Chinatown Brasserie, a posh palace thick with self-consciously uber-Chinese decor, seems to be the kind of restaurant that chowhounds love to trash. But there’s some great upscale Chinese chow here, thanks in part to a dim sum master lured away from Brooklyn’s well-regarded World Tong.
“Chinatown Brasserie is all that!” marvels Pan. “Best dim sum I’ve had outside of Asia, and certainly the best in New York.” Chef Joe Ng, who won a following for his fresh, inventive dim sum in Bensonhurst, offers a pared-down selection in Soho, but it’s first-rate. It’s also pricey, costing several times what you’d pay in most Chinese restaurants. Highlights include steamed roast duck-shrimp dumplings, crispy taro root shrimp, and pork-and-crab soup dumplings (“heavenly, delectable morsels of yumminess,” sighs Dandel). Flavors are vivid–fresh chive notes sing out in shrimp-chive dumplings, for example–and occasionally surprising, like the kaffir lime that accents delicious pan-fried curried chicken dumplings.
Beyond dim sum, the menu offers mostly Chinese-American standards–overseen by a different chef–and they’re surprisingly good. xavier credits top-quality ingredients and unusually skillful prep work. Recommended: crispy orange beef, Peking duck, kung pao chicken, roast duck spring rolls, dry-sauteed string beans with roast pork. These dishes, like the dim sum plates, are more expensive than average; prices run from the high teens to the high $20s.
But you’re paying in part for the scene, and some don’t mind that. “Chinatown Brasserie is one of the few Chinese restaurants with a hip ambience and upscale decor,” observes Dandel.
So what’s going on back at World Tong under chef Ng’s replacement? Regulars say dim sum is still better than average, though not quite as good as before. bolletje reports a recent lunch of familiar favorites–shumai, shrimp-stuffed eggplant, beef rice noodle rolls, green sesame balls–plus some new winners, including fresh, juicy pan-fried dumplings filled with shrimp, pork, and greens. Generally, steamed items are as good as ever; fried items seem to have slipped. And–who knew?–they serve delicious coffee, bolletje adds.
World Tong Seafood Restaurant [Bensonhurst]
6202 18th Ave., at 62nd St., Brooklyn