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Will Whimsy Curdle My Udon Noodles?

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Yumcha, closed in August when the original chef decamped, is born again, more Chinese and less Pan-Asian in the gifted hands of Ten Vong. A veteran of Guastavino’s and Charlie Palmer’s kitchens, he grew up in family-owned Chinese restaurants in Baltimore. It was easy, Vong says, to dream up Chinese dishes for the 21st century—the same sophisticated new cuisine celebrated now in Shanghai and Beijing. Vibrant evidence are the luscious udon-noodle salad with citrus sorbet, and delicate lobster shumai with crème fraîche and caviar making calligraphy on the plate. The challenge, Vong says, was divining menu prose to evoke a Chinese aesthetic. Such blatant cuteness might annoy if the food weren’t so good. A smartly tart pomegranate-and-vodka Red Dragon puts me in the mood to be amused by “Concubine’s forbidden pleasure” (those noodles), and “Fisherman wanders hither,” ethereal scallops in a water-chestnut broth with pork belly. What we are eating is impressive and reasonably priced: maple-glazed five-spiced quail; Peking duck revisited (“Red Emperor returning North”); and ginger-lacquered veal cheeks, a.k.a. “Maiden contemplating fields of eternal spring.” I’m betting it won’t be easy to get a table in this spiffy little Village jewel box once word gets around
29 Bedford St., at Downing St.; 212-524-6800.


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