In this week's New York, Adam Platt takes on a pair of local, seasonal Chinese restaurants, RedFarm and Cafe China. At the first, "the concept belongs to the great czar of New Yorks increasingly moribund Chinese-food scene, Ed Schoenfeld (who you'll recall boasted that the spot would be "the best Chinese restaurant in America"). So does it live up to the hype? Platt finds Chinatown Brasserie dim sum maestro Joe Ng's cooking "a cut above the kind of run-of-the-mill cooking you see these days down in Chinatown." While pastrami egg rolls prove "leaden," a "brittle, deliciously candied spicy crispy-beef appetizer was so good that I ordered it on my next visit." Other winners: "sugary grilled short ribs with cauliflower and broccoli," and "slippery chunks of black cod, which Ng cooks with fresh yellow leeks and serves with a pot of housemade XO sauce on the side"; the restaurant earns one star.
At Cafe China, decor recalls "the glory days of thirties Shanghai," while the menu "has been designed to reintroduce traditional Chinese cuisine to generations of New Yorkers weaned on carryout and, yes, General Tsos chicken." Platt writes, "There are ... unexpected pleasures at this satisfying little restaurant (try the braised pork belly with pickled mustard greens, and the mouth-tingling ma po tofu), but the most unexpected thing of all might be the strangely palatable desserts"; make that another one-spot.
Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld take on a new batch of restaurant openings, including the midtown branch of East Village favorite the Smith, Petite Crevette's next-door wine bar the Flying Lobster, and Hot Kitchen, from the husband-wife team behind Old Town Hot Pot. The Robs also consider now-in-season albacore tuna, delicious in a blackened sandwich rendition from Andrew Carmellini of the Dutch. And the Underground Gourmet shines the spotlight on wet-hopped beers, brewed with "whole fresh hops, rather than their dried, pelletized counterparts"; the result can be "strikingly floral and grassy."