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eatingwitheddie

Chinatown Brasserie

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Let me be another voice of dissent. I have to say that Chinatown Brasserie is producing some of the most exceptional and high-quality dim sum items in the city, albeit at prices that are considerably above the norm (about 3 times more than your average Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, such as Ping’s, or Dim Sum Go Go). However, Chinatown Brasserie isn’t competing with these places. All of the restaurant’s dishes are cooked fresh to order (no steam carts) and are ordered a la carte, and the ambiance of the restaurant rivals something more like a Chinese Balthazaar than a 22 Mott Street.

Can anyone who has had dimsum in Hong Kong (or Singapore) comment if it would be more comparable to dimsum there?


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Let me be another voice of dissent. I have to say that Chinatown Brasserie is producing some of the most exceptional and high-quality dim sum items in the city, albeit at prices that are considerably above the norm (about 3 times more than your average Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, such as Ping’s, or Dim Sum Go Go). However, Chinatown Brasserie isn’t competing with these places. All of the restaurant’s dishes are cooked fresh to order (no steam carts) and are ordered a la carte, and the ambiance of the restaurant rivals something more like a Chinese Balthazaar than a 22 Mott Street.

Can anyone who has had dimsum in Hong Kong (or Singapore) comment if it would be more comparable to dimsum there?

.....or Vancouver.


Leave the gun, take the canoli

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Regarding the excellent food, I loved those shrimp & snow pea steamed dumplings, and the way they made them look like little froggies. :laugh: The shrimp stuffed eggplant was given a new spin with the Malaysian saucing. I even loved the turnip cake, and generally I don't like turnip cake. Excellent fried oysters. The egg roll shell seemed standard (in a good crispy but not greasy way), but the filling was just different enough to make it outstanding, with lots of mushrooms, mmm. You just have to decide if the superior quality of the offerings is worth at least 2x (nice places) or 3x (dives) what you'd pay elsewhere, and that's a personal decision between your palate and your pocketbook.

I just wanna reiterate that, as far as I can tell, everything you're talking about is from the dim sum menu.

I don't think anybody in this thread has complained about the prices of the dim sum, considering their stupendous quality. It's the main menu that people have been complaining about.

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Let me be another voice of dissent. I have to say that Chinatown Brasserie is producing some of the most exceptional and high-quality dim sum items in the city, albeit at prices that are considerably above the norm (about 3 times more than your average Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, such as Ping’s, or Dim Sum Go Go).

Same comment.

I don't think people are doing this on purpose or anything, but just to keep things clear, if the detractors say, "The dim sum are great, and certainly worth the money, but the main menu is boring, inconsistent, and overpriced," it's no answer to say, "The dim sum are great."

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Everyone seems to know that CB produces great dimsum (I'm going to try it soon) but why is the other half of the restaurant so crappy?

Why put so much effort and creativity in 1/2 of the menu and serve Ruby Foo'ish junk in the other half?

Is it that hard to come up with a good menu not modeled after your local takeout joint?

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Again, to be clear, the main menu at CB isn't "Ruby Foo-ish junk". It's much better than that. The food is generally extremely well-prepared (which you can't say about Ruby Foo), and it isn't stupidly cute (which you also can't say about Ruby Foo). Unlike Ruby Foo, this is serious cooking.

As I see it, the problem with the main menu at CB isn't that it's not good. It's that it's not better.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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I don't think the main menu is bad at all. I certainly liked the three mains we had the first visit when we had dinner (especially the Chicken Chow Mein) and the pasta dish we ordered on Sunday was very good indeed. However, the allure to the place, for me personally is the Dim Sum. If I'm going to drag myself over the GW bridge to eat Chinese food when I have excellent options here in Jersey it has to be for something that's unique and I can't get locally. We've got great Dim Sum places here but CB is doing some very unique stuff with their dim sum and produces items I can't otherwise get at another Dim Sum venue. I'm certainly not going to make it my usual Dim Sum joint when I have restaurants like China 46, Dim Sum Dynasty and Silver Pond here in Bergen County, but I could see eating at Chinatown Brasserie a few times a year.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Let me be another voice of dissent. I have to say that Chinatown Brasserie is producing some of the most exceptional and high-quality dim sum items in the city, albeit at prices that are considerably above the norm (about 3 times more than your average Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, such as Ping’s, or Dim Sum Go Go). However, Chinatown Brasserie isn’t competing with these places. All of the restaurant’s dishes are cooked fresh to order (no steam carts) and are ordered a la carte, and the ambiance of the restaurant rivals something more like a Chinese Balthazaar than a 22 Mott Street.

