Can anyone who has had dimsum in Hong Kong (or Singapore) comment if it would be more comparable to dimsum there? ← At the risk of 'self-serving' accusations I have some comments to make and would like to set the record straight on certain issues. First let me say that I’d don't own or have a continuing interest in CB, but as a consultant I did set up the food program there, and I clearly am part of the family. To start with, in my professional opinion I think the overall work done at CB was absolutely first-rate, excellent in fact. By this I mean the team assembled by the owners, John McDonald & Josh Pickard, the interior work done by William Georges, and the culinary team led by Executive Chef Ophaso and Dim Sum chef Joe Ng that also includes one of the industry’s top BBQ chefs, are absolutely excellent. If you want to talk about dim sum in Hong Kong and Guangzhou I can claim a certain familiarity. In the mid-90’s I was a guest of the Hong Tong Tourist Association. They brought me there to explore the dim sum/small restaurant scene. Armed with a well-known guide, a car and a driver, and a host who was the HKTA’s restaurant expert, I have been exploring the restaurant scene in HK regularly since then. I was there in ’04 with a group, including my friend Chinese culinary expert Nina Simonds, and again last summer when I spent a couple of weeks in HK and Macao: all the time chasing dim sum with insiders who really know. In HK, my favorite dim sum destination, and the standard by which I judge dim sum quality, is Victoria City Seafood. It is an excellent Cantonese restaurant where dinner is just as good or even better than the dim sum. The dim sum in both of their branches (3 now?) is limited in variety but excellent in quality. I have also dined on dim sum at the Peninsula, The Mandarin Oriental, The Shangri-La, Luk Yu Tea House, Maxim’s, the dim sum restaurant in Happy Valley and many others. How does Joe Ng’s product rate? Well from what I’ve seen it’s as good as the absolute best in Hong Kong. In fact, I can’t think of any better and frankly I don’t know if any are as good. So let me spell it out for you in case this is too subtle. JOE NG IS ONE OF THE TOP DIM SUM CHEFS IN THE WORLD! – period, simple. As far as I’m concerned he’s up there with the top 3 star Michelin chefs. Yes, you can get 5 fried dumplings for a dollar in Chinatown, and at New Green Bo the fried dumplings (which are not at all comparable to Cantonese dim sum except that they’re dumplings too) are just 5 or 6 bucks and when they’re good and carefully cooked they can be excellent. But the fact is these are northern style dumplings that are fundamentally different than dim sum and though delicious, rather basic in their craft. Joe Ng makes hundreds if not thousands of items, not just one skin with one or two different fillings. This is a guy who makes 40 different skins with 40 different fillings and one is better than the next. How foolish to compare his craft and that of the women at New Green Bo who make fried dumplings that don’t even have pleats along their seams. They are doing very different things. I have been in this industry for 30 years and this is the highest level of craft I have ever seen in this area. We are extremely lucky to have an artist like Chef Ng in our midst and FRANKLY IF THERE IS A STORY HERE, IT IS EXTRAORDINARY HOW MUCH IGNORANCE AND LACK OF DISCERNMENT THERE IS ON THE PART OF OUR FOOD CRITICS AND SOME OF OUR FOODIES. It is clear to me that the vast majority of them don’t know nearly enough about this subject. I am not looking to make enemies. In fact as a consultant it benefits me to have healthy relationships with the media. However the ignorance and lack of sophistication surrounding CB has been unbelievable to me, astounding in fact! And the mistakes: forget about a critic’s taste (or lack thereof). I am thinking of the seasoned food journalists in the Observer and Crain’s (individuals whom I have met, liked and respected over the years) who dismissed the dim sum as just good and never really figured out how good it really was. Or the critic writing in one of our venerable, now-given-away-at-the-corner publications that venomously and ignorantly claimed the food was tasteless (you could call the food at CB many things but tasteless? – impossible!) and most amazingly complained about the beef ribs – which is truly extraordinary since they come from a pig. Great credibility there – not getting the difference between a pig and a cow correct! Then there was the critic from a major NY magazine whose report on the wonton soup was that his daughter (I’ve been told that she’s around 3) thought it was excellent. What does that mean? Should we be taking her word over his? Perhaps, I hear she’s Asian – he’s not. Is this the type of thoughtfully arrived at opinion that we food professionals deserve for all the work and experience we’ve put into our creations? We have a right to expect to be judged by someone who knows a lot about these areas. By the way, Joe Ng makes those wontons, and they’re exceptional! This is obviously a cool kid with great instincts! Are you competitive Manhattan nursery school directors of admission paying attention? This child would be a good one to admit! Perhaps Mr. Bruni understood the restaurant best, but even with him I feel there were fundamental misunderstandings. First one? Saying that the dim sum were very good. He’s wrong. Very wrong. They’re GREAT. Some of the best in the