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Upscale Chinese in Chinatown??

My Chinese vendors are in town next week and need a place for dinner on weds night. Is there any upscale Chinese in downtown Chinatown? Flushing is not an option.

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  1. They are visiting from China? Are you sure they will even want to have chinese food here....? I know I wouldn't seek american food in china..
    What's the budget for "upscale" per person for food only? And how many people will it be for.

    1. Is there any reason it needs to be in Chinatown? The more upscale places are in other parts of Manhattan so if you don't need to be in Chinatown, that'd make things easier.

      1. They're from China, that's why they want to eat Chinese food. Some guys who don't like bread or plain spaghetti or the steamed rice in Korea. We'll get a steak at Lugers but for the other meals it will be Chinese.

        Re. Up scale I was thinking Shun Lee, at least something a little different and at the same time familiar. Not worried about price, a swankier vibe is what I'm looking for.

        They're staying at that new Hotel on Bowery in Chinatown so was thinking if there's something nice it'd be convenient, could go elsewhere in Manhattan but dont want to head to outerboroughs.

        10 Replies
        1. re: 2slices

          As far as Chinese food in NYC, I think your best bet is Hakkasan, the food is better than Shun Lee and the room is more impressive.

          Both Shun Lees (West) have become long in the tooth and I find the service brusque, the food lazy like the kitchen isn't trying.

          Another option is China Blue, it's not upscale but the food is very good and very Chinese 口味, the flavors very similar to what you'd get in Shanghai.

          1. re: Pookipichu

            I am no expert when it comes to chinese food but i have had several disappointing meals at shun lee west at the uws location.

            1. re: Pookipichu

              Hakkasan is probably the most upscale and best choice. I also recommend the Uptown Peking Duck House, I know many Chinese people who have enjoyed dinners at this place, the service is excellent.
              As for China Blue, the service is so erratic, the menu is very limited. I gave up on that place. Although the atmosphere is great.

            2. re: 2slices

              Mr chow in tribeca certainly has the swanky vibe you are looking for.... I haven't eaten there in several years though.

              1. re: Ttrockwood

                omg i forgot about that place. used to go to the one in midtown as a kid didnt know its around.

                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  No, No No. Mr. Chow is one of the worst restaurant experiences I've ever had. It's not Chinese food either. The waiters try to rip you off , especially if you allow them to order for you .Stay away from Mr. Chow

                      1. re: Simon

                        Great review of the place. I agree with the rating of no stars. His comments of a fiery buffalo dish, with no buffalo and wasn't fiery , reminds me of the scallop dish i had that had no scallop but tofu shaped like a scallop. The waiters uptown were all Albanian or Romanian I don't recall seeing any Chinese waiters. Anyway, a place to be avoided or to go for a laugh

                        1. re: foodwhisperer

                          I wouldn't go to Mr. Chow if you payed me

              2. Red Farm
                Decoy for duck
                Wong for duck dinner (it's Singaporean/Malaysian-ish)

                4 Replies
                1. re: avial

                  Decoy hasn't started their Peking duck service yet.

                  Red Farm has a feel that's more rustic and casual than upscale. But the food might be interesting for them.

                  1. re: Pookipichu

                    Just saw that Decoy starts their duck service next Tuesday, reservations are required decoy@redfarmnyc.com

                    The peking duck at Chinatown Brasserie was very good so I'm optimistic.

                      1. re: Rmis32

                        I think he's referring to the lineage, rather than saying Chinatown Brasserie is still open.

                2. What region in China are they from?...do you know more of their specific preferences?...my friends from Zhejiang have very different palates than my friends from Chengdu...if they enjoy spicy food then Szechuan Gourmet or Wu Liang Ye might be an option...

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Simon

                    The older guy is from a small town off the coast in Jiangsu. The food there sucks by all standards, I'm trying to accommodate him, As long as the staff speak Chinese he can get something he likes. the other guys are young and from Suzhou they love everything.

                    Hakkasan looks perfect. Last time I was at Shun Lee it did feel like a relic.

                    1. re: 2slices

                      The menu at Hakkasan is quite good, the duck dishes are very strong (peking duck, pipa duck and duck salad), jasmine ribs, salt and pepper squid, seabass, cod, prawns, sanbei chicken, pork belly, seafood toban, steamed dim sum platter. Desserts are exceptional.

                      Avoid the veal short ribs, grilled lamb chops and brazilian lobster tail. Probably the weakest dishes.

                      1. re: 2slices

                        If they are from Jiangsu and Suzhou, you might want to take them to Shanghainess for familiarity, though I could not point out any upscale shanghainess restaurants in NYC. Some decent ones, Shanghai Heping Restaurant in Chinatown.

