RedFarm – Chinese Jewish Noshing in the Village

7 Nov

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Would it be this week’s sign of the apocalypse to go to a Chinese-Jewish deli fusion hipster joint in the Village in NYC?

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RedFarm opened last year to rave reviews in NYC, as people were charmed by the shabby chic decor combined with whimsically updated dim sum dishes. The Voice had the perfect quote: “Basically, it’s Chinese for people with money who are scared to go to Chinatown.”

RedFarm, unlike the recent spate of Asian-ish restaurants run by white guys, is actually cheffed by an actually Chinese chef, Joe Ng. OK, the money guy is named Ed Schoenfeld, a non-Chinese guy famous for opening Chinese restaurants for non-Chinese people. Sounds like a potential disaster. But I spoke to Ng briefly and he mentioned that he cooked in LA. Oh? At one of these Asian fusion places? No, at dim sum stalwart, NBC Seafood in Monterey Park. It doesn’t get more legit than that.

The food reflects that experience. The input is typical-for-trendy-places local, seasonal produce and the output is surprisingly typical Chinese flavors.
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Here’s the Pac-Man shrimp dumplings. Cute, right? So clever, perfect for aging hipsters to have nostalgia with their dim sum.

They are delicious, no doubt. What surprised me was how much they tasted like regular shrimp dumplings you’d get at a good dim sum place – like NBC Seafood.

The big difference is that you just paid $12.50 for four dumplings.
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Here’s the long life noodles with crab. Really good, maybe it could use a little salt, but really it is expertly wok-fried and seasoned. But other than costing $27, it is not much different from what you would get at a good Chinese banquet.
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Ah, but here is the revelation, the Katz’s pastrami egg roll. Thick slices of real pastrami, stuffed into some Chinese rice paper and flash fried. Served with a nice spicy mustard, it is an eye-opening blend of ersatz-east and west (Manhattan).

The pastrami and mustard are wonderful. And stuck in the Americanized Chinese food vehicle of the egg roll, you get a dish that is texturally and flavorfully innovative and satisfying.
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Next was the soft shell crab served with a yuzu sauce and eggplant. This was also a pretty successful dish, giving vibrancy to the fried crab with the citrus sauce.
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Unfortunately, the meal ended on a pratfall. Why would you order a dessert at a Chinese place? Maybe the hipster faux-western decor lulled me into thinking these people could bake.

This was some kind of panna cotta. It wasn’t bad tasting. It was just totally generic. If I had gotten this at some hotel rubber chicken dinner it would not have surprised me. There was nothing Chinese about it (obviously). Nothing Jewish deli about it either. What a disappointment.
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I told Ng that I really loved his XO sauce. He told me he was especially proud of it, making it himself from scratch. If you go, you’re going to order the Pac-Man dumplings and the pastrami egg roll, so do yourself a favor and ask for the XO sauce.
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I hope I’ve communicated that the food here is actually really good. It’s delicious, and that egg roll is one of the dishes of the year. It was just a bit of a surprise that so many of the dishes were familiar Chinese food. I guess that’s better than the alternative (and what I expected) – white food masquerading as Chinese food.
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