well, most of the prices - outside the luxury outliers like the abalone and such - aren't actually that high. Looking over the menu, most of the entrees are in line with higher-end Cantonese we've got already, a la Oriental Garden. Maybe even a little cheaper in some cases.

                                                                                                That aside, legally you've purchased the food and you can take it home if you like. They might not stock take-out containers, though, but if you brought your own... it might look/feel declasse, but hey, they can't stop you.

                                                                                                1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                  I always had the vague impression from trolling the UK board that doggy bagging isn't really that common, but I could be wrong. Liability issue?

                                                                                                  1. re: bdachow

                                                                                                    It's the truth - if anyone ever does ask for one in the UK, it's done in hushed tones. But there are groups that are trying to change this paradigm... legally the food is yours to do what you wish.

                                                                                              2. re: scoopG

                                                                                                haha they wont let u take any pics?? really? how weird

                                                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                                                  Bar Boulud in London's Mandarin Oriental also forbid photo taking. Distraction to other patrons!

                                                                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                                    As does Minetta Tavern, IIRC, and the late, departed Romera.

                                                                                          2. Okay, just got back from brunch at Hakkasan.

                                                                                            The restaurant is beautiful. The servers are beautiful. The music is soft and on the clubby side. At night, this is probably some super chic club-like eatery a la Tao or Buddakan. But during brunch, there are a lot of families, many with young children. The restaurant is very dark, even during daytime, but everyone is seated in the window-side section at brunch, where ample sunlight streams though the windows.

                                                                                            The weekend brunch menu features a big dim sum section, with maybe 40+ varieties of dim sum. The dim sum items mostly range from $8 to $15+, with the majority priced at $10. Each dim sum item comes with 3 pieces. The restaurant also serves their normal menu during brunch, or at least, most of their normal menu.

                                                                                            I over-ordered a little, because I wanted to try a bunch of different things. I'm also including the prices here since I don't think any of the below dishes are on the online menu right now.

                                                                                            Prawn and Chinese Chive Dumpling ($8)
                                                                                            Beautiful and delicate with a goji berry on top. The green-colored wrappers were a good thickness and steamed just right, the filling fresh and tasty. The quality was comparable to Chinatown Brasserie. Very good.

                                                                                            Shanghai Siuw Long Buns ($10)
                                                                                            Aka soup dumplings aka xiaolongbao. These were smaller than the ones at Chinatown Brasserie and contain less soup (and less sweet). I enjoyed the taste of the soup filling, but I prefer CB's because theirs have more soup.

                                                                                            Baked Venison Puffs ($12)
                                                                                            I remember reading somewhere that Hakkasan's Baked Venison Puffs are great. But I thought they're only all right. The venison taste was too subtle that I missed it entirely. I'm biased against baked puffs in general though and normally don't like them. Hakkasan's venison puffs didn't make me change my mind.

                                                                                            Seafood Dumpling with Chinese Yellow Chive Soup ($15)
                                                                                            The presentation was... curious. The crescent-shaped dumpling was gigantic (4 inches long) and looked really bloated in the soup bowl. Ehh. But once I took a bite, I was pleasantly surprised by the tastiness. The filling consisted of scallop, crab, shrimp, and shiitake mushroom and was really umami-ful. The soup itself was also very flavorful and packed with umami.

                                                                                            Yuzu Parfait with Caramelized White Chocolate Ice Cream ($15)
                                                                                            Nice presentation, refreshingly citrus-y and the ice cream was also delicious. Very enjoyable.

                                                                                            Service was very professional and attentive. No complaints except for one minor hiccup: the server who brought my dessert was too heavy-handed and my plate landed with a thud. One of the yuzu parfait pieces actually fell off its perch. She apologized, but it was somewhat of a O_o moment for me.

                                                                                            Overall, a very good dim sum brunch. Everything was high quality and well-executed. The price point for brunch is on par with The Modern Bar Room. Since both are equal-distance from my apartment, Hakkasan will go on my weekend brunch / lunch rotation along with The Modern Bar Room on days that I don't feel like taking the subway to Chinatown Brasserie for high quality dim sum.


                                                                                            They also have a very decent sized tea selection, with around 15 different varieties of tea. They have tie guan yin, dragon well, pu-er, etc.. Most of the Chinese teas are from Taiwan. I like how the teas are part of the brunch menu itself rather than on a separate drinks menu. Teas are $8-12, not sure if it's per pot or what.

                                                                                            33 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                              No photos unfortunately. Per ScoopG, they don't allow photography.

                                                                                              In terms of dim sum, they're comparable to Chinatown Brasserie / Red Farm under Joe Ng (don't think they're necessarily better or worse). CB and RedFarm win for being better value, but Hakkasan wins for having the most variety and high level of service. Ambiance is a toss-up since it's more of a personal preference thing.

                                                                                              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                Thanks Cheeryvisage for your great review!
                                                                                                I also dined at Hakkasan New York and slightly over-ordered as you did, and had leftovers.
                                                                                                Hakkasan was kind enough to doggy bag them, which I had for breakfast the next morning.

                                                                                                Food was great and on par with its London counterpart.
                                                                                                I don't know how it would be rated if it were in Hong Kong, where tons of great Chinese fine dining restaurants exist (Lung King Heen, Tin Lung Heen, Spring Moon, China Club, One Harbour Road, Cuisine Cuisine, Ming Court, Yan Toh Heen, etc... just to name a few), but it is definitely a shining star in New York's Chinese culinary scene. Subtle, light, and delicate.

                                                                                                Having read your review, I should go back soon to try their dim sum brunch! :)

                                                                                                1. re: kosmose7

                                                                                                  Should have known you'd have made your way there already. Great photos on your blog! Good thing you got there before the photo ban.

                                                                                                  Yep, their dim sum brunch is great, so many varieties!

                                                                                                  1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                    Cheeryvisage, I had dim sum lunch at Hakkasan today and it was great! I was impressed by the variety and quality. Thanks for your valuable information! :)

                                                                                                    1. re: kosmose7

                                                                                                      Glad to be of help! Have you done dim sum brunch at Chinatown Brasserie, by the way? I think CB is better value, but I like Hakkasan for being conveniently located for me. :)

                                                                                                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                        Absolutely! I like CB as well, but Hakkasan is geographically closer to me too. :)

                                                                                                  2. re: kosmose7

                                                                                                    So good to know that I can doggy bag at this branch, so over ordering won't be such a waste! Thanks for the reports back.

                                                                                                    I was a bit sneaky with the pictures, just used my Blackberry (not the greatest quality) and turned off the flash so it looks like I'm just blissfully gauche checking e-mails while with dining companions. ;o)

                                                                                                  3. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                    sounds nice, will have to try

                                                                                                    just ate a koi palace in SF, so would be nice to contrast

                                                                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                                                                      Lau, do you think Koi Palace is high end? I thought it was pretty good and would probably be the best in NYC if it were here, but it didn't seem to be in the same ballpark as Hakkasan.

                                                                                                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                                                                        no its not the same price range as hakkasan for a regular meal. however it depends on what you order b/c if you look at their high end seafood menu (which they are known for) it can get very expensive at well over $100 per person, which is sort of similar to HK in the sense that high end cantonese meals can get very expensive (they can get to crazy 1000+ USD per person type meals when people go to very high end seafood places in HK and start ordering all the abalone etc). This is not common at all in cantonese restaurants in the US (you can find it more in canada where there are alot of HK people)

                                                                                                        also when i just ate there for dim sum, i spent ~$35 per person there b/c i was ordering some of the more modern and more expensive dim sum that use more expensive ingredients, thats way above what u would spend in NY, but not hakkasan prices

                                                                                                        even in NY, i spent $150 one the crab rice at imperial palace once b/c i special ordered a 4 lbs alaskan king crab (it was very good by the way) instead of the regular run of the mill crab

                                                                                                  4. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                    Thanks for the review, Cheeryvisage,

                                                                                                    Wow!!! The Dim Sum price is STEEP!!!!!

                                                                                                    Comparing to the price of the Dim Sum a group of chowhounders had in one of Toronto finest, last weekend, its more than DOUBLE. In fact its even more than some of Hong Kong's Michelin 2-3* Dim Sum places!!
                                                                                                    For that price, I would expect perfection!!

                                                                                                    I would love to read about how good ( or bad ) their ' dim-sum measuring yardstick ) 'Har Gow' is??! Anything less than perfectly intact, taut and translucent skin, fresh whole prawns with diced winter bamboo shoot and at least 11-13 folds of the wrapper skin is not worth the $10+ they are charging!!

                                                                                                    BTW, the tea we had at our chowmeet in Toronto was very good as well ( we also had the Tie Guan Yin and Pu-Er ) and IT WAS COMPLIMENTARY!!!

                                                                                                    Like fellow chowhounder uhockey, you should come up for a chowmeet as well?

                                                                                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                                      Yeah, at those prices, I'm not going to rush there. More for some other hounds.

                                                                                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                                        Hakkasan NY's dim sum prices are about the same as their dim sum at the Miami branch, I think. Hakkasan's prices in general are not out of line for high end dining in New York City.

                                                                                                        I linked Kosmose's photos further down the thread. You can at least SEE that Hakkasan's har gow meets the minimum 11-13 folds requirement! :D

                                                                                                        Yeah, I may order it next time. But I'm generally not a har gow person because it's so boring to me (blasphemy!). lol

                                                                                                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                          What would we compare it to? When you get a primo of ravioli in a high-end Italian restaurant, do you get 3 ravioli for $12? I don't think so. But anyway, I'm just not willing to pay that much for 3 dumplings. Maybe if I get richer, I'll consider it. $15 for dessert is also a bit aggressive. Even Ai Fiori doesn't charge quite as much. I suppose a place like Per Se charges more. What other restaurants are you comparing this one to, for price/value?

                                                                                                          1. re: Pan

                                                                                                            Adour's desserts are $15 as well, but I give you that one since Adour's dessert sizes are larger than Hakkasan's.

                                                                                                            Since most of Hakkasan's dim sum dishes are $10 for 3 pieces. Let's use $3.33 per piece as the benchmark.

                                                                                                            At a high-end Italian restaurant like Marea, their agnolotti dish costs $31. How many do you estimate there are in a plate (http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&a...)? 12? That's $2.60 per agnolotti. Let's say agnolotti is 2/3 the size of a dim sum piece, that's the dim sum equivalent of $3.90 per piece.

                                                                                                            SD26, another high end Itlaian restaurant (less upscale than Marea), sells their "Uovo" raviolo for $21. It's about 3-4 times the size of a dim sum piece (http://flic.kr/p/bpSSgB). That translates to $5.25-$7 per piece in dim sum terms.

                                                                                                            So, in my opinion, Hakkasan is very comparable to other high end dining restaurants in NYC.

                                                                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                              OK, that's fair, and thanks for going through the comparison.

                                                                                                              So I guess the question, then, is really one of subjectively-perceived value. You said that Chinatown Brasserie wins on value, and it's been several years since I've been there because, though I thought their dim sum was great, it's not enough better than a place like Dim Sum Go Go for me to feel impelled to go there. Instead, I am looking forward to going back to Nom Wah for the first time in decades, after Lau's reports. And I will probably travel to Malaysia this summer and get my great dim sum fix there.

                                                                                                              1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                Yep, I understand.

                                                                                                                To me, it's sort of like sushi. I can have a 10-piece nigiri set for $30 at a mid-level sushi restaurant; or I can go to the best sushi restaurant, sit at the sushi bar, and have 10 nigiri pieces for $100. I won't do the $100 meal every week or every month, but it's great once in a while to splurge. It depends on how much one values eating the highest quality / best variety sushi possible in a given geographical location and one's budget. It's all fine. Like you said, it's subjective and based on perceived value.

                                                                                                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                  i don't think dimsum and sushi are comparable per piece: not to knock the skills of good dimsum chefs, but in ingredient cost we're talking about rice-flour/gelatin/lard/a-few-bits-of-shrimp-and-bamboo vs a pristine piece of fish or shellfish...

