There are many places to order dumplings in Chinatown, but there is only one place where they are made with fresh, seasonal, sustainably sourced ingredients and cooked in custom-made cast iron skillets—and that place happens to be the city’s hautest new eatery, China Live. The sensational new project is more culinary experience than traditional restaurant. It’s a 30,000-square-foot space, designed by AvroKO, complete with tea lounge, bar, restaurant, and retail marketplace. From longtime industry vet, George Chen, China Live presents Chinese food in a whole new light.
There is nothing greasy or fatty about the cuisine that is being produced in multiple open kitchens. Instead it’s a dizzying array of wildly flavorful, satisfying, and comforting dishes that are downright delicious. Roast pork buns are like pillow-soft muffins filled with succulent ground pork in a sweet red sauce. Celtuse, a refreshing and crisp type of Chinese lettuce, is served cold and tossed with salty bait shrimp and extra virgin tea oil. Manila clams are wok-cooked and coated in a fiery chili and Thai basil sauce. The menu changes daily depending on what Chen and his chefs find at local Chinese markets.
There are four kitchens, each with a specific focus—barbecue and grilling, wok and seafood, dumpling and dim sum, and dessert—and custom imported cookware in each. For example, in the barbecue and charcuterie station, there is a stone oven used to prepare incredibly crispy-skinned traditional roast Peking duck, and a Wa Guan Tang, a giant ceramic cauldron, a rare tool used to slow cook ancient Chinese recipes. The open kitchens are shaped like a U around the 120-seat dining room. A happening and sleek bar—with a menu of potent cocktails and interesting wines created and curated by Duggan McDonnell—separates the restaurant area from the retail space, which is filled with a fascinating array of authentic Chinese products. Before or after eating, diners can shop for spice blends, teas, condiments, cookware, and cutlery.
A tea-focused café called Oolong has 25-seats and a gorgeous cobalt blue-and-white tile wall, with geometric patterns, depictions of local landmarks, and ancient Chinese imagery hand-painted onto the tiles. The café offers an extensive list of artisanal teas sourced directly from farmers in China and Taiwan as well as delectable Chinese pastries. Local luminary Luis Vallavelazquez has developed a dazzling assortment of innovative desserts for the restaurant menu. The sesame soft-serve ice cream is wildly creamy and topped with a heaping pile of mango shaved ice and pop-in-your-mouth yogurt boba balls.
All of this is only the first floor of China Live. Chen has two more floors still in the works, slated to open later this year. The second floor will be home to a fine-dining restaurant called Eight Tables, as well as a 40-seat high-end cocktail bar, and a lounge-like private event space. The third floor will house a banquet hall that can accommodate up to 200 people for special gatherings. – Haute Living (06.07.17)