world. True, much of the Chinese community-oriented esoterica are not part of the dim sum program. There are no duck tongues, goose intestines or even periwinkles. Not even any tripe. In their place however, there are frogs legs, Chilean sea bass, and duck and yellow leak spring rolls – esoteric items that are more western in their appeal, yet items that don’t appear at any other NY restaurant at all! Plus, Chef Ng adds and subtracts dim sum items every week. Plus he makes almost 40 items a day. Interestingly many food professionals in the Chinese community recognize Chef Ng’s talent and seek out his cooking Next misunderstanding? To regard the restaurant as merely dressed up general tso. It’s true, there’s plenty of that, and what there is, is usually done very well. But there is also much else that is subtly and mouthwateringly exciting. What about the excellent riff on chicken chow mein? Why hasn’t anyone noticed the crispy onion rings on top or the Vidalia onions that flavor the base and make it naturally and deliciously sweet, and the fun and cool looking presentation of a crispy free form egg roll skin basket that is broken open tableside? It is exactly the same sort of 'sensible' cooking that Mr. Bruni lauds Mitchell Davis for in his blog this week - yet he failed to either notice or appreciate it here. Or why has no one mentioned the fresh sea scallops and cellophane noodles that are braised with saffron and rich chicken stock to produce a savory and delicious, yet Chinese feeling dish. Why is there saffron on a Chinese menu? The answer: because it’s the spice of the moment in Beijing. Clearly saffron is something one doesn't expect from a beef broccoli-centric menu, yet why isn't it acknowledged? Why hasn’t anyone commented on the texture of the General Tso’s Chicken which is simultaneously crisp on the outside - (w/o its customary heavily battered exterior – what’s the trick?) – yet juicy on the inside, and then features a sauce that has a different flavor and finish than everyone else’s - black chinkiang vinegar is added just before serving. Or why has no one mentioned the absolutely fantastic steamed Branzino? It’s one of the few steamed fish recipes in 30 years that has made me crave a dish that I normally taste for a moment and then take a pass on. Plus the fish is so beautifully butchered and presented: great sophistication, way beyond general tso. Yet when the critics write it is only about prosaic type beef and broccoli dishes – one would get the impression there is nothing else Fact is, when it comes to Chinese food, it seems that many of our critics lack the professional training and experience to discern these details. And unfortunately many of our foodies, upon seeing the word Chinatown in the restaurant’s name immediately think about value and the fact that Chinatown represents lots of tasty food for very little money: a thought that has become the bane of the Chinese restaurant industry in America. You know that when a Chinese restaurant chooses to serve, quail or squab or lobster, they still have to pay the same for it as a French or an Italian chef, only that since they’re cooking Chinese they can’t charge for it (comparably) in this environment. Apparently (from reading our critics and blogs) all beef and broccoli is created equal and as a result why get the purportedly good stuff? Using that logic I guess it must be the same with steak. Why go to Peter Luger’s for a porterhouse when you can get one at Outback? A ridiculous thought, right? But apparently when it comes to beef and broccoli or general tso’s chicken, it is perfectly fine even if it is very soft thinking! Bottom line to all of this is that in reading the posts of many in this thread and the reviews and blogs that have appeared in recent weeks I keep coming to the same conclusion: too bad that such good cooking is being dissed and avoided by so many who ostensibly care. The joke is unfortunately on them. I go to CB regularly and have had consistently excellent meals. Some of the best in the industry by far. Not the spiciest, not the most esoteric, not the most authentic, just simply (or not so simply) delicious. I was particularly enchanted with a nasty and vituperative ditty that appeared recently on a little known (to me) blog entitled ‘gridskipper’. The author, while grudgingly admitting that the food was good, still managed to trash the place for its lack of value. Well, we live in a world where disciples spend $1,000 on dinner for 2 in The Time-Warner AOL building, but apparently a $2 hand-crafted dumpling made by one of the world’s top artisans is too expensive and should be avoided at all costs - same with the beef dishes that are made from super-tasty flatiron steak but at $18 or so are deemed way too expensive and not worth it. Hey, Colicchio may get $50 for a steak at Craftsteak, but apparently if you put oyster sauce on it and sell it in a Chinese restaurant environment, the steak loses 65% of its value. I have an offer to the person at gridskipper who wrote this: please contact me as I would be willing to take responsibility for your Chinese food education. It’s on me, and I’m serious. We badly need a more educated public so we can stop shooting ourselves in the foot. Caveat emptor, caveat eater. Just because you read it in a NYC restaurant review or food blog, doesn’t mean that it’s true: not now in NYC! Be careful of the dumbing down of the masses! Wishing you a hearty appetite and a delicious life!