The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

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    The best dim sum chef in New York? Joe Ng of Chinatown Brasserie

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | January 5, 2008

    Chinatown Brasserie Executive Chef Joe Ng

    So this morning I woke up for a photo shoot for a magazine which is going to excerpt The Fortune Cookie Chronicles (yay! though why they want a fancy photo of the author to go with the excerpt, I’m not so clear about.) The photographer they assigned was Melanie Dunea, who has done an impressive range of work for magazines and notable people and is also author of My Last Supper, where she asked 50 chefs what their last supper on earth would be. (See the Charlie Rose interview and the New Yorker Talk of the Town)

    So the whole thing turned out to be quite (from my experience) a significant production — involving not only Melanie, but two assistants and a hair/makeup person, Nikki Wang.

    Nikki is interesting because she is fifth generation Chinese in Japan, but her family is from Kinmen/Jinmen/Quemoy, the small but strategically important Fujianese island that my family is from (no one is ever from this island, so it’s really rare to meet someone, much less a fifth-generation Chinese-Japanese woman). So we had a moment.

    It was held at Chinatown Brasserie, where my author photo was shot by Nina Subin. Chinatown Brasserie is a great visual backdrop because they have a lotof Chinese-y but not cheesy decor elements.

    Anyway, the executive chef, Joe Ng, came out to greet us. I haven’t seen Joe for over a year and a half. But has often been referred to as “the best dim sum chef in New York City.” He used to work at World Tong in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where he was originally discovered by Ed Schoenfeld, who consulted on the Chinatown Brasserie menu. Joe was hired as a dim sum chef and promoted to executive chef last March.

    What is interesting is how the dim sum menu changed from World Tong to Chinatown Brasserie. The Chinese are really into texture (what they call kou gan, or “mouth sensation”) and not as much into flavor. But Americans are into flavor, and are scared of weird textures (jellyfish, white fungus, bamboo pith).

    There are lot more dumplings and rolls in the Chinatown Brasserie menu. So the dim sum menu is not cheap (easily more than twice what you pay at Jing Fong or Golden Unicorn), but it very good and the environment is nice.

    The good thing is that you can tell Joe to make things that are not on the menu.

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