Happy Year of the Dragon! In celebration, I shall be posting about one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in the city, Philippe. Yes, it's trendy, and most people write it off as a destination for scenesters or for celebrity spottings (I must admit, I always look out for Knicks players when I'm there), but regardless, there is definitely some high quality duck at this joint (even Kobe Bryant agrees).
It makes sense to be wary of Chinese restaurants that are anywhere north of Canal Street or where the average meal goes for $69 a person (Zagat's stats, not mine), but there are quite a few gems uptown, such as Grand Sichuan, that are worth the trip. Keep in mind, Philippe is definitely not the place to go if you're looking for a traditional Chinese meal (exception being the Peking duck) or a cheap eat. Most dishes are catered to the American palate and differ greatly from what you would expect from more authentic Chinese establishments.
With that said, for starters, definitely try the chicken satay. The name is deceiving because it's not actually in satay sauce, but the superbly tender carrot marinated chicken (the color of the chicken is an intense orange) is served in this delightful cream sauce that I find myself dipping the rest of the appetizers I order in.
The vegetable spring rolls are also very good and are served above addictive crispy seaweed.
Whenever I dine at Philippe, which I must confess is at least every other month, my main course is always the Peking duck. There is no need to order other entrees, because this in it of itself is filling and extremely satisfyingly enough. (Note, ask for the duck the moment you sit down, because they're made to order. Also, it can serve 2-4 people.) How do I begin to explain? I've had quite a few Peking ducks in my life before, including in Beijing, but none of them have been quite as life changing or memorable.
The Peking duck at Philippe's is served with thin house-made skins (literal translation, emphasizing the need for thinness)/pancakes that are the size of your hand and are perfect for one slice of duck with sweet sauce and some scallion and cucumber garnishes. The pancakes are just thick enough to withhold the sauce and the duck without ripping, yet not too thick to overpower the texture or flavor of the crispy duck. Do not take this for granted, for many restaurants serve pancakes the size of plates or buns (which are good, but I find small thin pancakes are better for duck. I prefer buns for roast pig).
The duck itself is crispy, juicy, and not dripping with fat. This is because, according to Philippe Chow himself, they use this air compressor that heats the duck, and they roast it vertically so that all the oil drips out (this may be the worst explanation recall ever, someone please correct me). Whatever it is, it is delicious.
Thanks to Philippe, I can no longer eat Peking duck anywhere else in Manhattan (also because Peking Duck House in Chinatown seats all Chinese people in the basement, so I refuse to dine there ever. Truth.) and I now have ill Peking duck cravings, which makes Philippe the go-to place every time I'm back in New York.
33 East 60th Street
New York, NY