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Dec 25, 2013 10:24 PM

China Blue

My family had a delicious meal at China Blue. The food and presentation is homestyle and reminds me of being back in Shanghai. The restaurant is spacious, tastefully appointed, with dark wood, subdued hues and lighting.

The restaurant was very peaceful at 5:30pm and progressively became louder and louder, and by 7pm was very noisy. Jazzy music was playing in the background,

Service was friendly and solicitous at 5:30pm. But as diners filed in, service became spotty, harried and scattered. Our waters were refilled sporadically, we chased down waitstaff for tea we ordered. Waiters who looked so crisp at the beginning of the evening, looked overwhelmed. I'm not sure if it's because of the holidays (Christmas day), or if they are understaffed or if it's growing pains, but don't expect attentive service once the restaurant is full.

The food was very, very good.

Drunken chicken had a beautiful texture, silky meat, fragrant.

Kaofu was a solid rendition, much less greasy than many other places.

Shrimp shumai was excellent, chunks of shrimp that were distinct and tender.

We tried both the pork and crab xiao long bao and both were thin skinned, with rich mouthfeel in the broth, very well executed.

Loofah with bean curd puff was perfectly cooked, refreshing and light.

Snow pea shoot was delicious. The snow pea shoot itself was fantastic, really tender with slight crispness and very fresh, but the garlic was a little roughly chopped.

Fermented tofu flavored pork was standout. The texture of the meat was pillowy, smooth, satiny, and full of flavor.

Lion's head with crab was well prepared, the meatball is very soft and there were no complaints but we all prefer red cooked lion's head with Chinese cabbage. Also, it's only one meatball, and not particularly big.

Dongpo pork was standout. Again, the texture was superb, absolutely creamy and very clean, rich pork flavor. It comes with excellent lotus buns and the combination is... for those whose only reference for lotus buns are Momofuku Noodle, China Blue's dongpo rou make's Momofuku's pork belly buns seem like food you'd get out of a vending machine or in coach class on American Airlines. My only complaint is that you should get 4 lotus buns instead of 3, when there is enough meat to generously fill four.

The West Lake vinegar fish was very fresh, the flesh was tender and firm, skillfully prepared. The sauce was a little less gloppy and not as sweet as some of the others, more restrained.

I had some issues with the sesame rice balls, the rice wasn't quite soft enough and didn't have enough chew/glutinous quality. The soup itself was delicious, although a bit too sweet.

The red bean puffs are quite delicious, nuttiness from the coating of black sesame, but the puff is a bit too big and domed. The filling to pastry ratio is a little off.

We ordered they jasmine tea, and it is a bit too bitter, I would not recommend it.

It was very cold today and the restaurant was a comfortable temperature but cool enough where the dishes cooled rather quickly. Many Shanghainese dishes have sauces that congeal when cooled so eating quickly makes the food more enjoyable.

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  1. thank very much for the review. It is really just what this neighborhood needed. I googled it and see that it is in the old Capsouto Freres space. That is an awesome space and great for parking too. That may become a regular spot for me. I can't wait to check it out

    1 Reply
    1. re: foodwhisperer

      It is a beautiful space, they manage to keep it admirably comfortable, albeit cool, considering how cold it is outside and how vaulted the ceilings are. I do wish restaurants in NYC were warmer though, they seem to be cold all year round and it makes food cool down so quickly which is not good at any "family style" restaurant. Since food comes together and there's a lot of sharing and offering of food and waiting for people to get their portion.

    2. nice review, this place is def high on my list of places to try, glad to see a good initial review

      btw momofuku's pork buns, while tasty, are not that amazing in hemisphere of pork buns. its just that they were early in bringing it to mainstream NY (kudos to them for that though). real dongpo rou or gua bao puts momofuku to shame

      19 Replies
      1. re: Lau

        That's what I'm alluding to. I've been in Chinese restaurants where non-Chinese people have referred to lotus buns as "korean buns from Momofuku" or "Momofuku buns". I'm glad David Chang brought them into the mainstream consciousness but Chinese steamed buns/breads have been a staple for over 2,000 years and they've been stuffed with pork belly and other fillings, he didn't "invent" them as is the common internet refrain. Not to meander too far off point... China Blue's version of dong po rou is really phenomenal, very high quality meat, full of flavor, very well prepared and one of the more beautiful, classic preparations.

