529 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
RedFarm on Urbanspoon

Our next destination after Resto was a place called RedFarm which I read and heard about a ton.  It's a Chinese Dim Sum inspired restaurant with a reputation for creativity and elevated Chinese Food.  It's from the same people as Chinatown Brasserie so while I had high hopes, I also had some reservations about it being all about the hype and style rather than the food.  The place doesn't take reservations so we got there late enough (~10 PM) so that there may be tables available. There wasn't AND the first thing they asked was if we called ahead?  Whaaaat?  But, I thought no reservations.  But, you can call ahead?  I'm confused. Anyway, we left our number and they told us it would be another hour.  We were deep into a few drinks at that moment so waiting an hour while finding another place to have a drink seemed like a sensible option.  What follows is why I think NYC is so unique and why I love it so much.

We took the first left on Charles going north from RedFarm since we thought a nice little wine bar called the Other Room was down that street which it wasn't and as we got to the end of Charles we spotted some sort of open air bar that seemed to take up the whole bottom floor of a building.  It looked like a good place to try out a drink and was close enough to RedFarm if we needed to hurry back.  As we got closer, it also looked like we were about to enter a big bundle of awesome.

Casa la Femme on Urbanspoon

Welcome to Casa La Femme!  Why it's called that, I don't know but what I do know is that it's an Egyptian bar/restaurant with decor to match.   The doorman, however, did not match.  I pegged him be a long lost extra from the Smooth Criminal video complete with a fedora and vest.  It's not that he wasn't dressed well, it's just that he wasn't dressed to be part of the Middle East.  The bar was populated with tables with high backed chairs with velvet padding.  The backs of the chairs were so high that if you clustered them together around a table, you'd practically have a full enclosed, private space.  Additionally, there was netting high above some tables that could come down and provide you with more privacy.  The whole front of the bar opened up to the street so a nice breeze could come in.  We suspected there may be a harem in the back but were too afraid to explore it.

We decided to order a few drinks and the other pleasant surprise (well considering the place it wasn't too much of a surprise) was that they had hookahs.  The best way to describe a hookah is to picture the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland and the contraption he was smoking.  It's basically sour apple flavored tobacco filtered through water in a glass container that comes out in a long hose.  The taste of it is sweet and the water takes away any edge that the tobacco may have.  The fun from it comes from the prodigious amount of smoke you blow out which is thick as a slow rolling fog which gave the setting an even more exotic feeling.

I don't think we would ever choose to go to Casa La Femme intentionally since it may just be a little too ostentatious for us but it was a great find in a pinch.  Thankfully, though, RedFarm sent a text telling us our table was ready in a little under an hour.  When we got there, we got sat a long communal table surrounded by other diners who immediately started giving us recommendations.  The one thing I noticed was that the party at the end of the table was snapping shots of the food but using a flash.  I know that I take a good amount of shots but I'm completely against using a flash because it distracts from the dining experience.  I may take shitty pictures sometimes but I'm fine with that trade-off if it ensures no one is disturbed.  Oh and that's my easy way to explain why the pictures from RedFarm aren't the best.

The joint is a take on Dim Sum so we decided to just order a bunch of plates to share.  This is probably a good time to tell you that we were a few sheets to the wind so while I remember the food, I may not remember it as well as I usually do and I may miss a dish or two.  We started with their Smoked Cucumbers which were sliced cucumbers in a some sort of soy based broth.  The smokiness really came through in the flavor of the cucumbers and the dish was surprisingly fresh and light despite the rich appearance.  I think there was supposed to be a bit of heat as evidenced with the peppers in the broth but it got lost a bit.  The dish was a good palate cleansing start to what will turn out to be a very rich meal.

