Review - Phoenix Garden (242 E. 40th St , 212 983 6666)
This place rocks. They've got a great line up of Canontese dishes and good service, and its BYOB. We were there on a drizzly Thursday night and here's what we had.
We led off with two orders of the honey ribs ($4) They were sweet and succulent. Although fatty, a lot of it has gotten rendered off in the deep frying process. They are golden colored, rather than the bright red of most Chinese places.
Then we had a plate of their famous Salt & Pepper Shrimp ($12) which had bits of garlic and jalapenos shaved over it. These are quite tasty and the shrimp shells are so soft that you can eat them. But I didn't think they were as great as everyone on the board says. Maybe we got an off order.
Next up were a couple of orders of pork/vegetable dumplings ($6) which were large and kind of gelatinous. I gobbled mine up but would probably not get this again.
Next came a whole Peking duck ($29), prepared table side. Crispy skin, moist meat, lots of Hoisin sauce if you wanted and warm rice wrappers. Excellent. I'd probably give an edge to Tse Yang for their Peking duck though. The whole duck is a lot of food, and probably only needed by a large group. It came with some oddly flavored crispy noodles that our group ignored.
As we polished that off, out came a platter of snow pea leaves with garlic ($12?) which was absolutely delicous and consumed quickly. Some on the table compared it to broccoli rabe. Then came scallops in a 5 pepper sauce, which reminded me of Mr Tang's taro coated scallop hot pot dish. Peppery and tasty with lots of onions to savor the sauce with. This dish needs white rice to go with it.
Now came the much awaited oyster/tofu/pork hot pot($16) that I heard about here on CH. It was served in a flame scorched sizzling ceramic casserole pot. It was delicious but half the people on the table didn't care for it; they found the oyster flavors too strong. The oysters in this are gargantuan sized, far beyond anything I've seen anywhere else. Most of the other hot pots are $12 and when I come back I'll probably get a spectrum of these to try. A wonderful Cantonese treat.
Still hungry, our waiter suggested we try the braised duck with mushrooms in a brown sauce ($13?) This lasted about 5 minutes as everyone slurped up the plump mushrooms and juicy duck. Not much crisp skin on this though. We probably should have picked a noodle or rice dish instead of this, since we forgot about those in the food orgy.
Our server was jovial and thoroughly knowledgeable about the menu; I am guessing he was the owners son. We were there for 3 plus hours, and they were good natured about it, tolerating us as we munched our way through the menu and drank lots of wine. Notably, it is BYOB, and the cuisine is excellent for rieslings, Alsatian wines and other demi sec types.
It's cash only and we pigged out for $35 per person all in leaving a generous 30% grat for the advice the waiter gave. This place is a gem and worthy of all the praise Chowhounders lavish. I wonder what BrianS thinks of this place compared to his Chinatown favorites.