Ed Schoenfield is a most unlikely looking master of all thing Sino-centric. His expertise is no secret though, and alongside his partner, chef Joey Ng from Chinatown Brasserie, comes their new West Village hot-spot, RedFarm. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first casual Chinese restaurant doing the local/seasonal thing, and they do it with no holds barred. Schoenfield doesn't take things too seriously, so tweaking traditional dishes and adding unexpected elements to classics is completely fair in his game, whilst all along retaining true Asian flavors in every dish.
We began with a good example of this with the grilled vegetable salad, a madly unpredictable hodgepodge that looks like a kitchen craft project of a miniature forest. Enoki mushrooms spring like crazy electrodes on the periphery, encircling a mass of soy-drizzled arugula and two odd blackberries plunked in the middle. Underneath the mess of salad lie myriad fragments of grilled peppers, eggplant and squash bedded in a thick layer of wasabi hummus-like dip. There are crunchy little sesame crackers provided to scoop up any of that dip that remains. The main components are shared by both Chinese and Mediterranean cuisines, and the melange amalgamates the two in an outstanding EurAsian partnership. It's as fun to look at as it is to eat. Likewise, the infamous PacMan Shrimp Dumplings. These are the best shrimp dumplings I've had, virtually nothing but a pristine, meaty shrimp swathed in a thin wrapper, tinted to evoke memories of the ghosts of PacMan past. A circle of acorn squash, lightly breaded and fried, is cut out in PacMan's shape, as if ready to gobble the ghosts if we didn't get them first (this wasn't going to happen).
I usually skip vegetarian entrees in favor of a little protein, but the Five Different Mushrooms with Yellow Leeks was a brawny mix of mushrooms, and while I probably could've done with it as a side (and then I would've order the Sauteed Black Cod, too), it had a unique flavor I couldn't quite put my finger on. It may have been asoefetida, or perhaps some other unfamiliar seasoning, but teamed up with little heads of baby bok choy made a wonderful plate. Even my dining companion who "doesn't like mushrooms" wouldn't keep his chopsticks out of my 'shrooms. Not a problem, because there was more than plenty. And to recapture any dearth of protein, we got an order of Spicy Crispy Beef. It's three types of crispy: fresh matchsticks of crunchy tart apple, crispy fried chips, and the beef itself, tender as all get out and soy sauce salty-sweet.
Now, unlike most Chinese restaurants that give you orange wedges or maybe fortune cookies (or a weird Asian pudding or something else skippable), RedFarm has DESSERT. Okay, nothing too fancy, but options, the best of which is Ed's own chocolate pudding. It's a charming little dish of humble, cocoa-rich pudding topped with chantilly and fresh raspberries. And just as anomalous as chocolate pudding would seem in a Chinese restaurant, here, it totally fits. Like the rest of the menu's untraditional quirks, here they seem natural and unforced. Whether or not the food is necessarily authentic to any particular cuisine, it is true to itself. And the food at RedFarm is great.