Wells’s top tip to diners is to order the Midtown restaurant’s small plates — “only one or two other restaurants in town can plausibly claim to make dim sum that rivals Hutong’s,” he writes. He raves about the “flaky” pastry layers that make up the wagyu-beef mille-feuilles, as well as pork-stuffed dumplings that “sparkle as if diamond chips had been kneaded into the dough.” These dishes, he writes, display the “technical mastery” of Hutong’s kitchen.
The kou shui chicken also comes highly recommended. The bird comes submerged in an “excellent” chile oil that’s also spiced with rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger. Of the fried soft shell crabs, he says:
In the dish known as Red Lantern, the whole dried peppers the size of cherries are mostly decorative; fried soft-shell crabs are buried under the chiles in a pan with an arcing bamboo handle, like jelly beans in the plastic grass of an Easter basket. The ground spices on the crabs’ shatteringly brittle crust — lightly sweet and more aromatic than searingly hot — may remind you of a Chinese rice-cracker snack you grew up on, or it may make you think of Old Bay.
But Wells warns diners about a subpar Peking duck, saying it arrived at his table with blobs of unmelted fat and limp skin. Contrarily, Eater critic Robert Sietsema was a fan of the dish, describing it as “a paragon of delicacy, the bites seeming to melt even before they reach your throat” in his first look at the restaurant. Two stars.