                                                                                                                  while i've had some delicious dimsum in places of all price pts in HK, Shanghai, LA, and elsewhere, i've found a lot high end dimsum to be a sham of presentation: gooey dots of glue for decoration, food coloring of wrappers, etc...

                                                                                                                  1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                    You also need to take into account labor. I personally think it takes tremendous skill and training to create beautiful, delicate, perfect dim sum pieces.

                                                                                                                    The best video I found on Youtube was this Gordon Ramsay one when he tried to learn to make dim sum: http://youtu.be/XZIH6NroQxk

                                                                                                                    Also, of course dim sum and sushi are not on the same scale. You spend, what, $50 at MOST for 10 pieces of even the most expensive dim sum, while 10 pieces of nigiri can be $100, $200+. I'm saying that people who really value the best quality sushi will pay for it. Dim sum is not unlike sushi in that respect - people who really enjoy the best dim sum are also willing to pay for it. And for others, they value things differently and may not perceive the best to be worth the premium. That's all right too, because perceived value is subjective.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                      I respectfully disagree. Sushi involves far more than just fresh ingredients. Surely ingredients are one important factor, but great sushi needs to fulfil the conditions of perfectly cooked and seasoned rice (which I personally think is equally as important as fresh ingredients), cutting skills, and sushi forming techniques. That's why even if you buy the best quality seafood and make sushi at home by yourself, it won't taste the same at all.

                                                                                                                      Similarly, dim sum quality varies significantly depending upon a chef's techniques, even if the ingredients were the same. I had lived in Hong Kong over ten years, eating dim sum almost everyday at different restaurants, and none of them were of the same quality.

                                                                                                                      >i've found a lot high end dimsum to be a sham of presentation:
                                                                                                                      >gooey dots of glue for decoration, food coloring of wrappers, etc...
                                                                                                                      You won't find anything like this at high-end Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. :)

                                                                                                                    2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                      I think I'd sooner (though not very soon) splurge on great sushi or sashimi than high-end dim sum in New York, for some of the reasons given in this discussion, and also because I've had lots of superb dim sum before on trips to East Asia but have had more limited experience with great sushi and sashimi. One of the other subjective choices I make is, if I know I'm likely to be traveling soon to a place that has wonderful "x", I don't need to spend a lot of money to get "x" in New York. If things were different, and I knew it would be years before I'd have great dim sum again in East Asia, I'd be more likely to figure that the cost in airfare I'm saving might justify splurging here.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Cheeryvisage



                                                                                                                    Adour's desserts are $15 as well, but I give you that one since Adour's dessert sizes are larger than Hakkasan's.

                                                                                                                    Since most of Hakkasan's dim sum dishes are $10 for 3 pieces. Let's use $3.33 per piece as the benchmark.

                                                                                                                    At a high-end Italian restaurant like Marea, their agnolotti dish costs $31. How many do you estimate there are in a plate (http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=all&a...)? 12? That's $2.60 per agnolotti. Let's say agnolotti is 2/3 the size of a dim sum piece, that's the dim sum equivalent of $3.90 per piece.

                                                                                                                    SD26, another high end Itlaian restaurant (less upscale than Marea), sells their "Uovo" raviolo for $21. It's about 3-4 times the size of a dim sum piece (http://flic.kr/p/bpSSgB). That translates to $5.25-$7 per piece in dim sum terms.

                                                                                                                    So, in my opinion, Hakkasan is very comparable to other high end dining restaurants in NYC.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                      Oh hey, I ate the soup dumplings at Hakkasan using the method you taught in an earlier Red Farm (?) thread. Thanks for that, the method was awesome.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                        Which Pookipichu posted here:

                                                                                                                        I have Chinese friends who follow most of that prescription except they sip the soup after the nubbin-bite and then add the black vinegar ginger mixture!

                                                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                          Thanks for the link to that thread.

                                                                                                                          Oh yes, what you described was how I normally eat soup dumplings. I tried Pookipichu's method at Hakkasan, really enjoyed it!

                                                                                                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                            Bah, Humbug. I think how one eats XLB should not be engraved in stone. IMO.

                                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                              I don't disagree, but I was happy to learn a new way to enjoy them.

                                                                                                                2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                  From the photos, the Har Gow indeed looked pretty decent!! Wonder how it taste though?!!

                                                                                                              2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                Thanks for detailed review. Did u notice if they have a bar that one can dine at?

                                                                                                                1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                  Yes, they do have a bar area. There are a number of smaller tables near the bar, and I'm sure you can eat at the bar itself. Kosmose has great photos of the restaurant interior at his blog and you can see exactly what that section of the restaurant is like: http://blog.naver.com/kosmose7/901403...

                                                                                                                  1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                    Yes they have tables in the bar area where you can dine. I noticed a few tables having dinner while I had some pre-dinner drinks. Looked like a very comfortable area to dine.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                    Just went to Chinatown Brasserie for peking duck and dim sum yesterday. I think I forgot how good the soup dumplings at CB were since my last meal there was a couple of months ago. Now that I've had soup dumplings at both CB and Hakkasan within weeks of each other, I have to say CB's soup dumplings blow Hakkasan's out of the water. CB's soup dumplings are thinner, have a TON of delicious delicious soup, and just freaking amazing.

                                                                                                                    If you're a soup dumpling fan, just stick with CB for your soup dumpling needs.

                                                                                                                  3. We dined here on Friday night. very clubby indeed. A strange location in times square for such a gorgeous space. Very reminiscent of Buddakan - complete with mood lighting. The dining room in an absolute maze - and it was actually a little tricky to find my way back to our table after a few cocktails...

                                                                                                                    The verdict? The dumplings are worth the trip - everything else was just ordinary in my opinion.

                                                                                                                    We had the vegetable dim sum platter - our favorite of the night. The dumpling skins were especially standout. grilled chive dumplings, mushroom noodles (the worst of all - my takeout place does it better), roasted chicken satay (with extraordinarily crispy skin) and a vegetable stir fry (fresh, seasonal and flavorful).

                                                                                                                    the drinks were fun and fruity - seems like a great place for after-work drinks (followed by a round of dumplings). the bar area is gorgeous with a lot of first-come seating.

                                                                                                                    I asked my waiter about the specials - we had wanted to try the lobster bird's nest - waiter said that as of Friday none of the specials (including the $888 abalone) were available - but they should be in a week - and all are special orders that need to be made 24-hours in advance. They should probably list that on the website/menu!

                                                                                                                    I was also able to take photos (more here: http://twitter.com/thirddinner). The room is dark, but each table had a spotlight, so it was actually very well lit for pictures. I wonder if the no-picture rule varies from server to server?

                                                                                                                    And in case anyone was wondering, no auto-grat here. definitely a leftover from the UK menu.

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: chloes

                                                                                                                        >>The verdict? The dumplings are worth the trip - everything else was just ordinary in my opinion.

                                                                                                                        I thought the dumplings were better than other dishes I tried at the London location, as well, but I've only been for lunch. Your description of the roasted chicken satay with crispy skin sounds pretty fantastic, though. Is it the third picture in the sequence?

                                                                                                                        Really nice looking photos!

                                                                                                                      2. The interior is flamboyantly dark and provocative, heavily laden in marble and wood as if Hakkasan is aware of their own exceptionalism. They seem to be striving for a mostly Occidental clientele even though there were a good few Chinese folks dining there when I was there. I did not see any round tables and salt and pepper shakers are found on every table. Items like the $888 abalone from Japan and $300 Caviar Peking Duck are not yet available as chloes says.

                                                                                                                        Our gang of four attacked the menu a little differently than cheeryvisage. We opted for three dim sum items and then went with one soup and four entrées. As noted most of the dim sum dishes contain three items. Due to an order mix-up we were comped an extra order of XLB, called siew long buns on their menu.

                                                                                                                        Bamboo Dumplings ($8) – didn’t get one.
                                                                                                                        XLB – ($10) – not as good as Flushing’s Nan Xiang! And I have not even tried the new XLB vendor in the Flushing Mall that is supposed to be putting out great ones.
                                                                                                                        Baked Venison Puff ($12) slightly sweet and I couldn’t taste much venison.

                                                                                                                        Lobster Soup with Tomato and Tofu ($24) slightly spicy in a chicken stock base. Everyone did get a piece of lobster. Photo attached. It was after this shot the hostess approached and said no photographs please!

                                                                                                                        Wok Fry Wagyu Beef ($78) The beef slices (ten in all) were melt-in-your mouth tender. The beef was mounted over a bed of enoki mushrooms.

                                                                                                                        Hakka Pork Belly Clay pot ($24) There was slight hint of chocolate in this dish.

                                                                                                                        Wild Mushroom Stir-fry with Macadamia nuts ($29) Two kinds of mushrooms with Jie Lan stems.

                                                                                                                        Green Beans with Minced Pork and Preserved Vegetables ($18) Their version of a classic dish (四季豆- sì jì dòu) except I really couldn’t taste or see much of the preserved vegetables. Still, the dish was delicious.

                                                                                                                        Hakka Stir Fried Noodles ($16) pleasant was about all I can remember.

                                                                                                                        The kitchen’s approach is definitely Cantonese in sensibility. I noticed at least 20 chefs and cooks in the spacious kitchen. Seasonings were light and I did not detect much garlic or ginger.

                                                                                                                        Many are going to complain of steep prices. In the case of the XLB and Green Beans with Minced Pork and Preserved Vegetables they will have a point as estimable versions of these dishes can be found elsewhere in the city at a fraction of the cost. We left sated but not stuffed. Still I’ll be back.

                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                          Thanks for your review! Looks like we agree on the XLB and venison puff. :)

                                                                                                                          The lobster soup is something I want to try. Looks delicious.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                            It was tasty! I hope they succeed...

                                                                                                                        2. I do wonder a bit about some of the "premium" items, especially those involving truffles - I'm wary of any place where I see "truffle" without a geographical modifier (Alba, Perigord, Burgundy, etc...) to begin with. I mean, "black truffle" could mean any number of different things - some good, some... not so much.

                                                                                                                          After all, what are they doing now that the good truffles are out of season? Certainly those prices (say, the $88 roast duck with truffles) aren't warranted if they're using summer truffles, canned truffles, or (worst of all) some fake-truffle abomination like truffle oil. There are also Chinese truffles on the market which look quite similar to Perigords, but aren't terribly aromatic, so they infuse them with the same disgusting faux-truffle aroma they use in truffle oil. There's a reason that better high-end places only have truffles on their menu during certain months.

                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                            Thanks to all who offered reports; here is more on the reviled Chinese truffle. Count me as another surprised to spot truffles on their menu in this season.


                                                                                                                            1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                              "60 Minutes" recently did an exposé about Chinese truffles. They are infiltrating even during the truffle season and can contaminate the good truffles.


                                                                                                                              I haven't decided about trying Hakkisan since I'm not big on Chinese food. But if I do, for sure, I'll not be ordering anything with truffles. As for big ticket items, I don't care for abalone, and while I love duck, I don't eat caviar. So, those two are definitely out!


                                                                                                                            2. Almost went there solo tonight, but inertia took hold and i prepared myself a Japanese-style salad w/ egg and rice-vinegar dressing instead...

                                                                                                                              But i plan to go in the next week...the "Sha Cha" seafood dishes on the menu are intriguing...anyone tried them yet?

                                                                                                                              1. My daughter and I had dinner at Hakkasan this past weekend to celebrate her 16th birthday. Although this was a very expensive dinner, the food, service and atmosphere were just wonderful. We had the steamed dim sum assortment that has been described in this thread and thought it was really good. The dough was very thin and light and the fillings were very tasty. I would go back just to have the dim sum plate. The vegetarian dumplings were very tasty and not greasy. The tiger prawns with chili tomato sauce, which came with the heads and tails intact, were excellent. We wished we had been with a larger group so that we could have tried more dishes. Since we were going to a show later, we ordered conservatively because we knew we wouldn't be doggy bagging the leftovers. I had the Hakka-tini (pretty strong) and my daughter had a non-alcoholic drink that contained almond syrup. We also shared a chocolate mousse/blood orange dessert which was excellent.

