When discussing RedFarm, the Chinese restaurant he’ll open in a week or two with chef Joe Ng, Ed Schoenfeld is not modest: “I expect this to be the best Chinese restaurant in the United States,” he tells us. Schoenfeld has made a career of opening restaurants, with a particular emphasis on Asian food — he’s done Shun Lee, Shun Lee Palace, and Chinatown Brasserie in New York — so if anybody is going to succeed in the refined-Chinese arena that has eluded so many, it could well be him. “I’ve been chasing after this my whole life,” the restaurateur admits. RedFarm will deviate from the usual gleaming lacquer and deep red that tend to characterize upscale Chinese eateries; rather, the 45-seat dining room, housed in an 1820s townhouse, has a “barn-y” feel, as Schoenfeld describes it, and it’s distinctly casual, with long oak tables and benches upholstered in red-and-white gingham.
As for the food, “we’re not at all interested in being authentic, just delicious,” Schoenfeld tells Grub. “And what we’re really interested in is just fun.” That’s evident in dishes like “Pac-Man” dumplings, where a sweet-potato round is cut to look like the voracious video-game character and the shrimp dumplings stand in as multicolored ghosts. Not everything is kooky, though, nor does the menu stick to any one Chinese region: You might start with a cold Sichuan appetizer or two, such as smoked cucumber with Sichuan pickled vegetable, move on to some Hong Kong dim sum, and then dig into Cantonese barbecued pork. Schoenfeld notes that Korean rice cakes, Italian pasta, and even butter and olive oil make appearances, “where it makes sense.”
Many of the vegetables are purchased at the Greenmarket, most meat is sourced from LaFrieda, and a clipboard of daily specials will reflect what’s in season. This is the “farm” part of RedFarm’s name, and a way of ensuring the cooking here is “more natural and cleaner and fresher” than your average Chinese spot. It’s part of a larger vision Schoenfeld and Ng have of creating a dozen Chinese takeout spots operating with the help of a central commissary. They’re also planning RedFarm-branded grocery items such as sauces and rice, and they’re already supplying dumplings wholesale to a few places around town, which Schoenfeld demurred to name — though he did say one was RedFarm Stand, the counter that opened last year inside FoodParc.
Brunch, lunch, breakfast, and afternoon tea are all part of the plan as well. And the restaurant will be open late: till midnight seven days a week to start, likely till 2 a.m. beginning soon after that. “When I started in the eighties, if you had a restaurant that served refined food it needed to be a fancy restaurant where people would put on ties and jackets,” Schoenfeld recalls. “But today, it’s aggressively casual. People don’t want to dress up. There’s nothing that precludes you from having really good food in a setting like that.”
Redfarm Menu [PDF]
RedFarm, 529 Hudson St., nr. Charles St.; 212-792-9700