Last week (Inauguration Night Holler) we took some clients down to the Lower East Side to a new restaurant called Shang. That neighborhood in general has changed quite a bit - from a gritty cafe infested neighborhood to some pretty trendy-meatpacking-eque joins (i.e. Stanton Social).
Shang is no exception to the new revolution of restaurants popping up down there - it's Asian fusion (fused with what, I still don't really know) and well, I was a little let down. The food was decent but honestly, that category is overdone and quite frankly, I think is hard to get right.
Those who know me personally know that I'm not very Asian on a day-to-day basis (don't ask me what that means) but I do take dirty Chinese street food very seriously. I prefer a $5 Roast Duck and BBQ Pork dish in a semi-health-code-violated restaurant in Chinatown to an upscale Chinese place like Chinatown Brasserie. Not to mention that I don't believe in upscale Chinese.. to me that is an oxymoron.. and not a good one.
ANYWAY, we walked up a flight of stairs and one thing I can say is that the space was beautiful. It had that whole dimly lit thing that NY Restaurant-du-jours are crazy about and it was a lot bigger than I expected:
We started out with drinks which were pretty decent but the fact that I can't remember what it was I drank leads me to believe it was nothing out of the ordinary. Since we were dining in a group of 6 and the resto was family-style, we got to try a lot of stuff (schmorg style as I like to call it). The group looked to me to order a couple of things, none of which were real standouts with the exception of Shang's Signature dish - a slow cooked Berkshire Pork Belly. I'm a huge fan of Pork Belly in general but this was really delish - the meat was super tender and the glaze was perfect. I can see why they chose to tout this dish.
We also tried the Singapore Slaw which was really flavorful and the textures were pretty good. It was just the right of amount of crispy for it to be a above and beyond just a normal asian slaw.
The last dish that I thought was pretty good was the Duck Breast - it was cooked perfectly and had a really great chilli-honey glaze that gave it that sweet/sour taste. Pretty good as far as high-end duck dishes go.
Now to the bad news... everything else we ordered tasted amateur - the flavors felt like they had been done 100 times before which normally isn't a problem for me but they weren't done well. It's like on American Idol when Simon tells the contestants not to do Whitney or Mariah.. there is probably no way to sound better than them so you might as well try something new.
With Chef's like Jean-Georges, David Chang, and Anthony Bourdain, why would you even go that route?
The one dish that made me throw up in my mouth was a "Fried Rice" that was wrapped in an egg-crepe. Conceptually it's a wonderful idea. In my mouth, it was a horrible mistake.
Overall Shang is a good place to go and experience the atmosphere... maybe a good dinner spot before going out since you wont leave too full and it's conveniently located at Orchard and Stanton.