NYC Dining: Dim Sum at Chinatown Brasserie

Chinatown Brasserie
380 Lafayette Street
New York, New York

We’ve covered Chinatown Brasserie before — but as it was the first night of service, the complete Dim Sum menu wasn’t yet fully established, and I wanted to try more. This last weekend, prompted by Frank Bruni’s perplexing 1-star review (which I can’t in good conscience agree with) I had Sunday dim sum at the restaurant with my wife and four friends.

I have to say that Chinatown Brasserie is producing some of the most exceptional and high-quality dim sum items in the city, albeit at prices that are considerably above the norm (about 3 times more than your average Dim Sum restaurant in Chinatown, such as Ping’s, or Dim Sum Go Go). However, Chinatown Brasserie isn’t competing with these places. All of the restaurant’s dishes are cooked fresh to order (no steam carts) and are ordered a la carte, and the ambiance of the restaurant rivals something more like a Chinese Balthazar than a 22 Mott Street. I think its a wonderful place to have a very classy Dim Sum lunch, with some nice cocktails, in a very cool atmosphere. However, If you’re looking for Chinese restaurant bargains it’s not the place for you.

While some of the people I brought took exception to the cost of the items and the portioning, everyone said the quality and flavor of the dishes were exceptional. There wasn’t a single dish we didn’t like.

Click the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more food photos and commentary 

Dried String Beans with Pork

Pan Fried Turnip Cake

Soup Dumplings

Chicken/Garlic Rolls

Pan Fried Dumplings

Fried Oysters (With Sweet and Sour Sauce, on the side)

Malaysian Eggplant with Shrimp. I really liked this one, a different take on the typical Cantonese with Black Bean Sauce version.

Pea Shoot Dumplings with Shrimp. Everyone thought these were the cutest.

Mushroom Dumplings

Seafood Dumplings

Vegetable Dumplings with Peanuts

Fish Skin Dumplings

“Lasagnette” with Pork and Chile Sauce, a fusion dish that we thought worked really well.

Egg Rolls

Egg Custard Tarts

Sticky Rice Balls, filled with Black Sesame Paste

Warm Sponge Cake

8 Responses to NYC Dining: Dim Sum at Chinatown Brasserie

  1. Like the next article: Greatest Dim Sum of all Time …

  2. spamwise says:

    first time I’ve ever had pu-erh tea. I think I could actually drink coffee now that I’ve had it.

    you forgot the steamed eight treasure rice btw.

  3. Yeah, I didnt get a good picture of the Eight Treasure. But yes it was excellent.

    The Pu-Erh tea they have at Chinatown Brasserie is phenomenal. I’m going to buy some at Ten Ren as soon as I can. I like it even better than Oolong.

  4. Bux says:

    I pretty much agree with most of what Jason said about Chinatown Brasserie and the dishes he mentioned with the exception of the soup dumplings. I didn’t think the shao long bao were as enjoyable as ones I’ve had at Yeah, Joe’s Shanghai, or Joe’s Ginger, although I’ll admit that they can vary in quality quite a bit at the Joes. Still, six dumplings at twice the price of eight in Chinatown calls for first rate dumplings. I was disappointed at the meager quantity of soup in the dumplings and the temperature of the dumplings. In Chinatown, a diner risks seriously scalding his tongue and palate if he’s not enlightened in the ways of eating shao long bao. Fairly, or unfairly, at CB, I had the sense the dumplings were tepid to avoid any problem the mostly non-Chinese clientele might have with a mouthful of almost boiling soup. It’s not about authenticity for the sake of authenticity, but the pleasure of sucking up the soup with a lot of air. I also missed the traditional porcelain spoons. A metal soupspoon and chopsticks just doesn’t cut it when eating the dumplings.

    The “Lasagnette,” an “inauthentic” dish, worked really well for me too. Possibly because it was both creative and successful, I didn’t find it as excessively expensive. One of things I noticed about this dish were the pieces of well cooked carrot, something one doesn’t usually find in stir fried foods, nor can I recall cooked carrots in Chinese braised dishes. This simple inclusion gave the sauce depth that struck me as sophisticated, rather than inauthentic and may well be at the heart of why the dish appealed to me as much as it did. Some diners may be disappointed in the small amount of meat in the sauce, but I found it in the tradition of making a little meat go a long way and a lot more reminiscent of the way pasta is sauced in Italy, rather than how it’s drowned in sauce in America.

    Dumplings, at six, seven and even eight dollars for four dumplings, are at least twice the price of dumplings in Chinatown. In some cases, they didn’t seem preferable to those at Dim Sum GoGo, In other cases they did either because of the filling, the delicacy of the wrappers or their creativity. Most noticeable were the pea shoot and shrimp dumplings. In spite of the far more comfortable ambience and service, it’s difficult to get away from comparisons with Chinatown pricing, but with some dishes, the chicken and garlic rolls for instance, I was able to ask myself if I’d be happy to have this as an appetizer in a non-Chinese restaurant, in say Chelsea or the Flat Iron district, at the same price, and the answer was yes.

    I know I have some friends and dining companions who would find Chinatown Brasserie over priced to the extent that it might interfere with their enjoyment. At the same time, others would revel in the chance to dine here and enjoy the food, which is more often than not, at least a slight improvement over what’s to be had in Chinatown. Even at two or three times the price of Chinatown, it’s an inexpensive meal for the quality, given NYC standards of price and quality. Drinks will raise the tab, and that includes the price of tea.

    The Chinese long string beans with minced pork just seemed to have a brighter fresher flavor than similar dishes in Chinatown. The turnip cake was also particularly successful, though not necessarily better than the ones I like at Dim Sum GoGo. Fried oysters however, were over battered to the extent that the oyster was lost. Pearl Oyster Bar would be a better choice for fried oysters.

  5. Yeah, I tend to agree with the Xiao Long Bao. Of course, those are a Shanghainese specialty and not something thats done particularly well by Hong Kong Style eateries. I’m pretty spoiled by the ones at China 46 in New Jersey myself.

  6. Pan says:

    Bux, Jason, and anyone else: What about a comparison to dim sum at Oriental Garden? That’s a place whose dim sum has come in for enough praise from people I respect that I intend to go there the very next time I have a dim sum breakfast or lunch.

  7. […] Click for Related Post (newer): Dim Sum at Chinatown Brasserie   […]

  8. […] service today, I was depressed and needed something comforting. My last meal with him was at Chinatown Brasserie, and I’m still recovering from a nasty cold from last week (yes, ANOTHER one) so it seemed […]

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