Hong Kong Transplant Brings Its Legendary Peking Duck to New York City
Earlier in July, New York City gained another Hong Kong transplant restaurant in Hutong—known for Northern Chinese cuisine that draws influence from Beijing, Sichuan, Hunan, and Shanghai. The restaurant officially opened in Midtown on July 8, marking the first U.S. location for its parent company, Aqua Restaurant Group. (In addition to Hong Kong, Hutong also has an outpost in London.) While this new location brings over some signature dishes, including the iconic Red Lantern soft-shell crab (more on that soon), there are a few New York-exclusive menu items too, like a dessert spin on bao. As for the décor, it's appropriately grandiose, with high ceilings, a soothing blue and silver color scheme, and plenty of Art Deco touches, such as an Art Deco ziggurat design on the ceiling with inset silver leaf panels.
David Yeo, founder of the Aqua Restaurant Group, says he was inspired stylistically by Shanghai—"China’s center of Art Deco in the 1920s," he said in the restaurant's opening announcement.
Hutong was on our list of the biggest summer openings of 2019, and when we visited this week, it definitely lived up to the hype. Dishes are meant to be shared and ordered in courses; the dining room was sophisticated and calm, so the idea of indulging in a long meal made perfect sense. We started out with the restaurant’s famous dim sum platter, a sampler dish that includes four different styles of dumplings: lobster squid-ink, Rosé Champagne, pickled chili cod, and vegetarian spinach, for a grand total of eight pieces (two per person). The wrappers were perfectly gummy, and we especially loved the Rosé Champagne for its delicately perfumed flavor profile. The lobster squid-ink was also a highlight, a perfect bite with hints of umami and brine from the wrapping. Diners can enjoy this dish for lunch or dinner—lunch service began on July 15, with dim sum as the feature.
Courtesy of Hutong New York.
Next up was the roasted Peking Duck, which the kitchen prepares for 24 hours using a traditional 100-plus year-old recipe. You can order the duck whole or as a half order—it’s also served in two stages. The first is a tableside carving, producing crispy slices served with pancakes, sliced cucumbers, and sauce; stage two produces lettuce cups and the duck chopped into smaller pieces, mixed with sliced green beans, peppers, and seasonings. The pièce de résistance, however, was the aforementioned “Red Lantern” which constitutes a basket (yes, basket) filled with crispy, deep-fried soft-shell crabs nestled into a bed of dried red Sichuan chilies. The restaurant is known for spicy food, and the crabs are spiced, yet perfectly manageable and well-balanced. The presentation is stunning too, so much so that a diner stopped on the way to his table to ask us what we'd ordered.
The restaurant is on one side of a white marble portico, and you can access the bar through the other, where you’ll find more Art Deco design, a hexagonal bar, and leather banquettes. The cocktail list includes drinks infused with Chinese spices and herbs, such as the Comfortably Numb—vanilla vodka, lychee liqueur, Sichuan pepper honey and ruby red grapefruit—which has dried Sichuan peppers on the rim for that eponymous tingling effect. There’s also a wine and Champagne list with bottles from all over the world, but you shouldn’t leave without trying at least one cocktail. After all, if you order a spicy meal, it’s only right that your drink should match.
Hutong is now open at 731 Lexington Avenue—reservations can be made here.