Tonight I went to the grand opening party for a new restaurant on the second floor of the Renaissance Hotel in Times Square called Chop Suey. The consulting chef for this new venture is Zak Palaccio who brought us the Fatty Crab, one of my favorite NYC restaurants.
I heard about the party, but actually wasn't personally invited. I knew it wouldn't be a problem getting in for I have met Zak many times, and could always rely on my magic to get me in. When I walked in the front door of the ground level of the hotel a gal immediately asked if I was going to Chop Suey- I guess I dressed the part. I took the elevator up to the Lobby level to find a typical hotel lounge area with a bar. Pass this bar/lounge area was the restaurant.
The restaurant is a big square place with large windows overlooking Times Square. The view is great and I can forsee this as another big tourist spot, like everything else in Times Square. One cool aspect of the decor was the lights on the ceiling were shaped like shells. There were also leather orange chairs that I found unique. The decor resembles the food- playful and fun.
Since this was the opening party I was able to have the opportunity to taste many of the dishes that will be offered on the menu. The tasting menu of the night consisted of Scallion Pancake with Asian Pear Moustarda, Short Rib with Sakura Cress Salad, Tofu Hot Pot, Rice Cakes, Char Siew, Roasted Wild Mushroom, Seared Mackerel, Fish Dumpling Soup, Roasted Shishito Peppers, Popcorn Shrimp with Pork Floss and XO Sauce, and Curry Leaf Chicken Wings.
I didn't get to try everything that was listed on the menu, but I did try a fare share (by positioning myself by the kitchen door.) I was able to get a nice sneak peak into what this restaurant is and will become.
I thought the addition of the asian pear moustarda to the scallion pancakes was a nice touch that gave the pancakes a nice sweetness to them, although I would have preferred them to be crispier. This was 'party' food, so I assume the quality will be better when it is made to order.
The roasted shishito peppers were interesting for they came topped with a little tuna bottarga, giving a great balance of saltiness and spiciness.
The short rib with sakura cress salad was fine. I enjoyed the texture contrast with the crunchy salad and the juicy short rib.
The flavors of the popcorn shrimp with pork floss and XO sauce were excellent. There was a nice balance of sweetness and hotness.
I really enjoyed the Roasted WIld Mushroom Congee which came with pine nuts and pickled garlic. It had a very mushy texture which was unique and interesting.
The Curry Leaf Chicken Wings were also excellent. They were juicy and tender, and had a nice touch of saltiness to them.
One standout that was not listed on the tasting menu of the night was the Oyster and Bacon lettuce cup. This was a fried oyster topped with bacon and kim chi on a piece of crisp lettuce. I thought the balance of textures and flavors were great. This dish encompassed the essence of this restaurant-fun and flavorful.
I asked Zak how he would categorize this cuisine - was it Korean? He said it was "East Asian". I asked him what inspired him and he stated that he just got back from Seoul when he was asked to do the concept of the restaurant- he wanted it to be fun. And judging from what I had tonight, I think he is on the right track.
All the little tastes I had were definitely playful, flavorful, and fun to eat. I'm not sure I could forsee this as a dining destination, nothing really blew my mind, but if you are in the Times Square area looking for a unique and fun bite, Chop Suey could be a good spot.
714 7th Avenue (Second Floor of the Renaissance Hotel-bet. 47th and 48th St.)
New York, NY 10036