In recent years, sushi and edamame have been the dominant food groups at big-box hipster establishments around town. But don’t tell that to the aged Mr. Chow refugees congregating at Philippe, in midtown. The dish to get here is the golden-skinned, almost goose-size Peking duck, which is carved tableside by elderly gentlemen wearing little plastic gloves and is almost worth its $65 (for two) sticker price. Chinatown Brasserie, on Lafayette Street, is the newest pseudo-Chinatown hangout for downtown hipsters as well as the current home of the Hong Kong dim-sum prodigy Joe Ng. The talented Mr. Ng turns out over 150 varieties of dumplings (try the shrimp-and-snow-pea dumplings and the little pouches of translucent rice-paper skin stuffed with shrimp and Chinese chives), plus a fine bowl of wonton soup, which you can enjoy as you watch the restaurant’s resident Koi fish glide to and fro amid the nightclub gloom.
Whenever my Sinophile father craves a proper Chinese banquet, I tell him to gather ten of his food-scholar friends, and call Shun Lee West, where Michael Tong’s lavish new special-order Shanghainese feast includes esoteric offerings of “red cooked eel” tossed with soft bulbs of garlic; “black dragon” sea cucumber speckled with shrimp roe; and pig’s knuckles, marinated in rice wine for two days, steamed for ten hours, and dusted with the lightest coating of ground corn. For a less formal Shanghainese feast, the Platts repair to Liberty View, on the southern tip of Manhattan. On temperate weekend evenings, it’s a pleasure to sit outdoors, under the plane trees, and watch the boats steam around, just like they do on the great gray rivers of China. The specialties of the house are resolutely Chinese, too, like plates of crisp fried eel and shrimp tossed with yellow chives; big, baseball-size pork meatballs called “Lion’s Heads”; and platters of crackly roast chicken, poured with a special sweet brown sauce, which the chef concocted himself, back in old Shanghai.
Annisa chef Anita Lo’s Rickshaw Dumpling Bar is my daughters’ favorite venue for non-Chinatown dumplings, although lately they’ve been dragging me to the newly opened branch of the Queens dumpling shop Roll & Dough, on West 3rd Street, for stacks of flaky sesame “shao bing,” stuffed with spicy pork, and plastic plates of steamy Fujian-style dumplings, filled with pork and scallions. For something a little more spicy, we like to sneak off to our local neighborhood Grand Sichuan International, on St. Marks Place, for furtive helpings of cold tripe smothered in pepper sauce and coriander, soothing strings of raw potatoes dunked in rice-wine vinegar sauce, followed by sizzling helpings of double-cooked pork with green peppers the size of carrots, all washed down with pitcher after pitcher of cooling Tsingtao beer.