When your first hit is a huge success, whatever it may be; restaurant, album, detective novel or sex-position, there’s always that overarching pressure for the second to not only equal it, but be even better (as a second child, I am living proof of this fact). Luckily Philippe Chow, who opened his second restaurant in Manhattan earlier this year has nothing to worry about. It’s already a smash.
It’s been a while in the making, Philippe by Philippe Chow, which sits on New York’s Upper East Side was founded back in 2005 and in its 14 years it’s gained notoriety from the flock of celebrities and influencers who have dined there. They’ve seen everyone from Adam Sandler and Jay-Z to Justin Bieber and Cardi B walk through their doors. And the second restaurant, in the buzzing Meatpacking District, is already attracting fashionable crowds looking to feast on the Beijing dishes late into the night (they serve until 1am at weekends). Which also makes it great for spotting big names, which is probably why Bon Jovi followed us in there when we visited.
Whether or not designer Corbin Plays created the interior specially for the social media likes, expect to see it all over your newsfeed, it’s supremely Instagrammable. Starting with the red neon sign declaring ‘I’m at Philippe Chow’ as you queue up to check-into the subterranean restaurant. Head down a flight of mirrored stairs, twinkling with reflections of the delicate golden features and the gold theme just continues, running throughout the dining room and up onto the ceiling like it’s the home of a Bond villain, or king Midas.
Dimly lit, giving it that intimate but party atmosphere, the restaurant is both chilled and the place to party. We arrived relatively early, but with the DJ booth in sight I can imagine things get a little wilder later on (granny that I am, I was happily tucked up under my eiderdown before it got full-on Ibiza). The tables are adorned with china panda chopstick holders, which I cynically suspect go the way of Sexy Fish’s fish holders and Quaglino’s ashtrays back in London; slyly pocketed to appear on mantelpieces and desks at home. I decided against committing a petty crime in a country with draconian deportation rules on this occasion and started to think about the food.
On the menu you’ll find signature dishes as well as new creations. Classics include salt and pepper lobster; green prawns with stir fried vegetables, green chili and cashews; and the legendary Peking Duck, which is carved table-side and served with freshly made pancakes. We started as any good meal should, with cocktails. Fans of the Moscow Mule will enjoy the MEZmerizer which replaces the vodka with smoky, smooth Creyente™ Mezcal Joven and tastes fantastic for it. Elsewhere on the cocktail list there’s a particularly good Margarita, made with Avión tequila and Cointreau liqueur.
Of course, to accompany the drinks we needed a little something to chow down on, little obviously being a complete understatement (we’re in America, remember). We began with walnut and sesame prawns, a dish of six impossibly plump tempura prawns served with a little cream and candied walnuts coated in sesame. They were so good that my friend, who just so happens to be a vegetarian, was even turned by them, if only for a mouthful. The garlicky vegetable stir fry is also not to be missed, especially if, like me, you live off a diet consisting of mainly cream cheese bagels when in New York.
Philippe Chow’s known for his hand-pulled noodles so make sure you try them, we went for the vegetable lo mein. Likewise their shrimp fried rice was simply excellent, again filled with massive juicy shrimp, and not just little morsels as is too often the way. For those looking for something a little meatier, I highly recommend the slow-roasted pork (technically the ‘slow-roasted pork butt’, but I came over all English and couldn’t bring myself to say it when ordering), served with a sweet honey barbecue sauce and sugar snap peas.
On the topic of sweet things, the puddings are delectable. Somehow you’ll just need to find room. The warm, flourless dark chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream and caramel genuinely is ‘out of this world delicious’, if you’ll pardon the clichè, while the fortune cookie red velvet cake had layer upon layer of moist cake and thick cream cheese icing. We rounded off with a glass of wonderfully buttery Burgundy Chardonnay and left, full and happy… just stopping to pose by the neon sign on the way out – well we needed to Instagram.
Philippe Chow Downtown can be found at 355 W 16th Street (Between 8th Ave & 9th Ave) New York, NY 10011