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Shang


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I also think that, whether or not Fat Guy does, the New York food media as a whole penalize out-of-town chefs, period -- even if they do move here.

I think it's clear Alain Ducasse has caught hell (didn't move here).  And so, to take a fairly obscure example, did Tim Love (moved here).  I think out-of-town branches pretty clearly face a skepticism in the food media that homegrown restaurants don't.

I think Nobu happened long enough ago to be irrelevant.  Then, it was so unusual for a well-regarded out-of-town serious restaurant to open a branch here that people were happy to have it.  I think now, people are afraid of New York's turning into Las Vegas (which, come to think of it, didn't exist as a dining concept the way it does now when Nobu opened).

I agree with all of that, and I also think the way the PR was done had something to do with it. In Tim Love's case, as with most who come to NY from great fame elsewhere, their outsider provenance and previous success is heavily promoted by the PR folks. In Nobu's case, it was more about the place and its ambitions rather than about importing an outside chef who was identified as an LA transplant. If anything, they played off his studies in Japan and South America. Also, the group that put the project together was already well entrenched in NY (Nieporent et al. and the Myriad Group). That said, I think food industry PR people might be able to learn a lesson about how to promote (and how NOT to promote) chefs who come to our fair city from others.

My own theory is that many New Yorkers (rightly?) believe that standards elsewhere in the country are lower than in NY, so when they hear someone is the best chef in (insert random other city here), the immediate response is skepticism and doubt for the taste of his audience. This extends far beyond food to many areas where taste is involved. In some cases (such as Soto) the chef is good enough to overcome these issues, in others (such as that of Mr. Love) no so much.

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What Susur does well is promote. People are always talking about him, whether good or bad. He's always on people's minds. Some want to eat at his restaurants because they love his cuisine and the dining experience he tries to create, while others are curious and motivated by these raves and make a reservation to try it for themselves and end up be disappointed. He is very inconsistent. Some services are spot-on and the flavours are bright and vibrant, while others are a shit-show with retarded staff and food without any vibrancy. More specifically, some DISHES are phenomenal, while even more dishes are mediocre at best. The whole experience is like playing the lottery. He can't cut it in New York. He doesn't have the chops. It's as simple as that. But contending this reality are all the fanboys and fangirls that have won the Susur lottery when they've dined there and ended up with a positive experince , and it's causing a buzz. Again, people are talking about Shang, and people are making reservations. How long it'll last... my guess is not very long. New Yorkers don't have patience when it comes to their restaurant scene. In Toronto, we were pretty content to have Susur be a luck-of-the-draw experience, because we don't have the depth and/or quantity of alternative choices to fall back on. If Susur is having a good night, there are few restaurants in Toronto that compare, so it's always tempting. Unfortunately, I've experienced the bad Susur more than the good Susur and have learned to take my business to establishments that I know I have a better shot at being fed a delicious meal and leaving happy.

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I also think that, whether or not Fat Guy does, the New York food media as a whole penalize out-of-town chefs, period -- even if they do move here.

I think it's clear Alain Ducasse has caught hell (didn't move here).  And so, to take a fairly obscure example, did Tim Love (moved here).  I think out-of-town branches pretty clearly face a skepticism in the food media that homegrown restaurants don't.

I think Nobu happened long enough ago to be irrelevant.  Then, it was so unusual for a well-regarded out-of-town serious restaurant to open a branch here that people were happy to have it.  I think now, people are afraid of New York's turning into Las Vegas (which, come to think of it, didn't exist as a dining concept the way it does now when Nobu opened).

I agree with all of that, and I also think the way the PR was done had something to do with it. In Tim Love's case, as with most who come to NY from great fame elsewhere, their outsider provenance and previous success is heavily promoted by the PR folks. In Nobu's case, it was more about the place and its ambitions rather than about importing an outside chef who was identified as an LA transplant. If anything, they played off his studies in Japan and South America. Also, the group that put the project together was already well entrenched in NY (Nieporent et al. and the Myriad Group). That said, I think food industry PR people might be able to learn a lesson about how to promote (and how NOT to promote) chefs who come to our fair city from others.

My own theory is that many New Yorkers (rightly?) believe that standards elsewhere in the country are lower than in NY, so when they hear someone is the best chef in (insert random other city here), the immediate response is skepticism and doubt for the taste of his audience. This extends far beyond food to many areas where taste is involved. In some cases (such as Soto) the chef is good enough to overcome these issues, in others (such as that of Mr. Love) no so much.

Chefs have come to NY and been successful, but by and large when they have done so, they have come here to exclusively focus on this market. Soto is a case in point.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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  • 4 weeks later...

I walked into Damon: Frugal Friday this evening shortly before 7 pm expecting the worst. Indeed, my expectations were well placed and we were greeted with an hour and fifteen minute wait time. No thank you. Shang was my back up plan, so further downtown we went. I had called earlier in the day to confirm that the Starving Artist $35 prix fixe would be available until 7:30 in the main dining room. The hostess assured me this was the case.

We arrived at Shang, and wow, what a weird entrance. Those steps are like crazy imposing. But I'm quite spry and made it upstairs to check in with the hostess. We were a party of three walk-ins in a restaurant that doesn't really have a nice spot for such parties. Perhaps predictably we were given a pretty rough table at the very entrance to the dining room. Whatever. The design of the restaurant is kind of weird to me. Minus the groan-inducing soundtrack and all black-attired servers, the center of the room is nothing but huge booths. Even when the restaurant's perimeter is filled with tables of two and four, the space still feels kind of empty. Only one of the six or so massive booths was occupied when we left shortly after 8:30.

