For the last big foodie group dinner of 2013 (the previous one was at Resto), we decided to go to the newly opened upper west side location of Red Farm. Even though a couple of critics have gushed over the entrees, I wanted to focus on the dim sum since I was so fond of Joe Ng's work at (now closed) Chinatown Brasserie. But it wasn't enough for us to just have a meal at Red Farm, so we decided to try EVERY SINGLE PIECE of dim sum on the menu.
There were a couple of food bloggers in attendance, including Katie from donuts4dinner.com (her blog post with prettier pictures here). The dim sum was usually 4 to an order, but they had no problem adding individual pieces at a pro-rated price. There's a lot of dim sum to cover, so let's go through them before I offer my final thoughts.
Much like how I remembered them from Chinatown Brasserie, Joe Ng's dim sum here at Red Farm is beautiful and exquisite. The vegetables had a nice crunch but there wasn't really enough for their flavors to stand out.
The exterior was lovely with a shattering crisp, while the pastrami tasted good without any oily mouth feel that most generic egg rolls tend to have.
The addition of peanuts inside the dumplings was really interesting and enhanced the already crunchy texture of the vegetables.
I'm not big on mangoes, but the sauce was good and the wontons were fried nicely. Still not a combination that I would have thought of or am particularly eager to try again, though.
This was the closest thing to a pure har gow on the menu and the best showcase of Ng's skills. The skin was delicate and the shrimp filling had good flavor and snap to its texture. While I really liked the dim sum at Hakkasan, I found the individual pieces too big and preferred the smaller, more delicate pieces at Red Farm.
This was a great dish, but it wasn't really dim sum even with the presence of dumplings. In fact, I thought the dumplings were more of an afterthought as the curry sauce with onions, scallions, and vegetables was really delicious.
There was actual lobster meat and the cheese was mild in the form of a cheese sauce. In terms of lobster in small tube form, the ones at Betony were far superior at a comparable price.
This was an interesting combination, as the crab provided a nice sweetness to contrast the richer duck flavor. The crispy fried exterior helped bring it all together, and the presentation was excellent, with the pointy shell end of a crab claw being used as the tail of a stingray.
‘PAC MAN’ SHRIMP DUMPLINGS (4) $12.5
More shrimp dumplings in cute form, but the highlight may have been the "pac man" made of fried sweet potato stood in place by some guacamole. It was a good way to switch things up.
I think the inside was pork belly, which did not really work in this type of bun. I would have preferred the more traditional, greasier style, with a thicker, crunchier crust. They were also really tiny.
PORK AND CRAB SOUP DUMPLINGS (4) $14
These are some of the best soup dumplings in NYC. This was the closest I've seen in NYC to the delicate thin skin at Din Tai Fung. The soup was rich in porcine flavor without being greasy, and had a noticeable crab flavor.
These did indeed arrive on a skewer, although I don't know what purpose it served. This was the only item on the menu that were essentially shumai, and it was good version with a springy texture to the meat mixture and whole shrimp.
The dumpling had good lamb flavor and was pan fried well. The broth itself was a decent miso soup, but I didn't quite feel that putting them together enhanced anything.
These were good, and my main takeaway was that jalapenos are a great pepper to use for stuffed pepper dim sum.
This was the best bite of the night. The duck breast was tasty, and the grilled lychee provided a good foil for the richness while not being too sweet. As one whole bite, the mixture of meat and juice from the grilled lychee was perfect, enhanced by the crunch of the lotus chip.
Even though we ordered seconds of certain dumplings, we still needed rice to have any chance of being full. This was overall very tasty, and the assortment of textures from the vegetables was very pleasing. However, it felt more like vegetables over fried rice rather than vegetable fried rice.
The server upsold this chocolate pudding with a hard sell. While it was a good pudding, it wasn't anything special or must-have.
The dim sum here are some of the best in NYC. They are delicate and well-made, and come thoughtfully with a wide variety of sauces. However, the only feeling I got out of my meal at Red Farm was that it was expensive. Much of that feeling wasn't actually in regard to the food, although the sizing was a bit precious. It was the fact that we had to sit at a communal table and felt rushed the whole time. Servers would come around to remove plates very frequently. What's the point of having a unique sauce for each dim sum (some of which were truly excellent, such as the curry sauce with the five flavor chicken dumplings) if a server keeps rushing over to take the plate away before it's empty? I could understand it if I was in Chinatown paying half the price.
Contrast that with Hakkasan, a Chinese restaurant that has continually been criticized for being too expensive. The prices are actually comparable if you don't order the most expensive items, but you get to sit very comfortably in a beautiful space with excellent service. I get the idea of paying a premium for that entire experience at Hakkasan, while I find it hard to justify the Red Farm prices, even without including the server upselling us $8 pudding. So while I've rediscovered Joe Ng's excellent dim sum here, it just makes me miss Chinatown Brasserie, which was the best of both worlds, even more.
2170 Broadway (between 77th St & 76th St)