The RedFarm guys have been busy. In the last six months, they’ve renovated their original location in the West Village, run a pop-up steakhouse in the basement, opened a cocktail bar (soon-to-be Peking Duck place), and expanded the franchise to the Upper West Side.
RedFarm UWS (in the old Fatty Crab space) looks just like the flagship, with its exposed barnyard wood, red-and-white checkered upholstery, and digital toilets in the loo. It’s twice the size.
It’s also just as crowded. There was a 20-minute wait at 9:00pm on a Sunday evening, when most Upper West Side restaurants are starting to slow down. Call me old-fashioned, but when you have 82 seats, I think you could take reservations. I predict they eventually will, when the hype dies down. But you have to give the team credit for recognizing that a “downtown restaurant” would work uptown without changing a thing. RedFarm UWS is a hit.
You have to worry if quality will suffer, as chef Joe Ng’s attention is divided across multiple properties. Some of the food didn’t seem quite as carefully prepared as I recall at the original RedFarm. But it is still one of the most original Chinese menus in town, and to the extent I can tell from one visit, very much worth repeated visits.
The menu is divided into four categories: Starters & Salads ($7–19), Dim Sum (4 pieces each, $12–14), Mains ($16–41) and Rice & Noodles ($14–42). There’s a specials menu, reprinted daily, which took the most expensive dish up to $51: a 40-day dry-aged Creekstone Farms bone-in strip steak. The prices aren’t crazy, given the ingredients, but most restaurants in this price range take reservations, and don’t sit such a high proportion of their customers at communal tables.
We could hardly find the dumplings in Five Flavor Chicken Dumplings ($14; above left), a spicy dish that suffered from an excess of peanut sauce.
Crispy Duck & Crab Dumplings ($14; above right) made a better impression. It’s one of those “How’d They Do That?” dishes. Best I can tell, duck and crab meat are stuffed in a crab claw, then breaded and deep-fried. Two of chef Joe Ng’s trademark “pac man” eyes are staring up from each dumpling.
Marinated Pork Chops ($25; above left) are a terrific value, with three pork chops concealed under a vegetable tsunami. The dish might be even better with two thicker chops instead of three thin ones, but it was full of flavor.
Crispy Skin Smoked Chicken ($25; above right) didn’t deliver as much punch as it promised. Compared to chicken dishes that are blowing the doors off all over town, this rendition was a bit limp.
The service model is casual, but owner Ed Schoenfeld (a former maitre d’) has them well trained. They do even the little things that you wouldn’t expect in such a place, like folding the napkin when you leave the table mid-meal. They also drop off the check about 30 seconds after you tell them you’re done ordering, even though you’re still drinking your cocktails, it’s 10:30pm, and the crowds are finally thinning out.
I have my reservations (ahem!) about RedFarm, including only two out of four dishes that really wowed me. In fairness, the two less impressive dishes weren’t bad; they just weren’t commensurate with the chef’s outsize reputation. Despite that, I want to go back, but until they take reservations (ahem!) it might take me a while to get there.
RedFarm (2170 Broadway between 77th & 78th Streets, Upper West Side)
Food: Modern Chinese, creatively interpreted
Service: Casual, but surprisingly polished
Ambiance: Barnyard chic