Shun Lee West

December 3, 2007

Good Chinese food is hard to find in New York outside of Chinatown. Every now and then a fancy restaurant opens claiming that they are going to get it right, but they never do. The latest flop in the reviews is the much-touted Wakiya in the Gramercy Park Hotel. But Shun Lee Palace, which opened in 1971 at 55th Street and Lexington, continues to be very successful and gets the highest Zagats Chinese Cuisine rating outside Chinatown. Think how dismal the Chinese food scene was in the US thirty-six years ago. Well, the French and Italian cuisine scenes were not much better. Shun Lee claims to have invented General Tso’s Chicken, Crispy Sea Bass, Crispy Orange Beef and Scallion Pancakes. How true that may be we do not know, but we do know that in 1981 they established Shun Lee West a few steps from Lincoln Center, and eventually Shun Lee Café next door.

 

 

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On December 1, 2007, Linda, Roan and I were lucky enough to have tickets to a New York Philharmonic concert conducted by the young sensation Gustavo Dudamel. We dined before it at Shun Lee West.

 

 

 

 

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We started by sharing an order of Hacked Chicken and one of Shanghai Pan-fried Dumplings. The spiciness of the sauce in which the shredded chicken meat had been tossed was just right. The dumpling was rich and caramelized, a nice contrast.

 

We ordered a bottle of Hugel Gewürtztraminer, a traditional wine to have with Chinese food.

 

 

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Roan and I then shared a plate of four Cantonese steamed giant oysters with black bean sauce.
The oysters themselves were somewhat mushy and lacking in flavor as one might expect of oysters so big, but the sauce was delicious.

 

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Linda went on to the
Vegetable duck pie; Crispy vegetables served Beijing duck style. Layers of vegetable pie, fried crispy.

Served with Chinese crepes, scallions and Hoisin sauce.

 

 

This is a somewhat amazing dish which emulates Peking Duck with shredded vegetables formed into a thin rectangle and fried to a crisp. It is cut into four pieces and served in Chinese pancakes just as if it were the skin of a roasted duck. (I ate one of the four.) The flavor was quite good; I thought the pancakes were too floury.

 

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Roan had the Leg of lamb with leeks Choice spring lamb with leeks and hot pepper sauce. 

 

He enjoyed this a lot.

 

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I went on to the

Stir-fried Crabmeat Hangchow style,
sauteed pea shoots, black vinaigrette.

 

The flavor of the crab and the pea shoots was excellent, although the textures didn’t seem right to a Western palate.

 

 

 

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We finished with a cup of tea and read our fortunes. All in all the meal was up to our expectations. As was the concert.

 

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  www.shunleewest.com

 

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