We continued with their Soft Shell Crab appetizer with Meyer-Lemon Yuzu Sauce.  Basically a crispy friend soft shell crab with a sweet citrus sauce.  I found the batter to be a little to crispy and thick for me (which continued with some of the other dishes we ordered) but crab was cooked perfectly on the inside and the sauce was tangy with a bit of heat.  I particularly enjoyed the fried eggplant pieces that came with the dish since the pieces were cut a bit thicker than what you usually find for fried eggplant so that you really the sweet earthy flavor of the eggplant rather than just the batter.

For the meal, we did tried some of their specialty drinks.  I ordered their Yuzu Caipirinha and my friend got Le Club Hot.  Yeah, there's a drink called Le Club Hot.  The Caipirinha was made with Yuzu instead of lime and could have been a touch sweeter but overall not too much of a variation from a regular Caipirinha.  The Le Club Hot, and I'm laughing while typing it, was indeed hot which had tequila, lime juice, jalapeno, agave nectar, and mint.  I don't know if I tasted anything beyond the tequila and jalapeno but I do know that I needed to drink some water after drinking Le Club Hot.  They may have added a bit too much heat.  And by may, I mean, it they must have put a full jalapeno in there.

Next on our table were a series of dim sum plates.  We ordered the Pan Fried Pork Buns,  Steamed Lobster Dumplings, Pac Man Dumplings, and the Crispy Duck and Crab Dumplings.  The pork buns were smaller versions of traditional pork buns with a savory shredded pork filling.  The buns were thick and chewy and lavishly soaked up the heat from the spice in the sauce.  The Steamed Lobster Dumplings were served in martini glasses over some caramelized onions (at least I think that was what we ordered) and combined together were a sweet and fresh bite.  It may have been my favorite of the four.  The Pac Man Dumplings were a series of steamed dumplings with a different filling from shrimp to some vegetables.  The dumplings were pretty standard but the deep fried likeness of Pac Man (made of sweet potato) in a spicy avocado dip was layered with a good amount of deep fried sweetness and spice.  The Crispy Duck and Crab Dumplings were deep fried and shaped like a manta ray (shaped around half a crab shell) placed along the rim of the plate which had a curry dipping sauce.  The batter was still a bit problematic and while I liked the filling the sauce was the best part with good parts of spice and earthy richness.

From their entrees, we ordered Grilled & Sautéed Short Ribs and the Dungeness Crabmeat & Rock Crab Long Life Noodles along with a side of Jasmine Rice.  The noodles were thin spaghetti like egg noodles that were thankfully less heavy than your typical lo mein.  The sauteed spinach (or at least I think it was) on top of the dish gave it a fresh clean contrast to the noodles.  I don't know why I keep ordering dungeness or rock crab in restaurants since I don't like crab meat served cold.  This was no exception but that's just more of a preference than the overall dish.  I'm glad we ordered the rice since you really needed it to temper the short ribs which were served in thinner pieces than you would normally expect a short rib.  They were surprisingly tender and cooked well but the thick dark sauce (akin to oyster sauce) was too much and completely over salted the dish.  If you ate it together with a heaping of rice then it was fine but don't try it by itself.

For dessert we ordered their Key Lime Pie and Ginger Panna Cotta.  The Key Lime Pie was well made and the graham cracker crust was flaky and flavorful.  The sorbet they served along with it was a fresh and sparkling ball of flavor and I wish I could remember what it was exactly so I could order it again.  The ginger panna cotta was a great end to the meal with the smooth creaminess of the panna cotta properly balanced off with the occasional bite from the ginger.  It appropriately cleared our palate of the meal and signaled a fitting end to a fulfilling meal.

I don't know if the alcohol inspired all my good memories of RedFarm or if the company made it that much more enjoyable but I don't really care.  It was a particularly wonderful meal....experience since we did share a lot of good drinks together and got to be thrown into the Middle East for a bit all for the sake of eating at RedFarm.  The food itself, in reality, may not be as good as I remember since I remember it all being really really good (except maybe for the short rib) but while that was a bonus, this night was more about enjoying the company I was with and for that, RedFarm will always be a great place to go in my book.

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