                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                1. re: Tedmom

                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the review. Seems like everyone enjoys Hakkasan's dim sum thus far.

                                                                                                                                2. I dined at Hakkasan two nights ago. Unfortunately, my review is generally not a positive one. Here it is:

                                                                                                                                  P.F. Ch-Ching’s? You have to wonder a bit about a self-proclaimed haute Chinese food ‘chain’ that serves a ‘lucky’ $888 entrée, especially when it’s a stone’s throw from Times Square. The original Hakkasan opened a decade ago in London, behind velvet ropes at the end of a swanky Mayfair alley, and has managed to attract stars both of the Hollywood (Nicole Scherzinger) and Michelin (one) varieties. But can it keep the same standards, momentum, and longevity - as well as food quality and general cachet – around the corner from the Port Authority?

                                                                                                                                  Hakkasan would certainly hope so, after purportedly dropping a cool $10M to open the New York joint. Rumors from inside sources, however, put the figure closer to $17M due to building modifications needed to support the gargantuan 11,000 square foot 200 seater, designed by Gallic firm Gilles & Boissier of Buddakan and Wakiya repute. So yep. You have to sell a hell of a lot of crispy duck rolls to hit your ROI targets on a buildout of that magnitude. And Chef Ho Chee Boon is there to fire them up from his state-of-the-art kitchen, complete with 24,000 BTU woks (normal ones are 4,000 BTU).

                                                                                                                                  Insider Tip: Hakkasan’s website doesn’t provide the full menu, but you can find it here.

                                                                                                                                  An imposing iron door greets you on 43rd Street. After walking through it, you are greeted by the smell of incense as you trek down a crazy long and impressive all white Carrara marble hallway to the maître d’ stand, manned by two cordial pros behind large flatscreen monitors. The starkness of the hallway isn’t very inviting, but it does add a bit of theatrical tension to your grand entrance. The welcome is friendly and efficient as you are led to the bar around the corner.

                                                                                                                                  The bar itself is almost as long as the entrance hallway (it’s parallel), but strangely its 22 bar seats are far too low to the blue-underlit bar top… not quite at shoulder level, but a good 4” too low for comfortable bar seating. Warning: the blue light emitting upwards at your gorgeous visage can be unflattering at night. The rest of the lounge area is comprised of six cocktail deuces and two 10-top communals. The bar’s back wall is illuminated by projected swirling light patterns, which comes off too bright and Vegas-y, but the knowledgeable and passionate care of the bar staff makes up for it as they guide you through the ornate cocktail list. The Pink Mao Mao (Grey Goose, sake, watermelon, strawberry, black pepper; $15) tastes girly but is served in a manly highball. It lacks the fruitiness you ordered it for, but the pepper and sake make for a smooth and spicy consolation prize. The Shiso Gimlet (Nolet gin, dry curacao, yuzu marmalade, lime and lychee juice; $16) is refreshing and complicated, and definitely a highlight option even if you’re not traditionally a gin drinker – balanced and delicious. A glass of the 2011 Bonny Doon rosé ($13) is another summertime thirst quencher that is of good quality and value.

                                                                                                                                  Insider Tip: DJs play loud dance music every night except Sundays and Mondays, making for a more clubby and generally loud atmosphere; try the off nights if a quieter evening out is what you’re after.

                                                                                                                                  A walk around the dining room is as requisite as it is impressive. It’s divvied up into several different labyrinthine sectors, each comprised of eight or so tables, so that you are not overwhelmed by the vastness of the total space. The bustling kitchen is glassed-in and visible from one of the corridors, so take a gander. Gold embroidered dragons adorn some of the banquettes. A cozy 10-top private dining room is encircled by wooden screens and embossed leather walls. Carrara marble panels that have been laser-cut into 5’x5’ lattices are omnipresent throughout the restaurant’s landscape, even at times on the ceilings.

                                                                                                                                  The first section of the menu throws you off. Stir fried bird’s nest at $78. Braised emperor’s seafood at $160. Peking duck at $345. The aforementioned braised Japanese abalone at $888. Setting the scene with this sort of overpriced silliness is a bad move and makes the rest of the dining experience somewhat apprehensive and value-vigilant. Even the appetizer section raises your defenses with tiny items in the high $20’s.

                                                                                                                                  The wine list is poorly organized. It’s strangely divided into sections describing the ‘vibe’ of the wine, so that the grüner veltliner options – for example – are scattered amongst various sections of the list and have to be hunted down manually. Can’t we just stick to presenting the wines by region or varietal… and letting the somm do their job in identifying the wine’s characteristics? Even the attending and friendly somm seemed to be confused by her own wine list.

                                                                                                                                  The Hakka steamed dim sum platter ($28) is a good share for two people (there are two pieces of each item). The black pepper dumplings are nicely spicy and peppery but offputtingly gelatinous. The scallop dumplings are satisfactory but somewhat overcooked and overly firm. The prawn and Chinese chive dumpling are tasty and fresh but ordinary - the har gau dumplings are similarly stock.

                                                                                                                                  The roasted mango duck ($24) is a menu highlight. Beautifully seasoned and perfectly cooked slices of duck are arranged sequentially with slices of fresh mango on a long narrow plate, making the perfectly sweet ducktastic bite in every chopstick-full. The temperature and presentation is spot-on, and the lemon sauce adds some nice sweet citrus elements – and even, somehow, a certain creamy feeling – to the crispy delicious duck and intermittent dill sprigs.

                                                                                                                                  The jasmine tea smoked pork ribs ($22) did indeed pull off the fall-off-the-bone test successfully, but you wanted your socks knocked off by such a compelling-sounding preparation… and unfortunately the flavor profile was not very smoky, tea-y, or jasmine-y…but rather lifeless-y. The sauce was also too sparse to make this a winner.

                                                                                                                                  The Sanpei chicken claypot ($24) features chunks of chicken mixed in with soggy cloves of garlic, but the Thai sweet basil adds a nice touch to the Sanpei sauce. Unfortunately, the dish overall isn’t far off from what you would get as a lunch delivery item from your local Thai place.

                                                                                                                                  The stir-fry Chilean sea bass with Sanpei sauce ($39) is extremely tender and deliciously prepared, although it doesn’t merit its price point. It is, however, a simple and elegant preparation that fully features the quality and cut of the fish, which is exemplary; melts in your mouth and not too oily.

                                                                                                                                  The stir-fry udon noodle with shredded roast duck and XO sauce ($18) is plated tableside for each diner in a small bowl. The noodles are fat, fresh and yummy. The modest amount of hard-to-place fiery spices is a bit of a teaser and leaves you wanting more. The duck is tender and gristle-free, but a bit sparse throughout your bites, and not served hot enough. Again, not far off from your local Chinese restaurant.

                                                                                                                                  The sweet and sour pork tenderloin with pomegranate ($24) is fatty and crispy the way you like it. The pomegranate seeds add their sweet jelly-ish crunch effectively in nice contrast to the saltiness of the pork, which is a clever move. The common-ness of the stir-fried onion and pepper mix-in is a bit of a turn off.

                                                                                                                                  The four-style vegetable stir-fry in Szechuan sauce with asparagus, yam bean, tofu and shimeji looks great on paper, but again is pretty standard in its delivery despite the interesting ingredients. This is also a very tame Szechaun preparation for those that are expecting a bit more Chinese heat.

                                                                                                                                  So is the gimmicky $888 abalone entrée truly ‘lucky’? Sure - if you’re Hakkasan’s accountants. The kitschy party vibe can be fun but discredits what they are trying to be as a kitchen. Frankly, Hakkasan’s thing was cooler the first time we saw it in New York – when it was called Buddha Bar or Tao. Hakkasan is recommended for small-town weekenders, Times Square theater-goers, or a high-falutin’ meet-market cocktail if you’re in the area… but overall there are more tried and true options for over-the-top Asian dining in New York, especially if you are just looking for good, ordinary Chinese food. Sure, you will find that at Hakkasan, in abundance, but try a corner joint in Chinatown for a fraction of the cost… and possibly quite similar results.

                                                                                                                                  30 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                    Thanks for your review.

                                                                                                                                    It seemed most of the dishes you thought weren't up to standard (or aren't *better* than standard) were the non-Cantonese ones. Hakkasan is a Cantonese restaurant with Hakka touches, I'm not at all surprised that their non-Cantonese dishes aren't as good because those aren't their specialty. It's similar to how I wouldn't order duck at Le Bernardin, for example.

                                                                                                                                    Very nice photos by the way, did the restaurant start allowing photography again or was this before the photo ban?

                                                                                                                                    Regarding their pricing, most of this thread was a discussion surrounding this topic starting at this post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8421... .

                                                                                                                                    >> Insider Tip: DJs play loud dance music every night except Sundays and Mondays, making for a more clubby and generally loud atmosphere; try the off nights if a quieter evening out is what you’re after.

                                                                                                                                    Good tip, thanks. I'll stay the hell away from dinner there on non-Sundays and Mondays.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                      They did not seem to mind photos, and gave us a personal tour of the venue while photos were being shot, including some snaps of the kitchen area. Unfortunately Chowhound did not post the photos correctly, which were supposed to be animated GIFs that scroll through multiple shots. You can see them properly at http://insolentgourmet.com/insolent-g.... I hear you on non-Sundays.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                      I am glad to hear the garlic in the Sanpei Chicken Claypot with Sweet Thai Basil (三杯雞 sān bēi jī) was soggy (as was mine) because that is exactly the way they are supposed to be in this entrée - which is baked not stir-fried. Also this is a famous Taiwanese dish, not Thai.

                                                                                                                                      24,000 BTU? 4,000 BTU? Where are you getting this information from? Bluestar makes a home gas range with 22,000 BTU's while the BTU output found in commercial Chinese kitchens is in the range of 100,000 to 150,00 per wok (or more) depending on how they configure the array.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                        A manager of the restaurant gave us and overview of the kitchen and stated this. I attempted to fact-check it online and it appeared to be accurate, so I stated it. I'm no expert on commercial cooking hardware so if this was not accurate, I apologize.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                          Is it jiu ceng ta basil? is it? if so, must go.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                          Interesting, I will be visiting Hakkasan soon to see if the food compares favorably to upscale in Asia, or if corner joints in Chinatown provide food of a similar caliber. I would hope it is the former but it wouldn't be the first restaurant with a pedigree to disappoint.

                                                                                                                                          Regarding sanpei chicken, it is not a Thai dish, and not similar to anything I've had at a Thai restaurant unless similar is used loosely, the flavor profile is uniquely Chinese and the basil used is 九層塔 not Thai basil. If what you ate could be obtained at a Thai restaurant, worse yet, local lunch delivery from Thai takeout joint, you did not have proper sanpei chicken.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                            Thank you, that is interesting. They did choose to use Thai sweet basil in the sanpei chicken at Hakkasan and it did, to me, have a bit of a Thai flavor profile as a result. Perhaps they were trying to go for a fusion thing? Not sure...

                                                                                                                                            1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                              九層塔 is Chinese basil, used in Jangxi cuisine, they may well have used Thai basil, but it's different. I doubt they were going for fusion, more likely that there are many Chinese dishes that are not well-known to the extent of other cuisines. Thai is so ubiquitous in NYC that compared to Jangxi or Taiwanese cuisine, one would automatically assume Thai. Similarly the pork buns at Momofuku are Chinese and yet in food media, they are constantly referred to as Korean because of David Chang.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                Thanks, you are obviously very knowledgeable in this area. If you can read Cantonese, perhaps you can read what is listed in the menu? Photo attached.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                  lol I see what you're saying. I can read the English and the Chinese. Well cant say that menu labeling is always accurate. There are still people who think that sweet potatoes and yams are interchangeable. They may well have used Thai basil but there is a Chinese cultivar.

                                                                                                                                                  I also apologize if my post was pedantic, it just seems like Chinese things/culture/food stuffs are referred to as Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc. so often and more often than the opposite.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                    Not at all! The devil is in the details. Thanks for the elucidations. I agree, our American culture seems to homogenize Asian cultural items into one basket, which, as anyone who has travelled in Asia can tell you, is a huge mistake.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                    "san bei" means three cup (uses 1 of cup of soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar; hence three cup). there are various meats that can be used, but the most common is chicken.

