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Chinatown Brasserie


eatingwitheddie
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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!!!

While I agree with the first part of your statement, I believe the second part goes too far to the opposite extreme. I love dim sum and would rank it at its best amongst the world's great cuisines. I'm not sure that I would consider it supreme or even superior to the world's other great culinary delights. Whatever, my appetite to try the dim sum at CB has certainly been whet.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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"love it or not, it's pretty damn insulting to say that dim sum is unworthy of serious attention."

I never said that. We're talking past each other. I'll just refrain from this thread in the future.

"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."

Well, I'm concerned with what's actually available to me. Is anyone (other than Ed) claiming that CB is the equivalent of the Golden Peony?

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Well, I'm concerned with what's actually available to me.  Is anyone (other than Ed) claiming that CB is the equivalent of the Golden Peony?

What is available to you is not representative of a whole culinary tradition. Would it be fair to tell you that I hate all French food because what is available in my neighborhood is greasy, heavy and bland?

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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"What is available to you is not representative of a whole culinary tradition."

That's fair. But neither can one appeal to the greatness of dim sum in its entirety and from that claim that CB is therefore undervalued.

If, as Ed asserts, Joe Ng is one of the world's greatest dim sum chefs, then it would be very reasonable for me to assume that CB is a fair representation of an entire culinary tradition.

You can't have it both ways.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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ok, put it this way:

Ed asserted the following:

1. Joe Ng is one of the world's greatest dim sum chefs.

2. Great dim sum is equivalent to Michelin 3 star cooking.

From this I will assume that Ed is asserting that Joe Ng's cooking is comparable to a Michelin 3 star. That's fair, right?

So, if I eat at CB, I should expect a meal comparable to this one in quality and delight:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1243830

Those are some awfully high expectations that are being raised. Is that really what you want to do?

And once again (and no one has addressed this point, it's just been ignored)...it's bullcrap to assert that people won't pay money for Chinese because they see it as cheap, takeout cuisine.

Shun Lee has been serving better ingredient versions of corner takeout Cantonese for many years at quite high prices and they're doing quite well.

As I noted, 66, Buddakan, Mr. Chow and Philippe also follow that formula.

Now, I can well believe that CB is much better than those restaurants, but those are its peers (at least for the non-dim-sum menu). So spare me the idea that people won't pay the prices.

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Nathan, I'm sure I'm not alone when I ask what it is you're trying to prove here. You started out by saying that dim sum is a niche product and that you're not a fan, however you're denying that those comments translate to you claiming that dim sum is unworthy of serious attention. So what exactly were you saying? Your comments and tone certainly seem to confirm Eddie's claims that local critics and consumers don't have much appreciation of this kind of cuisine -- the word parochial comes to mind. Now, having apparently pre-judged the cuisines of the world, and having tried to focus on various red herrings about pastrami and stars, you're challenging CB to produce a meal experience that will for you be on par with Alinea, even though nobody ever said you'd have an experience like that at CB. What Eddie said was that being one of the top dim sum chefs in the world is on par with being a top French chef, and I think that's a valid claim: the level of skill and artistry required, the training, the commitment . . . they are certainly comparable. I'm sure if you asked any chef with three Michelin stars you'd receive emphatic confirmation that the top practitioners of Asian cuisines are in the same league. In terms of price, while there are certainly some expensive Chinese restaurants around, those prices are just not comparable to what Western haute cuisine restaurants are getting on a per-cover basis. The question isn't are you going to get the Alinea meal experience at CB. The question is what could a top dim sum chef do in a Per Se environment where there are 16 tables, 100 or so covers a night, with each cover guaranteed to be $200 or more and with several tables each night spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on wine. When the market is ready to support such a place, I'm sure you'll see the Chinese equivalent of Masa. Until then, what we're lucky to see is a new breed of near-haute Chinese places popping up (Mainland, CB, et al.) where we can perhaps hope to get a taste of some of the interesting stuff that's going on in Asia right now.

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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FG: I don't see anything in your latest post that we necessarily disagree on.

Let's put dim sum aside for the moment. CB serves more than dim sum. All of the criticism of CB centers around the non-dim-sum menu.

