Blink and you'll miss its inconspicuous façade, but what a shame, for Café China is a little journey into the magnificent pleasures of Sichuan cuisine by way of midtown. Inside find a long, narrow space fitted out with seductive portraits of 1930's Shanghai starlets, bright red chairs, bamboo planters and a dominating marble-and-wood bar. After struggling with their on-again-off-again popularity, this kitchen is back to their A-game, producing Sichuan (and Sichuan-influenced) dishes with aplomb. Their particular strength lies in the elegant and effortless contrast of complex flavors, even when the prep is decidedly simple-as in the delicious steamed eggplant and ginger sautéed duck. Pickled vegetables achieve harmonious balance between sour and fiery notes; while thinly sliced conch pairs perfectly with tingly chili oil. Sichuan pork dumplings arrive in a delicate wrapper and atop a delicious bath of soy and chili oil. But save space to savor the Chungking chicken, alternately tender and crispy, with abundant dried chilies, scallions and sesame seeds. Spicy cumin lamb, fried to gamey perfection and tossed with sesame seeds, chili peppers and cilantro, is yet another smoky treat.
MICHELIN guide inspectors
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