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Fung Tu (CLOSED)

Restaurants, Chinese Lower East Side
2 out of 5 stars
 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
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Photograph: Paul WagtouiczDuck-stuffed dates at Fung Tu
 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
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Photograph: Paul WagtouiczCeltuce egg at Fung Tu
 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
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Photograph: Paul WagtouiczSteamed buns at Fung Tu
 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
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Photograph: Paul WagtouiczSweet-potato rice cakes at Fung Tu
 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
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Photograph: Paul WagtouiczWhole steamed fish at Fung Tu
 (Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz)
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Photograph: Paul WagtouiczFung Tu

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Friendly warning! We're working hard to be accurate. But these are unusual times, so please check that venues remain open.

These days, New York’s Chinese food scene is in full-blown revival mode, fueled by red-hot joints like RedFarm and Mission Chinese Food, edging out dated fixations on cheap and “authentic” with promises of locavore and cool.

The latest restaurant to take a 21st-century crack at Chinese is Fung Tu, from Nom Wah Tea Parlor scion Wilson Tang and Per Se vet Jonathan Wu. In their slender, wood-rich room, cultural references are subtler than the typical red-lantern kitsch; spindly Pyrex light fixtures—made by Wu’s artist wife—were inspired by Chinese lattice patterns. They cast a gentle glow on tight-sweatered scenesters and beach-wood booths as stiff as church pews.

Rather than intensifying flavors, Wu’s cerebral plates subdue them. Ribbons of celtuce ($13) are vexingly tasteless, even slicked with buttery popcorn puree and the salty ooze of a soft-boiled, soy-soaked egg. A beige slab of broad-bean curd terrine ($13) is doused with chili oil, but conjures up little more than solid, grainy hummus.

More disappointing than these creative offerings are reinterpreted classics sapped of their trademark allure. Buttery steamed buns ($12) cocoon a mushy, salt-starved mix of vegetables and glass noodles; a bowl of gummy, spaetzle-esque knots of dough topped with heat-deficient chili-pork sauce ($19) are meant to reference mapo tofu, but recall overcooked Hamburger Helper.

Wu’s best dishes summon more assertive flavors. Steamed whole sea bream ($28) is salt-licked by pungent fermented black beans, its silky flesh teetering between briny and sweet. Springy sweet-potato rice cakes ($23) are pure comfort, their meaty chew bolstered by mushrooms, Chinese sausage and crinkly kale.

Those rice cakes give you what you’ve been missing all along, the earthy, wok-fired jolt that makes much of Chinese cooking so seductive. In pursuit of toned-down flavors, Fung Tu too often renders its cooking mute.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Meal highlights: Duck-stuffed dates, sweet-potato rice cakes, whole steamed fish

Behind the bar: Wines are inspired by the nutty, fruity flavors of Asian rice wine; as promised by Chicago sommelier Jason Wagner, a watermelon-accented pineau d’anuis mollifies any chili heat.

Vibe: If you’re craving family-style dishes whirling on a lazy Susan, walk west to Chinatown; these delicate small plates were conceived for contemplation, not throwdown feasts.

Cocktail chatter: The oxblood-colored wallpaper panels depict toon leaves, a garlicky spring delicacy that Wu’s grandpa grows in his yard in Yonkers.

Soundcheck: There may be steamed buns on every table, but this is a far cry from the fever pitch of weekend dim sum.

By: Daniel S. Meyer

Posted:

Details

Address: 22 Orchard St
New York
10002
Cross street: between Canal and Hester Sts
Transport: Subway: F to East Broadway
Price: Average entrée: $18. AmEx, Disc, MC, V
Contact:
Opening hours: Tue–Sat 6pm–midnight; Sun 6–10pm
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