Like Everything Good, Nanking Gets “Ruined” By Midtown
Alright, I will admit, right off the bat that I don’t actually know if Nanking was any good to begin with. I have never been to any of the other locations of this Chinese/Thai/Mughlai hybrid, but one of my co-workers swears by the Jackson Heights one, and convinced me that based on their Chili Chicken alone, the new Midtown outpost of the restaurant, on Broadway btw. 50+51st, was at least worth checking out. Skeptical of any Asian restaurant that combines multiple countries under one roof (has anybody really ever done this successfully???), I can’t say I was gung ho about trying Nanking. In fact I could have easily argued that it clearly wasn’t a Midtown Lunch.
- It’s a sit down restaurant, and I think a true Midtown Lunch shouldn’t have to be ordered from a waiter. I have, and will be known to make exceptions for some sit down restaurants, but usually when I do, the place either has to be an exceptional value (i.e. all you can eat buffets), or they have to be serving something that you can’t really get anywhere else in Midtown (for under $10 of course).
- It isn’t that cheap. At the Jackson Heights Nanking everything on the menu is under $10. Not surprisingly the new location has “Midtown’ified” their menu, with chicken entrees being around $14, and the duck, lamb and seafood entrees eclipsing the $20 mark. They do offer a $10 lunch special, but it’s not quick, and to top it off there are plenty of other better Chinese & Thai food restaurants in Midtown (take out and sit down) that are cheaper.
- Did I mention the part about how they serve Chinese and Thai food. *Sigh* (They dropped the Mughlai Indian food that they serve at the Jackson Heights location.)
So maybe it’s not a true Midtown Lunch, but that doesn’t mean there is no reason to eat there… There are a lot of reasons I could give for hating Nanking, but there is one important reason I could give for liking it. All the food tasted good, and it’s clearly made with better ingredients than your standard Americanized cheap Chinese food restaurant (I’m looking in your general direction Yips). For $10 you get a choice of 22 different entrees (which normally cost $14-22) and a soup. Here are all of the dishes we tried…
The infamous Chili Chicken.
Chicken “Honk” Kong Style – Still haven’t decided if this was a menu typo or not. I’m guessing it is…
Lamb w/ Spring Onion & Ginger
I went back a few days later, and got an order of the Nanking Hakka Noodles to go, just to see how it worked…
A better than average Lo Mein kind of dish, it was good and tasty, but nothing spectacular. If you are going to take food to go I would recommend ordering ahead, since it takes about 10-15 for them to prepare the orders.
According to my co-worker friend, the “Chili Chicken” they serve in Midtown is different than the one in Jackson Heights, where they use so much chili, it makes the whole thing red (similar looking to the “Honk Kong” dish above, but with a different flavor). Clearly they’ve dumbed it down for the Midtown audience, but it still retained a decent amount of heat. In fact all of the the spicy dishes had a good amount of heat, perfect for a co-worker lunch, where people who might not be into the burn are eating with people who need some sort of a kick.
All in all if given the choice between Nanking and any of my favorite Chinese places in Midtown, I’d choose the latter, but if you work in the area, and looking for a higher quality alternative to your same old Chinese food choices, Nanking is not all that bad.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Higher quality ingredients than other Chinese food places in the area
- Good flavors
- Nice heat on the spicy dishes, especially considering that they clearly dumbed the menu down for Midtown’ers
- Perfect for a nice co-worker lunch, where half the people would be scared by “real” Chinese food
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Nothing is spectacular
- For $10 I could have a feast at Hing Won!
- If you don’t like Egg Drop soup, beware of their “Sweet Corn” Soup which is just like egg drop (but sweeter… and with corn)
- There are a bunch of other nice sit down Chinese restaurants where the food is better, and more authentic
- There are a bunch of other nice sit down Thai restaurants where the food is better, and more authentic
- It’s so much more expensive than the Nanking in Jackson Heights (and where’s the Mughlai food!)
- This place is more for the tourists, than serious Midtown eaters
Nanking, 1634 Broadway (btw. 50+51st), 212-586-3100