By some glitch of the iPhone Facebook application, my friend Kendra “checked me in” to a yet-to-be-opened restaurant in the West Village of New York City for whom she is doing the PR. Well, Kendra, if you insist!
I had literally just stepped off the bus, arriving on a Monday night around nine. I commented on her check-in, letting her know that in fact, I was in town, shall I come down to do some taste-testing? We made a date with my sister and another childhood friend to have a dinner at their extra-soft friends and family opening there the following evening. In town for five minutes and I already have insider access to restaurants on the cusp! Not bad!
Located above a laundromat at 529 Hudson Street between Charles and W10th, Red Farm is the brainchild of chef Joe Ng of Chinatown Brasserie, restaurateur Jeffery Chodorow (Asia de Cuba, China Grill), and leading Asian cuisine expert Ed Schoenfeld. Designed to look like a farmhouse inside, bench seating and communal tables welcome you in. Lots of red gingham fabric and mason jars set the tone. While the ambiance screams farm to table, even mimicking a barn in some respects, the food (and a few other surprises) are decidedly not from any rural, farmland spot in this country.
With a farm-to-table liaison on staff, Red Farm will highlight locality and seasonality in their menu. But this won’t be just any farm-like food; Red Farm will be serving dim sum style Chinese food with a whimsical flair. More than one dish came to our table with dumplings that looked like mice, stingrays, palm trees… they are having fun in this kitchen. So yes, once you’ve wrapped your head around the idea that this farmhouse is serving you fantastical dim sum, you’ll be in for a smooth ride and a delicious meal.
We started with Kowloon beef tarts, which, Ed declared, were just one bite. “Just pop it in your mouth,” and after I nearly unhinged my jaw to do so, I was pleased to find sweet and savory, spice and tartness. It should have been two bites, but I felt challenged.
Next were the Shu Mai shooters; a jigger half full of carrot-ginger gazpacho and topped by a skewered dumpling with morels. This was more interactive of a bite, but delicious. Next was something they were calling a Grilled Vegetable Salad, but it was so much more than that. Inspired by a dish they recently experienced on an eating journey through Spain, they made their own rendition. The original dish was a vegetable garden, complete with “dirt;” dried and crumbled beets on the plate, held in by cracker fencing, with miniature vegetables throughout. Needless to say that chef has been compared to Ferran Adria. This dish however, had tofu and artichoke blended dirt and vegetables sprouting out from its crackered quarters. The tofu blend served as the foundation and the dipping sauce, creating a fun and yummy plate. It was also my first fairytale eggplant experience, and yes, that’s the name of an eggplant variety. They were tiny.
The night continued with Kumamoto oysters with meyer lemon-yuzu ice, which my sister nearly couldn’t choke down (we don’t share oyster DNA apparently because I LOVED them), mushroom spring rolls shaped like palm trees (or were they mushrooms?), the mouse and stingray shaped dumplings, squid stuffed with mushrooms, lotus leaf black cod, clay pot chicken, and marinated rib steak. It was a bit too much food to keep good track of, but I’ll say this: they are not afraid of spice, the food is beautifully presented, the cooking times of everything were spot on. Not one dish disappointed and each could stand on its own. I just couldn’t put much more in my body. By the time dessert came around, I felt French Laundry-ish—please God, no more food! But I found the strength to persevere and dove in to the guava jellyroll and chocolate pudding. They also gave just a plate of tiny plums, and that dessert proved to be my favorite.
The biggest surprise though—and I warn you I’m about to talk about something less than kosher right now— is that they have a Japanese toilet/bidet. My friend exited the bathroom exclaiming that one could spend all day in there. We all tried it, and yes, it’s a very different experience than one normally has in a public NYC toilet, but so is everything about this restaurant. Embrace it. We all did.
Overall, I look forward to returning to this comfortable and welcoming space. The staff was lovely, interested and funny. Ed was the consummate host, keeping us entertained with his stories of service in restaurants in years past, complete with stories of guests like Sinatra, Liz Taylor, and Aristotle Onassis.
They’ll be open all day, even serving afternoon tea and staying open until the wee hours, starting August 23rd, if these last few weeks go swimmingly. They’re accepting email addresses of neighbors now for opening updates. Do stop in, it’s definitely different than every dim sum place you’ve ever been.
529 Hudson (between Charles and W10th)