I ate lunch recently at the Chinatown Brasserie with Brian Yarvin, a terrific writer and photography who's just written a fun but substantial A World of Dumplings. More about Brian and his book in another post, because after another phenomenal dim sum meal at Chinatown Brasserie I feel more certain than ever that there are no dim sum chefs in New York (and maybe America) better than CB's Joe Ng. I know I've extolled the virtues of Chinatown Brasserie before, and I don't mean to beat a dead dumpling, but I want more serious eaters to experience Joe Ng's dumplings.
Ng is a dumpling auteur, a dim sum artist, the Matisse of dough. Each dumpling, fried or pan-fried or steamed, is a miniature bit of dumpling perfection. His wrappers are the most delicate imaginable. They're so light they practically levitate off the plate. His fillings are brilliantly conceived and executed, chock full of not overcooked fresh vegetables and succulent meats. You never feel you're biting into a ball of indistinct mush.
Chinatown Brasserie is great for weekday lunch, when it is uncrowded and the dim sum sum selection is quite extensive. Weekend brunch is also a good time for dim sum at the restaurant, but be warned: it is crowded. At dinner the dim sum selection is more limited: "What's there is cherce," to quote Spencer Tracy.
I've also had good Chinese barbecue at Chinatown Brasserie, though I haven't sampled any recently. Yarvin and I had one simple noodle dish after many plates of dim sum, and it was very tasty if not transcendent.
Friends have told me they have gotten major attitude in Chinatown Brasserie when it first opened. I have experienced a little of that, but not recently. I've never had dim sum in Shanghai, but Gail Greene has, and she told me yesterday that Joe Ng's dim sum creations are as good or better than anything she has had there. That's high praise, indeed.
So if you want the best dim sum in New York get over your prejudices about having it somewhere other than one of New York's many Chinatowns, and head to Chinatown Brasseries. It will be significantly more expensive than a Chinatown meal, but Peter Luger's is more expensive than Tad's, and no one complains about that.