                                                                                                                                                    As pookipichu said it's jiangxi in origin although i always considered it taiwanese cuisine just b/c i always ate it in taiwan or at taiwanese restaurants. taiwanese cuisine uses some ingredients you don't see that commonly in other chinese cuisines such as the basil you mentioned and cilantro

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                      Very interesting. Sound like a bit of Chinese/Taiwanese crossover did occur in this particular, then. I'd like to find somewhere else in the city where I can try this dish. As I stated in my review, Hakkasan's version was unimpressive.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                        Three Cup Chicken may have been invented in China but the Taiwanese made it famous! InsolentGourmet, IMO you were not very precise in your criticisms of Hakkasan's presentation of this dish. Why was it unimpressive to you? You will have to get out to Flushing or Elmhurst to try other versions - without the thumping dance music and fancy cocktails!

                                                                                                                                                        Main Street Imperial – Taiwanese

                                                                                                                                                        Taiwanese 101:

                                                                                                                                                        Taiwanese Specialities in Elmhurst:

                                                                                                                                                        Red Chopsticks

                                                                                                                                                        Gu Xiang:

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                          Three reasons:
                                                                                                                                                          -very overpriced

                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for taking the time to list these options, I will definitely try one or two this Spring and get back to you.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                            try it at gu xiang (english name: gu shine); they have the best version ive tried so far in NY


                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                              Have you tasted all the above versions Lau and reported on them? Hard to top Main Street Imperial's rendition - especially since it is the best Taiwanese restaurant in the City. Here's a photo of 101 Taiwanese's 3CC - which was better than Gu Xiang's IMO.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                scoopG - i have not tried main street imperial and 101 is new so i have no comparison to it, you really should go back to gu xiang and order the stuff i order there as i dont believe you've been there in many years, its pretty decent. gu xiang suffers from what almost every chinese restaurant in NY suffers from in that it has too large of a menu. try the stuff in my posts next time, they are best at simple home style stir fries and things of that nature, not street food etc. Of the restaurants I've tried gu xiang's is def the best, but i've been meaning to go to main street imperial soon, so ill compare when i do

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                  I should go back go Gu Xiang while meanwhile, you've not tried the other 4-5 Taiwanese joints in the City?

                                                                                                                                                                  "gu xiang suffers from what almost every chinese restaurant in NY suffers from in that it has too large of a menu."
                                                                                                                                                                  Too large a menu is a Western affliction, not Chinese. Western kitchens suffer from "to large a menu", not Chinese. A Chinese kitchen can handle anything.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                    scoopG - I've tried most taiwanese restaurants in the NY, but this isn't a competition man, its a forum to find good food, so just enjoy the food

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                      I've not read any updates from you on Main Street Imperial or Taiwanese Specialties recently.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                Lau, a side question for you. What, in your opinion, is the best overall Chinese restaurant in Manhattan's Chinatown, regardless of style or regional classification?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                                  ...or decor or service or nature of the ingredients?

                                                                                                                                                                  What are your thoughts on the question I posed upthread, if I might ask? (see the subthread descending from it too) I'm curious.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                                    Lau has admitted, on these boards a bias towards southern Chinese food. Your question is like asking, "what is the best European restaurant" in NYC. A better query is is to ask what is the best Cantonese, Shanghainese, Manchurian, Shandong, Sichuan, Henan, Hunan, French or Italian place...

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                                      InsolentGourmet - unfortunately, south china garden was the my go to for chinese food in manhattan chinatown, i'm currently in the process of trying to find another (will report back soon, i've got lots of posts to write up been really busy at work so haven't had a lot of time) I don't have a restaurant in manhattan chinatown that I think is great right, i now go to specific restaurant for very specific dishes right now.

                                                                                                                                                                      if you want to stay in manhattan, my current favorite restaurant in the city is hunan manor if you wanted to pin me down on a place:

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks Lau, that is what I was looking for, I appreciate your response. I have some guests coming in from out of town and they posed me that general question which I was unable to answer. I saw from your site that you had specific tendencies, especially in Flushing, so I thought I'd ask for your opinion in Manhattan's Chinatown since you are clearly well-versed on the topic. Thanks again!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                                          yah no problem, hopefully i can find a restaurant that generally does things well and report back

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for your well written and detailed review. I think it provided some needed perspective.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                        My pleasure Bob. If you are interested in photos, as well as ratings on the individual components of the experience, the full piece is at:

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: InsolentGourmet

                                                                                                                                                        hey Insolent, i went there tonight, and i'll write my full and highly negative review soon, but i agree w/ most of what you said...this is a place to LOATHE...PF Chang at x10 price point is exactly that it is...but for me, the moronic waitstaff overshadowed the food (which was merely medicore and overpriced)...

                                                                                                                                                      3. There was a very interesting thread by Ruth Reichl about the possibility of Hakkasan opening in NYC dating back to 2005.


                                                                                                                                                        I welcome the opening of Hakkasan, an unabashedly lavish Chinese restaurant. Similar to her experience, I've been fortunate to dine at Shun Lee Palace when Michael Tong personally arranged the meals. The first ostrich meat I had in NYC was at Shun Lee Palace, prepared in medallions like filet mignon and an elaborate vegetable carving display. Immaculately presented and executed to seared perfection. It was one dish in a series of beautiful and flavorful dishes in a feast that easily would merit three Michelin stars.

                                                                                                                                                        I've never understood why Shun Lee was not more highly regarded until I ate there without the special ministrations of being an "honored guest". In comparison, their usual fare is like slop.

                                                                                                                                                        It would be nice to have a Chinese restaurant in NYC that pulls out all the stops, all the time and charges accordingly.

                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                          Speaking of ostrich, I believe Hakkasan also has an ostrich dish on its menu. I'm curious to try it.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                            $38 and Stir-fried with Spicy Yellow Bean Sauce. Uhmmmm...Spicy Yellow Bean Sauce!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                              Spicy yellow bean sauce isn't good? O_o?

                                                                                                                                                        2. I read about this in the New York Times recently, and truly I will just say it is perhaps overrated, trendy, overpriced, and takes the Chinese out of dining Chinese.

                                                                                                                                                          It is like a high end IHOP chain, though instead of pancakes they serve items that can be traced in origin to areas within China and regions of the Asian and East Asian Chinese diaspora, all in an atmosphere that shares more with Las Vegas than China.

                                                                                                                                                          1. i'm being taken there for my belated bday dinner soon...any current ordering thoughts?...i'm intrigued by the sha cha seafood entree...or should i get the sole instead?...i won't be ordering the dimsum as i disliked the London Hakkasan version...

                                                                                                                                                            1. The pricing + the fact that it's in Times Square scares the crap out of me.

                                                                                                                                                              1. Went to Hakkasan the other night with my Chinese friend. He found ordering off the menu slightly odd, for--as others have noted--the Chinese writing doesn't always equal with the English description. I said "How about having the Shanghai dumplings" and he said "Where are you seeing that?" I pointed out the English description and he said "Oh, I didn't see that. The Chinese description doesn't mention Shanghai."

                                                                                                                                                                I loved it that the bar had my favorite gin--Old Raj.

                                                                                                                                                                He loved the sea bass soup--said it was amazing and very reminiscent of what he has had in China.

                                                                                                                                                                The rest of the food was very very solid. Not earth shattering but very solid indeed.

                                                                                                                                                                Eager to return. I do like the vibe as well.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Ok, this restaurant is a horrible joke. Am here now. Nasty review to follow. Its only slightly better than Mr Chows. Same idiocy.

                                                                                                                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                    Heh. Looking forward to your review.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks...will write when sober and when the vitriol has sudsided...in fair preview, nothing foodwise was "bad", but most everything was bitterly laughable in terms of portion size/price/quality...and the entire waitstaff know less about Chinese cuisine than, well, than any one i know who have ever given even a couple meals worth of thought to Chinese cuisine...the waitstaff might as well be working at McDonalds...more later :)

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                        My Review:

                                                                                                                                                                        It’s hard to think of a 190+ commented restaurant that’s so mediocre and touristy...this place deserves less interest than anyone’s neighborhood delivery joint...

                                                                                                                                                                        I should have known better...i went once to the London Hakkasan in 2010 for a quick solo meal at the bar...it was bad then: pretentious staff...gluey multi-colored dimsum...

                                                                                                                                                                        But having lived in Shanghai (and other parts of Asia) and made several trips to HK, i do understand the lack of high-end Cantonese cuisine in NYC, so i figured i’d give this place a shot...on the dime of nice-yet-non-foodie friends who were treating me and whom i know would appreciate the trendiness and many safe menu options, regardless of more Chowish/non-Chowish results)...

                                                                                                                                                                        The two things which struck me soon after entering:

                                                                                                                                                                        1) the total absence of any Asian staff as hosts, waitstaff, bartenders...ok, some of you politically correct types will rankle and say: “Whoa, so what! Who cares who serves you the food!”...but for a place that spent so much on PR and design and claims to offer an HK-like experience, one would think they’d hire staff who didn’t look like they’d been poached from a TGIF in Minnesota.

                                                                                                                                                                        2) The bar area is ugly...sea projections on the bar wall, neon blue underlit bar -- it’s like a Vegas hotel bar...the wood dining tables are nice though...and the dining room seating is generally spacious and comfy.

                                                                                                                                                                        Our waiter was an idiot...early on, he announced that he’d worked at the Miami Hakkasan with a kind of pomposity, like he expected us to be impressed...as it turned out, he knew zero about Chinese food...when i asked him about the zucchini braised w/ crab roe, he said

                                                                                                                                                                        Waiter: “Eeh, no, it’s got like egg white in it. No”

                                                                                                                                                                        Me: “Ok, can you tell me about the steamed luffah?”

                                                                                                                                                                        Waiter: “It’s got like crab in it. That’s a no.”

                                                                                                                                                                        Me (ignoring his inexplicable desire to have me avoid crab and egg): “It says on the menu it’s stuffed with garlic, not crab.”

                                                                                                                                                                        Waiter (looks at the menu): “Yeah, see it has garlic!”

                                                                                                                                                                        Me: “Yes, that’s what i said. Can you tell me about it?

                                                                                                                                                                        Waiter: “I don’t think you should get it.”

                                                                                                                                                                        It seemed like he was trying to steer us toward only the safest and most fusiony options (yet without any knowledge of our experience levels w/ Chinese food)...he was smug and opinionated yet totally unable to describe the dishes -- it was a somewhat baffling combo.

                                                                                                                                                                        This kind of thing went on all night. While i was waiting in the bar for my friends to arrive and perusing the menu, the bar manager was equally ignorant about the food...i asked about the Sha Cha Seafood dish...he said he’d find out the details...he came back and told me: “It’s seafood with a sauce”...gee thanks...

                                                                                                                                                                        A server brought a dish to our table and said excitedly: “Here’s the beef w/ pepper!”...me: “We didn’t order beef w/ pepper”...she: “Huh?!”...me: “We did order lamb tenderloin?”....she: “Oh, then that’s what this is. They look the same to me!”


                                                                                                                                                                        -- soup w/ Chilean seabass and wolfberries...this was tasty, not too salty...it’s a small cup of soup w/ a couple bites of fish in it...i liked it...

                                                                                                                                                                        -- my friends had crispy duck rolls and lettuce wraps...i didn’t try these, but they looked like pretty much what you’d get anywhere...my friends enjoyed them...

                                                                                                                                                                        -- dover sole w/ XO sauce...i’ve never had dover sole served in chunks before: there were about 3 small chunks of fish (maybe 2 oz of fish total?) and the rest was veggies...the fish was fresh and yummy, but it tasted and looked like the Chilean seabass that was in my soup: i would have asked the waiter if this was really the dover sole, but given how clueless he was about the food, i didn’t bother and i just enjoyed my couple bites of fish...this dish cost 52 dollars, for essentially a small appetizer portion.

