Friday, January 9, 2009

China 1 Wows

I have been fortunate enough to have some pretty incredible dining experiences, especially since starting Miss Menu. Some have been great because of the food. Some have been great because of the atmosphere. Some have been great because of the company. But, when all of those are present at the same time, it's almost like the stars aligning! And, I am thrilled to have had one of those experiences a few nights ago.

I went with some friends to China 1, an antique restaurant and lounge in the East Village. It has been around for a number of years, but recently revamped its decor and its menu, with the welcomed edition of Executive Chef Chris Cheung. We had the chance to dine with owner Andrew Krauss and a few others...and this is only the start of the fantastic dining experience. During a visit to China, Krauss brought back dozens of antiques that now decorate the restaurant, giving it an ambiance that is equal parts authentic and trendy. The main floor has a dozen or so tables for dining, and downstairs is a maze of lounge areas with couches, areas for dancing, and even beds!

Chef Cheung came out to introduce himself, and asked if we'd prefer to order our own entrees, or if we would like to order family-style, in which he'd send out a sampling of the menu. Which do you think I preferred?! Along with each round of food, we were also served a variety of wines imported by Frederick Wildman...each one pairing really well with the food.

Before I go into the food, I should give a quick disclaimer. In the past I have mentioned some of my quirky eating habits (no red meat, no pork, little shellfish), but for the sake of making this the most well-rounded dining experience, I took one for the team and tried some things I'd normally pass on. Not everything, but some :)

Up first were the dim sum/appetizers and Pol Roger Champagne, and we were able to try every one on the menu. Standouts for me were the Shanghai Style Scallion Pancake (served with a deliciously-rich five-spice truffle butter), the Shenjiamen Chicken Dumplings, and the Shanghai Crispy Shrimp and Chicken Spring Rolls. Each were packed with flavor, and impressively made by hand from scratch. We also had Foie Gras-filled Soft Bao Buns, Dragon Soup Dumplings, and Slow Braised Short Rib-filled Crispy Gold Coin.

Already beyond impressed, I was really excited to see what the large plates would be like. And, they certainly did not disappoint. I am always a huge fan of chow fun noodles, and this Wok Seared Chicken and Vegetable Chow Fun was great. The dish was simple and clean with a really light flavor.

My friends said they had heard great things about the Black Cod, and it turned out to be my favorite dish of the evening. It was served char sui-style with jade green bok choy. The cod was cooked perfectly, very light and delicate, and the miso sauce had a really nice sweetness to it. Usually bok choy takes a back seat in a dish, but here it was served front and center, and it was brought a great flavor and crunch to the dish.

You may think I'm crazy, but I skipped the next two dishes. After seeing how much my friends enjoyed them, I asked them to send me their thoughts on the two so I could share them with you. "The filet mignon [with a house-made oyster abalone sauce] was cooked well, and I liked the presentation on the top of pan-fried noodles and asparagus bundles."

"One of the standout dishes for me was the pork ribs," which were smothered in a sweet chili glaze.
We ordered two side dishes as well...as if we really needed more food! The Shanghai Belly Signature Fried Rice featured carmelized pork belly and a fried quail egg. The Fresh Asian Vegetables, which consisted of veggies entirely from the green market and Chinatown, were one of the favorites among the group. They had a great crunch to them and some (but not too much) unexpected heat. All of these dishes were paired perfectly with a Trapiche Varietal Pinot Noir.

Just when we thought it was time to try the desserts, the server came out to tell us that Chef Cheung would like to bring out one of his house specialties...the cooked-to-order duck dish. How could we turn that down?! The Cantonese BBQ Crispy Duck was served on a bao pancake platter along with cucumber slices. It was cooked perfectly, "tender and tasty." The duck dish was paired with a Broquel Cabernet Sauvignon, which really complimented the rich flavor of the meat.

As if that wasn't enough to put anyone over edge, we were still in store for the amazing desserts. Chef Cheung sent out one of each of the desserts on the menu. Such a treat...no pun intended! Each one was better than the next.
Fortune Cookie Sundae with homemade giant Pocky sticks and gold flecks
Cheesecake with Asian Pear Compote

Lychee Custard Cupcake with cannoli and fresh cream

Chocolate Bao Profiteroles with vanilla ice cream

Canton Doughnuts with coffee caramel dipping sauce and a sabayone
Chinese restaurants are not usually known for their desserts. But, these were a fantastic combination of Western techniques and Asian flavors.

My dining experience at China 1 was without a doubt one of my favorites in NYC. The atmosphere had a great vibe, the company was so fun, and the food blew me away. China 1 is perfect for a number of occasions: for creative, upscale Chinese food, for group dinners, for drinks and appetizers, or for a fun night out with friends. China 1 wowed me, and I will absolutely be going back again!

China 1
50 Avenue B
b/t 3rd & 4th Streets
website
Menu Pages listing

1 comment:

Kristen said...

Thanks for sharing your entertaining and informative restaurant adventures! I've passed along the "One Lovely Blog Award" to you on my blog. I look forward to more posts from you!