Philippe by Philippe Chow: Defying Expectations
In a city that can only be characterized as offering an overabundance of food, cuisines and high-end dining options, people understandably jump from one favorite to another. Philippe By Philippe Chow on the Upper East Side is the exception. It is a perennial favorite at the top of every foodie’s hit list which has been serving their customers for over a decade. In the words of John Villa, the restaurant’s President, “The restaurant serves great food, has a great buzz and it’s fun because everyone loves Chinese food.” And that is precisely the secret to Philippe Chow’s long lasting success – it defies the notion that Asian food needs to be quick and greasy while high-end dining needs to be uptight and stuffy. It’s sleek and modern interior offers an opportunity to impress a date or kick back with friends or colleagues, while the menu satisfies just about every craving for Chinese food. What’s more, the wait staff is experienced, enthusiastic, attentive and informative, going as far as telling us that Philippe Chow is a fun place to work because of the atmosphere and their fearless leader, John Villa.
If you know nothing about the culinary offerings of Philippe by Philippe Chow, you must start your meal with an order (or five) of the Chicken Satays. These unassuming chicken skewers are topped with the smoothest, most addictive peanut-cream sauce which is so memorable that you might find yourself right back at the restaurant for lunch the next day. Of course, no visit to Philippe Chow is complete without Mr. Cheng’s famous hand-pulled noodles, which are famous for good reason. The noodles, mixed with a savory pork sauce, are everything you want them to be: at once chewy, perfectly al dente, salty and fresh. In a star roster of appetizers, the soup-filled pork dumplings have a lot to prove and they definitely rise to the challenge. Arriving piping hot, the dumplings are juicy, porky, flavorful and have a perfect ratio of dough to meat and soup. It really is just one perfect bite.
However, the star of the show here is undoubtedly the Peking Duck, which feeds 2-3 people and is carved tableside. If we eat with our eyes first, then this is a visual feast like no other and it’s no wonder that the restaurant serves up anywhere from 35 to 40 ducks each and every dinner service and as many as 60 on weekends. The duck comes out perfectly browned and crispy, with glistening skin and watching it being carved, is mesmerizing. Each perfectly carved piece wrapped in a homemade pancake practically melts in your mouth, leaving you wanting more. More of the pancake, more of the accompanying plum duck sauce and much more of the duck.
Yes, it’s easy to find fantastic Chinese food in practically every corner of Manhattan and at every price point, but no other place offers the same perfect balance of approachable cuisine and a high-end dining experience in an atmosphere that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Looking around the packed dining room on a regular Wednesday evening, you’ll find people of all ages, some new to Philippe Chow and some regulars, as well as celebrities and various A-listers, all thinking the same thing – I can’t wait to come back.