If you’ve walked down 43rd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan, you may have noticed this foreboding doorway on the north side of the street (just past the 99-cent pizza place). This is the doorway to the (in?)famous Hakkasan, a worldwide network of high-end Chinese restaurants. The original, in London, has garnered a Michelin star. But Pete Wells was much more critical, referring to “lunatic prices” — you can pay $888 for abalone tuna with truffles — and “food that is, in too many cases, about as interesting as a box of paper clips”. I wasn’t interested in dropping nearly a thousand dollars on food I wouldn’t eat anyway, so Hakkasan was not really on my radar, even after it opened and I walked by it on a regular basis. Then one day I decided to stop and look at the menu, and it wasn’t terrible. (Forgive the poor photo quality).
I can’t tell you exactly how long Hakkasan was open before the menu was posted outside, but I’m almost positive it was posted shortly after the Times review. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but my guess is that they wanted to counter the impression of being a wildly overpriced restaurant by putting their menu out for all to see.
And it’s actually quite reasonable. Although the omnivores’ entrees break $40 each, the vegetarian entrees range from about $14 to $22. There’s a vegetarian dim sum “small eat” for $20 and a vegetarian hot and sour soup for $9. The $39 prix fixe brunch does not include a vegetarian option…
After I read Pete Wells’s review, I didn’t feel any particular urge to try out Hakkasan. Mediocre, overpriced food? No thanks. But looking more closely at the menu, I see that I can probably get out of there for dinner for under forty bucks. The carnivores out there might have to pay twice as much for three courses, but this seems to be a rare case of a restaurant with decent (looking), reasonably priced vegetarian options — so I might just give it a shot.