China Grill: Diverse Restaurant Week Menu Disappoints

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Upon graduation from college in upstate New York over 2 years ago, NYC Food Guy jumped head first into the downstate food scene as soon as I returned home. When my first Winter restaurant week rolled around I was pretty disappointed to find so many boring menus from so many great places. China Grill, however, offered a diverse family style menu that sounded promising. The meal turned out to be pretty awesome. For the requisite $35 per person we feasted. Two years later, I decided to hit China Grill again, for lunch this time. Unfortunately, the food, full of potential, fell flat.

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Sake marinated “drunken” chicken with ponzu sauce, sweet crispy onions and Asian slaw. Find out what went wrong after the jump.

Excited by the prospect of spreading the love through several different dishes, Mark Lewis and I were disappointed to find that the Restaurant Week Deal allowed us to choose two appetizers, just one entree, and just one dessert. So instead of having some sweet soy marinated skirt steak in addition to “drunken” chicken for our entrees we went with the chicken alone.

Let’s rewind to the appetizers for a second.

We chose the Crackling Calamari Salad with lime miso dressing… china-grill-calamari-salad-compressed.jpg

and the Spicy Beef and Scallion Dumplings with soy ginger sauce:

china-grill-dumplings-compressed.jpg

I had the Calamari Salad two years ago. I knew what to expect and remained as unimpressed as I was last time. Calamari is a very unexciting dish in my opinion; it’s fairly tasteless pieces of fried stuff. At least at an Italian place you sometimes receive some good sauce for dipping.

In the end, though, China Grill’s calamari is actually pretty good because the batter is light. Unfortunately it was overly salty making the all ready citrusy salad dressing a little more acidic. Not a gentle way to start a lunch.

The dumplings were tasty, nothing amazing. They seemed to be hand folded but the the soy ginger sauce dominated the dish, overpowering the tiny bits of beef encased within the pockets of dough.

Back to the “drunken” chicken:

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The presentation of this dish put a smile on my face but once I dug in to a hearty bite of the crispy onions, slaw, and chicken, my smile turned to a frown of mediocrity. The chicken was cooked well but the skin was fatty but not very crisp. At least make the outer skin nice and crispy if there’s a layer of fat beneath.

The sweet crispy onions would have been a solid touch if they weren’t pre-made and cold.

The Asian slaw was a boring mix of yellowy lettuce, some slivers of red pepper, and an surprising tinge of sliced ginger, the same kind you would get at a sushi restaurant. The ponzu sauce was spare and nothing impressive.

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I would strongly recommend going with the sweet soy marinated skirt steak over the chicken.

On to dessert, a chocolate hazelnut torte:

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This might have been the most disappointing part of the entire meal. The slice of cake was obviously pre-cut and pre-arranged because the entire plate was cold. I didn’t even taste the hazelnut and instead detected a flavor of espresso. The icing in the middle, while thick and sweet was also nothing special while the drops of sauce around the plate (lemon and raspberry) added nothing to the dish.

In the end, Mark and I ended up dropping around $36 dollars each after tax and tip. The only extras we ordered were a side of white rice and my soda. This from a meal that was supposed to be $24.07. The mistake we made was not ordering off the real menu, something I did do two years ago and looking back was the best decision of that night.

For 29 extra dollars my friend Brian and I chose the Lobster pancakes stir fried with wild mushrooms, red chili, scallions, and coconut milk ($29). Even though the price of the appetizer alone is almost more than my entire lunch was, it would have been well worth it. It was a transcendent dish, filled with thick pieces of lobster and covered in a sauce that was delicious enough to use a spoon to wipe the plate clean. I strongly recommend if you do go to China Grill, for restaurant week or not, that you get those Lobster pancakes.

China Grill

60 W. 53rd St. (b/t 5th and 6th)

New York, NY 10019

(212) 333-7788

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