Phillipe Chow is more like a club than a restaurant. All around me the other night were regulars who dine often at this friendly place and there was a constant buzz of table hopping and exchanges. The couple at the next table proudly reported coming three times a week, sometimes more, and usually eating the same dish, chicken satay for her, and Beijing chicken with walnuts for him.
The chicken satay is a house specialty, slabs of bright red chicken on skewers, painted crimson with Chef Phillippe Chow’s secret recipe pink cream dressing, not your usual peanut sauce. The Beijing Chicken comes as an overflowing plate of brown-robed chicken hunks, looking like a portion for more than one diner, for sure.
But then, this is a place for big portions and sharing and I saw that all around me, plates being traded and spoonfuls being exchanged. It was the kind of informality you might find at a hideaway in Chinatown, not in a mid-Manhattan restaurant where things normally are a bit more reserved.
Not here, however, where Chef Chow encourages sharing of his modern take on traditional dishes, although half orders are available. Located on East 60th street, the restaurant is busy night and day, with a steady noontime office crowd attracted by a generous $23.95 lunch which includes a choice of that special chicken satay and a dish we enjoyed, chicken lettuce wraps, or main course of crispy (meaning crisply fried) beef, or crispy salmon and three variations on chicken, as well as a dessert and coffee or tea.
The setting is far from informal, though, plush banquettes and intimate booths, an exotic flare of black, red and white in the dining room and bar, as well as a private cellar and two private dining rooms, spread over three floors to accommodate parties and groups. Flickering candles and overhead skylights set the tone for a fine dining experience.