By Denise Mattia
A rippling glass panel partitions nearly half the bar from the dining area of this traditional Chinese restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. At the end of the bar a glass and mirrored panel leads to a private dining room at the rear. A third of China Fun has an upscale East Side look.
Past the gleaming glass and mirrors, the room opens up to a non-descript rectangular dining area. A banquette flanks the windows and the side; restaurant tables and chairs fill the rest of the area. Tablecloths are topped with sheets of paper, on which western cutlery and paper napkins are placed. Toward the rear of the restaurant, three fish swim lazily in a tank. A few lobsters in another tank below use their antennae occasionally to sense their surroundings.
SERVICE AND FOOD
My guest and I entered China Fun one weekday evening after a theatre performance. Empty, save for a couple of patrons, the maître d’ showed us to a table for two and then seated us at a table for four. We were given menus, after which it appeared neither he nor the waitress knew whether or not to hover while we decided on our order.
The double-sided first page of the menu has luscious looking pictures of various dishes, typical Western Chinese fare, focusing mainly on meat cooked by frying in a wok or deep fryer, with vegetables (generally broccoli, which isn’t typical in China) as sides. We noticed China Fun has a variety of Chinese-style dishes on the menu — Szechuan from the northern provinces, which is hot and spicy; Shanghai style from the East is sweet and mild, while Cantonese, the top echelon of fine dining in China, features lots of fresh, steamed seafood, soups and dim sum. Japanese sushi and tempura were also on the menu.
On an earlier visit I had had the Crystal mini soup buns with pork (six for $7.25) dim sum and the Shanghai style fried pork and chives (six for $7.25). The soup buns were substantial and filling. The fried pork dumplings were a little too oily. This evening my guest and I decided we’d share an order of honey spare ribs (four for $13.95) and to try two dim sum: the pan-fried chicken wontons (eight for 7.25) and a steamed red bean bun for dessert. We also ordered a chicken chow fun ($11.75) and the shrimp and vegetable tempura (four shrimp for $13.50).
As requested, the dishes came one at a time. The honey spare ribs were done to perfection. Meaty and tasty they came away from the bone easily. The pan-fried chicken wontons were light and delicious and were served with duck sauce. I asked for hot mustard, which was brought immediately. Next came the Chicken chow fun, a stir-fried dish with pounded flat pieces of chicken, broad (a little slippery, as they should be) rice noodles and fresh bean sprouts. The shrimp tempura, which I’d also ordered previously were disappointing the second time around as well. Rather than flour-egg batter that becomes crisp, inflated and slightly golden when dipped into hot oil, the shrimp were encased in mixture that had a breadcrumb texture.
China Fun (“fun” means Noodle in Chinese) is located at 1221 Second Avenue at 64th Street and is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30am to 11pm Sunday to Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday. The restaurant can get busy during popular hours, which can detract from the service, but since we arrived after “normal” hours, we could take our time and enjoy the meal and good service.
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.