Um, wow. Where to begin with this one? Well just to get some of the nice things out of the way (because girl, this one’s not going to be real positive I can tell you that right now!):
The layout and decor of Mr. Chow – TriBeca were pleasant, and the various servers and attendants were friendly and helpful. I never found myself wanting a drink to be refilled, nor did our server ever make it seem like we were anything other than normal [non-restaurant week] patrons.
Other than those minor points, wow this place is dukes.
First of all, yes, I did mention restaurant week. And not that I haven’t already pointed this out numerous times, but just to make it that much clearer let me posit that just because it is a week where you advertise menu specials does not also mean that the quality of the food should suffer as a result. Ostensibly the point of restaurant week is to excite diners who probably wouldn’t otherwise think of coming to your restaurant. So then why does it always seem like these restaurants aren’t even trying? It’s not a lunch versus dinner thing. It’s not a full versus empty thing. It is apparently a “we probably don’t need to try very hard because most people won’t notice anyway” vs. a “hey, maybe we could lock in some extra lifetime customers with this one-off menu special” thing.
I love how the presentation at Mr. Chow is “family style” yet still served on these atrociously small platters. Had I ordered a single portion of pot stickers, would there have been two dumplings? Crazy.
I do like how the waiter asked the three of us what we didn’t want to order out of the four options, instead of the converse. Thank you for making us that much more efficient, nameless old waiter dude.
We went for the aforementioned pot stickers (which as you can see were plated together in an interesting latticework of what looked to be pan-fried dumpling dough), chicken satay, water dumplings, and “Mr. Chow noodles,” which were simply udon noodles with a chunky beef barbecue gravy of sorts. It’s not that I picked a piece of hair out of my dumpling, or the noodles were swimming in salt, it’s just that everything was layered in the unmistakable air of I could totally get better take-out Chinese than this.
And herein lies the problem with Mr. Chow, and perhaps this is obvious to everyone else, but it’s not the early 1980’s, and we’re just not dazzled by Chinese food anymore. I mean, I certainly didn’t think that in 2011 the original mystique of Mr. Chow had remained. Rather, I assumed all of the dishes were being updated on a seasonal basis with new techniques and interesting ingredients. You know, like maybe the name of the dish is still “Mr. Chow’s Wild Daikon Surprise,” but the techniques and ingredients have evolved. Otherwise, why do people come here? Though it pains me to say this, I do sort of wish a truffle foam was thrown in here or a dash of spherized dragon fruit in there.
After our empty appetizer plates departed, I noticed that every time a group of women walked by with their drinks from the bar, the nearest waiter would kindly grab their glasses and separately bring them to their table. This happened over and over again, and sometimes the waiter would pile upwards of eight [full] glasses in his arms. Odd. Men were never given the same courtesy, if one can call it that. If someone can explain this to me I’m all ears.
Next arrived our main courses: spicy pork, “Beijing chicken,” and green prawns. Good god were they horrendous. The “prawns” were laughably small and green only in the sense that they were swimming in some indeterminate gelatinous green sauce. Why did I read “green prawns” on the menu and imagine some sort of giant exotic grilled spot prawn. They seriously tasted like they had been cooked, frozen, and then reheated again. The spicy pork was not very spicy, and for whatever reason the hot sauce originally presented with our appetizers was now gone from the table. The chicken was perhaps the most blatant disaster in the sense that I can and have had far better at any number of Chinese restaurants, not to mention take-out. Even though the “family style” platters were tiny, as previously mentioned, no one finished any of the second courses.
Finally, we were presented with dessert, which consisted of two berry sorbets and a vanilla or panna cotta-like ice cream. That is to say, there was one scoop of each for the three of us. Really, Mr. Chow? Really? Would it seriously have been such a stretch of your resources to include a little more fucking ice cream? Once again I have to ask, had there been only one of us, how much sorbet would have arrived? OK so they were in fact pretty good…which is not saying much since they obviously weren’t prepared by the chef!
And on a totally unrelated matter, their website blows. I’m not even giving first billing.