China Fun

Restaurants , Chinese Lenox Hill
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China Fun
Photograph: Catarina Astrom
China Fun

China Fun is a jack-of-all-trades neighborhood eatery with an impossibly long menu and a dizzying number of options. In restaurant terms, it’s been something of an Upper East Side institution since it’s opening by the Wu family in 1991.  While the menu may boast a variety of pan-Chinese dishes as well as a full page of Japanese offerings, it’s no surprise that its strength is in Cantonese-style cuisine given that owner Dorothea Wu—grandniece of General Chiang Kai-Shek and a Taiwanese immigrant herself—has a personal affinity for soup dumplings.

Among the menu’s first impressions is a well-rounded list of a la carte dim sum.  A good start would be crystal mini soup buns with pork ($7.75), which are meatier than your average xiao long bao. The scallion pancake ($5.95) and fried pork dumplings ($7.95) are comfortably familiar as is the steamed roast pork bun ($3.25), which, while sufficiently tasty, also serves as a cruel reminder of Upper East Side pricing. Whereas a Chinatown banquet hall might serve a trio of these fluffy dim sum favorites, here, for the same price, you’re presented with a single lonely bun.

Northern Chinese offerings, like cold sesame noodles with spicy Chinese parsley sauce ($7.25) and ma po bean curd with minced pork ($12.50), are muddled and disappointingly devoid of any fiery Szechuan flare.  The little red chilies next to menu items seem marked as a spice warning for the play-it-safe consumers of sweet and sour chicken ($15.95) and not for those accustomed to the cuisine's natural heat.  Crispy whole sea bass ($22.95) topped with scallions and ginger is sheathed in a thick crackly crust that contributes soul food texture, but sadly overpowers any hint of the fish’s true flavor. Meats listed under “Cantonese BBQ” are, however, all safe bets, including: roast duck ($16.95), crispy chicken ($13.95) and honey spare ribs ($13.95).

Not long ago there was also a branch of China Fun on the Upper West Side, but a kitchen fire combined with increased competition, shifting consumer preferences and other economic factors forced its closure in 2013. For the neighborhood’s benefit and to preserve a bit of history, let’s hope the Upper East Side original fares better in the days to come.


Venue name: China Fun
Address: 1221 Second Ave
Cross street: at 64th St
Opening hours: Mon–Thu, Sun 11am–midnight; Fri, Sat 11am–1am
Transport: Subway: F to Lexington Ave/63rd St, 4,5,6,N,Q,R to Lexington Ave/59th St
Price: Average main course: $12. AmEx, MC, V
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