Just the name alone brings paparazzi flashes to mind. As Alan Richman said, Mr. Chow is, "an establishment that cannot be defined by customary standards but must be appreciated for its sheer fabulousness." This Chinese experience has been providing glamor and plenty of smizing since 1974 - yes, this place has actually been around for almost 50 years! You know a place is a success when it can charge an arm and a leg, have multiple famous locations, and always be packed. Like The Ivy and Cecconi's, Mr. Chow has an equally famous London branch (the original opened in 1968.)
Set on a rather quiet block of Camden Drive, the green hedges out front draw the eye's attention to the rather minimalist facade. It gives just enough je ne sais quoi to impart the impression that this place is important. At night a regular set of paparazzi chat with the valet, non-famous patrons, and passersby while waiting to take that one photo that'll make it all worth it. Just about every celebrity and wannabe you've ever heard of, dreamed of, or completely forgotten about has been snapped leaving this place. It is one of the few restaurants that has stood the test of time and stayed a celebrity fixture - that alone should prove its worthiness.
Walk inside and immediately in front is a rather packed bar area that can be likened to a bullpen. Whether you have a reservation or not, there is inevitably always a wait so where does one go but to spend money on a cocktail? It smacks of the same annoying part about crowd control at a club - keep people in line outside and make them think it's bumpin' inside to create more buzz. This is the perfect time, however, to work on your glamor. Everyone in here is looking at you, and the person next to you, and the one behind you, and that guy over there. A whiff of a famous person and the restaurant is sent into a silent frenzy - everyone too proud to freak out but freaking out to whoever's at their side.
The aura of this place - imagine yourself in the days of Studio 54. You're in New York, wearing your finest Halston and Yves Saint Laurent. You walk into a black and white marble-floored eatery with flashbulbs going off and Donna Summer playing in the background. That is what Mr. Chow is like - and all whilst being almost impossibly current.
Once you do sit - everything is taken care of. Very knowledgeable, ultra friendly, impeccably trained: the servers and waitstaff make that extra penny totally worth it. And the food?
What about the food you say? It's delicious. Of course there are little holes in the wall in Chinatown that provide great food at a fraction of the price. But this is dinner and a show. So what are some of my faves?
- Chicken Satay
- Prawn Toast
- Glazed Prawns
- Ma Mignon
- Glazed Pork
- Gamblers Duck
- Mr. Chow Noodles