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May 19, 2014 10:08 AM

Decoy (Redfarm)

Decoy is located below Redfarm and is almost an extension of its upstairs sister restaurant. Specializing in Peking duck, it complements the duck with dim sum and entrees courtesy of Joe Ng's creative Chinese cooking.

I've been a fan of Joe Ng since Chinatown Brasserie and while I'm unfortunately not a fan of Redfarm despite multiple visits, Decoy manages to produce food that is surprisingly better.

Meal starts with three pickled appetizers. Cucumbers, mango and cauliflower. They all have a bit of heat. Cucumbers have a nice snap, brine and flavor, mangos are ripe, sweet and have a citrus brine and pepper, cauliflower has chili, fermentation and crunch. All three are delicious but just a touch too sweet.

Snowpeashoot and shrimp dumplings are beautiful, thin skinned with excellent texture, the shrimp has plump firmness but yields and is not chewy or tough/overcooked.

Oxtail dumplings are crisp filled with intensely meaty filling and accompanied by black garlic sauce which further enhances the flavor. They are fried expertly and there is very little grease.

Decoy chips are fish skin fried crisp in shapes similar to shrimp chips. The skin is shatteringly crisp with satisfying crunch, addictive, delicious, without being overwhelmingly fishy. Perhaps a touch too salty.

Peking duck is generously portioned, some of it is beautifully carved. The skin is crisp, the meat is moist. One of the top Peking duck offerings in NYC, very respectable. Flavor is excellent, clean duck flavor without unnecessary gaminess. For comparison's sake, Hakkasan's duck is better (moistness, flavor, crispness of skin, presentation) but Decoy puts up a good showing and offers more meat. The pancakes are thin, beautifully made, toothsome, really well executed and the ratio of pancakes to meat is spot on. Cucumbers and scallions are nicely cut and there is evident care in preparation.

The duck comes with hot duck consomme shooters (smooth and full flavored) three condiments, hoisin, cranberry and peanut sauce. The hoisin was the favorite, and the cranberry and peanut were found to be superfluous (although the cranberry would be a whimsical addition to a Chinese Thanksgiving). The hoisin sauce is really delicious. Picked onions are a throwaway side condiment and were much too sweet.

There was an overall theme of unnecessary sweetness.

The crab and scallop fried rice was generous with crab and the flavor was excellent. The fried rice itself did not have the smoky wok char that Hakkasan fried rice can have, but it was otherwise excellent.

They do not yet have dessert offerings. Hopefully they will have a real pastry chef with some Chinese desserts. Redfarm's dessert offerings are a little sad.

Overall I felt that the food at Decoy felt fresher in thought, less forced and less trope driven than Redfarm. The execution was better at Decoy than my meals at Redfarm, the dim sum was excellent, the Peking duck respectable enough to be one of the top 2 in NYC, the condiments, and overall quality of the meal excellent.

The issues I have with Decoy are the overuse of sugar, and sometimes salt. I still have aftertaste and dehydration even after drinking much water. Secondly, the space is very dark, cavelike in an unappetizing way. I like to see my food, and being able to appreciate the visual aspect of food enhances enjoyment. The service is overwhelmed but I think they will find their feet as they've just opened. But lastly, the restaurant is extremely cramped, uncomfortably cramped. I don't mind communal tables, but Decoy seats people uncomfortably tight. If you don't like communal tables, be warned, the seating is awkward. If you're not sitting with thin people, you'll feel more crowded than a rush hour subway train, not what you want when you're spending $80-$100 a person.

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  1. Thanks for the detailed report. I'm very interested to try Decoy. Sorry to hear about the cramped seating. Will probably wait until July (maybe will be less crowded). Your photos are great (especially the duck photo).

    1 Reply
    1. re: ellenost

      Thanks ellenost, I think Decoy is a worthy addition to the Chinese food scene in NY barring some of the issues (too much sugar!) mentioned. I don't even dislike communal seating, but the restaurant feels too cramped, especially since it's so dark with low ceilings. I can't think of another restaurant at a similarly high price point that is so uncomfortably claustrophobic.

      You raise a good point because I don't know what they'll do in winter when people have big bags and winter coats.

    2. >> the Peking duck respectable enough to be one of the top 2 in NYC...

      Just curious - who's the other contender for best Peking duck, in your opinion.

      3 Replies
      1. re: deepfry7

        Hakkasan has the overall best Peking duck in nyc. Presentation, flavor, moistness of meat, crispness of skin, pancakes. That being said, Decoy puts out a very worthy version with creative and delIcious sides. If the food had been a bit less sweet and salty, I would be waxing poetic about it. The food is exciting in a way that I think Redfarm wants to be, but doesn't quite achieve. That being said, I haven't tried the mains at Decoy other than the duck, and the mains bring down Redfarm.

        1. re: Pookipichu

          Just went to Hakkasan a week ago-THE WORST CHINESE EVER-I felt so ripped off. I only went because I had to judge for myself after reading so many negative reviews. Granted, the space is high end stylish and you can't ruin a vodka martini-BUT the food and its prices were so whacked! I'm no cheapo but never again.

          1. re: UES Mayor

            Sorry you had a bad experience. What did you eat/order? What Chinese restaurants do you like?

      2. Thanks for this report, Pookipichu! Mark Hokoda wrote about it on the CHOW blog here:

        1. At DECOY, there is a separate table in the back for about four people, and a small table by the window for two. Otherwise, there is a long wooden communal table; all this is just along one side of the room. Apart from that, people can eat at a long bar on the other side of the room.

          I really liked the ambiance of the room. There is a beautiful (and amusing) photographic mural on the wall, entitled "The Moulard Feast", by Claire Rosen. It's a photograph of live ducks in the Hudson Valley Farm enjoying a banquet. The mural is alongside the communal table.

          My palate does not appreciate excessive salt. I need to convey this information, with emphasis, to the person with whom I place my order. (I'm trying to overcome overuse of salt from another restaurant I visited two days ago, whereas I've enjoyed the same dish numerous times w/o problem).

          DECOY ducks are specifically made to order. They may have a few already fired up for walk ins; however, it is best to place your order when you reserve.

          They've already had a lot of guests who frequent Beijing who say the Peking Duck at DECOY rivals anything found in Beijing. So, if you want authentic Peking Duck, this is the place to go.

          The oven is a traditional duck-firing oven specially built for DECOY; it was imported from China. There are only 3 or 4 such ovens in the country.