Phoenix Garden’s many fans declare its Cantonese food dependably first-rate–not just for Midtown Manhattan but for the entire city, including Chinatown. A recent runaway hit is a casserole of oysters, pork, and bean curd. “The clay pots were scraped bare in minutes,” reports eating me, who lovingly describes “huge, juicy fried oysters chillin’ out with fried tofu rectangles, fatty roasted pork and chopped cabbage in an addictive, not-too-sweet brown sauce.”
“This place rocks,” agrees AKR, whose dinner was highlighted by snow pea leaves with garlic, braised duck with mushrooms in brown sauce, peppery/oniony scallops in five-pepper sauce, and sweet, succulent honey ribs. Others recommend sauteed watercress, seafood fried noodles, steamed flounder in black bean sauce, and crab stir-fried with ginger and scallions.
Peter Cherches, who advances the controversial thesis that Midtown has eclipsed Chinatown for Chinese food, ranks Phoenix Garden with Wu Liang Ye, Szechuan Gourmet and Evergreen Shanghai as four of Manhattan’s top Chinese restaurants. This is also the only restaurant in Manhattan that serves young stir-fried ginger with chicken.
Servers are friendly, knowledgeable and not above the occasional upsell. The place is BYOB; good matches include Rieslings, Alsatians, and other wines on the sweet side, AKR advises.
Phoenix Garden Restaurant [Turtle Bay]
242 E. 40th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Manhattan