CB's "regular" menu appears to serve a fair amount (not all) of versions of Americanized Cantonese, but with better ingredients and execution and with commensurate prices. Like I said, this puts it in the company of several other restaurants in the city.

Better ingredients don't necessarily make food better...it depends upon the cuisine and the item. (Pan made exactly this point on the JG thread 2 years ago.)

I love Grand Sichuan...I eat takeout from one of the branches 1-2 times a week. To be honest, although some of the dishes could certainly benefit from better ingredients...others like the Xong Xing chicken wouldn't benefit at all. You'd be paying more for exactly the same taste.

Now, whether the food on the "regular menu" at CB benefits from better ingredients, I don't know yet. I'm more than willing to believe that it does. But there are certainly plenty of people who have eaten there who don't think so. And if the ingredients don't make a difference, then there's no point in paying the prices. I have no opinion as to whether they do at CB until i eat there. But I have no problem in averring the proposition that better ingredients which make food taste better justify higher prices. But if they don't make the food taste better, they don't.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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"even though nobody ever said you'd have an experience like that at CB. What Eddie said was that being one of the top dim sum chefs in the world is on par with being a top French chef,"

if Joe Ng is really one of the best dim sum chefs in the world and if being top dim sum chef is on par with being a top French chef, then yes, I should expect such an experience.

either that, or telling me that Joe Ng is one of the world's best dim sum chefs but that I won't get that kind of dim sum experience from CB is equivalent to telling me that the chef de cuisine at Les Halles is one of the world's greatest French chefs but he is restricted by the owners to turning out steak frites.

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Now, whether the food on the "regular menu" at CB benefits from better ingredients, I don't know yet.  I'm more than willing to believe that it does.  But there are certainly plenty of people who have eaten there who don't think so.  And if the ingredients don't make a difference, then there's no point in paying the prices.  I have no opinion as to whether they do at CB until i eat there.  But I have no problem in averring the proposition that better ingredients which make food taste better justify higher prices.  But if they don't make the food taste better, they don't.

And the problem is, you eat a dish and conclude that the "better" ingredients haven't made it taste much or any better, and then you're asked, "why didn't you notice the vidalia onions?" Maybe I didn't notice the vidalia onions, not because I'm shallow, but because they didn't have much or any effect on my appreciation of the dish.

The problem I have with Ed's very erudite post is that it seems to me to fail to address the fundamental criticism that people have made of the main menu (NOT the dim sum menu) at CB, but instead advances an ad hominem attack on the detractors.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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And as for this:

Until then, what we're lucky to see is a new breed of near-haute Chinese places popping up (Mainland, CB, et al.) where we can perhaps hope to get a taste of some of the interesting stuff that's going on in Asia right now.

I just want to say that the only reason I write so much about CB is that I so wanted it to be like that. And it (or at least the main menu) isn't.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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I don't understand why there appears to be an undercurrent of hostility within this thread.

If I was part of the ownership of CB, I would be thrilled at the accolades the DS has received and work a bit harder to improve the other side of the menu.

But the business it should bring in on the DS alone, will most likely keep them in good stead until the regular menu catches up.

If they really want to grab hold of a novel idea, then CB could become strictly a world-class DS destination and drop the other menu. I'm sure people would be lining up out the doors.

Rich Schulhoff

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

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"What is available to you is not representative of a whole culinary tradition."

That's fair.  But neither can one appeal to the greatness of dim sum in its entirety and from that claim that CB is therefore undervalued.

If, as Ed asserts, Joe Ng is one of the world's greatest dim sum chefs, then it would be very reasonable for me to assume that CB is a fair representation of an entire culinary tradition.

You can't have it both ways.

This argument holds water if you happen to agree with Eddie. I don't happen to think CB's dim sum is anything to write home about. (sorry Eddie) I had better Dim Sum in Asia. The kind of Dim Sum I talked about doesn't exist here, just as the French will tell you that a real Michelin 3 star does not exist in new York. So just because the French food I had in my neighbior is bad, it doesn't mean that there aren't great one's out there.

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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or telling me that Joe Ng is one of the world's best dim sum chefs but that I won't get that kind of dim sum experience from CB is equivalent to telling me that the chef de cuisine at Les Halles is one of the world's greatest French chefs but he is restricted by the owners to turning out steak frites.

