Last week I was lucky enough to go to the brand spankin’ new Chinese-Indian eatery The Chinese Club–located at 102 Lexington Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets in the famous foodie neighborhood of Curry Hill–and was blown away. I have never had this unique combination of cuisines before. The first thing that awaits you at your table in this warm brick-walled establishment are homemade spicy potato chips with curled up edges–they seem to have an assortment of classic Indian spices on them and are slightly on the hot side. They are quite addicting and you have to remind yourself that you have not even ordered yet to keep yourself from overindulging!I noticed that nearly everyone at neighboring tables ordered some sort of dumpling and what they call Chicken Lolypops as their appetizers. There are about four different dumpling choices but my dining partner Gail and I preferred to order the Momos style dumplings served with a side of chutney since we do not eat fish and all the other dumpling choices contain shrimp. Okay, let me state right here that the dumplings were superfresh and delicious–with a perfectly juicy, lightly seasoned minced chicken filling—but the Chicken Lolypops were something downright otherworldly.Not only are the Chicken Lolypops served in a very large portion–four golden deep-fried “drumettes” (white meat on the bone trimmed to look like a drumstick)–but they are just so juicy that your fingers and face are wet after eating them. I would not be surprised if Colonel Sanders returned from the grave just to stop The Chinese Club from selling them! The Chicken Lolypops also happen to be served in the cutest little green Indian street food cart and have a side of super fresh spicy mayo.We also indulged in a lovely cold Chinese Bhel Salad which includes the unique combination of Chinese noodles, crispy puffed rice, corn, chili, onion, cucumber, pomegranate kernels and avocado. Topped with carrot and cilantro, I tasted a bit of lemon juice and curry powder added to the mix. This is one of the most unique salads that you will ever eat and when leaving you will be asking the kitchen staff for the recipe and be wondering if you could recreate this at he with puffed rice cereal. (I think you could come reasonably close but I have the feeling you will not “dress” it right!”)I adore mango salad and have to order it wherever and whenever it is available. The Chinese Club does a very spicy mango salad–the spiciest that I have ever had as a matter of fact due to pieces of assorted spicy peppers in the mix. I just adored this salad as it was the perfect mix of fresh, crunchy green mango with liberal amounts of cashews, cilantro, carrots, celery and bean sprouts. I definitely will come back for this. I am told that like all of The Chinese Club’s dishes, this can be ordered less spicy upon request.I just had to check out the Darjeeling Hakka Lo Mein under the Noodles section of the menu next. I love that they were served in a classic Chinese takeout container with the cool Chinese Club logo on the front. The lo mein is lightly stir fried in peanut sauce with onions, bean sprouts, carrots, bok choy, eggs and scallion and then topped with fresh red pepper, fresh carrot and cilantro. There is a slight curry and pepper kick here that is not overpowering. If you like classic Indian flavors, you will prefer this lo mein to your run-of-the-mill vegetable lo mein at your neighborhood Chinese restaurant. I had chicken added to mine, and Chinese Club also offers diners the choice of adding beef, tofu w/veggies or seafood.
The Manchurian Beef was tender and I must say, kept pretty true to the original recipe without a lot of Indian influences slipping in. This is by far the most mellow dish that my pal Gail and I ordered. This was a straightforward tender sliced beef in a classic brown sauce with scallions, ginger, garlic and onions thrown into the mix. It is served with simple white rice although for a change you can order the different fried rices or the sticky rice.In the list of the top three most ordered dishes at the Chinese Club are the Butter Salt & Pepper Mushrooms. These are lightly sauteed, golden and delicious. I can see why they are so popular. Tempura mushrooms are used for this dish and its scallion and garlic that bring out their sweet flavor and tender texture.Don’t forget to end your meal with what I call “Indian Spumoni”! The official name is Kwality Cassatta and your have three rich homemade Indian style ice creams (vanilla, cherry and strawberry) on top of a slab of yellow cake and topped by an assortment of honey roasted nuts. On the side are slices of strawberries and small light green juicy “pearls” that upon first look seem to be the tapioca used in the Chinese bubble teas that are so popular now–but the owners have clarified to me that they are little bubbles of yellow mango juice.There is also an excellent cocktail menu with drinks as creative as you might expect from a restaurant that combines Chinese and Indian fare! I had the delicious Darjeeling Darling which contained vodka, lime, agave and ginger beer; it was topped with fresh peppermint and tasted like a Mojito with a ginger kick. I like the silver studded black cylinder my glass was placed in before serving. Also pictured is the lovely Goodman Di Laltain which is a delicious mixture of St. Germain, Prosecco and strawberry.
I strongly recommend a visit to The Chinese Club. The crowd is on the young side (possibly due to their close proximity to Baruch College and reasonable prices) but the atmosphere is fun and it’s great for solo diners or bug groups. Children are welcome, too and they often get a kick out of the big display of metal Indian toy cars and tricks on the back wall. They have a second location at 208 Grand Street in Williamsburg. Their official website is www.chineseclubnyc.com and reservations are not necessary.