The server at the UWS branch of RedFarm was pretty upfront with me in describing the food there as Americanized Chinese food, which I thought was super helpful in setting expectations. You shouldn’t come to RedFarm expecting cheap plates of tasty dumplings or noodles. This is Chinese food for rich white people, so prices will be at least double, and American tweaks will be made to some traditional recipes such as putting Katz’s pastrami meat into an egg roll or adding applewood smoked bacon to scallion pancakes. Some of the mashups are actually quite good, and others will leave you wondering where your money went.
One of my favorite items was the spicy crispy beef. I’m really not sure if this is an authentic Chinese dish or not, but I’ve had variations of this at Chinese takeout restaurants in my past life and the RedFarm version is one of the best. The beef was perfectly crisp while the seasoning was the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. This small bowl went quickly. Another standout was the Nueske’s bacon and egg fried rice, which can hang with the versions made in Chinatown.
I would probably skip the dumplings the next time around. The shrimp and snow pea leaf dumplings were extremely cute, having been shaped in the mold of Peeps with little eyes and chubby bodies, but I’ve had better dumplings for way less than $15. Same goes for the five flavor chicken dumplings, which were perfectly fine and not quite as explosively flavorful as the name promised.
The rest of the meal never quite reached the heights of the spicy crispy beef and the bacon fried rice, but there were some high points. I wouldn’t mind eating the Vietnamese style marinated and grilled pork chops again, and the sauteed snow pea leaves were delicious. The signature Katz’s pastrami egg rolls were interesting, not necessarily something I’d pass up a traditional egg roll for, and they were a little bit too rich for my tastes, but it’s hard to mess up fried pastrami meat. The korean rice cakes with bbq’d pork belly and chinese sausage was disappointingly bland. The sauce was one-dimensional and the rice cakes lacked that pan-fried crisp edge that is essential to pull this off. The thin rice noodles with vegetables seemed like a check the box type move to please vegetarians.
So as long as you go to RedFarm with pricey PF Chang’s rather than affordable Flushing, Queens as your frame of reference, you’ll be fine. Just because it’s Americanized Chinese food doesn’t mean it’s all a disappointment, because some things are legitimately good and can compete with the traditional renditions, while others will leave you wanting the real thing. Be a little flexible and you’ll have a good time.
RedFarm Upper West Side
2170 Broadway (between 76th and 77th St)
New York, NY 10024