                                                                                                                                                                        -- the “Shanghai” lamb tenderloin had about 3 or 4 silver dollar-sized slices of lamb, and some mushrooms...the ingredients were good, but the gravy-like sauce was heavy and too salty...when i was growing up, my (non-Asian) mom used to occassionally try to cook her own riff on Chinese-American food by throwing slices of filet mignon in a pan w/ lots of soy sauce, cornstarch, onion, and mushrooms: that’s pretty much what this tasted like...not sure the cost of this but i think about 40 dollars, for only a couple ounces of lamb at most.

                                                                                                                                                                        -- aubergine/tofu/yam pot...decent...

                                                                                                                                                                        -- lotus root stirfry w/ asparagus...perfectly acceptable...

                                                                                                                                                                        My friends seemed to like their desserts...i was starving when i left (and i quickly went to meet another friend for oysters downtown).

                                                                                                                                                                        Hakkasan is a ripoff and has no resemblence to top places in HK...the only places i’d compare it too in NYC are Mr. Chow and Shun Lee...if you like Mr. Chow, then you’d probably like this place...or if you are comfortable spending 50 dollars/entree for tiny portions of merely decent food, then i guess it could work...otherwise, imo it’s a must avoid.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for doing a public service by posting this review.

                                                                                                                                                                          Have you been to Chinatown Brasserie or that new dim sum specialist place in Tribeca? What did you think of them?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                                            Hi Pan. I didnt try the dimsum at Hakkasan NY last night, and it's possible that it's good and that that's an ok way to eat there. I disliked it in London though.

                                                                                                                                                                            I went to Chinatown Brasserie for dinner during it's opening week 5+ years ago and i hated it: prob the wirst dimsum i've ever bad. But since you and others have reported good things, i imagine we had a very off batch that night. I tried some non-dimsum food one other night at the bar more recently and disliked it. But lately i do stop there for happy hour, so i suppose i might trysome duck or bbq pork one day.

                                                                                                                                                                            Havent tried the Tribeca dimsum place. Cheers.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                              At those prices, if I had had an off batch, I wouldn't have gone back. I've been twice and thought their dim sum was great both times, but I haven't been back in years because I'm just not willing to pay that much for dim sum.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                                Wew! Glad you waited until you were sober to make your full report Simon!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                                  yeah, lately i've been trying to trying to install a virtual breath-a-lyzer on my computer, so that i'm prohibited from opining while inebriated...i think the world would fuction better if that came standard w/ Windows Operating System :)

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                                                What's the name of the new dim sum specialist in Tribeca?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                  I don't remember and haven't gone there. It's not just dim sum. Isn't Joe Ng the chef at the place in question?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                                                    You mean Red Farm in the West Village, not TriBeCa.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: kathryn

                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes. I thought it was in Tribeca.

                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                                Wow, the service you received sounds atrocious. My server at brunch clearly wasn't familiar with Chinese cuisine either (didn't know that soup dumplings are the same as "Siew Long Buns" listed on their menu), but he wasn't obnoxious about it and very competent otherwise.

                                                                                                                                                                                In terms of portion sizes... yes, they're small when compared to all of the cheap Chinese restaurants in the city. But, are they still outrageously small when compared to places like The NoMAd and La Prominade des Anglais? How about The Modern Bar Room? I wish they allow photography so it's easier to just look at photos of their dishes to compare.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                  hi...yeah, i don't think i've ever been served portions quite so outrageously small...the dover sole was really about 2 oz of fish for 52 bucks....(i didn't think the portions at Promenade were so small, except for the fish soup)...i've never been to The Modern Bar Room, but i'm going to an event at MOMA in a couple weeks, so maybe i'll try it then...

                                                                                                                                                                                  re: service at Hakkasan, other than our smug waiter, the other people there (hosts, bartender, extra servers, etc) were generally quite friendly (they almost had too much of a fake-smile "Welcome to Disneyland!" kind of vibe) -- but they just didn't know anything about the food...

                                                                                                                                                                        2. InsolentGourmet took lots of heat from a number of people after his review of Hakkasan last week. His credentials and his judgment were challenged over and over again. He took it all with incredible good grace.

                                                                                                                                                                          After Simon's review I'll be he feels a lot less lonely.

                                                                                                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                            hi Bob...i think at the wild price point of tiny 50 dollars entrees, it'll be hard to gather a true Chowhound consensus on Hakkasan...my guess is that there'll be people who will enjoy the dimsum as a splurge or enjoy the bar on some Vegasy occassion...but i can't imagine that the dinner menu will draw many longterm fans, as it's nothing at all like real HK cuisine and the prices are silly...for even one person to go there and try a lot of dishes on the menu over a few dinners, we're talking about a 1000+ USD investment just to sample a few miniscule and often fusiony dishes...it's just not worth it...

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                              I just don't get all the attempts to compare Hakkasan to good high class Chinese food elsewhere in the world. I believe the best comparison is to Tao. And honestly, that's not a bad restaurant to aspire to be, with Tao Las Vegas having dwarfed all other restaurant/nightclubs in revenue for many years.

                                                                                                                                                                              I don't think any of these restaurants are actually meant to be "worth it". But, there is something to be said for judging whether I can actually enjoy a dish or two when I'm forced to take less culinarily savvy tourists or clients to these kinds of places because they want that "trendy NYC vibe".

                                                                                                                                                                              By the way, Tao NYC recently launched a Sunday dim sum brunch. I think a comparison of the dim sum at Hakkasan and Tao would be more useful and at least somewhat interesting.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                You're absolutely right. There is much greater high end dining competition in Taiwan, Hongkong and China for the big spender.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                                What I liked about your review and InsolentGourmet's is that you didn't review the restaurant you wanted Hakkasan to be, you reviewed the restaurant it actually *is* and applied reasonable benchmarks to evaluate it.

                                                                                                                                                                                I think almost all of us who respect Chinese food would like some higher end options in new York. Places with nicer decor, more ambient lighting, smoother service and yes, some great dishes that you can't get at the dozens of very good "bright lights" places around the city. We'd also be willing to pay more for it if the price/perfomance ratio were right.

                                                                                                                                                                                There's no reason a place like that can't be successful charging around $130 for dinner for two. I'd give something like that a try assuming I heard good things about the food.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ok, what about some of these places some other folks in NYC like? ;-)
                                                                                                                                                                                  http://blog.zagat.com/2012/03/new-yor... (look at slide#3)
                                                                                                                                                                                  Or, if you specify "Chinese"...
                                                                                                                                                                                  :-P ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                    The first 2 links were all fusion places. Chinese food for people afraid of actual Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                    The last one was somewhat better although it still contained some clunkers like Shun Lee and Chin Chin. Xi'an Famous Foods is fine for what it is but it's basically a food stand. To call it a restaurant is a misnomer.

                                                                                                                                                                                    That list also left off plenty of worthy contenders. Honestly, I think mainstream websites really aren't very good at identifying the best Chinese restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                      I may be wrong, but it's precisely what the majority of New Yorkers think about "Chinese" or "Asian" food, it seems to me. *Not* necessarily Chowhounders. That circles back to a question of what demographic Hakkasan is being aimed at...hmmm...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                        "I may be wrong, but it's precisely what the majority of New Yorkers think about "Chinese" or "Asian" food, it seems to me. *Not* necessarily Chowhounders."

                                                                                                                                                                                        Well sure. Those were Zagat's lists, a type of People's Choice awards. Not necessarily the people who know much about Chinese food.

                                                                                                                                                                                        There were a couple of recent threads on the better Chinese restaurants in NYC that I would recommend.



                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yes, thanks. I've seen those, and even posted on one of them.

                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                I do indeed. Lucky for me, most people on this board agree that Hakkasan is of low value and a ridiculously low quality experience for the high price tag. It seems that some just 'want' Hakkasan to be great because NY 'needs' an expensive, high-end Chinese eatery. Oh well, everyone is entitled to their opinions.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                  Well IG panned he a dish (Three Cup Chicken) he knew nothing about for one.

                                                                                                                                                                                  "What I liked about your review and InsolentGourmet's is that you didn't review the restaurant you wanted Hakkasan to be, you reviewed the restaurant it actually *is* and applied reasonable benchmarks to evaluate it."
                                                                                                                                                                                  I reviewed the place as I saw it. I also noted early on that Hakkasan was going to be getting a lot of flack for prices and decor.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                                    What I saw was a bunch of people firing questions at IG trying to trip him up in order to discredit his review.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                      He seemed to think Three Cup Chicken was a stir-fried dish and complained about mushy garlic - not realizing the dish is baked for a long time, therefore resulting in soft garlic. He also thought the dish was Thai. I guess passions will continue to rise on this place.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                        I can say with all honesty there was no attempt by me to "trip" IG up... I haven't been to Hakkasan so I can hardly comment on the food, and I don't think anyone else was trying to "discredit" him. People have different opinions, even on places like EMP. There is no restaurant that EVERYONE agrees on. I loathe restaurant Daniel's service due to one horrific experience, ymmv.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Adam Platt weighs in -

                                                                                                                                                                                    "Hakkasan Is Ruby Foo’s for Rich People"


                                                                                                                                                                                    82 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                      That review makes it sound like somewhere that would make me want to kill myself.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                        Let's say this review (and other posts here) indeed damn this place correctly. That raises anew the question of why New York is unable to support a high-class high-end Chinese restaurant with excellent food such as would be found in Hong Kong - or maybe even selected places in the SGV or Toronto or Vancouver (or even Singapore or Kuala Lumpur). What is it? What is this fixation about regarding what seems to be the cheap+good food syndrome (plus toilets that make you throw up) attitude in NYC?

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                          I have no idea whatsoever. It would be a delight to have a top-end place here serving excellent food. None of the"classy" ones that have existed here to my knowledge (Tse Yang, the Shun Lees, etc) have served food worth a damn.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                            "What is it? What is this fixation about regarding what seems to be the cheap+good food syndrome (plus toilets that make you throw up) attitude in NYC?"

                                                                                                                                                                                            I think you have to get the "good" part right before you tack on the "expensive" part.

                                                                                                                                                                                            BTW, where are you getting that "toilet" stuff? I ask because although you've posted extensively and knowledgeably about Chinese food I see that you've never posted on the Manhattan board. (I only read back over 10 pages of your posts. Forgive me if you posted something back in 2008.) Are you fully familiar with NY Chinese restaurants? There are plenty of very good ones which boast clean bathrooms as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                            The choice isn't between Hakkasan and some dump.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                              Very true, Bob, there are fabulous places here, we eat in any number of them, and I've seldom seen a bathroom that was a problem.
                                                                                                                                                                                              It would be nice to have a snazzy place to patronize occasionally as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                I agree completely. In my post of April 24th I said as much -

                                                                                                                                                                                                "I think almost all of us who respect Chinese food would like some higher end options in new York. Places with nicer decor, more ambient lighting, smoother service and yes, some great dishes that you can't get at the dozens of very good "bright lights" places around the city. We'd also be willing to pay more for it if the price/perfomance ratio were right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                There's no reason a place like that can't be successful charging around $130 for dinner for two. I'd give something like that a try assuming I heard good things about the food."