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!

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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?

Hey, call me a fan. I don't think I'm going to be able to eat Chicken Chow Mein at another restaurant ever again.


Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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hmmm...where to begin:

I have not eaten at CB so I'm not qualified to comment on the food. I do, however, feel qualified to comment on some of your presuppositions.

"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."

If dim sum is that important to you, than this could be a valid equation. For most of us, it's a niche product. For example, see the feathers that flew over En. "You don't understand artisanal tofu!" You're right, I don't. Neither do I think it's a valid criticism of a mainstream restaurant critic that he doesn't either.

Another example: see FatGuy's dismissal of the Michelin Guide for not including Katz's...purely because of the pastrami. On that issue I sided with Michelin, I don't care if it's the best pastrami on the planet, it's still pastrami.

I lived in Vancouver...had a fair amount of dim sum...and Vancouver is often considered (by dim sum aficianados), as far as I can tell, as having the best dim sum in North America. But I'll admit to not being much of a fan.

"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, "

if the cost to both restaurants is the same for the same cut and quality of meat, you've got a point.

"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."

66 and Buddakan say otherwise.

However, you have made me anxious to try CB and I will do so.

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Before I respond to Ed S. (at what I fear will be excrutiating length), I'd like to say a few things that I hope will establish the spirit of my comments. I've long admired Ed and his work. I've learned a lot from it (although not, we'd both agree, enough). My respect for Ed is simply tremendous. I would never pretend to be able to address him as an equal, or anything like it.

On a more personal (and perhaps inappropriate) note, Ed was a particular favorite writer of my late wife's. She'd look forward to his publications, read them eagerly, and discuss them enthusiastically. She'd often raise Ed as an authority.

So I hope it's clear that I have not only tremendous respect for Ed, but the best will in the world.

I also want to make clear that I have no pretentions toward being any kind of expert on Chinese food (or on any kind of food, for that matter). I write only as a consumer who knows how to type. I do, however, think there's value in that viewpoint, however ignorant I admit it is.

As I noted above in response to similar writings from other posters, I think Ed's long paean to Joe Ng sort of knocks down a straw man. I haven't seen a single complaint anywhere about the quality or the price of Chef Ng's work at Chinatown Brasserie. That seems to be something that everyone, even the harshest critics, agrees on. (Actually, I don't remember what Siestima said, but I think we can all agree that his views on CB can be disregarded since it's not the kind of place he could ever understand.) So I think Chef Ng and his dim sum menu can be taken off the table in any discussion of disagreements concerning, or failures to appreciate, CB.

Ed then discusses some of the main-menu dishes he thinks have been underappreciated. He implies that people have failed to note the differences between these dishes and what is generally available at cheaper places. I don't think that's so. Most of these differences have to do with the use of "better" (and more expensive) or more European ingredients (the squab, the saffron, the flat iron steak, etc.). I don't think people have necessarily failed to notice these differences so much as they haven't noticed any substantial qualitative difference they make. Maybe I have an iron palate, but my problem with the main courses I've had at CB isn't that I've prejudged Chinese food as being "cheap but tasty", but rather that, to me, the fancier ingredients haven't in fact made it any tastier. Or at least not commensurately tastier with the price differential. And Ed is right -- I wouldn't comment on a layer of fried vidalia onions (or whatever) if they didn't enhance my enjoyment of a dish. They aren't ends in themselves. If they don't make the dish seem materially better to me, their being there isn't going to matter to me very much.

