Hakkasan’s Menu Looks Promising…

…for vegetarians.

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…

…but the $29 lunch prix fixe does: 

Interestingly, not a reference to $888 tuna to be found…

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.

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3 Responses to Hakkasan’s Menu Looks Promising…

  1. malasa says:

    Interesting! Although I would have some reservations about eating expensive vegetarian Chinese food. Unlike meat (that could be of a high grade, or cooked just right), you can only make vegetables so well. And though it is enticing to have a “good deal” on something that should be a more expensive meal, you could easily have an amazing, all veggie meal in china town for 5 dollars. The only thing that would really change my mind is if thier veggie meals had interesting, creative twists on the classic dishes, or something beyond vegetable stir fry. But when I see four veggie stir fry in Szechuan sauce, I feel like I am paying $29 for something I could make at home for $3.
    (Side note, I tried typing “szechuan” and iphone corrected it to “sex human.”)

  2. withoutbacon says:

    Yeah, that’s a fair point. Their vegetarian dim sum is $20, but Tasty Dumpling has 8 for $3. My point here was more that, if you really want to go to Hakkasan, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. I can’t prove this, but I have a hunch that they lowered their prices after the Times slammed them for overpriced, mediocre-quality food. (You should read the full review; it’s pretty funny.)

  3. withoutbacon says:

    Hakkasan is also a place people go for the “scene” (Andy Murray went there to celebrate winning the US Open), so it’s also worth noting that you can party with the cool people for forty or fifty bucks, which is pretty difficult in NYC.

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