        "btw momofuku's pork buns, while tasty, are not that amazing in hemisphere of pork buns. its just that they were early in bringing it to mainstream NY (kudos to them for that though). real dongpo rou or gua bao puts momofuku to shame"

        1. re: Pookipichu

          yah i look forward to trying it, i actually haven't had a really good version in a while maybe since the last time i was in asia actually now that i think about it

          1. re: Pookipichu

            <"btw momofuku's pork buns, while tasty, are not that amazing in hemisphere of pork buns. its just that they were early in bringing it to mainstream NY >


            They've been in Chinatown bakeries forever. Nothing new about them at all! even in New York.

            1. re: ChefJune

              What Lau is referring to is mainstream America. I could see the difference as well in awareness of the buns among non-Chinese. :)

              To be more clear, steamed buns like mantou or lotus buns have been in NY for as long as I remember, but not many non-Chinese knew about them.

              1. re: ChefJune

                well sorta, chinatown bakeries are serving cha siu bao and similar things. they don't serve stuff like gua bao (taiwanese) which is more similar to what chang is serving.

                However, what Pookipichu is saying ive been eating these since i was probably zero years old, but my friends who ive known for since maybe junior high school or high school (so 15+ yrs) only tried these within the last few years (despite my efforts to get them to try something new) and now all of the sudden want me to take them everywhere

                literally when i come home to CA now there is an entire crew who wants me to take them to eat bc they all of the sudden realized this food is really good alot of times it started with a place like momofuku and they're like WTF have i been missing

                1. re: Lau

                  There used to be a Chinese place in Tribeca ( Church near white St.) called Provence, served gua bao. It was a very reasonably priced place. Too bad they closed.
                  Momfuku's I find to be a rip off , high price and not much in them. Ippudo serves a version also.

                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                    Was that the place specializing in buns?

                    1. re: Lau

                      Buns ( maybe 6 different types) and noodle dishes. Self serve. Shared tables.

                      1. re: Lau

                        what is the difference between Mantou buns and gua bao?

                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                          Mantou is simply the steamed white bun

                          Gua bao is a Taiwanese street food where they put stewed pork belly, pickles vegetable, cilantro, ground peanut and this sweet brown powder stuff in it

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            Mantou are much more domed, like a bread roll and typically served intact, he ye bao are flatter and usually served like a clam shell for stuffing

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              Actually fair point there is a difference between mantou and he ye bao although always just refer to both of them as mantou

                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                Thanks but weird that the restaurant Provence, Chinese owned and operated, served the clam shell type but called them mantou buns. But maybe as Lau says,"just refer to both as mantou". perhaps they just refer to them as mantou to make it easier for non-Chinese to understand.

                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                  Mantou should look like a small head, he ye bao should unfold like a lotus leaf, Chinese is fun like that. ^·^ Fo tiao chiang is a super cute example, soup so delicious, Buddha would leap over a wall to get it.

                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                    provence's buns were kinda crap though, i thought that place was mediocre...also i think they were ABCs like me and our chinese is clearly not always perfect haha

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      I don't think Provence was the greatest, but it sure was good to have in the neighborhood. I don't think they were ABC's , at least not all of the people. Some had heavy accents.
                                      I like Pookipichu's description of mantou and he ye bao. As long as we are on things like "unfolding like a lotus leaf". My friend ( who is from Shanghai) describes a green leafy vegetable as "hollow heart", because the stem is hollow. I am always confused between snow pea sprouts and morning glory flowers. I am going to be so wrong in this sounding out of the way I think I hear it pronounced and hoping you can give me the correct way to say it and which vegetable it is. Here we go " Kung tsing tsai" with a raise in pitch on the tsing. LOL again Sorry sorry, but I try.