It's like telling you that Gray Kunz is one of the top chefs working in America but that, for economic reasons, he doesn't currently have a signature fine dining restaurant -- he just has Cafe Gray. People who go to Cafe Gray expecting to have the Lespinasse experience are going to be disappointed again and again. That's not a reflection of Gray Kunz's talent. It's still possible to understand that, as a culinary artist, Gray Kunz has more talent in his pinky than many chefs of higher-ranked restaurants.

Or it's like telling you that Alain Ducasse is one of the world's greatest chefs, but that you're not going to experience the world's greatest cuisine at his lesser restaurants. What you're going to get at one of Ducasse's brasserie-type restaurants is a great chef's take on brasserie-type cuisine -- you'll get pretty much the best that can be done in that style and at a given price point.

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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FG:

by that rationale then what Eddie was doing was saying "If you don't eat at Cafe Gray and appreciate the fact that Kunz is one of the top chefs working in America you are a parochial Philistine who doesn't understand cuisine."

That's a very fair analogy. Let's face it, his spiel was passionate, well-articulated, over the top, and utterly unfair to CB's detractors.

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This argument holds water if you happen to agree with Eddie. I don't happen to think CB's dim sum is anything to write home about.

Come on! You don't even eat meat or poultry! That's coming from a very biased perspective. Half the items on the menu would be lost on you. Some of the best items they had were ones that had pork in it. :laugh:

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

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This argument holds water if you happen to agree with Eddie. I don't happen to think CB's dim sum is anything to write home about.

Come on! You don't even eat meat or poultry! That's coming from a very biased perspective. Half the items on the menu would be lost on you. Some of the best items they had were ones that had pork in it. :laugh:

But a good dimsum chef should not be so limited. I didn't say it's bad, it's just not great..

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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For perspective, my single dim sum experience at Lai Wah Heen in Toronto was notably superior. I'm restraining myself from saying it was twice as good, because that might be pushing it, but it was extremely close.

I do admit that I'm not experienced in the least when it comes to dim sum, though. However, I'm able to determine when I enjoy one experience so much more than another, and I'm able to make a value judgement based around that. Which is how I reached my conclusion that CB is inferior.

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"If you don't eat at Cafe Gray and appreciate the fact that Kunz is one of the top chefs working in America you are a parochial Philistine who doesn't understand cuisine."

Although you've phrased it in a straw-manish manner, the underlying theory is sound: the work of a great chef (or most any kind of artist) should be apparent at all levels of his or her work. If you're knowledgeable about design, for example, you should be able to recognize that the pieces Michael Graves designs for Target are the work of a great designer even though they're mass-produced, made from cheap materials and sold at Target. Short, casual, small-ensemble pieces by the great composers may lack the elaborate complexity of their symphonies but they can still be quite brilliant and beautiful for what they are. Cuisine is a little more fluid, perhaps, but for the most part it should be possible to go into a Ducasse place like Spoon or Mix and realize that, even though it's not an ultra-luxe fine-dining restaurant, the kitchen is producing something world class for its category.

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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Chef Ng's selection changes frequently by the way and there are often a couple of new things to try.

Since the menu, in my experience, doesn't change, how can you know what new items are on offer? Should you ask the server? Can you expect the server to know?

(I'll note that last night, I was eating at the bar, and I was chowing down on the dim sum and rolls with such evident delight that the bartender comped me another order, of his selection, that he'd decided I'd especially enjoy. But it was still something on the menu. If there were "hidden" dishes, I might have thought he'd have sent me one of those.)

(What's amazing is that, for all my grousing, I'll bet I've eaten at CB more than anyone in this thread but Eddie.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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"Although you've phrased it in a straw-manish manner"

You mean the way Eddie attacked CB's critics?

CB may be a great restaurant for all I know (I intend to find out soon-enough) but that spiel really rubbed me the wrong way.

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And as for this:
Until then, what we're lucky to see is a new breed of near-haute Chinese places popping up (Mainland, CB, et al.) where we can perhaps hope to get a taste of some of the interesting stuff that's going on in Asia right now.

I just want to say that the only reason I write so much about CB is that I so wanted it to be like that. And it (or at least the main menu) isn't.

Thought this fascinating thread by ulterior epicure on the "China" board seemed pertinent:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=91566

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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