Ch’i Public House opened in late November in the space formerly occupied by Ocean Drive and Red Lulu on Washington Street in SoNo.
The Hot & Sour Soup was an enormous bowl filled with a velvety thick broth loaded with crispy vegetables. The first notable difference from other hot and sour soups is the inclusion of large segments of numerous types of mushrooms. It delivered more a moderate spicy than sour, a balance that I enjoyed. If a lighter soup is desired, order the Miso Soup, which is slightly thicker, more flavorful and less salty than what is commonly found in the area. If you are looking for perfect fried dumplings, order the fried pork gyoza. These were paper-thin wrappers filled with minced pork and crispy vegetables. They were outstanding, maybe the best I have eaten.
My favorite smaller plate was the Yellowtail Tartare. The array of differing and complementing flavors was outstanding, the sweets balanced by a little hint of spiciness was fantastic with the yellowtail. With a few shrimp options on the menu, the appetizer of Crispy Hong Kong Shrimp was so delicious we ordered it again on a subsequent visit. Five shrimp were lightly coated and perfectly fried and sat atop an outstanding sauce, surrounded by grilled thin asparagus spears and droplets of hoisin sauce. Somewhat disappointing was the Beef Tataki. Ch’i’s interpretation included six chunks of beef. The first piece was a little overcooked, while the second was much better. This would be a nice selection to share amongst a few guests.
The Toban Djan Shrimp presented an abundance of flavors, from the slight spiciness of the sauce, supplemented by Thai basil, garlic and crab paste for additional umami, to sweetness of the peppers and onions, to the delicate and moist rice. The beef Filet was prepared to a perfect medium-rare and sat atop sautéed onions and red peppers and charred asparagus. The sauce combined a sweet-spicy chili paste, from the Szechuan province, with Toban Djan garlic butter, which elevated all of the ingredients.
The Pork Belly Fried Rice was a large bowl of lightly soy accented rice, intermixed with an abundance of thin slices of roasted pork belly and diced red pepper. Instead of scrambling and including the egg within the rice a crispy fried egg was placed on top. Open the yolk to release its creamy goodness and enjoy the sweet pork intermingled with the slightly salty rice.
Overall, the food is outstanding at Ch’i Public House. The environment is hip, exciting and filled with positive chi. With only a few weeks under its belt, Ch’i is experiencing some opening service issues. Seating, timing of delivery and the overall customer focus needs a little attention. But the food was well worth overlooking these minor annoyances.
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