I really appreciate how Chinese food is finally getting the respect it deserves in New York with “New Chinese” restaurants like Red Farm, Café China, Yunnan Kitchen, Mission Chinese Food, Wong and Xi’an Famous Foods. Okay, so maybe it took a few hungry hipsters with money to get this movement going, but I like where it’s headed. In my opinion, New Yorkers don’t really get Chinese food, but how could they when their perspectives are mostly based off what they see and taste in Chinatown? Don’t even get me started on the rest of America; but hey, not everyone is lucky enough to have lived in China. And sure, most of what’s in Chinatown may be true to what you would find in China, but it’s such a small sample with Cantonese restaurants dominating the scene.
I like this “movement” because it’s modernizing Chinese food by dumping the takeout boxes for quality ingredients, thoughtful décor, attentive service, accessibility, creativity and regional specialties. You no longer have to deal with short-tempered servers and poorly translated menus to eat great-tasting Chinese food. There are now restaurants that care about the entire “experience” but obviously at a premium.
Let me stop my mini op-ed piece right there and actually talk about Red Farm! Firstly, how adorable is this restaurant? The country/industrial design is perfect for this concept and fits well in the funky West Village. Thanks nymag.com and Red Farm for the pics.
Bovalicious (my best eating partner) and I hit the ground running with the Assorted Appetizers (needs a better name)! There was such a variety in flavors and ingredients in each mini dish that whetted our appetites for the following rounds. This pu pu platter is a must! My ocean-loving mouth adored the Oysters with lemon-yuzu ice which was incredibly cold and refreshing with a little twist. The Curried Beancurd was out of this world with its spongy firmness and soft curry flavor. We also loved the Spicy Crispy Beef which might have been more batter than beef, but the sweet and tangy sauce paired with the beef’s crunchy texture was delectable. Let’s not forget the Lobster Salad which laid generous pieces of fresh lobster on top of arugula and dressed with a heavenly peanut/sesame/ginger concoction. Lastly, Red Farm’s Shrimp Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers were some of the best poppers I’ve ever had. These babies were perfectly fried inside and out with deliciously plump shrimp stuffed into them. SUPER NOMZ.
How cute is that Pac-Man? Whoever wrote the menu definitely takes a marketing-minded approach to hospitality and wants to make moolah, because this dish sells itself. The fact that these dumplings were rainbow-colored freaked me out a little, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that each dumpling was plump as hell and freaking delicious. I almost didn’t want to eat the adorable “Pac-Man,” but my curiosity won out – fried sweet potato. Now this is the part that hurts – at $12.50, these high-quality dumplings were not cheap when compared to their $4 counterparts in Chinatown dim sum places. Worth it? Yes!
What is this thing? Katz’s pastrami in an egg roll? Isn’t that sacrilegious? NOOOO. It’s the opposite. It’s holy! Pastrami is the last thing I’d expect from a Chinese restaurant, but Red Farm had many tricks up its sleeve. Close your eyes and just imagine biting into a hot, crispy roll filled with carnivorous delight with just a few drops of dijon mustard dripping down your chin as you attempt to wipe it away. That’s the experience I had with this innovative dish. Read more about it at Reasons I’m Not Vegetarian.
Bova and I were already on a food high when we tried the BBQ’ed “Black Foot” Berkshire Pork Belly. This was seriously some other-world business. I’ve never had pork belly melt in my mouth like that. It was so just damn tender and buttery! I loved the sweet and savory flavors along with the smoky finish. Just one minor thing, the pork was a touch too salty. Just a molecule too salty. Nothing major. Oh pork belly, I love you.
We should have probably stopped there, but if you know anything about either of us, you know there was no way that was going to happen. So we ordered a few even more filling items, one of which was the Soft and Crunchy Vegetable Fried Rice. We needed some vegetables to justify this meal but obviously picked the most filling options available. My pictures don’t do this fried rice justice, but please know that this was some quality fried rice! It definitely did not taste like day-old white rice smothered in artificial flavoring and old veggies.
So this is where our meal should have stopped, right? But since we’re such inquisitive and insatiable fatties, we had to try the Okra and Thai Eggplant Curry for research purposes, of course. I’m so glad we did because there’s nothing like Thai curry regardless of whether it is red, yellow or green. This creamy blend of veggies, Thai basil and some more of that awesome tofu had a spicy kick to it which was perfectly subdued with rice. I could really eat this all day, everyday.
Yay, dessert time! Have you noticed that Chinese restaurants often miss when it comes to desserts (if they have a dessert menu at all)? Chinese people love fruit so you might be lucky enough to get oranges after dinner rather than a fortune cookie. That’s about it unless you’re Chinese and a VIP, then the restaurant might give you red or green bean dessert soup. At Red Farm, the dessert menu named a few Asian sounding ingredients (i.e. ginger) but was almost exclusively “western” in execution. This Chocolate Pudding is the perfect example. It was good but nothing to write home about, and I didn’t really get why it was on the menu. Red Farm, take note! FYI, the best place for Chinese desserts is in Hong Kong, so I won’t even go there in this post.
Be certain that Bova and I rolled out of the restaurant with doggy bags and sizable dents in our wallets. But I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again, IT WAS SO WORTH IT! The beautiful restaurant and attentive service were just icing on the cake for this amazing meal.
Red Farm, I love you