Magazine article The New Yorker

Chinatown Brasserie; Tables for Two

Magazine article The New Yorker

Chinatown Brasserie; Tables for Two

Article excerpt

380 Lafayette St., at Great Jones St. (212-533-7000)--The cavernous NoHo space formerly occupied by Time Cafe now drips with chinoiserie: fringed lanterns, brocade panelling, lacquered everything. Chinatown Brasserie, the new tenant, has fancy food and frothy drinks: it's Ruby Foo's without the tourists, or Mr. Chow's with a lot more camp and only slightly less attitude. (The management is trying hard to cultivate the appearance of popularity, and if that means making people wait at the bar before they are seated at one of several empty tables, so be it: the frozen mai tais are arguably the restaurant's best offering.) Downstairs, the late, lamented Fez night club has been tricked out in a style best described as Shanghai Rat Pack, including leopard-print carpeting, white vinyl swivel stools, gilded pillars, and a koi pond.

The menu is dominated by American Chinese-restaurant classics. Peking duck--the centerpiece--has a dark, burnished glaze and crackly skin, and is delicious. Several other standards have Southeast Asian touches that work nicely, like the hint of lemongrass in the wonton soup. The branzino, which is steamed with ginger, scallions, and pickled plums, then beheaded at the table, is tender and subtly tart, but the chicken with mushrooms is sodden and salty. …

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