Coming in at 11,000 square feet, Hakkasan New York is a HUGE restaurant space. Want more numbers? How about the fact that it sits 200 people (no easy feat in a city like NYC) and that when you walk in, you’re entering an 80-foot corridor? Yeah, all that plus the dark lighting, high-end interior design, and intricately partitioned rooms makes eating here quite the experience.
Having been to Las Vegas, I’m familiar with the poppin’ club Hakkasan in MGM Grand, but to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure if the New York City restaurant was affiliated. But I guess with a name like that I should’ve known better. The first Hakkasan was founded in London in 2001 by Syra Khan and Alan Yau (the same man behind the ever-popular British chain, Wagamama), and now there are branches of it all over the world from Dubai to Miami.
The food is modern Chinese cuisine using fresh, local ingredients and traditional techniques. I went here during Restaurant Week, so I was able to get three courses for $38, which is pretty good when you consider that this is a four dollar sign establishment and main entrees could cost you anywhere in the $30 to $80 range. Some of the dishes may sound familiar, like salt and pepper squid, hot and sour soup, and wok-fry Wagyu beef tenderloin, but rest assured that with each menu item, you’ll be getting a contemporary, sophisticated take. I ordered the Hakka fried dim sum platter as my starter, the spicy prawn with lily bulb and almond as my main, and for the finale, a chocolate-mousse-like and cherry sorbet seasonal dessert.
If I had the choice, I would like my meal to slowly build with better and better dishes, or at least reach some sort of climax during the meal—we can pause and think about how much of a food snob I sound right now—but I have to say that my first course at Hakkasan was without a doubt my favorite of all three. The dim sum platter came with three types: a crispy prawn dumpling, a roasted duck pumpkin puff, and an XO scallop puff. Like I mentioned before, I already knew I wasn’t going to be served just any regular fried dumplings, but I wasn’t expecting such delicate fried morsels. It’s hard to go wrong with prawn, duck, or scallops with me anyways, but these really were such a delightful take on dim sum.
My main dish was served with a nice, spicy curry-like sauce alongside some sautéed baby bok choy and egg fried rice. I’m no crustacean expert, but I was hoping for slightly bigger prawns. In my mind, when a menu says “prawn” rather than “shrimp,” I’m expecting much larger, juicier specimens than shrimp, but alas, I know that there are other differentiating factors between the two besides size. Ah, here’s a learning moment for the day…while “prawn” and “shrimp” are sometimes used interchangeably, they really are two different things based on their gill structure and pincer sizes among other characteristics. Biology class over! Actually wait, let’s talk about lily bulbs for a second. They truly are the bulbs of the lily flower, and they add a crunchy texture comparable to water chestnuts. I’ve since learned that they are cultivated as food throughout Asia, but this is the first time I’ver ever tried them. Me like!
Lastly, the dessert was a solid finish to my multi-course meal with its winning combination of chocolate, cherry, and pistachio. Overall, I’m pretty happy that I got to try this restaurant through the Restaurant Week offering, otherwise I’m not sure how I could’ve rationalized the pricing. For any of you who like that upscale, club atmosphere, you should try Hakkasan, because it’s got it down pat.
Hakka fried dim sum platter, spicy prawn with lily bulb and almond, baby bok choy, egg fried rice, seasonal dessert
311 W 43rd St
New York, NY 10036