I really appreciate how Chinese food is finally getting the respect it deserves 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? I like this "movement" because it's modernizing Chinese food by dumping the takeout boxes for quality ingredients, thoughtful décor, attentive service, 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.
Firstly, how adorable is this restaurant? The country/industrial design is perfect for this concept and fits well in the funky West Village.
We hit the ground running with the Assorted Appetizers. This pu pu platter is a must! My ocean-loving mouth adored the cold and refreshing Oysters with lemon-yuzu ice. 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 incredibly well. Let's not forget the Lobster Salad which laid generous pieces of fresh lobster on top of arugula dressed with a heavenly peanut/sesame/ginger concoction. Lastly, the 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 in the middle.
How cute are these Pac-Man Shrimp Dumplings? Whoever wrote this menu definitely takes a money-making approach to food, because this dish sells itself. The fact that these dumplings were rainbow-colored freaked me out a little, but each dumpling was plump as hell and freaking delicious. 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. Worth it? Yes!
Katz's Pastrami Egg Roll? Isn't that sacrilegious? 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. There are a few drops of dijon mustard dripping down your chin, but you're not quick enough to wipe it away without getting something on your new shirt. That's the pastrami egg roll for ya!
We were already on a food high when we tried the BBQ'ed "Black Foot" Berkshire Pork Belly. This put us over the top. I've never had pork belly melt in my mouth like that. It was so 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 me and my friends, you know there was no way that was going to happen. We ordered the Soft and Crunchy Vegetable Fried Rice. My picture doesn't do this fried rice justice. It definitely did not taste like the usual day-old white rice smothered in brown sauces and old veggies.
So this is where our meal should have stopped. Instead, we tried 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.
Have you noticed that Chinese restaurants often miss when it comes to dessert (if they have a dessert menu at all)? Chinese people love fruit so you might be lucky enough to score oranges or red bean soup after dinner rather than a fortune cookie. 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. FYI, the best place for Chinese desserts is in Hong Kong, but that's more than a hop, skip and a jump.
Red Farm, I love you :)