Fine dining at DaDong NYC
After the rush of the reservation release on Opentable for DaDong's brand new NYC location, I snagged a Chef's Table for opening weekend! Although I am often weary of Chinese fine dining, my friends and I decided it was worth a try. And we went with no expectations except for Peking duck (their star dish) as their website had not yet been finished.
From the entrance to the table, the service and direction was definitely five star. As we sat down in the high-ceilinged and pristine dining room upstairs for the chef's table, I was a bit disappointed it wasn't what you would normally expect for a chef's table - seating by or near the chef. Instead the chef's table is just another table but you are limited to their tasting menu of either five or seven courses.
We started on a low note with their bread service. The bread was like toasted stale bread, and sticking hard slices into a metal stick was not very practical (in fact, the bread was difficult to take off the stick, and we ended up detaching the stick from the wooden board). But the saving grace were the accompanying "spreads", of which my favorite was the chili bean paste. This bread service would have been much improved with some traditional mantou (饅頭), which are plain steamed buns, instead of the toasted bread.
We opted for the five course menu ($130pp), and started out with a beautiful foie gras dish where the ingredients all looked like cherries from afar. But look closer, and two of the cherries are made of foie gras, which was silky smooth!
One of our friends who came along is a vegetarian, and DaDong confirmed they cater to vegetarians when I called in before the reservation to check. So our friend was served these two cherry tomatoes glazed in champagne with some mayonnaise injected inside. Because we had already been served our cherries, we thought the tomatoes were a play on the ingredient as well, but they were just ordinary tomatoes.
The next course was a fascinating squid ink soup with truffle and tofu threads. The truffle overpowered the squid ink; yet, I wiped this bowl clean. The tofu threads kind of reminded me of little worms, but they added necessary texture to this soup. It's an interesting combination that's worth a try, but we all agreed that we could have used a French baguette to go along with it. Meanwhile, our vegetarian friend munched on pickled cucumbers...
For one of the main courses, we were able to choose the sole or the A5 Kobe. Boy am I glad I chose the braised sole fillet, which was one of the best fish dishes I've had using Chinese flavors! I loved how it fell apart at the touch of my chopsticks, and the entire dish had a balance of sweetness from blueberries and spiciness from the peppers.
The A5 Kobe beef, which costs an extra $16, came in two bite size pieces topped with some preserved Szechuan vegetables. It was cooked perfectly, but it did not give me the urge to devour more as I did having the A5 Kobe while in Kobe. I would stick with the sole.
And I completely forgot to photograph the eggplant dish our vegetarian friend consumed. It was the largest vegetarian course he received, and he really loved it!
Then came the Peking duck. As the chefs brought the duck out, everyone stopped eating and stared. Some people even got up to photograph. Thankfully, they were skillfully slicing the glistening ducks right in front of me!
The Peking (roast) duck was the highlight of the night. They definitely perfected the crispy skin, which you dip into sugar. I think the ducks they use here in the US taste different from the ones in China, but this is hands down one of the best Peking ducks I have had on this side of the Pacific.
The duck comes with an assortment of other items for making a wrap, which is the traditional way to eat Peking duck. The duck wrap brought me back to Beijing. The sesame puffs were a bit strange (it was my first time having them with Peking duck), and I definitely prefer the thin wraps. DaDong also gives you the duck legs, which are great! Funny thing was that our table ended up with three legs...
And this is what you get as a vegetarian: steamed veggie buns...
We had the opportunity to have three of their desserts, first of which was a dish of multi-flavored white chocolate shells with mascarpone. This is definitely a love it or hate it kind of dish. Each shell is filled with a different surprise flavor, and the first three I tried were wasabi, nutmeg (which tasted like soap), and pepper. How unlucky of me to start with those, which destroyed my palate a bit. But there were also pure white chocolate and orange ones, which were perfect for dessert! So be careful as you try these!
I absolutely love love LOVED this next dish of mustard, tumeric and truffle cookies with meringues and the most beautiful apricot jam. They should really bottle that jam and sell them because I would definitely pay a premium for it.
And finally, we ended on a dessert representing Central Park that snowy weekend. It was so exquisite with the dusting of powdered sugar over the rich chocolate leaves and candied cherries.
I'll likely head back but beeline for that Peking duck on an a la carte menu.
- Make a reservation. When the reservations were released, they were snatched up right away! But you can go to the bar, where you do not need a reservation, and order food. We saw someone having the roast duck there.
- Order the roast duck. If you are at the Chef's Table, don't worry - they provide different sized ducks based on your party size. It was the perfect amount of duck.
- The Chef's Table reservations do not actually allow you to sit at what you'd think of as a chef's table. In fact, it's the upstairs dining room, and you must order from their tasting menu.
- If you are vegetarian, I would skip the Chef's Table tasting menu... It's definitely not worth the price.
- If I went again, I'd stick with a normal a la carte menu and order the Peking duck (called DaDong SuBuNi Roast Duck).
- Although the address is on Bryant Park, the entrance is actually at the courtyard behind the Whole Foods at Bryant Park.
- Check your credit card bill afterwards. One of our friends was charged twice. Then my husband's charge from their bar (before dinner) had an extra couple dollars added on...