On Monday night I had the pleasure of being house photographer for the grand opening of the New York City location of Hakkasan. Hakkasan is a gorgeous Chinese restaurant, with waitresses dressed by Diane Von Furstenberg – and amazing food to match. Of course, the party did not disappoint! See the New York Times review after the gallery.
From the New York Times:
The world’s only luxury Chinese restaurant chain, Hakkasan, landed in New York on Tuesday, making its long-awaited debut with a $10 million installation on a gritty block just steps from Times Square. And not wasting time to recoup that investment, it offers a few dishes with three-figure prices.
The first Hakkasan opened in London in 2001, in a basement off an obscure alley. It combined velvet-rope cachet, a stunning setting bathed in indigo light and a menu of appealing, well-prepared though not always authentic Chinese food, devised by Alan Yau. He sold his interest in 2008 to Tasameem, an investment company in Abu Dhabi.
The chain — now with a second London location, an outpost in Miami Beach and branches across Asia and the Middle East, and with plans for San Francisco,Las Vegas and Los Angeles — closely maintains the original formula. Though the restaurants are no longer designed by Christian Liaigre, who did the original, people who were with him now do the work, including Gilles & Boissier of Paris, which designed the New York property. Despite the restaurants’ sizes — the New York space is 11,000 square feet and seats 200 — they offer intimacy, with targeted lighting in dining areas separated by lattices.
In New York, diners enter through an 80-foot corridor encased in matched slabs of Carrara marble, lighted dimly enough to avoid evoking Forest Lawn. The 60-foot bar, in blue frosted glass, takes its cue from Miami more than London. There is more seating in the bar, for walk-ins, who can order from the regular menu. And touches of pink embroidery on some upholstery are a departure from the chain’s typical black, blue and gray.
The chef, Ho Chee Boon, 40, from Malaysia and the executive chef for the restaurants in the United States, said the food is Cantonese, though that has mainly to do with technique. There are dishes like Shanghai dumplings, ma po tofu and wok-fried Wagyu beef with spicy peanut sauce.
“Hakkasan is how the West wants to celebrate Chinese food,” said Niall Howard, the chief executive of the company, which seeks to draw an international clientele with high-quality ingredients, including seafood that is often sustainably sourced, and with waitresses dressed by Diane Von Furstenberg. Most entrees are $22 to $88, though prices run to $888 (a lucky number in China) for Japanese abalone with black truffle; Peking duck with Kaluga caviar is $345; and whole suckling pig is $295.
Mr. Howard said many on the staff, including the manager, Scott Gingerich, have worked in New York and know the dining landscape. “We’re not imposing ourselves on New York,” Mr. Howard said.
The new restaurant will have some dishes not available in the other outposts, like lobster soup with tomatoes and bean curd; lobster stir-fry in XO sauce; almond soft-shell crab; duck breast with king oyster mushrooms; and a more elaborate dessert menu. But no fortune cookies— macarons instead.
Hakkasan, 311 West 43rd Street, (212) 776-1818.