                        1. re: nomadmanhattan

                          China Blue is the closest we have to upscale Shanghainese

                          1. re: Pookipichu

                            But their dish were not very authentic...and the services, are spotty. Heping is no fancy, but at least the food delivers what the price tag says and more authenticity.

                            1. re: nomadmanhattan

                              Have you eaten at China Blue? A large part of my family is Shanghainese, the dishes are authentic per my experience (in Shanghai and home cooking). The service is spotty I agree.

                              If you did eat at China Blue, what did you find inauthentic?

                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                Yes, I did. Twice, once by myself, second time with a friend. And although I am not shanghainese, but I am originally from HK where many shanghainese migrated to during and post WW II. So there are quite decent shanghainese restaurants in Hk and I have been to Shanghai couple times.

                                Onto the food. Firstly, if you look at the menu, it is actually mostly SuXi cuisine (苏锡菜), not traditional Shanghai cuisine (沪菜)。 the two regional cuisines are close due to geo proximity, but not the same. For example, the West Lake Fish in Vinegar Sauce is actually Su dish. Crispy Eel Wuxi Style is Xi dish.

                                The few items that are actually Shanghainese, say the drunken chicken had two flaws: not using chicken thigh, which is a must; secondly, clearly it had not been soaked in the ice water cuz the chicken skin did not deliver the right texture - slightly crispy.

                                I also tried the Crab Flavored Lion Head meatball 蟹粉狮子头. Well this is actually a dish from Jiangsu area. Anyway, the problem with this one was that it should use marbled meat (not sure the proper English for 五花肉, basically partially fat/lean meat) but it didn't. Hence the texture came out too firm; lack of crab flavor. Also, water chestnuts were missing.

                                All in all, China Blue failed me as a Shanghainese restaurant, though a decent Chinese restaurant that I would not mind dining by myself there, comparing to many other Chinese restaurants in NY.

                                1. re: nomadmanhattan

                                  With respect, I disagree with some of your points, and concede others. You're splitting hairs.

                                  Yes many of the dishes are Jiangsu based, some of the dishes are from Suzhou and Wuxi. Are they accurate flavor-wise, well executed, I say yes.

                                  Since you've been to Shanghai you should know that Jiangsu and Zhejiang cuisines are both predominant influences. Considering my Shanghainese relatives and friends have said that China Blue tastes of home, I'd say from my experiences, that I would have no hesitation in suggesting China Blue based on cuisine (although the service is maddeningly inconsistent, or perhaps, consistently spotty).

                                  The drunken chicken is not ONLY made with chicken thigh, though dark meat is much more popular in China. The flavor of the drunken chicken is spot on. So I concede that dark meat is de facto for many recipes, but that's not the only way that drunken chicken is made. Also, I don't know what drunken chicken you've been eating but I've never had crispy drunken chicken.

                                  The lion head meatball without crab, does have water chestnuts. China Blue has two distinct preparations and I have had both, and I have had both in Shanghai, with and without chestnuts. Both versions I've tried at China Blue have been pillowy, no complaints, although American pork is leaner.

                                  If you're going to be picayune, Chinese pigs have a different flavor than American breeds. But like I said, in my opinion, you're splitting hairs to advance your point.

                                  If you think that China Blue is not an accurate representation of a Shanghainese restaurant, do you feel that Shanghai Heping is and that it offers better food than China Blue? Because if so, then I will eat there based on your recommendation. I have thus far been disappointed by Shanghainese restaurants in Chinatown, finding them less "authentic", and the cooking with a skill less than what is offered at China Blue.

                        2. re: 2slices

                          One last note, judging the fact that your guest are coming from Jiangsu and Suzhou area, where cuisine is milder and skewed towards sweetness, I would not recommend taking them to Szechuan restaurants. Might be too spicy for their taste.

                      2. Oriental Garden on Elizabeth St. is your best bet. Fuleen might not be upscale enough. Ditto Congee Village, but both are good options. All 3 of these are Cantonese. 4 5 6 might be ok for Shanghaiese, but it's not terribly upscale.
                        Much of Chinatown is now Fujiangese, many of them good, but none really upscale.

                        1. PS They might like Hakkasan, but it is definitely fusion by traditional Chinese standards. But that is popular in China, too. I think it is overrated and overpriced, but many fellow Hounders love it.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: swannee

                            I'm curious what you feel Hakkasan is overrated and overpriced versus and what you ate that you didn't like? IMO, I compare the food I have at HK versus Szechuan Gourmet, Amazing 66, Congee Village, Golden Unicorn, Shanghai Cafe, etc. and the kitchen at Hakkasan is just better, the ingredients are better.

