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Thursday
May282009

CLOSED: Dinner at Philippe Chow Express

 

  • Cuisine: Chinese
  • Scene: Casual, small outdoor seating area, chic space
  • Occasion: 1x1/small group dining, families, lite bites and drinks (pre party), delivery/take-out
  • Price: Wok-fried beef dumplings: $8; Green Prawns: $18
  • Reservations: Via phone
  • Phone: (212) 929-8949
  • Website: http://www.philippechow.com/
  • Location: 469 6th Ave, (Btwn 11th & 12th St)

 

The Friday evening before Memorial Day was slightly eerie for those of us left in the city. It reminded me of the scene from the movie "Vanilla Sky" when Tom Cruise walks through Times Square sans traffic and people. Luckily, my friend Phil was also in town, so we decided to grab a bite in what would surely be a quiet night for restaurants. Philippe Chow had recently opened a small satellite of his haute and swanky 60th Street eatery, "Philippe," in our Chelsea neighborhood. Aptly named "Philippe Chow Express," Phil and I were anxious to dine in a more casual setting for a fraction of the price tag at the Upper Eastside's flagship location.

We arrived at the restaurant just shy of what would normally be considered "prime time" on a Friday evening, 7:45pm. As anticipated, Phil and I were the only patrons, minus the outdoor cafe table occupied by a couple of gents smoking cigarettes and sipping espresso.

We were greeted by a friendly hostess who informed us of the restaurant's ordering process: Read the overhead board or leather-bound menu, place your order (with the hostess), take a seat, and pay at the end of your meal. After I decided on a glass of Riesling, wok-fried beef dumplings and green prawns, Phil and I made our way to a table. "This is a nice space, don't you agree?" Phil asked after we received our wine (once seated, a waiter brings food/drink/refills). Adorned with a color palate of onyx, cherry red and gray, with textures of exposed brick and hardwood flooring, the interior was nothing short of clean and sleek; not something I would have expected from a quick-service joint.

Within 15-minutes of being seated, we received our appetizers. I eagerly took my first bite of the wok-fried beef dumplings (5/order): The skin was buttery and thin with the perfect ratio of crispy to doughy. The beef, however, was overcooked and the dipping sauce that accompanied the dumplings was offensively sour.

Shortly after our appetizer plates were cleared, Phil and I received our entrees. "These aren't prawns! They look more like jumbo shrimp to me. Weird." I said as I observed the green morsel on my fork. "Ew, why are the prawns green?" Phil asked. "Because of the green curry," I said, before taking my first bite, "which clearly does nothing flavor-wise for the dish." While the carrots, water chestnuts, morels and peppers were fresh and crisp, I found the "prawns" fishy and the sauce bland.*Note* Rice comes free with entrees.

Phil and I finished our dinner with an order of red velvet cake, which happened to be the evening's special. "Red velvet cake at an Asian restaurant? Wow. This is going to be interesting," I said. Though my expectations were low, I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious and moist the cake was. But even more shocking was the mild cocoa flavor, which is exactly how this Southern treat is supposed to taste.

Do I see myself returning to Philippe Chow Express in the future? Probably not, as I found the food to be quite bland. However, if you're looking for a Chinese delivery restaurant with healthier and higher quality ingredients, this may be a great option. Though Philippe Chow Express is not a destination restaurant, I found the concept to be innovative for NYC.

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