4/11/2012 02:35:00 PM
Is it Worth It? $25 Shrimp Toast at Hakkasan
Hakkasan, the uber-high end chain with locales in London, India and the Middle East recently touched down in NYC, bringing its nouvelle Cantonese cuisine to a dumpy stretch of 43rd Street. Our experience with Chinese food is admittedly limited to Sunday night delivery from one of the billion storefront mom-and-pop shops in our ‘hood, so we were curious how a dish we know and love (shrimp toast) would stack up against an up-upscale $25 version.
The Dish: Unlike the flat, triangle-shaped standard, Hakkasan’s upscale version – called "sesame prawn toast" - comes in four sesame seed–crusted spheres complete with an over-the-top foie gras boost. It was well cooked and presented, with a crisp, crunchy crust that gave way to a satisfyingly tender inside that was all plump shrimp and no filler. The circular shape significantly upped the proportion of shrimp to bready coating and the foie gras lent a rich flavor, but not an overpowering one. It definitely tasted like its more humble, plebian sibling, just, we concede, more delicious.
Why the Price?: Despite its peculiar, nowheresville locale, Hakkasan is a super fancy restaurant. The space is humongous (at least by NYC standards) and opulent right from go, with a long, marble-lined entrance that leads to dramatic and winding labyrinth like interior with plush banquettes and many private nooks and crannies (It’s definitely aiming for chic, extravagant luxury, but to our cynical eyes it seemed more China Pavilion at Epcot Center.) The menu is insanely priced: the average entrée cost is a whopping $38.79, with the tofu offerings priced at $19 and the most spendy main, a black-truffle roasted duck coming it at $88. ‘Supreme special dishes’ range from $78 to $888. You get the picture.
Is It Worth It?: If your name happens to be on a richest people in America list, then why not? Having never personally seen our name there, we have to give it a big fat NO. For starters, it’s a decadent enough dish on its own, and so the foie gras seemed superfluous. And yes, the shrimp toast, excuse us, "sesame prawn toast" with foie gras, was perfectly cooked, generously filled and just about as satisfying as an app can get, but regular old shrimp toast is perfectly tasty and costs about 555% less, roughly speaking.
Of course, we saw Dakota Fanning on our way out and had a bonus Channing Tatum sighting about a block away, so if either invited us to dine on sesame prawn toast with them again, our answer would be yes – as long as they were paying.