This isn't an exact analogy, but at some point reliance on these fancier ingredients can make it seem like you're selling kobe beefburgers. I don't know many people who have been foolish enough to buy them, but I haven't heard of anyone who thought they were worth it (or even thought they were better than chuck/sirloin beefburgers).

Ed will probably disagree, but I would say that the improvements in the dishes offered on the main menu at CB are subtle. Now "subtle" can mean two things: either that the improvement is too small or unforthright to be readily appreciated, or that the consumer is unequipped to appreciate the difference. I'll fully acknowledge the strong possibility of the latter. But since I'm paying for the product -- and since I think that most potential consumers are just as ill-equipped as I am -- I can only insist on my own perception of the product, even if it's limited by a lack of special knowledge. This is, after all, a mass-market operation.

Ed seems to imply that people who miss goose intestines/tripe/duck's webs/etc. from the menu are novelty hounds who are seeking to impose their shallow preferences on what is trying to be a successful mainstream enterprise. The thing is, though, that I don't think that Chinese cuisine makes any distinction between those ingredients and any others. They're all part of the cuisine. Their exclusion might make sense from a marketing perspective, but I don't see any compelling culinary reason to do it.

Let me put it this way. I grew up (for better or for worse) eating Eastern European Jewish cooking. If someone were to open up an expensive Eastern European Jewish restaurant that excluded such items as stuffed derma, stuffed chicken neck, calf's tongue in raisin sauce, and unborn chicken eggs, I wouldn't understand the restaurant. It would seem like a whimsically incomplete representation of the cuisine to me. Not because I like those excluded items because they're "exotic", but precisely because, to me, they're not "exotic". They're foods just like anything else. It wouldn't make sense to me to serve, say, brisket with potato pancakes, but not kishka. So the problem isn't necessarily the people are missing "exotic" ingredients, as that they're missing parts of the cuisine they've learned they enjoy (and the opportunity for further exploration).

Please understand that none of this is meant hostilely. And I, too, regret some of the overreaction against CB, which doesn't deserve it. I offer this in order to keep the discussion going -- and also, I hope, to clarify at least one "detractor's" views.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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Nathan,

I think the sort of arguments you bring up below echo the chorus of complaints that apparently arose when Ruth Reichl started reviewing "cheap" restaurants for the NYT.

In fact, here's a piece about that:

http://www.salon.com/nov96/interview961118.html

To pass off Katz's pastrami as "just pastrami" is akin to calling South Carolina pulled pork "vinegary pig." I would hope that people on eGullet would be here to understand what differentiates good pastrami from bad just as much to debate why Thomas Keller makes a difference.

Eddie's post is one of the most informative entries in this entire thread, if not one of the most informative I've read on eGullet to date. I have no wish to make enemies, but your view strikes me as very shallow and I hope it is not more prevalent on eG. We're here precisely because all of this stuff matters. Aren't we?

If dim sum is that important to you, than this could be a valid equation.  For most of us, it's a niche product.  For example, see the feathers that flew over En.  "You don't understand artisanal tofu!"  You're right, I don't.  Neither do I think it's a valid criticism of a mainstream restaurant critic that he doesn't either.

Another example: see FatGuy's dismissal of the Michelin Guide for not including Katz's...purely because of the pastrami.  On that issue I sided with Michelin, I don't care if it's the best pastrami on the planet, it's still pastrami.

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Thinking about it, here's part of my problem (and I apologize in advance if this sounds cruel; what I'm aiming for is "pungent"):

Take a restaurant like Little Owl. Their basic idea seems to be, "What can we do to take expensive restaurant food and make it as cheap and simple as possible, without losing the basic qualities that make it special?"

CB's basic idea seems to be, "What can we do to take a familiar cuisine widely available at low prices, and make it expensive, without making any fundamental changes or doing anything that would scare off a mass audience?"

