Putting My Stomach On The Line At New China Red’s By-The-Pound Buffet
There are just some restaurants that scream “Midtown Lunch” at me when I see them, and New China Red on Chambers St. (btw. Church & W. Broadway) is definitely one of those establishments. Sure, it has a red awning jutting out onto the sidewalk like a fancy hotel, but it’s kind of worn and there are giant signs in the window on neon poster board proclaiming the cheapness of its lunch buffet, and the fact that no outside food is allowed. It was my first time trying a buffet at a Chinese restaurant downtown, and hey, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it on the cheap. What sort of delicious things awaited me inside? Would my stomach survive? Answers to these burning questions after the jump. The first thing I noticed when I got inside was the amount of mirrors and the color red in the front dining area. It was like a fast food place mated with a whorehouse and this was its offspring. Plus, it was just plain weird facing a mirror while shoveling greasy Chinese food into my mouth. Oh, the shame.
The buffet is at the back, and while most people seemed to be going for that, there is also a lunch special on the menu that includes an entree, rice and either soup or a can of soda for about $5. The buffet is $4.50 a pound, or for you late lunch’ers, it’s $3.50 per pound after 2:30 p.m. If you spend more than $5 on the buffet before 2:30 you get a free can of soda, so this may be the better deal if you don’t care about soup or rice and just want to load up on fried meats.
When standing before the buffet, I tried to remember Zach’s words of wisdom on strategic ways to get more bang for your buck. That meant there would be very little of the rice or noodles going into my container, and there was no way I was getting the bone-in fried chicken or another mysterious fried chunk of meat and bone. Also out was what I’m assuming was curried potatoes or something white floating in bright yellow sauce. (One note about this buffet is that if you’re one of those people who must have their buffet items labeled, this is not the place for you. I still have no idea what kind of meat was in a couple of the things I ate.)
I love buffets not because I get to stuff myself silly, but because I can just throw a bunch of different things into a container and call it lunch. I got a couple of fried pieces of meat, one of which I think was chicken, and another that was far better may have been pork…or they could have both been chicken.
I also got some salt and pepper shrimp, and that was the only hardcore fail of my lunch. Whatever thin breading was on the shrimp had sort of disintegrated on the steam table and while I could see the pepper, I couldn’t taste it. And with nothing between the heat and the shrimp, they were pieces of rubber.
Keeping on the shrimp theme…there was some sweet and sour shrimp that was decent. And since the meat dishes I got had no vegetables, I solved that problem by throwing in some green beans and mushrooms.
I was torn between getting a dumpling or an egg roll, and after deciding the egg roll was heavier, I went with the dumpling (thereby breaking a cardinal by-the-pound buffet rule). That was a mistake. The wrapper was really thick and chewy, and not in a good way. Plus, the pork on the inside was the sweet red kind instead of salty and juicy. It wasn’t inedible, it just was not nearly as good as say Vanessa’s Dumpling House.
Lastly, I got a scoop of white rice to sop up the sauces, but I think I kept it in check despite the fact that I freaking love carbs in all of their forms.
In addition to the large buffet, there is a small one off to the side that frankly had some pretty weird crap on it. I didn’t take a full inventory, but there were pickles, pineapple, some pea salad with rings of calamari in it and…pieces of sushi roll.
The best part of the sushi roll area (which was covered with a plexi-glass lid) was that it was nearly empty, meaning people were brave enough to eat it. To top things off there was just a dish of soy sauce sitting in the corner of the sushi enclosure with pieces of rice floating around, meaning people had apparently used this for communal dipping. I will eat many dodgy things, but this sushi and communal soy sauce are not among them.
My container of goodness came to $4.25, which meant that I sadly did not get a free soda. Anyway, it was a sufficient amount of food, and you could easily get full here on $6 or $7 if you’re a heartier eater than I. There was a steady stream of people in and out while I was there, meaning the trays got refreshed fairly often.
I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat here if I didn’t work in the area, but it’s definitely a good deal. Also, sometimes it just feels good to gamble with my stomach and come out a winner.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- $4.50 per pound ($3.50 after 2:30 p.m.!) is pretty cheap, if you stay away from the carbs and bone-in meats.
- You get a free soda if you spend more than $5 on the buffet, which it’s pretty hard not to.
- They have the balls to put sushi on the buffet, and it appears people actually eat it.
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I don’t like watching myself in the mirror as I devour greasy Chinese food from a styrofoam container.
- Four words: communal soy sauce dish.
- They don’t label items so I don’t know exactly what kind of meat I’m getting. Then again, maybe that’s for the best.
New China Red, 118 Chambers St. (btw. Church & W. Broadway), (212) 267-4015