Note: Chop Suey closed in October 2008.
The chef Zak Pelaccio has come a long way since he was a cult hit at the Chickenbone Cafe in Williamsburg. His fans followed him to 5 Ninth in the Meatpacking District (from whence he later departed), and then to Fatty Crab a few blocks away.
Since then, he has turned his solid reputation into self-parody, cashing in one “consulting chef” gig after another. Chop Suey is the latest of these. It features one of Pelaccio’s trademark multi-Asian menus, along with one of the best views in the city, assuming you find it charming to look out on the bright lights of Times Square. Frank Bruni did, awarding one star in The Times.
Chop Suey is more than just a great view. The Renaissance Hotel did a lovely job with the renovation. The décor is stylish, comfortable, and understated—as it should be when you’ve got the most famous view in America. With only 78 seats, a majority of which were empty at 8:15 p.m. on a Saturday evening, you can actually have a quiet and unhurried meal here.
If only the food matched the view
That assumes the food is worthwhile, which it isn’t. Pelaccio’s menu seems phoned in. That’s the problem with a “consulting chef” who doesn’t stick around to edit out the clunkers, or even to ensure his vision (if he had one) is faithfully executed. We had three appetizers and three entrées between us, and there was only one item I’d recommend. That’s too low a ratio of successes to failures, especially when dinner for three runs to almost $250 (including tax and tip).
Crispy Rock Shrimp (right); Curry Leaf Fried Chicken Wings (right)
Crispy Rock Shrimp($18) would have been unobjectionable, but a bed of stringy, cold, allegedly braised pork belly was just strange. Curry Leaf Fried Chicken Wings ($15) seemed no different to us than the Hooters variety.
Steamed Rice Cakes (left); Atlantic Halibut (right)
If you saw Steamed Rice Cakes ($12) on the menu, would you expect something resembling the photo above? I sure didn’t. I’m a simple guy: “rice cake” implies “rice” and “cake,” and the dish included neither. But it was the evening’s only hit. There were gnocchi in there, along with spicy pickled vegetables and a Korean pork bolognese.
Moving to the entrées, an Atlantic Halibut sous vide ($28) was lovely enough, although boring. I detected none of the promised Prosciutto di Parma, and the clam medley underneath it was pointless.
Ginger Chicken (left); Beef Short Ribs (right)
My son wasn’t fond of the Ginger Chicken ($32), also cooked sous vide, nor of the ginger tempura dumplings that came with it. Beef Short Ribs ($30) were a horror show: sliced too thin, overwhelmed with chili sauce, and not tender enough. We thought it was impossible to ruin short ribs. Now we know better.
The other “consultant” at Chop Suey is pastry chef Will Goldfarb. Perhaps he has done a wonderful job with the desserts…but perhaps not. We weren’t willing to roll the dice again.
With this wonderful space and this gorgeous view, the Renaissance Hotel deserves a far better restaurant than this. It’s time to fire the consultants and start over again.
Chop Suey (714 Seventh Avenue at 48th Street, 2nd floor of the Renaissance Hotel, Theater District)
Overall: Not Recommended