Anyway, naturally we were told the prix fixe menu wasn't available past 7 pm; it was by this point about 7:10. I said I was told otherwise that same day by the hostess, and my server actually gave me attitude about having to check with the kitchen about it. Weird. I will say minus this one server's apparently short temper the food runners were all friendly did their jobs efficiently. Chef Lee was in the house.

The food was actually pretty good. There's all this trendy farm-to-table food out there that's about taking a few great ingredient and treating them simply. A noble goal. This restaurant does no such thing. As others have noted, it's almost as if Chef Lee doesn't know when to stop. Sometimes the effect is something that tastes good even when it probably shouldn't. Other times you wish one component was left off the dish. This isn't "clean" food, rather it feels very manipulated and contrived, though not necessarily in an unpleasant way.

The best I can say is that no one is serving food like this, or hasn't at this level of ambition since perhaps the mid-1990s when fusion was en vogue. You can take that as you will.

The Singapore Slaw is a pretty cool dish. The textures really make it. I'm not going to wax poetic and say it's the best, most creative salad I've ever had, but it's an interesting plate of food. While each bite is a bit different too much gets wearing. Among the other apps we had the taro beef puffs were like total comfort food. Think Japanese curry bun meets croquette, or perhaps in this case, korroke. This dish, while not particularly refined, worked for me on that Mom's home-cooking level.

Next came a round of bigger dishes to include the jerk chicken, the steak, the turnip cake with eggplant, and the scallop with chorizo and eight treasure rice. All these dishes worked for me except for perhaps the last. I was debating between this scallop dish and the pork belly and concede that the latter would probably have been the safer, tastier option. Still, I wanted to try one "interesting" fusion dish and this one called out to me. The scallop, rice, and chorizo were fine if a bit mushy throughout. It was this tomato-chile sauce that came on the side that really marred the dish, however. Again, scallop et al. alone is an acceptable updated take on a classic dim sum dish. The sauce somehow evoked the Mediterranean and just didn't work for me.

The steak was pretty inoffensive. Some butter, some nuts, some citrus-soy dipping sauce. A small portion, but we had enough food. The chicken was a pretty interesting fusion dish of the most global order. A nice sweet heat from the combination of tropical fruit and scotch bonnet peppers, some chopped peppers, all sauteed together in a rather thick sauce. This shouldn't have worked, but it did. The most successful dish to me, however was the turnip cake. Mushrooms and a dashi-esque broth brought the umami while the unlikely combination of soft turnip cake and soft eggplant worked. Again, two items I frequently see in Chinese cuisine, just not seen together.

Dessert was a step down. There was a creme caramel--serviceable custard, a slightly thin caramel--topped with some sweet red rice. Not my style, but I generally don't like Asian desserts. We went to Otto afterward to remedy this situation right away.

All in all, highs and lows. We spent just shy of $60/person after tax and tip with two glasses of wine and a coffee. Not a ton, but I'm not rushing back because of the value proposition. The food is interesting, I can't take that away. But there were some duds, too. I also wish the restaurant wouldn't be so faux-hip. They're trying so hard that it's almost laughable. The last restaurant I was in that was in the same ballpark was Merkato 55 shortly after it opened. That restaurant's food had its interesting merits but there was too much inconsistency across the board for the restaurant to really establish itself. I would like to see Chef Lee's cuisine more focused and in a more serious setting.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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... and eight treasure rice.

I'm assuming this wasn't sweet? Traditionally, eight treasure rice (or at least the ones I've encountered) are served, more or less, as a dessert.

I would like to see Chef Lee's cuisine more focused and in a more serious setting.

Isn't Shang a "more serious setting?"

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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I've had eight treasure rice, or at least that's what it's been called, in a number of traditional Chinese restaurants. Usually it's dark brown and is full of dried meats, nuts, and other items. The same could generally be said of the rice here.

The restaurant is actually hard for me to take seriously given the look and attitude of the space and staff. Give me a more understated experience with more refined, pared down food and I'd be happier.

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I've had eight treasure rice, or at least that's what it's been called, in a number of traditional Chinese restaurants. Usually it's dark brown and is full of dried meats, nuts, and other items. The same could generally be said of the rice here.

Sounds more like the filling of tzong tze, or "oil rice," rather than "eight treasure rice," ba bao fan, which consists of glutinous rice, red bean paste, sweet red dates, nuts, etc.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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I've never seen non-dessert eight treasure rice anywhere, I think you hit it right on the head, UE.

Edited by Dryden (log)

I want pancakes! God, do you people understand every language except English? Yo quiero pancakes! Donnez moi pancakes! Click click bloody click pancakes!

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Oh the lengths I go to. A bit more research reveals that some restaurants have both spicy-savory and sweet versions. For instance, Yeah Shanghai. This Shang version was obviously on the savory side. I swear, I don't make all this stuff up.

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Oh the lengths I go to. A bit more research reveals that some restaurants have both spicy-savory and sweet versions. For instance, Yeah Shanghai. This Shang version was obviously on the savory side. I swear, I don't make all this stuff up.

No, no. To be sure, Bryan, YOU'RE not the one I'm questioning. :raz:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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