Magazine article The New Yorker

WAKIYA; Tables for Two

Magazine article The New Yorker

WAKIYA; Tables for Two

Article excerpt

The hotelier Ian Schrager, looking for a chef for the restaurant in his renovated Gramercy Park Hotel, settled upon Yuji Wakiya, a Japanese chef who trained in China and has successfully adapted Chinese cooking to Japanese tastes. Whether the resulting fusion does much for American tastes is another question. In a Gramercy Park Hotel so fancy it's no longer like the Gramercy Park Hotel, you find yourself eating Chinese food so fancy it no longer tastes like Chinese food.

The long, narrow room is done up in a kind of opium-den chic, with tasselled curtains and satin sofas in raise-the-red-lantern red and black-pearl black. Friendly waiters walk you through a menu that's short on explanations. What is Chin Shan? It means "clear aroma," a waitress says, and involves steaming ingredients at the table with oolong tea poured over hot rocks: "It's like a green-tea facial for food." But lobster and vegetables, lying innocent of all flavor in a bamboo basket, seem none the better for their spa treatment. Such airy nothings are hard to take seriously--a problem for a place with the ambitions, and the prices, of Wakiya. And there are too many revamped versions of Chinese standbys which are less enjoyable than the unvamped originals: Peking duck came with leaves of duck skin, not as crispy as they should be, affixed to prawn crackers. …

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