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I have been informed that my reply was accidentally deleted. (How is this possible?)

anyway, I think I said something to the effect of:

It might still be the best pastrami in the world but ultimately it is still a simple, singular food item (of which there are hundreds of thousands). That does not a great restaurant make.

Great dim sum is certainly more complex and more of a showcase for a chef's skill than great pastrami, but that doesn't make it the equivalent of a three-star Michelin restaurant.

There is a continuum from the world's greatest pastrami to the Louis XV and the world's greatest dumplings are somewhere in between the two.

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I have been informed that my reply was accidentally deleted.  (How is this possible?)

anyway, I think I said something to the effect of:

It might still be the best pastrami in the world but ultimately it is still a simple, singular food item (of which there are hundreds of thousands).  That does not a great restaurant make.

It makes it a great pastrami place, and to me, that's sufficient for mention in ANY guide of New York food or restaurants. And as far as I'm concerned, who cares if 100,000 places make lousy pastrami? I think that's irrelevant at best, and if it is relevant, it's inasmuch as that makes the pastrami at Katz's that much more revelatory.

Great dim sum is certainly more complex and more of a showcase for a chef's skill than great pastrami, but that doesn't make it the equivalent of a three-star Michelin restaurant.[...]

Perhaps not, but perhaps enough for at least one Michelin star. But I think that the greatest dim sum restaurants, or at least some of them, also serve great dinners. That would give them a much stronger claim on stars. Of course, the Michelin inspectors have their own biases (or, if you prefer, point of view), which I don't share.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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[...]Let me put it this way.  I grew up (for better or for worse) eating Eastern European Jewish cooking.  If someone were to open up an expensive Eastern European Jewish restaurant that excluded such items as stuffed derma, stuffed chicken neck, calf's tongue in raisin sauce, and unborn chicken eggs, I wouldn't understand the restaurant.  It would seem like a whimsically incomplete representation of the cuisine to me.  Not because I like those excluded items because they're "exotic", but precisely because, to me, they're not "exotic".  They're foods just like anything else.  It wouldn't make sense to me to serve, say, brisket with potato pancakes, but not kishka.  So the problem isn't necessarily the people are missing "exotic" ingredients, as that they're missing parts of the cuisine they've learned they enjoy (and the opportunity for further exploration).[...]

You're right. It's a shame that CB doesn't serve chicken feet, because really good chicken feet are something that I would gladly pay a premium for. I haven't had any really good ones since the last time I was in Malaysia.

Ed, when would you advise us to go for dim sum at CB? 10-noon or so on weekdays? Are they open that early? If I usually spend about $13-15 for dim sum at a place like Jing Fong or Harmony Palace, how much should I expect to pay at CB? $30 per person for lunch? Do they have salt-baked shrimp with jalapenos?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Another example: see FatGuy's dismissal of the Michelin Guide for not including Katz's...purely because of the pastrami.  On that issue I sided with Michelin, I don't care if it's the best pastrami on the planet, it's still pastrami.

Michelin does not side with you on that issue: nobody at Michelin has ever said anything like "I don't care if it's the best pastrami on the planet, it's still pastrami." Just the opposite: the Michelin position, as indicated by their announcements and their other inclusions, is that the best of everything should be included. The Michelin people, not I, have made the claim that the New York guide attempts to find the best examples of each cuisine regardless of other factors. Thus, the guide includes NY Noodle Town, Jackson Diner, Sripraphai and other quite informal, downmarket places. Viewed in that context -- a context proudly trumpeted by Michelin -- the omission of Katz's pastrami is as clueless as the omission of Peter Luger's steak would be. But I digress. We already covered this on the Michelin topic and I'm not sure how it's really relevant here.

As to your larger point, what is it that makes dim sum more of a niche product than, say, French haute cuisine? Dim sum sits at or near the apex of the culinary arts. Every Western-trained chef I've ever spoken to who has made a pilgrimage to Hong Kong has come back humbled at the level of craft in the kitchens over there. What about dim sum exactly do you think requires less skill or training, is less complex or subtle, than French haute cuisine? I understand that you're not a fan of dim sum, but that doesn't justify dismissing one of the world's great cuisines.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That Chinese, with all its myriad forms, textures and flavors is one of the great world cuisines is not something I disagree with at all.