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Have you ever used the toilet at Noodletown? I think you'd find it an exception.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Pan

                                                                                                                                                                                                    There are exceptions to any rule, and it wasn't a hard and fast statement. Noodletown isn't a big favorite of ours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I like their food, just not their bathroom.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I lived in the metro NY area (on the NJ side) for more than a decade years ago and patronized C-town and various C restaurants around town. In recent years I drop by NYC on occasion. Some bathrooms were fine, yes, some definitely were not. I'm sure they've improved overall, and the reference to bad bathrooms was more a reference to the bad ones than an automatic expectation. Nevertheless, it has always been my understanding, and also from what I have read, that the rudimentary decor & facilities of many Chinese restaurants has been a significant component of the business whereby good but cheap food is offered to the public in lieu of posh surroundings and swanky service in NYC. One also reads of the reluctance of NYers - in general - to pay for "ethnic food" (e.g. Chinese) that is expected to be cheap?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have posted occasionally on the Manhattan board.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  ETA: Comments from others upthread also refer to the inability of NYC to support a high-end Chinese place. Others have wondered about the lack of a sufficiently large Chinese dining public with sufficient means to support such places in NY - versus Toronto or Vancouver, say, where there is. (influx from the wealthy/professional classes from British HK before the transfer, e.g.) I might imagine that such a place would need support from a larger swath of the populace than just CHers interested in Chinese food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Your thoughts?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't think the problem is that NYCers aren't willing to support a high-end Chinese restaurant - I think the problem is, there haven't been any as of yet worth supporting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    That said, dinner at Oriental Garden sure as heck ain't "cheap eats" - I think the fact that one isn't spending a lot on wine keeps the bill down, but there are any number of $30+ entrees there, one could easily have a high-end meal there, price-wise (lord knows I certainly have...)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                      i have a theory as to why although i can't substantiate it
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1) Local chinese demand: while there is a sufficiently large chinese population in NY, unlike places like vancouver, the cantonese here are generally not from HK, they are from poor places like toison, so i dont think there is the same natural demand for it (i.e. they dont have alot of money and its not something they are used to eating anyhow). The non-Cantonese chinese that live here are also generally poor: fujian immigants, now some more northern mainlanders and taiwanese, but its not like LA where there are a bunch of rich taiwanese b/c as far as i can tell they generally dont have much money either. so unlike some other cities with large chinese populations in north america, i dont know you necessarily have the natural demand for a place that would serve the type of food you're talking about (i'm talking about high end HK style cantonese food)
                                                                                                                                                                                                      2) non-local chinese demand: no one has ever opened up a real high end chinese restaurant in NY. And when i saw high end i'm not talking a nice venue with "chinese food", i'm talking about a real deal high end place like ones in HK, with top-notch chefs, ingredients, service, decor. it just hasn't been done, so its not totally clear how regular NYers would react to it? the vast majority of people on this board have never been to the type of restaurant i'm talking about, i think people are chowhound are certainly more adventurous and i'm certain would rush to go there, but i think chowhound people are more exception than rule and won't keep the place in business, so im not sure if regular NYers are going to be ordering expensive fishes, abalone, shark fin soup, roast goose etc etc. as a regular thing and not some one-time type thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      sgordon - OG isn't really the type of restaurants that huiray is talking about, OG is like a nicer more seafood centric version of now-defunct SCG (btw i went there for dinner recently, im going to write about it soon, pretty decent quality seafood, but i think the chef is weaker than SCG). Check this thread, kosmose7 has some pics of the type of place im talking about in HK

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I couldn't agree with you more Lau!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: kosmose7

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Me 3! Lau's analysis is right. In my 13+ years living in the tri-state area, I have been saving my craving for Chinese food until my vacations to LA and Toronto. I also go home to Taipei 2 to 3 times a year so I get my fix there when I have the opportunites. There just isn't enough customer base to support upscale Chinese cuisine here. Sad but true.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: bearmi

                                                                                                                                                                                                            "There just isn't enough customer base to support upscale Chinese cuisine here."

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I really don't think that's true. Lets leave the question of quality aside for a minute. Shun Lee Palace is relatively expensive compared to "bright lights" Chinese places. It's succeeded at two locations. Mr. Chow serves mediocre to bad Chinese food at extortionate prices. They've got 2 locations too. Chinatown Brasserie has been around for years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            There are plenty of people in NY paying high prices for Chinese food. It would be nice if those high prices bought good food but that's not the fault of the customers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                              You make a valid point and I agree that NYC can support an upscale Chinese restaurant, and does, if only based on price point.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Frankly, I cannot help but feel that Chinese food is unconsciously held to a higher standard than other cuisines, not mind you because it is considered a higher cuisine but because it has such low associations in the minds of many.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I have dined at many four star to no star restaurants and many of those non-Chinese restaurants that are graced with more acclaim and more patronage than for instance, Chinatown Brasserie, offer no more consistency, no more excellency, no more value or quality of ingredients, and only differentiate themselves in the serving of western cuisine. Burgers for $26 or guacamole for $14, a slice of plain pizza for $5. Was I impressed by every dish at EMP, Bouley, Del Posto, Bernadin, Mas Farmhouse, Nobu, Lutece, Jean Georges, Le Cirque etc. etc.? No. There were misfires at all. There were meals where even none of the dishes rose to the level of excellent. But these restaurants are given a bye. For instance, how many question if NY can support an excellent Italian restaurant. Or assume that you will only receive authentic Italian food from a dive establishment, hole-in-the-wall. A bad night is written off without bemoaning the state of the entire cuisine in the city. A dirty bathroom is not emblematic of the authenticity. The ethnicity of the waiters is not called into play. Value proposition of wheat and water is not calculated. Skill is appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Chinese food needs be cheap. The restaurant needs to be shabby and above all not be seen as aspiring beyond a narrow set of preconceived and familiar notions of what it is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bravo, Pookipichu. I agree with you 100%.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm glad you accepted my point on the economics. I'd like to move on to the standards that high end Chinese places are judged on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Lets get basic here and talk about the common dumpling. If someone walks into a mythical NYC Chinese restaurant called Beijing Luxe and finds that 5 dumplings are $20 they will ask the Dumpling Seder Question - "How are these dumplings different from all other dumplings?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Are they better? Are they good enough to cost 4 times more than than those served in very good Chinese restaurants in NYC? A luxe atmosphere and polished service are certainly worth a premium. The question is, how much? It's a fair question.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The number of very good Chinese restaurants has increased significantly over the last 5 or 6 years. It's not like Hakkasan exists in a vacuum, competing only against grimy neighborhood takeout joints.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  That's one of the major differences between Chinese restaurants and high end fine dining places. If you want Oysters and Pearls you have to go to Per Se and pay Thomas Keller's kitchen to make if for you. There aren't 20 places in the city where you can get it for a fraction of the price Per Se charges. If there were I suspect that the price Per Se charges would be an issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm certainly willing to pay more for better atmosphere and smoother service. Not an infinite amount. I'll pull a number out of the air - 30% more.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm also willing to pay more for superb dishes that I can't get get anywhere else or for significantly better versions of dishes that I already am familiar with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Those are the yardsticks I'd use to measure whether a luxe Chinese restaurant is worth it for me. I suspect I'm not alone. Lets see what Wells and Sutton and Cheshes have to say about Hakkasan in the coming weeks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I haven't eaten at Hakkasan, my post was regarding discussion of Chinese cuisine in NYC generally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I also was not referring to specialized dishes such as Oysters and Pearls. Hamburgers, guacamole, pizza, pasta. The guacamole is so vastly superior at Nixtamal than any number of haute Mexican establishments that charge 2-3 times more for less. Plenty of competition but people are happy to pay and none the more judgmental even though the product is inferior. Pasta has a markup that can be obscene and the pasta at various specialists, while good, is never questioned in value the way Chinese food is. This is a discussion that could fill a book, let alone a post.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Furthermore, the opinions of Wells, Sutton and Cheshes hold so little weight with me as to be a fanciful read and no more than that. As I detailed before, my thoughts are there are very, very few food critics who are experts or even moderately knowledgeable about Chinese cuisine and probably none in the US. It is a natural consequence of geography and experience, the overwhelming bulk of theirs is Western.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Whether you respect them or not, if the major critics continue to slam Hakkasan things could get ugly. (Ruth Reichl - "Prediction: NY Hakkasan closed within the year. Stunningly mediocre food. High prices. Waiters aggressively upsell. Remember Wakiya?")

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Remember Romera?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Here's what Ruth Reichl had to say about Chinese food in NY as well as in the US some years back:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Perhaps an eGullet member (Maybe Pan) could ask her to update her opinion, if there is any change. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Here's what Jennifer 8 Lee had to say about Wakiya: http://books.google.com/books?id=wn7l...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for that link. Back in 2005 Reichl said this -

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "it's hard to get very excited about Chinese food in New York. We just don't have the kind of monied, sophisticated Chinese eaters who support great restaurants. So it's hard for me to get really enthusiastic about local Chinese restaurants. They just don't have the same quality as those on the other coast - or those in Canada - where most of the big Chinese money resides........"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Assuming she still feels the same way, you'd think she'd be extremely receptive to Hakkasan. The fact that she's not ("NY Hakkasan closed within the year. Stunningly mediocre food. High prices. Waiters aggressively upsell.") ought to be a warning sign.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I regret it couldn't be me. I haven't posted on eGullet in years and don't have any personal relationship or contact with Ms. Reichl.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "I'm certainly willing to pay more for better atmosphere and smoother service. Not an infinite amount. I'll pull a number out of the air - 30% more. "
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hmm, that's not very much...at all... just saying.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Just for purposes of comparison or interest, here's the menu for the Summer Palace in HK, one of the places Lau referred to via kosmose7's blog post: www.shangri-la.com/uploadedFiles/Shan...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Here're the set menus from Fook Lam Moon, one of the other high-end places in HK: www.fooklammoon-grp.com/en/hongkong/m... and the a la carte menus (look at the various pics in the photoset): www.flickr.com/photos/foodnut/5705272...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        [Current exchange rate today: US$1 = HK$7.76]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        p.s. Here's one site for comparing cost-of-living between HK and NYC, last updated June 2012: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Just thought these might be interesting...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          If your argument is that we're all cheap bastards in NYC who don't appreciate fine Chinese cuisine I don't think you're going to persuade many people.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I could make the opposite argument - that the high rollers in Hong Kong spending $500 per person on dinner are wealthy venture capitalists who really are more into displaying their wealth than appreciating the cuisine. In NYC at the height of the financial boom we had investment bankers ordering $2,000 bottles of wine. No one ever confused them with wine connoisseurs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But I won't make that argument because I don't know enough about Hong Kong dining.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What I do know is that NYC *isn't* Hong Kong. There are different rules here. As I demonstrated above people in NYC are quite willing to spend considerable amounts on Chinese dining. They do ask, however, that there be some relationship between what's on the plate and the price being charged.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think this is why some people are saying in this thread that for really expensive Chinese restaurants to make sense, they'd have to be like HK Banquet Houses. Because those places, as I understand it, serve an entirely different class of food -- not just a nicer version of normal Cantonese in a nicer setting. In other words, those restaurants really are more like four-stars when compared to one-stars -- different in kind, not just in quality or amenities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not an expert, but I've never heard of other parts of China with a similar high-end restaurant tradition. (Even in rich Shanghai, they seem to care only about expensive foreign restaurants like Jean Georges.) So when people are saying expensive Chinese restaurants should follow the HK model, it's not because they want to exclude other regions -- only that the other regions don't have expensive restaurant cuisine traditions in China.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sneakeater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Singapore got some too, if that helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sneakeater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think it's a bit silly to assume that a high-end Chinese restaurant should follow a particular model, be it HK or other. Why not a restaurant that uses chinese flavors and techniques blended with, I dunno, molecular gastronomy? Why not something along the lines of EMP, only using traditional Chinese ingredients and spices?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              In a sense (though at a lower level) that's what Susur Lee shoots for, though for a variety of other reasons he failed here - the idea behind Shang wasn't a bad one. Just everything ELSE about the restaurant was middling, at best. It's kind of like what they're doing at Jungsik - which seems to be successful, so far. A Chinese chef working from a similar model could potentially do very well here, if the food was up to snuff and the price was not pretentiously high.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It seems people aren't debating why, so much, high-end Chinese cuisine doesn't work in NYC - I think it very well could, it just hasn't happened yet. They're debating why a very -specific- style of high-end Chinese doesn't work here. There are probably a number of reasons the HK style doesn't work here. I don't know enough about what makes HK dining unique to elucidate further, though - someone care to spell it out? Is it more oriented towards family-size dishes? Banquets? What are the fundamental differences between HK fine dining and ours?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "Chinese flavors and techniques blended with ... ... molecular gastronomy"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That restaurant does exist. Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, which has 2 Michelin stars. Ate there many years ago and enjoyed it very much.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, that concept could work here. But it also illustrates Sneakeater's point: "So when people are saying expensive Chinese restaurants should follow the HK model, it's not because they want to exclude other regions -- only that the other regions don't have expensive restaurant cuisine traditions in China."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                To me, the fundamental difference between HK fine dining and NYC fine dining is that HK fine dining restaurants expect to make good money. I love EMP and Per Se but their food costs and razor thin margins are mind-boggling. I enjoyed my meal at Jungsik very much. But critical success and financial success are very different things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  So the fundamental difference is... they have a higher profit margin? That's it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  All the tales of how high-end restaurants barely scrape by are a bit of nonsense. Their margins are just fine, or no one would ever do them. Last I looked Danny Meyer, Keith McNally, Jeffrey Chodorow and Thomas Keller were all rather wealthy men.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Heck, Marc Murphy, whose places aren't even that high-end, and doesn't exactly have an empire but a few family-style places - and whose alcohol markup is famously low, almost as low as retail - bought a $16.5M condo in Jerry Seinfeld's building last year. Razor-thin margins? I think not...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Most of the people you've named are restaurateurs, making money off multiple eateries, not a single fine dining establishment. I'm pretty sure shake shack is significantly more profitable than EMP.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. The chefs who've made the most money do not make it from their restaurants, but rather from cookbooks, appearances, TV, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. McDonald's in Times Square definitely loses money, but more than makes up for it from an advertising standpoint. When you have other businesses, you can afford to have one or two that lose money but benefit you in other ways. NBA franchises are a good example of that.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4. I don't know what you base your speculation from, but the things I hear about razor-thin margins are from people who actually work in these types of kitchens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      All of them are restaurauteurs, yes. But some of them don't have that many restaurants. And let's be honest - Danny Meyer was quite well-off before he ever thought of Shake Shack.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Some chefs who've made a lot of money HAVE done it off TV, of course. Of the people I listed above - well, most of them aren't chefs - but besides that, none but Murphy are on TV, and he's only on once every six weeks or so as a "Chopped" judge. It's not paying him seven figures, that's for sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Fast food is a completely different business model. As are NBA franchises.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm not buying for second that high-end dining isn't - if you have a popular restaurant - a pretty solid money-maker. For a smaller place just starting out, yes, those margins CAN be razor-thin. But EMP and Daniel and Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin and Balthazar and many others are doing very, very well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And that's all I'm saying on that debate, since we're now waaaaaay off-topic and the Chowhound Gods tend to frown on such off-topic meanderings and get delete-happy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "Most of the people you've named are restaurateurs, making money off multiple eateries, not a single fine dining establishment. I'm pretty sure shake shack is significantly more profitable than EMP."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You're grossly oversimplifying. Plenty of fine dining places have nicely priced rents from hotels and other other organizations looking to increase the prestige of a particular location. Per Se in the Time-Warner center comes to mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        That said, why couldn't a high end Hong Kong style restaurant do the same?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you're asking about fundamental cuisine differences between HK and, say, NYC, the answer is that what I mentioned before about fresh ingredients. High end HK cuisine is often ocean-freshness dominated. It is not enough to have the highest quality flash frozen fish shipped from Tsukiji. We need to see our seafood swimming right before it's cooked. Along with freshly killed fowl.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It may in fact be a very simple reason why the best Chinese restaurants are often said to be in HK and Vancouver. Proximity to the Pacific Ocean.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      fooder is correct, high end HK cantonese dining is really fresh ingredients using the best cantonese cooking techniques i.e. the food should really stand on its own without the use of heavy handed seasoning. you can see some of the links huiray put up, but everything you will have at a restaurant like the ones i'm talking about will not be heavy, greasy or oily, it will be all quite light handed, but really good. this type of cuisine is generally very expensive b/c of the ingredients (fish, abalone etc)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      check the pics of sun tung lok: http://www.openrice.com/english/resta...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      this will give u an idea of what it might look like

