Monday, October 24, 2011

Modern Chinese

I can forgive the unacceptable wait at Redfarm last night, only because the dumplings were so damned good. The drinks, even for a Chinese restaurant, were a little too sweet--watermelon rum punch that tasted more like a Jolly Rancher; a shiso cucumber martini with too much simple syrup--and by the time our food came we were famished. But still, small plates were an inescapable success. Shrimp and pea shoot dumplings in a thin, steamed skin tasted more of fresh peas than anything else. I mean that as a compliment.

Soup dumplings rivaled those of Joe's Shanghai, whopping, steaming, and filled with pork and broth. Shumai shooters, over a hot orange soup, tasted mushroomy and rich. Smoked cucumbers with sesame seeds almost tasted of meat, they were so rich. A Katz's pastrami egg roll, served with spicy deli mustard, was a Jewish fantasy--Chinese and butcher shop wrapped up into one, hotdoggy treat. A special of pork wrapped around rice, negimaki style, came with stewed and sweet tomatoes and concord grapes. Crispy beef with lotus root and sliced onions was salty and sweet and impossibly crisp, like the best version of General Tso's you've ever had. The only small plate failure came in the form of crisp crab and pork dumplings. They looked good enough, small battered pucks with mayonnaise eyes added on by a playful kitchen. But they maintained their shape from an internally intact crab shell and the pieces of pork were large chunks of fatty belly. We could have passed on the whole thing, even the curry broth dipping sauce.

As for entrees, by the time they came we were ready to throw in the towel. A selection of sauteed mushrooms with baby bok choy was light, delicate, and lovely. A richer platter of lamb and asparagus won my vote for best in show. Fried rice included corn and bean sprouts and snow peas and goji berries, but I had no room left once it arrived. Desserts were throwaways--a lackluster jelly roll with "creme fraiche" whipped cream that tasted only of regular cream; a poached pear over out-of-season fruits. Save room for extra dumplings, instead.

529 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014

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