Its the most eye candy Hell’s Kitchen has seen since the Jimmy Coonan days, and the glory days of 42nd street. Thanks Obama! A decor like no other in the area, and a daring menu that takes Chinese American cuisine into Mission Chinese territory. Its rare for something like this to open in this neighborhood, which is why I’m so drawn and keep coming back. And after 5 visits, you would think I would get a good handle on things, but nope. This kind of menu requires bigger group meals in order to properly gauge this one, but at least I get the idea.
The title of course refers to the Kama Sutra nature of the decor. Its like Kill Bill movie set meets sex museum smack in the middle of 9th avenue. Funky wall paper, various figurines, penises, Buddhist collectibles, and figurines doing their best dirty salt and pepper shakers impersonations, covering the walls and bathroom hall area. While I certainly have no issue with any of this, considering the proximity to Times Square I can see how some traditionalists may not want to expose their little traditionalists children to this. The wait staff I’m told, is trained to explain, and already done so on occasion, which leaves no room for disgruntled employees. “My son is asking questions about the green figures on the wall”. “Its a Dildo mam!”
That kind of family bonding is carried onto the menu as well, with pretty much everything meant for sharing. While we tend to share everything everywhere anyway, at Chaan Teng the dish sizes make it more welcoming to do so. Take their take on the NYC born classic General Tso’s Chicken ($19) which is a hefty plate of half a bird fried and smothered with a sweet and sour, and spicy sauce while retaining proper juiciness throughout. This is not your corner Chinese General Tso’s. I’ve had it by myself and shared with friends on another visit, and while solo I was wishing for more veggies to accompany the bird.
On other visits, the focus was on the promising smaller plates which were almost entree size. Some, like the excellent Chicken Skin Dumplings ($12) were nothing like I’ve had before. Chinese Lapchiong (sweet sausage) with rice, peas, dried shrimp wrapped in chicken skin instead of dough. Essentially Arancini on crack, although midway I was wishing for a crispier exterior, and the chicken skin guilt started to take over. The bed of cabbage with crispy shallots and soy was delicious in itself.
Other small plate highlights were the Chaanteng Chicken Dumplings with soy, ginger scallion sauce ($7), and their take on another Chinese American classic, Walnut Shrimp ($12). Five healthy shrimp are served with Bib lettuce with sweet mayo where you essentially use the lettuce to make shrimp tacos. And I still havent tried but curious about the Crab Rangoon, 1000 year old egg on Tofu, and something called Strange Flavor Eggplant which I guess no one is allowed to criticize.
Chaan Teng opened by a team that includes Pichet Ong of Spice Market fame. And as is it case with 95% of Hell’s Kitchen newbs there’s almost zero social media buzz other than some Instagrammers like myself posting selfies with the General Tso’s, which is being groomed as the signature dish. Besides, now that both my mom and mother in-law are on Facebook, its pretty much the end of Social Media as we know it. The other day, my mom asked me to assist her with deleting a 2 minute video she took of her forehead.
698 9th Ave (Corner of 48th), Hell’s Kitchen
Rating: Two Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: General Tso’s Chicken, Chicken Skin Dumplings, Chaanteng Chicken Dumplings, Walnut Shrimp