                                      1. re: foodwhisperer

                                        its called kong xin cai 空心菜 (phonetically it would be kong sheen tsai), i believe its called water spinach in english. its very good when made right

                                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                                          Here you go. 空心菜.

                                          That's your "hollow" vegetable, aka morning glory. This is totally different from pea shoots, wonderful nevertheless.
                                          Although I don't speak the dialect, I suspect a Shanghainese person would say "seen" rather than "tsing".

                                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                                            Romanization is so confusing to me. Zhuyin fuhao makes much more sense. ㄒㄧㄣ (She yi en)

                      2. gorgeous photos...everything looks delicious, but the use of tilt shift makes the portions look tiny. were the dishes larger than they appear here?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: coasts

                          The fish is the largest dish and the dish is about a 16 inch oval. The chicken is in a small oval dish about 6 inches. The xiao long bao and shumai are in a regular steamer, about 8 inches, the snow pea shoot is in a plate about 12 inches, the lion's head, and sesame rice dumplings are in a small casserole about 5 inches. I tried to take photos close up because the display size on CH is really small and sometimes it's hard to see the food. :)

                        2. 五百是china blue 的歌手.

                          Nice photos. Yummy.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: jonkyo

                            500 is china blue's singer --> what does that mean?

                            1. re: Lau

                              The name china blue extends beyond entertainment and rock.

                              He is a great singer. Love their Taiwanese language cd, came out around 1998 or 99.

                              500 台幣 can buy much delicious 台菜 in 台灣.

                              Where are the owners of China Blue restaurant from.

                              The food looks great.

                              1. re: jonkyo

                                ok so china blue is a taiwanese singer?

                                what does the number 500 have to do with china blue? (the singer or restaurant)

                                1. re: Lau

                                  wu bai is the singer's name:


                                  and 五百 could buy a fair amount of tasty food at China Blue.

                                  I plan on investigating this venue, but spending far less than 500 taiwan dollars (the equivalent) unless I have a large party with me.

                                  1. re: jonkyo

                                    500 taiwan dollars = $16.77 USD...good luck with that

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      Oh, you are correct.

                                      1000 is just over 30 usd.

                                      As I stated 500 台幣 (taiwan dollar) can buy much delicious 台菜 (taiwan food) in 台灣 (taiwan).

                                      That I mean is street vending food, mainly.

                                      五百 (500 dollars) could buy a fair amount of tasty food at China Blue.I did not state 台幣!

                                      1. re: jonkyo

                                        "I plan on investigating this venue, but spending far less than 500 taiwan dollars (the equivalent) unless I have a large party with me." --> no you did say 台幣 specifically

                                2. re: jonkyo

                                  perhaps a bit OT but, I thought the owners were mainlanders, one from Shanghai at least.

                                  though the only reference I can find is this China Daily article:

                                  1. re: avial

                                    They look like they are from Mainland, definitely.

                                    Could be Shanghai.

                                    Thanks for posting the article.

                                    what is 'O T'?

                                    1. re: jonkyo

                                      same owners as Cafe China the sichuan place

                                      1. re: Lau

                                        I hope they do better with China Blue. Cafe China is perfectly adequate - nothing more. Pete Wells' 2 star review was delusional.

                            2. I got to try China Blue. It will take me awhile to try as many dishes as you have. In any case, I knew the space from Capsouto Freres, but they changed the layout a bit. I love that location, it used to seem even more out of the way, but it is still pretty much in an isolated location, in a very old building. I also love that there is very easy parking in the evening . I thought the food was very good. I didn't try much though. I had some crab meat soup dumplings. They were good, although the skins thicker than the ones I like in Queens. The broth was less tasty too and less broth. But it was good.
                              The snow pea sprouts were very good. The "shanghai pan fried noodles" were very good, much like the cantonese version but I think the noodles were thinner.
                              The Wixu spare ribs were excellent. Slightly sweet, but totally fantastic. The meat fell right off the bone. I will get this dish again for sure. Next time I will also try the lamb stew.
                              The waiter recommended their other restaurant which is more Szechuan style.
                              The service was great. The vibe was great.
                              My only complaint was that the place still smells of paint. They need to open some windows and air the place out.