by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
April 16, 2008
380 Lafayette St
@ Great Jones St
New York, NY 10003
The more I eat at Chinatown Brasserie, the more I like their dim sum. It has to be some of the best in town. The prices aren’t cheap compared to Chinatown – ironically, the restaurant is not in Chinatown but in the trendier area of NoHo — but I certainly don’t mind paying for good food. Lately, when I crave dim sum or fried rice, Chinatown Brasserie is the first place that comes to mind.
I prefer Chef Joe Ng’s dim sum to the rest of the menu, because everything from the steamed dumplings to the pan-fried goods is just scrumptious.
I always start with the shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings. The steamed roast pork buns are fluffy and the pork juicy. The turnip cake with ham and XO sauce is near perfection with just the right consistency of crispy on the outside and creamy inside. XO sauce is a Hong Kong specialty of dried seafood cooked in chili oil. It makes everything taste good, as proven by another dish, the seafood and pork fried rice with XO sauce. This gogi berry-topped fried rice is spectacular, as the rice stays white and silky smooth, while the seafood and pork add rich flavor and aroma. Plus it’s not overly greasy. The shrimp rice noodle rolls are a staple favorite, and even though I don’t eat the ginger that accompanies, some friends love it.
The highlight for me is always the crispy taro root shrimp. Taro has a neutral flavor but is starchy in its consistency like potato, so the Chinese use it for both sweet and savory dishes. This one is savory and comes in the shape of a bird, served four to a plate. A long, thin piece of baked dough acts as the head attached to the body of the bird. The body is a complex mixture of ingredients that work beautifully together: shrimp are split, stuffed with a shredded mushroom mixture, and then covered with a chilled mashed taro paste. When deep fried, the exterior of the paste turns lacy, like a thousand delicate shreds, which form the body of the bird. And appropriately, the shrimp tail is proudly displayed as the tail of the bird. The sweet mustard sauce is a good complement.
And for the finale, I swear by the custard bao. These tiny bite-size custard-filled buns are dreamy.
This is definitely one of those restaurants where the food is first and foremost. Sometimes I find the service to be a little vacant, but that’s easily overlooked because there are so many dishes I crave. Hooray for good dim sum!