But dim sum alone? heck no.

and no, I don't care how good the world's greatest pastrami may be, it's not the same thing as a perfect steak. the comparison is silly and parochial imho. (and it would be nonsensical outside of NY.)

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Nathan, I've got to assume that, even though you've had dim sum in Vancouver, you've never been exposed to great dim sum. Maybe you've focused on the high-turnover, mass-production operations where the dim sum brunches are terrific for what they are but are several notches below the top of the form. I've been to several such places in Vancouver, and I think they're the best of their kind in North America -- but they don't represent world-class dim sum. They're just better versions of the cart factories we have here in New York.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of dining at the Golden Peony in Singapore. The dim sum brunch served there was a demonstration of true culinary artistry. We're talking about magical, ethereal, lovingly crafted morsels -- each a bite-sized demonstration of the greatness of Chinese cuisine. Once in awhile, at one of the dim sum factories, you get a real eye-opener of a creation -- imagine a whole meal consisting of one such A+ example after another, each one assembled with great care and cooked to order. Later, when I first went to Dim Sum Go Go in New York, I could see hints of that artistry -- though I think Dim Sum Go Go falls short of the mark in too many ways. I recently tried some of the dumpling items at Mainland and they had some commonalities with this style as well -- and the photos of some of the Chinatown Brasserie selections seem really promising.

More importantly, though, as a theoretical matter I think in your attempt to be provocative you're completely missing the point here. Dim sum is not some minor offshoot of Chinese cuisine. It's at the leading edge of the form. Dim sum is a beautiful tradition that is also decidedly modern and international, combining deep appreciation of flavor and aesthetics and at its best producing world-beating results. The training and dedication of great dim sum chefs is incredible -- love it or not, it's pretty damn insulting to say that dim sum is unworthy of serious attention.

(I still haven't got a clue what pastrami, or steak, has to do with any of this, so I won't waste the pixels following up on your comments there.)


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Ed, I'm humbled by your arguments.

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.

Although I did not mention many of these specifics with regard to the chicken chow mein, I did post that it was the best version I have ever had. It's haunted me since our first visit and I regret not ordering it when we returned for dim sum this past Sunday. It was not on the lunch menu, I should have asked for it anyway. And, next time, I'm definitely going to get one of those fish entrees, you make the branzano sound like a must try.

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Our society and the current lifestyle that we have in New York does not permit the type of Dim Sum that was described by FG, it simply costs too much because of its labor intensity. When Dim Sum was first formed, it was served to the extremely wealthy Chinese who has armies of servants at their disposal. We all know that modern day economics does not allow for that even in the most over populated of all countries where labor is extremely cheap.

Most of the Dim Sum we eat in Chinatown and elsewhere today are factory produced because it's cheaper that way and we can all afford it. I would like to invite anyone who dismisses dim sum to imagine making it by hand...one piece at a time....then he oe she can tell me how simple the food is.


Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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Ed, I'm humbled by your arguments.

Don't fret Rachel, penicillan can cure that. :cool:

Seriously, I've eaten at CB three times and I think they have the best DS I've ever had and personally think the price is a bargain. It is my first choice for DS and I'd be hard pressed to come up with a reason for going somewhere else. Certainly worth 3-4 stars.

Still, the other side of the menu is lackluster and I can't get very excited about it.

I also believe DS is one of the most, if not the most, creative, complex and labor intensive cuisines in existence. It certainly ranks far ahead of any French, Italian or Spanish cuisines, in my opinion, within those parameters. And it tastes good too!!!


Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Still, the other side of the menu is lackluster and I can't get very excited about it.

See, you're just being shallow.

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Still, the other side of the menu is lackluster and I can't get very excited about it.

See, you're just being shallow.

Touche! :laugh:


Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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