                            As for CH's liking it, I seem to be the only CH that ever recommends it :), I don't think it's popular at all on CH. Compare that to Balthazar which is frequently praised and recommended and I think that Balthazar is less bang for the buck than Hakkasan. :)

                            1. re: Pookipichu

                              Balthazar is crappy too :) NYC unfortunately fails at both upscale Cantonese and French bistro/brasserie...

                              1. re: Pookipichu

                                I wouldn't put Szechuan Gourmet, Amazing 66, Congee Village, Golden Unicorn, or Shanghai Cafe in the upper echelon of Manhattan Chinese restaurants, though... Lots of places where the kitchen is better.

                                I'll second Oriental Garden, though it's been some time since I've been and the last visit was a little less exciting than they were in years prior.

                                Fuleen's food is certainly top-notch, generally, but the vibe is a bit more "Chinatown Gangster" - that said, the menu is much more eclectic than most and there's a lot of "not-for-Westerners" stuff on the menu, so they might be one of the best bets for a taste of home.

                                Ping's can be very good, especially if Chef Ping is actually there and not in Queens. His food has some Western influences (he's from Hong Kong, after all) but they're Western in the way a restaurant in China might have Western influences - catered towards Chinese tastes, not so much ours.

                                How many people will this dinner entail? If it's a big group, 8+, you might want to do a banquet.

                            2. Hakkasan is hands down the best Chinese food in New York. Also one of the most expensive, so you need to take that into account. Best food in Chinatown is Cafe Hong Kong, but it fails the upscale test.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                Have to say that after only two visits I cannot see Cafe HK as anywhere near the best. Maybe I simply don't get it. But I think that restarant staff might make a big difference. I know people at Congee Village and it makes a big difference. even little places, like Yuen Yuen (on blessed memory) was totally different once I got to know them.
                                I do get Hakkasan, but I have never had anything really wonderful there except for some absurdly overpriced dimsum that was wonderful.
                                Shun Lee has been atrocious, worse than Empire Szechuan on my last visits, although I had a good New Year banquet 10-12 years ago. (I have to add that I haven't eaten at Empire in 20 years....)

                                1. re: swannee

                                  I've been going to Congee Village since the mid 90s or so. Its food is nowhere near comparable to Cafe Hong Kong, in my opinion, and I'm not sure how good service could change that.

                                  1. re: Pan

                                    Quite a lot of Congee Village can be mediocre. I get the garlic chicken, the bieetr melon with spare rib (excellent), the eggplant with tofu in nam yu (I don't know if it is on the menu or what it is called) the scallops and conch with XO, and especially the mei cai kou rou (pork belly with pickled greens) which is really outstanding. The congee is only fair.
                                    I ordered everything Lau mentioned at Cafe Hong and none of it impressed me much.

                                    1. re: swannee

                                      What's "Chacun a son gout" in Chinese? :-)

                                2. re: Chandavkl

                                  I think Radiance, if done right (i.e. with the Chef's Specials), will give Hakkasan a run for its money as "hands down the best Chinese food in New York".

                                3. I certainly agree with everyone's evaluation of shun lee east. I was there for restaurant week recently and all I got was a forlorn egg roll rolling around sadly on a plate,some vegetarian noodles and canned pineapple pieces:( never again..
                                  I suggest you try ChinChin on East 49 th street- not totally authentic but very upscale and quite delicious..

                                  1. all the upscale Chinese in NYC: Hakkasan, Shun Lee, Mr Chow, etc are all terrible and are more or less equally awful...vile weak food...inane service...gross atmosphere...

                                    we have good mid-level Sichuan (SG, WLY, Legend)...and some passable cheap Chinatown Guangdong places that are one-hit wonders (lobster at Cafe HK, chicken w/ preserved veggies at Amazing 66, etc, but none to write home about)...

                                    I'd say consider the Sichuan options...and/or ask your guests if they might enjoy trying some Japanese food in NYC (which is a good bit better than what is usually available in China)...

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Simon

                                      thinking more about this: Wu Liang Ye might be the best call...

                                      1. re: Simon

                                        I respect your opinion and I agree with some of the points you make but I feel you are doing a disservice by painting with such a wide brush and lumping Hakkasan with Shun Lee and Mr. Chow.

                                        My family has been celebrating special occasions at Hakkasan, birthdays, etc. and while the restaurant is much too loud for my tastes, I do not think the average person would say the decor is gross. Perhaps not to everyone's taste, but that could be said about many restaurants.

