MICHELIN Guide’s Point Of View
Blink and you’ll miss its nondescript façade, but what a shame, for Café China is a little journey into the intense pleasures of Sichuan cuisine by way of midtown. Inside find a long and narrow space outfitted with seductive portraits of 1930’s Shanghai starlets, bright red chairs, bamboo planters and a dominating marble-and-wood bar. After struggling with their on-again-off-again popularity, this kitchen is back on track, creating Sichuan dishes with great aplomb. Their particular strength lies in the elegant and effortless contrast of complex flavors, even when the prep is decidedly simple—as evidenced by the steamed eggplant or the deliciously tender tea-smoked duck. Pickled vegetables achieve harmonious balance between sour and fiery notes; sliced conch pairs perfectly with that ubiquitous mouth-tingling chili oil; and tender pork dumplings arrive atop a delicious bath of soy sauce, and of course, more chili oil. The use of such top-quality ingredients as in the Chungking chicken special, alternately tender and crispy with dried chillies and sesame seeds; or even in the lamb coated with smoky cumin and fried to perfection is yet another instance of the feat of this kitchen.