Entries in Chris Cheung (2)


Cherrywood Kitchen


Note: I had my doubts about the viability of this place, and it turns out they were justified. Cherrywood closed in August 2013 after less than six months in business. Hudson Square has been very tough for restaurants, and even by that neighborhood’s standards, this place was poorly located and not enough of a crowd-pleaser.


Cherrywood Kitchen is a cute new neighborhood spot that could bring good food and great fun to an area that has been historically under-served.

A lot of restaurants have struggled to find a following here, in Hudson Square, the neighborhood bounded by the Holland Tunnel, Houston Street, Sixth Avenue, and the Hudson River. Some people call the area West Soho, but it’s far enough west that people don’t tend to wander over without a good reason.

Cherrywood’s entrance, on a side street, isn’t ideally placed. You’re not likely to stumble upon it. Once you get there, you’ll probably enjoy it. The cuisine isn’t meant to be pathbreaking, but a couple of dishes have the potential to be knock-outs.

The owners have gone all-in on the cherry wood concept, which features not only in the cooking but also the décor. Inside, it isn’t quite as red as the photos (above) would suggest, but the space could use a dash of whimsy.

The publicity materials emphasize chef Chris Cheung’s apprenticeship at Nobu and Jean Georges, but more recently he’s taken turns at quite a few other places, including a stint at Monkey Bar (pre-Graydon Carter), and the short-lived WallE with the Chin brothers. He has been, perhaps, ill-served by some of these projects.

The eclectic menu here is concise and takes a decidedly populist bent, with dishes labeled snacks ($5–14), small plates ($11–14), large plates ($21–46), sides ($5–8), and desserts ($8–11). The cuisine spans many cultures while being beholden to none; an Asian accent is detectable at times, not a surprise given the chef’s background.

With such dishes as Salmon Head Salad and Eel Stuffed Freshly-Killed Chicken, he’s not afraid to challenge the diner, though many other dishes are far more straightforward (braised lamb shoulder, smoked ribs). Most of the entrées are under $30. They are, in general, not unreasonably priced for the area, but a $21 burger strikes me as audacious.


The house-baked ciabatta, the size of a large grapefruit, with blue cheese butter (above left), is a highlight, instantly entering the pantheon as one of the best bread services in town. Lobster Tacos ($14; above right) offer a crunchy snack, although I wanted more flavor out of the lobster.


I’m a sucker for appetizers that feature freshly poached eggs, and this one ($14; above left) didn’t disappoint, here served with smoked asparagus and a generous helping of Serrano ham. The table gave nods of approval to the Garlic and Shallot Soft-Shell Crabs ($26; above right) with baby artichokes.


“Fresh-killed” chicken has been turning up on menus lately. (Jeff Gordiner, in a piece for The Times, explained exactly what that means.) At Cherrywood, perhaps more notable than the chicken’s death certificate is the eel stuffed under the skin, which imparts a terrific smoky flavor.

A side of French Fry Ends ($7; above right) with a bacon crumble sounded better than it was. Better eaten with a spoon than a fork, it needed a binder, perhaps cheese, to prevent its constituent parts from rolling away.

The wine list is a typical starter set of about 20 bottles (per the website; I think it was fewer when we visited). If you’re at the bar, order the excellent sangria (normally $12/glass, although we weren’t charged).

The restaurant was not crowded, although a Wednesday evening, at a restaurant that was only about a week old at the time, is hardly an indication of a typical crowd. We were treated well: it’s only fair to note that I was recognized.

The chef’s experiments aren’t all successful, but there are enough hits to make Cherrywood Kitchen well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Cherrywood Kitchen (300 Spring Street, west of Hudson Street, Hudson Square)

Food: An eclectic American menu with global accents
Service: Friendly, enthusiastic
Ambiance: A handsome, dark-wood look; a comfortable space




Note: WallE closed without fanfare in February 2012. It never caught on, and my 1½-star rating was probably a half-star too high.


I have fond memories of Chin Chin, the upscale Chinese restaurant in East Midtown where we held the rehearsal dinner before my wedding. The marriage didn’t work out. The meal was fabulous.

Last year, Wally Chin, who co-owns Chin Chin with his brother Jimmy, announced he’d be opening a modern Chinese place nearby. It was delayed almost a year while he dealt with health problems, before opening in March.

He calls it WallE (wall–EE), a play on Mr. Chin’s first name. Or, to give the full name, WallE Restaurant & Lounge. The website plays up the “lounge” aspect of it, which might not be a wise choice. There’s a casual front room with a TV behind the bar that’s tuned to ESPN, and a more formal dining room where we were initially seated. There was a loud private party, so we asked to move up front, where not many tables were taken.

The chef, Chris Cheung, has worked at a bunch of Chinese/Asian restaurants, and even Graydon Carter’s Monkey Bar. His menu here is Chinese with American inflections: thus, there’s a burger sandwiched between scallion pancakes, and buns with foie gras.

You will eat like a king, for not very much money. “Small plates” (heaven forbid they call them appetizers) are $7–16, “large plates” (entrées) $16–29, rice dishes $12–19, side dishes $4–9. It’s not cheap the way Chinatown is cheap, but it’s not bad at all for a good midtown address.

Portions are huge, starting with a superb bread selection (above left) that, for me, could be dinner most nights all by itself. Likewise a Pu Pu Platter ($10 per person; above right) with an assortment of lobster rolls, dumplings, and rock shrimp.


The aforementioned burger ($16; above left), made from Pat LaFreida dry aged beef, has a compelling, smoky flavor. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s enormous: I ate just half. Shoestring fries that came with it (above center) were pretty good.

A hefty portion of tender Baby Back Ribs ($23; below left) came with a huge side of macaroni & cheese (above right) that we barely touched.

It is a pity that we had almost no room for a rice dish we shouldn’t have ordered, Shanghai Belly ($12; above right) with three luscious hunks of pork belly and a fried egg. The small taste I had of it was wonderful.

The minimal wine list is adequate, though certainly not a draw on its own. The cocktail menu features the likes of a Mai Tai and drinks that end in “–tini” without the “mar–” prefix. Service was good, but the server ought to have advised us that we had ordered far too much food.

I don’t deduct points for décor I dislike, but I found the space sterile and charmless. The restaurant seats 120, but it has a “big box” feel that might have been fashionable about ten years ago. It is as if Mr. Chin were regurgitating decorating ideas that were cool for 15 minutes in 2002, and that he were utterly oblivious to anything that has happened since.

WallE may ultimately succumb to an identity crisis. The owner wans to appeal to the “lounge” crowd, but the space is far too passé for that to work. The chef hopes to serve modern, “interesting” food (and largely succeeds), but the people who’d be attracted to it might find the lounge vibe off-putting.

WallE (249 E. 53rd Street near Second Avenue, East Midtown)

Food: *½
Service: *½
Ambiance: *
Overall: *½