Friday, May 18, 2012

Some Midtown Sichuan at Cafe China

Josh recently invited Thanan and me to his new favorite restaurant of the moment: Cafe China.  New on the scene for a few months, the restaurant recently received two pretty stars from The New York Times, and seemed to be bustling with customers as a result.  Luckily, we did not have to wait too long on a Thursday night to begin our Sichuan feast.

We started with their five spice beef dish, which was served cold.  A large lump of thinly sliced poached beef was served alongside a small dish of dry red spices.

The dish was nothing as we had expected (though who knows what we were expecting), and it was fine.  Appropriately meaty.  A bit salty (maybe good with beer?) and benefited greatly from the spice to add any bit of interest to the dish.  Although none of us rather loved it, we all just kept eating it because it was there, because it was salty, and...because it was there.

We also tried the pork dumplings in chili oil, and these luminous, slippery little buggers were definitely my favorite thing of the night.

Josh struggling with the dumplings under Thanan's watchful eye.

The chili oil was fantastically savory, but slightly sweet and just pure love on my tongue.  Coupled with the perfectly thin wrapper and the juicy pork, I could be happy eating this for days.  

But that'd be boring for you.  So let's move on with our meal!

There was one healthy dish of vegetables in the form of eggplant in garlic sauce.  Tender chunks of eggplant were drowned in thick garlic sauce, the whole dish absolutely mushy in texture but had good flavor.

The cumin spiced lamb appeared as thick cuts of meat, lightly fried and swathed in chili peppers, onions and spices.

The fragrant fish filet, most delicate and moist, was topped high with cilantro and green chili peppers.

The Chungking spicy chicken, which the waiter warned would be very spicy, was not terribly spicy at all, but we suspected the waiter took one look at Josh's pale skin and toned down our order accordingly to his fair pallor.  The chicken was tender and tasty.

Thanan and I ate a bunch, but then we both just sat back for the remaining half hour and watched Josh continue to finish each dish in its entirety.  It was evident that it truly was his favorite dining spot.

Every dish we ordered looked potentially fiery and spicy, but the flavors were actually quite mild and subtle.  I just might be too used to being punched in the face with flavor that I was not prepared for such nuanced dishes, and though I don't find myself clamoring for a return, I still do want to fill my bathtub with that chili oil and immerse myself in its luscious glory.

Cafe China
13 E 37th St
New York, NY
Cafe China on Urbanspoon


  1. This is what's great about food blogs. I would totally order anything called "five spice beef", but now I know not to. The chicken and lamb, though, look amaaaaaazing.

  2. that purple is so beautiful :)