The Red Lantern is deep-fried, spiced soft-shell crab in dried, whole chiles.
Before dining at the new Hutong, the only thing I’d heard was that I was in for a treat if I love soft-shell crab. (I do.) This remark proved to be true as soon as the Red Lantern approached the table. A large basket is filled with Ping-Pong-ball-size Red Lantern chiles.
Diners are meant to dig through the superhot chiles to unearth eight portions of fried soft-shell crab coated in chile dust. is delightful presentation is an apt representation of the restaurant’s style—the dishes are all beautiful but authentically Chinese and serve as conversation pieces.
Yu xiang crispy pork mochi dumplings
The hearty list of small plates is a good starting place for a group sitting in one of the spacious, rounded booths. Calamari might seem like a has-been appetizer, but this scored squid with Sichuan peppercorn is a must-try. Likewise, seemingly every Chinese eatery in Manhattan features a spring roll variant, but these—wrapped in a crispy, paper-thin glass noodle shell—stand apart.
Each one of the dim sum options has a twist. Shrimp dumplings are mildly avored with rosé Champagne, wagyu beef is presented as a mille- feuille, cod gets a pickled chile treatment, and lobster dumplings are black with charcoal and squid ink flavor.
The Comfortably Numb cocktail with vanilla vodka, litchi liqueur, Sichuan pepper, honey and lemon
Like the crab, the Peking duck is a large-format dish attempting to bring diners together in a sharing process. When it emerges from the kitchen, whole and gleaming a golden brown, everyone in the room seems to turn to envy the four to six people who will enjoy it with pancakes and lettuce cups. The large branzino comes bathed in spicy broth with wild mushrooms and Chinese celery, and rice, noodles or pea shoots can help soak up the heat. The Comfortably Numb cocktail is another smart way to counteract the Scoville Units; vanilla vodka and dried Sichuan peppers on the rim make for a sweet-plus-heat combo.
The bao and soy milk dessert features white sesame seed mousse and soy milk ice cream.
For dessert, pastry chef Conn Zhang continues to show a true Chinese spirit in innovative ways. The Peach Tears confection centers around the gum taken from Chinese wild peach trees, and one of the most impressive plates of all at Hutong is a dessert bao with a sesame seed mousse and a thin white chocolate shell.
The main dining room contains 140 seats, in addition to 83 in the lounge and four private dining rooms.
As amazing as the food is, the biggest wow moment might simply be walking through the doors. Located in the former Le Cirque space, interiors by Robert Angell Design International in collaboration with David Yeo are absolutely magnificent. Vaulted midnight blue walls set off inset silver leaf panels. A hallway to the bar serves as a oor-to-ceiling wine cellar, lit up like a futuristic art installation. Married with the art deco design are touches of in uence from Shanghai. For example, when guests enter the restaurant through Bloomberg Tower, the first welcome is a silver eternity knot on the door. The Chinese symbol wishes happiness and success, but the message seems needless to all those who are lucky enough to dine here.
Photography by: Interior, dumpling and dessert photos by Tanya Blum, all photos courtesy of Hutong