6 at 23rd St.
American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
This venue is closed.
The hotelier and style impresario, Ian Schrager, is a sentimental New Yorker, and he has conceived his restaurant, Wakiya, as a return to the grandeur of old-fashioned Chinese dining. By the standards of today’s ostentatious Asian-themed dining palaces, however, Wakiya is not that grand at all. The room is a narrow bowling alley of a space, wedged into the south side of the hotel. The window shades are drawn, obscuring the view of the park, and the dominant color motif is black overlaid with shades of gold and bordello scarlet. The walls are stenciled with patterns of rococo tapestry, and curtains of red string hang from the ceiling, between rows of cramped black tabletops. As a general rule, the bigger, more intensely flavored a dish Wakiya attempted to duplicate, the lighter and more insipid it tended to taste. The great Sichuan specialty “fiery-pepper hunt chicken” had little fire to it (even though the chicken is buried in red peppers), and even less chicken (“This is an emperor-has-no-clothes dish,” said the China Expert, as he searched in vain for his chicken). The “tan tan noodles” (known to local Sichuan addicts as “dan dan noodles”) were watery and also lacked heat, and the sweet-and-sour pork (called “tong su pork” on the menu) was small-portioned, fatty, and oversweet, like something you’d find on the foreigners’ menu at a not very good Cantonese hotel. Except for a festive item called “Wakiya sizzling rice crisps,” the noodle-and-rice section provided little relief, and when I ordered a $35 dish called lobster “chin san” style, it turned out to be seasonal vegetables and a few chaste shreds of lobster steamed in a bamboo basket with oolong tea. Surprisingly for a Chinese restaurant, the best thing about Wakiya is the dessert.
Dim sum, pork belly with chile soy, creamy lemon shrimp, omelette fried rice, Wakiya sizzling rice crisps, almond-orange meringue.