For six weeks, the editors of New York and Grub Street are publishing a series of definitive lists that declare the absolute best versions of 101 things to eat, drink, and do. When it comes to Chinese food, no dish inspires more passionate argument than the different styles and qualities of that imperial Mandarin delicacy, Peking duck. So consider this highly subjective ranking — which includes lavish nightclub establishments, venerable Chinese restaurant chains, and a small West Village basement operation that serves only duck — our contribution to this ancient ongoing debate.
4. Philippe by Philippe Chow
33 E. 60th St., nr. Madison Ave.; 212-644-8885
There are many reasons not to visit this clamorous Mr. Chow rival (the dim, narrow, noisy rooms; the uneven quality of the menu; the entitled, yammering clientele), but the excellent house Peking duck isn’t one of them. The scallions are a little withered, but the pancakes are just the right size, and the mahogany-colored bird is decadently rich without being too fatty and professionally sliced tableside.
Philippe: T.I. and Tiny feasted on lobster, chicken satay, and pepper prawns; Rick Ross showed up later the same night, though the two rappers didn’t cross paths. Meanwhile, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, in town for the marathon, came in for lunch.
Giants linebacker Danny Clark is hungry for a championship this year. “We have a huge chip on our shoulder. I thought we were one of — if not the best — team in this league a year ago.” After losing to the Eagles in the playoffs last season, “the same guys have come back with a tremendous amount of aggression against all of our opponents, so we’re excited.” When he’s not practicing, Clark hosts Monday-night football at the Ainsworth to support an eponymous foundation for kids, inspired by his son’s premature birth in 2002. And he plays a bit off the field in this week’s New York Diet as well, hanging with G-Unit at Monkey Bar, and taking pleasure in the company of lovely dinner guests at Philippe.
Earlier this week, a Philippe rep scoffed at Mr. Chow’s Miami location for seemingly hiring a Japanese head chef, causing Eva Chow to clarify that the chef, Nick Du, is actually Chinese. Seems Philippe Chow has now thought better of his PR strategy. His rep just sent us this unsolicited statement about his onetime employer turned arch rival: “We wish Mr. Chow all the best in their new venture. There is enough business for all. We welcome Mr. Chow to the Miami market and I’m sure they will welcome us to the LA market in October.” Aww. A very Zen attitude!
Philippe Chow’s people tell us that he’s banning shark-fin soup at his restaurants and urging other Asian restaurants to do the same. (Mako sharks are listed by the World Wildlife Federation as one of the ten most endangered species, along with Beluga sturgeon.) The timing is a little curious — in a recent Guardian rant, Jay Rayner called Nobu owner Richie Notar “spineless” for keeping bluefin on the menu at the insistence of his sushi chefs, albeit (in the case of its London restaurants) with an asterisk suggesting that diners ask for an alternative since the fish is “environmentally challenged.” So is Philippe trying to out-green Nobu, or trying to avoid a similar imbroglio? (The restaurant was on a list of offenders circulated by the Animal Welfare Institute.) Philippe had previously tried to source sharks in “the most environmentally friendly manner” possible, but as the foie-gras demonstrations proved, sometimes that’s just not good enough.