The “which fork to use” mix-up is a trope of fine-dining formality—at La Chine, it’s replaced with chopstick confusion. “The white chopsticks are for serving yourself from the shared plates,” the cheerful server explains. “The black are your personal utensils.”
It’s one small sample of the frills and frippery—what kids these days would call #Extra—you’ll experience at the Waldorf Astoria’s swanky Chinese replacement of Oscar’s American Brasserie, part of the hotel’s $2 billion takeover by Chinese firm Anbang Insurance. In command of the black-and-gold dining room, softened with plush-velvet and cherry-blossom wallpaper, is Singaporean chef Kong Khai Meng, whose résumé is stamped with high-end hotel chains like the Four Seasons and W Hotels.
Kong’s modern, multiregional menu (places of origin are piously footnoted under each dish) is divided into categories from “Barbeque” to “Rice, Noodle,” but the most waiter-sold section is the Wenzhou-inspired raw bar—and at $22 for a few petals of Szechuan-oiled yellowtail, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why. But despite the prevalence of Chinkiang vinegar, none register as little more than abstractly Chinese.
Go a less-fussy route with beef tongue, soft and tender with whiffs of lemongrass ($15), or chilled Szechuan chicken, leavened with garlic and ginger beneath a handful of peanuts ($16). Or simply do as seemingly every other table is doing and get the Peking duck (whole $70, half $45). What it lacks in good, tooth-testing skin crackle, it makes up for in sweet, near-melting flesh and, served with sheer, black-sesame pancakes, rich hoisin sauce and militantly tidy batons of cucumber and cantaloupe, it’s the kind of #Extra we can get behind.