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Chinese Tuxedo Dons Two Stars From Pete Wells

The Times critic finds fusion food he actually likes

Round tables sit fallow before service at Chinese Tuxedo, while various flora hang above
Chinese Tuxedo
Bess Adler

There is dumb fusion and there is smart fusion and Chinese Tuxedo practices the smart kind, according to Pete Wells. Paul Donnelly, the restaurant’s chef, is focused on dishes that have “discernibly Chinese antecedents” Wells notes, unlike other fusion restaurants that “handcuff together unrelated cuisines that have nothing in common except a continent.” Here is Wells on some of his favorite smart dishes:

Each time I went back, I wanted the fried eggplant in sticky, spicy caramel again. The flicker of Sichuan peppercorn in the sauce could be more pronounced, but the chile burn is just strong enough and the eggplant keeps its wonderful airy crunch even after sitting around for a while. So does the fried pork cheek in the reformed sweet-and-sour pork, stacked up above fresh pineapple chunks and a bracing vinegar sauce that is closer to the Cantonese version than to the orange ketchup sauce that glows radioactively from inside American takeout boxes.

Later in the review the Times critic gushes about a few other Donnelly favorites:

Mr. Donnelly puts more strut into his step when he freestyles. Steak tartare on rice crackers is seasoned with fried shallots and a healthy glug of fish sauce; it may be more Vietnamese than Chinese, but it’s great. So is the glistening scoop of chicken liver pâté that you spread, with a pickled slaw of apples and radishes, on youtiao, those cruller-like sticks of fried dough.

The service is unpredictable, the reservation policy is irksome (no parties of less than four can reserve), and the staff needs more wine training, but a particular dessert ends Wells’ visits on a sweet note. “[There is] one dessert that is almost worth a trip all by itself,” he writes. “Called Chinese strawberries and cream, it’s a pretty pile of whipped cream and yogurt with fresh and dried strawberries, nuggets of mochi and a few other surprises.” Two stars.