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Saturday
Apr182009

Dinner at Red Egg, 3/21/09

  • Cuisine: Chinese/Dim Sum
  • Atmosphere: modern, attractive (especially for the neighborhood)
  • Attire: casual
  • Ideal for: Chinatown dining in a lovely atmosphere, large parties
  • Must try: n/a
  • Price: Appetizers, most under $8; entrées, all under $20
  • Reservations: Accepted by phone or via: http://www.opentable.com/
  • Phone: (212) 966-1123
  • Website: www.redeggnyc.com
  • Location: 202 Centre St, (At Howard St)

In the five years that I’ve lived in NYC, I’ve never once dined in Chinatown or Flushing, Queens (known for its amazing Chinese food). It’s not that I’m opposed to these neighborhoods, but it seems that every time I’ve had dinner plans in the past, something always fell through.

Red Egg, Chinatown’s newest restaurant, was getting a lot of positive buzz among local foodie blogs and websites. I was intrigued by the fact that its fusion menu incorporated both Chinese and Peruvian cuisines.

Inconspicuous from the outside, Red Egg’s interior could not have been more chic, modern and sexy. Upon our arrival, the restaurant was at 50% occupancy. Emily, Deidre and I were seated immediately at a large circular booth with plenty of purse, coat, elbow and leg room.

A waiter promptly greeted our table and supplied us with dim sum, dinner and cocktail menus. It didn’t take us long to decide that we’d each split two appetizers and two main courses. To whet our palates, we ordered Shanghai Steamed Juicy Dumplings (soup dumplings) and the Lettuce Wraps with minced chicken (made famous at P.F. Chang’s). We chose Garlic Jumbo Shrimp, General Ching’s Chicken and an order of vegetable fried rice as entrees. (Typically, I would have ordered much more adventurously, but my fellow diners had more conservative tastes.)

The appetizers arrived simultaneously and were attractively presented. After preparing an iceberg lettuce “cup” with minced chicken and a hoisin-like sauce, I eagerly grabbed a dumpling and began my meal. While I appreciated the delicate thickness of the dough, I found the pork filling of the Shanghai Steamed Juicy Dumplings to be flavorless and bland. Emily and Deidre took one bite of their dumplings and didn’t finish the rest. The lettuce wrap, on the other hand, was flavorful and had a nice textural balance between the crunchy lettuce and the warm, chewy minced chicken. However, I hate to say this, but I prefer P.F. Chang’s version. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I felt that this appetizer was lacking creativity and was a “safe menu choice” for the gringo.

Shortly after our appetizer plates were cleared, the entrees arrived. The vegetable fried rice was quite ordinary and mediocre. It could have been warmer, moister and to be quite honest, a little bit oilier. General Ching’s Chicken was nothing more than batter fried chicken fingers dressed in a cornstarch-rich sweet and sour sauce. The best part of the dish was the fresh, crispy bell peppers that dotted the plate. The Garlic Jumbo Shrimp was my favorite entrée of the two, which really doesn’t say much. I took solace in the meaty, amply-sized shellfish drenched in a sauce that hardly had any garlic notes. By the time we paid our bill and left the restaurant, there was only one other occupied table (note that this was at 10p.m. on a Saturday night).

I am fully-aware that this review sounds brutal, but to be fair, I’ve concluded: Don’t go to Chinatown and waste your meal ordering Americanized Chinese food. Choose adventurously and ask the waiter for recommendations based on your protein of choice. On a positive note, Red Egg’s service was excellent, the pricing was reasonable and the room was lovely. I fully intend to return, perhaps solo, and take a more creative approach to ordering.

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