Owed a friend dinner last night...I really thought the Spurs were gonna beat the Lakers...and Chinois is his favorite, so we went at 7:30 and the place was packed. The tabletops remind me of a high school cafeteria, designed to maximize the number of people they can squeeze into the joint. The vibe is strictly '80s -- ever see "Heartbreakers"?
Started with the tuna sashimi tempura, which is very good but certainly not the be-all-end-all some consider it to be. I prefer a vertical variation on this dish at Koi, for example.
Next came the lobster dish, which is something special. Delicious lobster meat over rice in a yummy sauce with fried spinach heaped on top. Mmm...
Also ordered vegetable fried rice that has to be some of the best fried rice around; really light and flavorful, would have been better with scallions but friend doesn't like those.
Followed that with Cantonese duck, which was a nice big serving of good duck meat, a bit light on flavor even with the sauce, not one of the great ducks you'll ever eat. I'd take Joss' Peking duck any day.
Finally, Szechuan beef, which was truly just okay. Dark sauce laden with scallions helped a bit but was also a bit tangy. Just not a dish I cared for with or without the sauce.
For dessert, the "dim sum" sampler, with two creme brulees (for him, caramel; for me, almond that was out of this world), some okay vanilla and delicious coffee ice cream, a nice plum teacake, good little piece of apple strudel, a white chocolate macadamia cluster, a yummy little piece of chocolate souffle cake with whipped cream. All good but nothing truly memorable.
Friend had one hard drink; I had iced tea. Bill was $180 before tip. Friend had asked them to stagger the dishes, but they took it to a bit of an extreme; at one point we were waiting half an hour between the lobster and the duck... After a bit of bellyaching about that, things improved. Busboys are really on the ball here; servers can seem a bit scarce when they spend great lengths of time with the BP's.
All in all, Chinois is good, but now after several visits eating dishes recommended by regulars, I must be missing what it is that leads some people to call it the best place in town. There are dozens of places I'd go back to first.