Chinese New Year Meal #2: Chatham Seafood Restaurant

After walking/napping off a spectacularly large lunch, we reconvened for dinner. The purpose of the dinner was to celebrate the recent engagement of my niece. Her mother chose Chatham Seafood in Chatham Square, right in the heart of Chinatown, NYC. They gave us three tables with the proviso that we leave by 7:00 pm. We arrived at 5:30 pm and the restaurant was serene compared to lunch at 88 Palace.

We ordered several of the same dishes that I ate at Wo Hop a month or two earlier. In each case, I was floored by how well New Chatham had prepared the dishes. Even General Tso’s Pork, a dish that I generally don’t care for, was sophisticated with hints of orange peel versus overwhelmingly sweet.

The service surprised and delighted me. Because we arrived before the dinner rush, there were only a few older gentlemen working as waitstaff. I had wrongly assumed that the restaurant would be understaffed. Instead, the waiters were in good humor and they even got a chuckle when I asked for a wine opener in Cantonese (note to readers, I speak Cantonese enthusiastically, but not very well). They were even kind enough to explain each dish on our table (as well as an amazing Lobster Covered in Sticky Rice that was served at another table).

Lobster and sticky rice from another table. This is the dish that got away.

The fine people at New Chatham also were relaxed about the corkage on the prosecco and wine that we brought. They were also accommodating about the ice cream cake that we brought in from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

This is what I ate.

Crispy Chicken

These guys had me at the shrimp crackers. The chicken was moist inside, crispy outside and chopped up randomly so there was plenty of things to nibble through.

Walnut Shrimp with Broccoli

The shrimp were colossal with just the right amount of milky sweet sauce. Fried custard puffs, the equivalent of Chinese zeppole ringed the plate — crunchy on the outside with a sweet creamy custard on the inside.   

Lobster with Ginger and Scallions

The lobster is chopped up, dredged in starch then wok fried. Because of the anatomy of this crustacean and the need to keep up with appearances by using slippery plastic chopsticks, eating this lobster is like playing a videogame. There are easy levels like the tail, more challenging like the claws, and plain old hard levels like the knuckles whose access is via a rough cleaver chop on the bias. Experts go for the carapace where success is defined by sucking out flavor rather than getting actual lobster meat.

Mushroom and Mung Bean Noodles

I’m not sure of the name of this dish, so the next time I go to New Chatham I will be sure to show them this picture. For a vegetarian dish, the umami levels were off the charts!

General Tso’s Pork

The pork was succulent, crunchy and not cloyingly sweet. The citrus peel flavor enlivened what would otherwise have been a heavy dish. This is the best General Tso’s Pork that I have tasted.

Filet of Flounder

Tender bits of fish filets mixed in with gai lan vegetable. I spent some time nibbling on the carcass, but I found that it wasn’t worth the effort.

Ice Cream Cake

Red Bean, lychee and matcha tiered ice cream cake from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. This went so quickly, I almost missed this picture.

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