Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Surprisingly, the Phillipe Chow disclosure was not printed on the porcelain.
"*Red Stixs has no affiliation with Philippe Chow or any Philippe Chow Restaurant."  This disclosure
is posted anywhere it can be, apparently at the bequest of the Chow group, with which some of the Red Stixs personnel used to be in cahoots.  The Chows required this stipulation, and Red Stixs's owner conceded saying he would have to keep it visible as such for a couple of years... but if this restaurant lasts that long I will be astounded.  But the one thing that the two restaurants DO share, despite their refusal to play nice with one another in the sandbox, is an overwhelming mediocrity.

To be fair, had I microwaved this food as a a prepackaged frozen entree, I may have been pretty impressed.   Across the board, flavors are monotone, predictable: rarely more than a sum of their parts.  This is the un-Chinese-iest of Chinese foods, mollified for a moneyed, pedestrian palate, who
 don't mind paying too much just to be fed, conveniently and a somewhat chi-chi atmosphere.  There was no punch or vim in anything we tried.  The only advantage this place has is its location:  right in the heart of the Murray Hill food desert, there
really aren't a lot of other options, either.   But for a "Chinese" restaurant to start us off which a tossed salad was just one of the many red flags, all the while accompanied with the signature red stix (sic) with which to eat it.  Not a bad salad, lightly dressed greens fresh as could be, but nothing grander than that, and nothing Asiany at all,
but for a touch of sesame and soy in the vinaigrette.  Fried spring rolls were slightly more successful, but hardly outclassing something you could bake up yourself from Trader Joe's.  They had a bounty of filling, though, tasty mushrooms and cabbage etal., and the wrapper wasn't too greasy, and quite exquisitely crispy.  We selected the vegetarian version of the lettuce wraps, the best part of which was the pale, crisp leaves of iceberg, thick and turgid, and so fun to indulge in after so many servings of mesclun and spring greens.  The filling was wildly less entertaining,

primarily composed of coarsely chopped nuts with cubes of flavorless zucchini and a thick,
 sugary plum sauce to glue things into place.

Chicken satay were strangely tender- soft, even- and even more strangely hued, aside from the fact that satay aren't even Chinese.  Coated in a vivid orange, they imparted a good chicken flavor if you could get past the salt, and were served with a cloying peanut sauce that could be a delicious ice cream topping.  Dumplings arrived in traditional woven baskets, steaming and fragrant.  They were thin-skinned and toothsome, probably one of the safer bets on the menu.

Mixed veg s you've had all of everywhere.
Mixed vegetables... well, you've had them before.  In a cornstarch-thickened white sauce, again too
salty, but the melange of vegs themselves retained a nice al dente freshness- and it's always a joy to eat bamboo shoots.    Chicken and broccoli achieved that same appealing tenderness of chicken, broccoli bright, but again, salt was the prevailing flavor component.    Beijing Chicken's poultry chunks lost the advantage of that tenderness, hardened by overcooking in its dark, bacony gravy, sweet and heady, becoming just about as firm and chewy as the  big toasted walnuts that accompanied it.  Fried rice gained points for presentation, served
 from attractive tall metal vessels, but was more appealing in situ than on the plate.  The weird squiggles of (alas, more) chicken added an almost comical component, and the taste didn't go leaps and bounds to override the cloche of mediocrity prevailing over the restaurant as a whole.

Actually, in addition to the iceberg lettuce, the only really noteworthy thing I ate that night was a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream from an assortment of gelatos and sorbets (mango, coconut, raspberry, etc.)  that came out to finish things off.  Red Stixs pretty much fails on all counts, but that one white orb, one that has no exclusivity to the restaurant, and nothing at all to do with Chinese food, ended the meal quite pleasantly.

216 E. 49th St. between 2nd & 3rd Avenues 
tel 1-646-964-5878

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