It’s the kind of place my Dad would hate. Dim Sum made for those unwilling to venture below Canal Street for the real, authentic Chinese food that could easily be served in any store front on the streets of Beijing. RedFarm throws out most conventional ideas about Dim Sum, without any carts filled with metal tins of food making its way down the aisles of this narrow, West Village restaurant. Once you come to terms with the tattooed, village-version of Chinese food Red Farm serves, you will love everything about the meal.
The line for a seat at one of the coveted communal tables at RedFarm is out of control any night of the week. RedFarm has a strict, no reservations policy, adding to the lure and exclusivity of the restaurant. But I will let you in on a little secret; to beat the lines and enjoy all Red Farm has to offer, even at 9pm on a Saturday night. Red Farm opens its phone lines at 5pm, allowing for individuals to put their name down on a waitlist for that evenings’ service. As long as you arrive 20 minutes before your requested seating time, you are golden. No need to wait 2 ½ hours anymore.
I met my friend, Amber, for dinner at RedFarm on Saturday night. The narrow restaurant was packed, with the large communal table running down the middle, filled with young, trendy faces and the few booths, overflowing with extra chairs, plates and smiling faces.
Amber and I opted for the unique choice of sitting at the bar, away from the crowd of the restaurant. We felt it was a bit easier to share sitting next to each other, rather than across from each other surrounded by other patrons.
Dishes whizzed past us out of the kitchen, as our stomachs began to grumble, with the sweet smell of spice and sweet sauces lingering in the air.
I glanced over the drink menu, opting to start with a Yuzu Caipirinha, giving an Asian twist on a classic Mexican drink.
Light and refreshing, this drink seemed perfect to balance out what would be a heavy meal. The fresh lime juice and subtle flavor of yuzu, mixed with the rum created a delightful, simple drink made well.
We debated what to order, ultimately deciding to start the meal with one of the dishes from the ‘starter’ section of the menu and two of the Dim Sum items. I’m slightly unsure of the real difference in presentation or size, but these are the dishes that you are meant to begin to meal with.
The Spicy Crispy Beef arrived first, piled high and smelling as good as any version I have enjoyed downtown.
Tender, crispy pieces of candied beef were absolutely delicious, piled high in small bite sized pieces. This was the perfect dish to snack on, popping the seemingly never-ending pieces of sweet, sour and slightly spicy beef into my mouth. They are fried twice, giving each piece the unique and desired crunch that’s really only found in quality Chinese cuisine. If I dared to question Red Farm’s ability to serve up authentic dishes, the crispy beef set me straight. The pieces of lotus chips on the side gave a sweeter element of crunch, adding another layer of flavor to this awesome dish.
Next, the Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls arrived, which was about as far from traditional Chinese food as you can get.
Other then Christmas Day, I have never seen Jews and Chinese food in such harmony. This dish should not make any sense, but it does in inexplicable ways. Katz’s pastrami is already in a league of its own when it comes to Jewish deli meats, especially combined with cabbage. Deep fried in a deliciously, crispy greasy egg roll wrapper, the warm pastrami retains all of its juiciness and sweet flavor. The mustard dipping sauce, with a hint of lime, adds a necessary acidity to cut through the greasiness of the dish. One half of the egg roll is more then enough, leaving you completely satisfied, with greasy hands and secretly craving more.
Next, the most whimsical dish of night appeared in front of us, in the form of Pacman Dumplings.
I now understand why Ms. Pacman loves to eat the ghosts so much in the classic arcade game; they are absolutely delicious! Each colored ghost represents a different filling. The steamed dumplings have an extremely light wrapper, allowing the filling to be the true star. As a lobster lover, the pink ‘ghost’ was definitely a favorite of mine. Big chunks of blue crab, filled the blue piece of dumpling, with a sweet, richness. The steamed shrimp one was awesome, as well. And the white bean sprout dumpling was a surprising favorite, light and sweet. Finally, after the dumplings were finished, I felt badly, but it must be done, I bit Ms. Pacman. Fried, crispy sweet potato is one of my favorite preparations, and she was absolutely sweet, crunchy and delicious. Her little blueberry eye fell out after one bite, leaving behind a crime scene of playful proportions. This dish should not be missed (and your instagrams will be a fan favorite).
At this point in the meal, both Amber and I were surprisingly full. We had in each of us room for one last dish, something sweet and savory all at once. The special Dim Sum of the day, Duck BBQ with Grilled Lychee became the immediate choice.
One of my favorite dishes of the night. Unlike the other dishes, which had more playful presentation and combinations, this dish just simply worked by preparing each component perfectly. The sweet lychee stood out first, with a wonderful light, burst of flavor followed by the smokiness from the grill. Then, you reach the duck breast, with a moist, pink interior and the sweetness of the bbq sauce. There’s almost a plum, hoisin sauce flavor to the bar-b-que sauce. The duck was as good as any duck I have had, but lacked the usually fatty crust you find on the bird. The little discs contained all of the great, coveted parts of the bird that I love so much. There really is nothing better then deliciously prepared duck, but paired with a grilled lychee nut, you have something truly unique and extraordinary.
RedFarm might not be your traditional Dim Sum restaurant, but they sure know how to create absolutely phenomenal, unique dishes that will leave you satisfied, perplexed and planning your next trip back. I even found myself calling my Dad, a Dim Sum guru, after having lived in China for two years, to rave about the food, mainly the Pastrami Egg Rolls. Understanding that Red Farm is the West Village’s answer to Chinatown is essential to full appreciation of the food. You will love every single bite and be extremely happy that you don’t need to schlept downtown the next time you need a delicious, fun Chinese food fix.
RedFarm – 529 Hudson Street – New York, NY
Location: West Village, NY
Perfect For: Date Night, Girls’ Night Out, Adventurous Eating
Reservations: Not Available
Favorite Dishes: Katz’s Pastrami Egg Rolls, Crispy Beef, Pacman Dumplings, Blackened Cod, BBQ Duck Breast (Special)