                                        I agree the service leaves something to be desired, the servers don't know much about the cuisine and it drives me crazy that they always take the lids for the steamer basket of the peking pancakes, they also don't properly pace or space the courses. That being said, the service is still better than all but Mr. K's ( and the food at Mr. K's isn't very good anymore).

                                        As for food, some of the dishes, like the veal shortribs, were inexcusably bad, but their duck is better than the duck I've had at some of NY's most highly rated restaurants, Mas Farmhouse, Le Bernadin, Tocqueville, etc.

                                        Legend, I've been to three times now and have yet to have a single dish that is good, strike me down if their general tso's chicken is not the worst Chinese food I have put in my mouth since Arizona and a dump of a place with a cook that put ketchup in kung pao chicken. No bargain either, at least food in Chinatown is less expensive.

                                        Wu Liang Ye service, food, nor decor are on par with Hakkasan. I'd rather eat at Szechuan Gourmet which I like very much, over Wu Liang Ye. But Szechuan Gourmet is by no stretch upscale and has strong and weak dishes, the service is not exactly polished and they really should renovate at some point.

                                        My point being, although you may not like what is considered "high end" Chinese dining in NYC, and although it may not meet your standards, if someone is looking for a place that uses excellent ingredients, has a skilled kitchen and posh decor, I don't see anything better than Hakkasan in NYC if price is not an issue. :)

                                        1. re: Pookipichu

                                          Yes, scoopG likes Hakkasan and that would have been good enough for me.

                                          1. re: Pookipichu

                                            Fair enough...i would describe the decor/vibe at Hakkasan as "Vegas-like" -- and who knows, it's possible that the OP's guests will like it.

                                            If the OP does go to Hakkasan, i recommend that he take your advice on which dishes to order...

                                            Legend is wildly erratic -- i've had superb dishes and awful dishes, depending who is cooking that night...Wu Liang Ye is quite popular w/ Chinese businessmen, which is partly why i recommended it...if the OP's guests go there, i think they'll be able to get a comfort-food meal cooked to their specifications...

                                            I think it depends on how upscale/posh the meal needs to be, or whether a feast in a mid-priced place like WLY might work...

                                            1. re: Pookipichu

                                              I hope you're not judging Legend based on their General Tso's chicken. I don't think you are, but your post is ambiguous in that respect.

                                              For the record, I have had great dishes there, but as Simon says, it is inconsistent, depending presumably on who is in the kitchen.

                                              1. re: Pan

                                                No lol :) I'm not judging based on the general tso chicken, I've been to Legend three times, tried multiple dishes, lamb, beef, pork, fish, only ordered general tso chicken once and never again, only mentioned it because it was so bad. It's not a hard dish to make taste good and it was gloopy, too sweet, tough small morsels of meat surrounded by an excess of soft doughy batter. I peeled off all the batter and was only eating the chicken. Bleh.

                                                Speaking of chicken dishes, the sanbei chicken I had last week at China Blue was very delicious, and I got my crispy fried foods fix from their delicious crispy eel.

                                              2. re: Pookipichu

                                                Szechuan Gourmet on 39th is upscale enough

                                            2. Not in C-Town but my "upscale" Chinese comrades like Tang Pavilion in the W. 50s.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: olympusnyc

                                                I see/hear a lot of mainlanders in here when I get takeout from these guys during the weekdays, seems like a strong businessmen crowd, lots of leather murses in sight...

                                                W 55th b/t 5th+6th

                                              2. Congee Bowery (the one between Rivington and Delancey) is probably the closest thing to upscale dining you can find in Chinatown, and it's not even really in Chinatown. And it's not really upscale either, it just has the nicest interior decor of the Chinatown restaurants. Next up would be the Oriental Garden on Elizabeth.

                                                1. Land of Plenty has a very nice room and pretty good Szechuan food.

                                                  1. Where did you end up taking them?
                                                    I'm having family visit from China and they're insisting on eating in Chinatown..

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: megawong

                                                      Can you detour them to Flushing?

                                                      1. re: megawong

                                                        I think the nicest room in Chinatown serving Chinese food (or close to it) is probably Fung-Tu.

                                                        Maybe go there just for cocktails?

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          I really enjoyed Fung Tu a lot. Room is tasteful and the food was very delicious. Some favorites were the egg roll and the dumpling knots. The greens had a lot of wok hay. Service was very gracious. Will return.

                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                            "Close to it" is very kind, indeed. Like Trader Vic's (whose relationship to Asian food 40 years ago was pretty similar to Fung Tu's) cocktails are the way to go.