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I absolute accept what you say. OTOH New York is in the midst of a ingredients revolution. Restaurants go out of the way to tout their local sourcing of high end ingredients. It's almost become a cliche. High end NY based Japanese sushi houses have been using fresh fish from the Pacific for years. Lord knows, they're not cheap either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You'd think that an ingredients based Chinese restaurant would fit right in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well we have plenty of fresh ingredients right here. The main difference between high-end Chinese dining in Asia is the easier and cheaper access to a wide array of expensive ingredients not easily found here. Sea Cucumber for example - that's a good example of a very costly ingredient that is used more for texture, than flavor. How may Americans crave Sea Cucumber? Second is a more densely packed population filled with high-rollers into conspicuous consumption. Chinese eat communally and usually there is one "host" who foots the bill. Therefore the more exotic dishes served, the greater display of wealth and power. Third, the competition among A1 restaurants for the deep pocketed Chinese diner is greater. Lastly, a deeper pool of talented Chefs, held in high esteem, who can make more money by staying home rather than emigrating.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          My point with OG was to counter the "New Yorkers think all Chinese food has to be cheap" argument - obviously, Oriental Garden isn't cheap. It may not be HK style, but it IS high-end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Must a high-end Chinese restaurant be HK style? I'm sure there are many styles of high-end places in China. Limiting it such, it's a bit like suggesting that all Western high-end places should be French style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          As for abalone, shark fin, etc - there are a number of places that serve those. The setting might not be as fancy as some HK places, but the menu items are there to be found. (Also, Westerners are more sensitive about the horrors of harvesting shark fins it seems, as far as that one ingredient goes...)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think what New Yorkers would support - if the right one opened - would be a place that used Chinese flavors, techniques, etc, in a more creative fashion than we're used to - it's not just about throwing expensive luxury ingredients around. Susur Lee attempted something with Shang, but the food wasn't adventurous (or just plain good) enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            well what i'm trying to get across is that price aside (OG is not at the price point im talking about), OG's food would pale in comparison to any of the restaurants im talking about and OG is a cantonese restaurant as is HK food (not saying OG's food is bad btw, i liked it actually, but its not on the anywhere the same level as the restaurants im talking about from a taste standpoint).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            yes there are high end restaurants in the rest of china, but you have to remember something about china. China until basically the last decade and really the last 5-7 years was really poor and i mean really poor. Even today vast swaths are china are still extremely poor. In very poor countries, high end cuisine doesn't develop for obvious reasons (i.e. people can't afford it), so having high end chinese cuisine is something that is somewhat new for most of china. That is not the case in more affluent chinese cities that are or were not part of China (HK, Taipei or Singapore), this is particularly the case in HK b/c in HK there has been a rich part of society for a very long time, so there has been demand for this type of food for a long time. So the main reason i say HK is b/c i think on the high end side of things HK is by far the most developed. To put it in context think about high end american food in the 1980s vs today, its markedly different...i just think these things take time to develop

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I would argue that in in post revolutionary China the elite CCP party leaders and high level cadres always had access to the high end food stuffs. So yes, the masses ate plenty of Wishing Dishes: Tianjin Cabbage and Wishing you had a few pieces of pork to go with it. Any visitor to China in the early 1980's could see the abundance of all sorts of meats, fruits and vegetables available in the Western hotels but not available to the masses.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                In 1987, you could get a full plate of jiaozi in no-frills proletarian restaurants in Beijing for 80 fen. No-one but Chinese people in the room, except for me. But I have to imagine a lot changed between the early 80s and 1987 for that much meat to be that accessible to the masses, even in Beijing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As I mentioned upthread, prices in Cantonese (esp. HK) cuisine are very ingredient driven. And we are very particular about the subtle differences in the ingredients. Not all shark fin and abalone are created equal. Slight differences in size and quality result in exponential differences in price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Must a high-end Chinese restaurant be HK style? I'm sure there are many styles of high-end places in China. Limiting it such, it's a bit like suggesting that all Western high-end places should be French style."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The problem with this analogy is that even as large as China is, it is still one nation. It's more like suggesting all French high-end places should be Paris-style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Okay, then. Should all high-end French restaurants be Paris style? Or all high-end Italian restaurants Florentine? Analogy works just fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I don't agree at all that OG is "high end." It's very easy to have a nice big meal there for $25. Try doing that at Ai Fiori, let alone Per Se!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  @ sgordon re: "New Yorkers think all Chinese food has to be cheap" argument:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Here's what one blogger had to say about "cheap Chinese food".
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, an erroneous and damning-a-whole-race opinion (wrong!!), but he is indeed a member of the "larger dining public" out there in NYC and one wonders about the ubiquity of his opinion amongst the larger dining public (NOT Chowhounders) which would be needed to support any fancypants Chinese place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  p.s. This other thread (and your posts there too) I thought has some cross-over relevance to what is being discussed here? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/851740

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Desperately seeking SCG replacement...or analog, even. And roast goose!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Well, 20,000 mainland Chinese a year (at least) are allowed to immigrate legally to the USA at least and it is well established that many are parking their money outside of China. Immigrants to the ethno-burbs like Flushing or SGV are not generally poor, undocumented Fujianese. Other reasons why it is hard to find high end Chinese is the extreme difficulty in securing an American visa and language barriers. Why would a top notch Chef leave his/her comfort zone? Why leave a place where you are held in high esteem? Also some special Chinese ingredients are just plain hard to come by.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Lau

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Lau, can't wait on the OG post. Also waiting for Yuen Yuen!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: swannee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        yah i should have some time this weekend to write, so ill try to get a post up

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ive just been so busy at work, its been zapping all my time

