I’m impervious to the elusive charms of Restaurant Week, having had exactly one experience with the promotion seven years ago at Odeon, a month after the World Trade Center attacks. Not that 9/11 had anything to do with my meal but that’s my mind’s association with Restaurant Week. All I recall is that we didn’t end up ordering off the three-course menu and I’ve always had the perception since that one may as well just eat regular food any time during the year and be free of restraints.
With that said, I went to Chinatown Brasserie Friday based on an extended Restaurant Week promotion. Unfortunately, the version of the menu I’d seen online had peking duck as an entrée choice but this was absent in practice. Damn them. We just ended up ordering the bird flat out since that’s what we had wanted and supplemented the feast with a few dim sum treats.
Despite the cavernous packed-to-capacity room at 8pm on a weekend, we were given an unusually spacious corner banquette on the slightly elevated floor to the left. I point this out only so that people don’t think I only whine about cold, cramped tables. I was very impressed, and being me, half-suspicious over the desirable seating arrangement.
Initially, I missed the googly eyes adhered to the shrimp and pea shoot dumplings. At least I think the black specks were intended to create a face. To me, these screamed elephant—that crease is totally a trunk, right? James was unable to see the pachyderm in these plump, very fresh and green-tasting pockets.
These were heartier, both in dough thickness and filling. The lamb potstickers went so fast I can barely remember them. I can justify a $9 appetizer no problem, but I’ll admit it’s hard to suppress thoughts of what regular dim sum costs in comparison. I’ve never had a lamb dumpling (or eyes painted on my wonton wrappers) in Chinatown, though.
So, the peking duck was pricey at $48, but quite good and we still spent less (on food, those glasses of Riesling and Huckleberry Finns—rum, huckleberries and mint—add up) than if we’d each ordered the $35 Restaurant Week menu. The skin was super crisp and the dark meat was rich without any greasiness. Still scarred from a paltry half-serving of duck in Beijing, we always make sure to get enough now. Thankfully, the portion was just right split between two, enough to be decadent but not sickening, and the pancakes matched the amount of poultry so no naked duck had to be consumed.
Chinatown Brasserie * 380 Lafayette St., New York, NY