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "[...] a festively colored assortment of classic Hakka dim-sum items ($28), which would have worked better if they hadn’t all been as hard as galvanized rubber."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I disagree with Platt's slam on Hakkasan's dim sum. I haven't had any of the entrees so I can't speak about those, but Hakkasan's dim sum is absolutely excellent and is the best in the city alongside Chinatown Brasserie's. Platt is dead wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Pete Wells' review should drop next month. I suspect you'll find it problematic as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                lol, only if he finds issues with things that I happen to think are not valid.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Other than dim sum brunch, I haven't been to Hakkasan at any other time or had any other dishes, so maybe Platt is right about those other things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Actually the lobster with XO sauce I had was pretty good too. Subtle and delicate, not oily or pungent. As for dum sum, I agree with you. Hakkasan has better versions of dim sum in the city. I am more than grateful that such an upscale Chinese restaurant exists in New York.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      And with one sentence ("The real problem is that its prices are too high for extremely restrained portions of food that is, in too many cases, about as interesting as a box of paper clips."), Pete Wells has won me over :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Simon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Loved the paper clips! I was astonished that he gave it even one star. I guess because of the good quality dim sum?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Since I haven't been to Hakkasan for dinner, I can't say much other than the NY Times review does seem to be in line with what a lot of us had written here in this thread. I actually don't have any complaints about the review. It seems quite fair.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Platt, Sutton, Wells, and Cuozzo just weighed in too (negatively as well) - Deathwatch, for sure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think they hold on a bit longer than Romera, the clubby vibe will at least give them a little business a la Tao, Ajna Bar, etc - plus they obviously have a LOT more money behind them than Romera did, being a chain and all. But it's only a matter of time... I'll give them a little longer than Reichl, though. I say next January the doors quietly close. Maybe we need to start a betting pool.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Some of these places can hold on a lot longer than they should. How long was it before Hawaiian Tropic Zone was shuttered?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Interesting, equating Hakkasan to Hawaiian Tropic Zone........ because the skill level at a high end Chinese restaurant is equal to fried buffalo wings and dip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              From the review, it talks more about "value" than actual mediocrity. Was Robuchon a good "value"? No. It's also shuttering, even though no review mentions how outrageously expensive it was, $50 for veal cheeks, an ingredient that is less expensive than patagonian toothfish. But I digress because popular consensus trumps reason. Until they apply the SAME standards for reviewing Chinese cuisine, I'll eye roll in the corner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                "But I digress because popular consensus trumps reason. Until they apply the SAME standards for reviewing Chinese cuisine, I'll eye roll in the corner."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think the greatness Hakkasan is like the Great Pumpkin. It only appears to the true believers.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Oh brother, I can hardly reply to that, it's not about Hakkasan Bob... If you don't see it, you're not the first and won't be the last.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not equating the quality of the food at Hawaiian Tropic Zone with that of Hakkasan, just the fact that over eager restauranteurs spent gobs of money on an ill-fated concept. I've eaten at Hakkasan (in Miami). I liked my meal just fine. The price was absurd. My reaction to the price had nothing to do with the fact that the cuisine is Chinese. It's just not worth the ridiculous prices. Period.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Blumie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't disagree with what you're saying, what I'm saying is the same standard isn't applied uniformly across cuisines. I've eaten at quite a few restaurants where the prices were equally absurd but such absurdity is ignored. EVERY SINGLE TIME an Chinese restaurant is expensive in America, the price is waved around like a giant shameful flag with trumpets of derision. Bread pudding at Blue Ribbon for $14 or 3 pieces of chicken for $26, or $50 for the veal cheeks with carrots at Robuchon, $30 for roast chicken with potatoes at Minetta Tavern, I could go on and on. I cook, I know the cost of ingredients and the amount of work in preparation, but I don't see people railing against the markups of American restaurants, French restaurants, Italian restaurants. Is $19 a good value for bucatini at Babbo? $43 for two small pieces of lamb at Bouley? I've been there, done that, not a good "value". I accept it for what it is, it's a business looking to maximize margins. Something that's acceptable for every cuisine but Chinese apparently.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Pookipichu, in general agreement. I've made some posts in this direction in this thread too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Here are some musings/opinions from some folks on a blog that adds to the general discussion (not just about Hakkasan NYC) and could be viewed as supportive in a general way, although specifics/points could be disputed or disagreed with. (They're opinions)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Also, another interesting old (2005) (so the prices and state-of-art in HK and elsewhere are out of date) eGullet thread:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I largely agree with Pookipichu's last post. It's hard to justify the price of a meal at Per Se, for example, when comparing it to the price of a comparable meal (if there is such a thing) at another restaurant. At the highest end, one is paying for much more than the cost of the ingredients: one is paying for the artistry of the preparation and the service; the splendor of the dining room; the overall theater of the evening. And just like any other art, there's lots of it out there, and lots less that's actually good. Hakkasan is not, IMHO, art that's worth paying that kind of price for, especially in NYC, where we have so much good art. I can understand it doing well in Miami and, to a certain extent, London. I just don't think it plays in NYC.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Quite a number of people commented on Robuchon's prices, though some critics felt that, at the level of food they were serving, it was worth it. Same can be said for Minetta's $26 burger, Scarpetta's $26 Spaghetti Pomodoro, and any number of other dishes around town. For some critics, those dishes proved to be worth it - for others, not so much.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          However, at this point four of the major critics in NYC have all - to a person - said that what Hakkasan is serving is simply NOT worth the prices they're charging, and the cuisine being Chinese has nothing to do with that. You're inferring that, plain and simple, but in not one of their reviews - Platt, Wells, Cuozzo, Sutton - do any of them say anything about Chinese food being inherently cheaper, or that it should be cheaper, or whatever. Where is the evidence they approached their meals this way? There isn't any. In fact, Cuozzo actually poo-poos the whole notion that Chinese food should be cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hakkasan rolled in with many entree prices as high as Robuchon and/or Bouley, and the food needed to be on the same level in order to warrant the same high praise in their reviews. Instead, all of them found the food spotty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          On the other hand, how many restaurants - non-Chinese ones - have we heard the critics thrash for their presumptuous prices? Remember Ducasse at The Essex House? Or Romera, just a few months ago? In fact, just out of curiosity I looked up some old reviews of places you mentioned - Platt takes issue with Bouley's Kobe entree, which is "not worth the whopping price tag of $56" - Bruni wrote of Robuchon's undistinguished lamb entree, that it's "cost underscored how seriously expensive, in bites per dollar, L’Atelier can be." - compare that to Platt excoriating the "four meager nubs" of lobster tail he paid $59 for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The only difference between Hakkasan and Bouley or Robuchon is that, in the end, the critics for the most part enjoyed their meals at the latter two - while at Hakkasan, it seemed the majority of dishes were falling flat. So I'm calling bullshit on the whole notion that Chinese restaurants are treated differently by the critics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thank you for saying this with more patience than I ever could.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: nmprisons

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was thinking the same thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's futile of course. I remember a U.S. senator who famously said "I have my mind made up. Don't confuse me with the facts."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ETA - a link to Sutton's review:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Strangely you fail to proffer any reason or logic, instead you offer a non apropos trope and you think you've proven any point...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Furthermore, the review you linked is interesting that it contrasts the quality of food at Hakkasan to Mission Chinese and Red Farm, that's like comparing Le Bernadin to Balthazar. Different aspirations. Not only is it a strange choice of juxtaposition, the entrees at Red Farm are mostly ill-conceived and executed and it coasts on the strength of its dim sum, if Hakkasan is "stratospherically worse" than Red Farm, then the food at Hakkasan must be quite terrible indeed, or perhaps the reviewer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: sgordon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I call bullshit on you calling bullshit. There are myriad instances where dishes are overpriced and the restaurant and cuisine do not suffer the same scourging as Chinese restaurants. You're right, no matter how over priced dishes are at Bouley, Robuchon, Ducasse, etc. overall the critics manage to enjoy them... how very peculiar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hi Hounds, we hate to interrupt the chow talk, but it looks like things are starting to get unfriendly amongst some of you. We don't expect everyone to agree on everything, but we do expect folks to agree to disagree without getting personal. It sounds like several of you have already made your points, which are starting to diverge away from sharing chow tips about the restaurants in question, so let's move back to something more chowy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            When has Platt ever been right about asian food?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ricky

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Or about any food for that matter?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I love how it reads "Kaluga [sic] caviar", as if he thought they meant to write beluga. So clueless.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: fooder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  no, not cretinous in the least.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  writers use (sic) in more contexts than the only one you two seem familiar with. in this context, it would signify "no, not beluga, i am not mis-transcribing this menu item."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  i've certainly used the parenthetical in that manner dozens of times over the decades.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: debinqueens

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I am more than aware of what (sic) means. In this case, I took it to be condescending and dismissive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      fair enough. i didn't take it that way in this context.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      this board is largely frequented by a small cross-section of people to whom food is a paramount consideration. of that small cross-section, an even smaller cross-section knows the ins and outs of caviar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      if you apply that to new york mag's readership, i'd say out of, say 200,000 readers, perhaps 1000 tops will know that there is such a thing as kaluga caviar. he has more of a responsibility to the 199,000 than to the 1000.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      but that's my opinion. perhaps we should hold our fellow (wo)man to higher standards and presume everyone knows a lot about caviar, 18th century french art, icelandic pop music and BBC 6 programming.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      and perhaps the world would be a better place if that were all true,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: debinqueens

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Except maybe the Icelandic pop music, as far as my particular tastes are concerned. None of this has very much to do with the topic at hand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          perhaps i was a bit long winded.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          what i should have said was:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          'there's nothing cretinous or condescending about using a parenthetical (sic) when and where it's needed.'

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Cheery, I'd be inclined to trust your assessment considering that most of the food reviewers in the US are woefully ignorant of Chinese food and are none too subtle in their biases against it. One 10 day tour of China and a reviewer is suddenly an expert on the thousands of regional dishes...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Even cookbooks and other resources on Chinese cooking in the US can be inaccurate or simply strange. For instance the instructions that have been handed down in the NY Times regarding how to eat soup dumplings (i.e. sucking the soup out first) which is totally contrary to my experiences in Shanghai and how I was taught. Frankly even Chinese people in the US are ignorant of Chinese food as a whole since there is such segmentation in experience and dialects and cuisines. What does a Cantonese person know of Zhejiang cuisine or Chongqing, or Yunnan and vice versa, etc. They don't even speak the same dialects. In the US, not every region of China is well-represented. The vast majority of early Chinese immigration has been from Guangdong. Furthermore, just as you have people in NYC who could care less about food and know nothing of it beyond what is quick and convenient, there are correspondingly Chinese people who know little of their own cuisine, regional or otherwise. Or even in the case of "foodies", what is the depth and breadth of their knowledge in a foodscape as diverse as NYC? For further instance, being Parisian doesn't make you an expert on Parisian wines or cuisine, even less so on the cuisine and wines of Bretagne. With over 4,000 years of history and traditions, over 1 billion people, various climates and micro climates, vegetables, spices, proteins, the enormity of cataloguing Chinese cuisine is just beyond.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                For instance, even in a young country like the US, people can spend their life studying the regional differences in barbecuing methods of the US, dry rubs vs. wet, vinegar based sauces vs. tomato, smoking vs. grilling, etc. etc. Does someone in Kansas City know how to do Memphis style barbecue? Does someone in Dallas barbecue the same way as in Lexington?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Ruth Reichl has already put them on Deathwatch. This year's Romera?


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. i haven't been to hakkasan, and am not likely to go for two reasons:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                i have no objection at all to $35-plus entrees in a Chinese restaurant. when i am in the mood for a real treat -- i can't afford it on a regular basis -- i like to hit a place like 15 east for sushi, and that's far more dear. but most of the reviews i've read explicitly state that hakkasan is going to that price point with substandard food -- like Mr. Chow clad in 2012's fresh-off-the-line emperor's new clothes. a delicious $40 scallop dish? bring it on. a $40 scallop dish with a dearth of scallops and overcooked noodles/vegetables? feed it to the kardashians

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                secondly, and this is a comparatively minor quibble, i've always been put off by places that offer stunt dining. the $888 dish (and a slew of others) here, the thousand dollar omelet at norma's, menus that have the word 'suckers' implied anywhere on them are patently offensive to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Hakkasan just had a review in the New York Times, this past week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Turns out the restaurant has long gone away from its native roots (kejiaren: 客家人) and is owned by a company from Dubai, thus supporting my previous thesis earlier on this thread ( posted Apr 18, 2012 05:21 PM ).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The article is quite good, does a fair job, and I recommend reading it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jonkyo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A great deal of what you refer to has already been hashed over. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. An interesting read which has direct relevance on some of the talking points - memes, even - in this thread:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for posting this. I guess I should just stop eating Chinese food in NYC. Apparently it all sucks

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MVNYC

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Those are merely musings from CH's own Chandavkl - the Wilt Chamberlain of Chinese restaurants in America. He's admittedly biased towards both Hongkong and California. Go figure.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          having not been to the place, i can only use the opinions of people i know and trust when it comes to assessing hakkasan, and there's something of a unanimity -- stating that the kitchen takes extremely high quality ingredients and degrades them to the point where one might be at an average restaurant in suburban baltimore.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          if said restaurant had a DJ, of course.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: debinqueens

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Quite a few hounds in fact weighed in without having even eaten there. It's is possible to eat very well there. Rumor has it that Hakkasan is negotiating with Daniel Humm to add his name to employee list so people will stop complaining about the prices!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Wilt Chamberlain indeed, you slyboots.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: scoopG

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Despite his admitted biase, there's a couple of non-Cantonese places on the list though - Jai Yun and DTF.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think the article is particularly silly and smug. I have only eaten at a few of the restaurants he mentions and was not all that impressed. It reminds me of many French people I know who are convinced----"utterly without prejudice"--that all the great restaurants are in France and French cuisine (except maybe for El Bulli, etc. which they view as amusing experimentation). NY has a marvelous restaurant scene, always in flux, with strengths and weaknesses. Personally the only truly great Chinese meals I have had on the West Coast were in Vancouver and in Portland (Ocean City, not for dim sum); but I don't for a second think that means anything particularly significant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: swannee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/854984 for further discussion and responses from the author of the article (Chandavkl).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          4. Gael Greene's review on Hakkasan: http://www.insatiable-critic.com/Arti...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Seems like she liked mostly everything except for the price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Gael Greene's review on Hakkasan: http://www.insatiable-critic.com/Arti...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Seems like she liked mostly everything except for the price.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I saw this linked on Grubstreet and thought it might be relevant to the discussion of high end Chinese dining.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A 3-part documentary about the food served at China's state banquets around 1949. I haven't watched the entire documentary yet, not sure if it talks about what modern state banquets are like. But it's pretty interesting to see the type of food served to the state officials 50 years ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Near the bottom left of the page, there are links to short articles / footages showing the 7 major state banquets from 1949 to 2008: