New Yorkers know that some of the city’s top restaurants and best experiences are often hidden in plain sight. And such is the case with Chef Guo, the new eponymous, super upscale Chinese restaurant in the heart of midtown. Hidden in a windowless dining room on 50th Street, Chef Guo requires advance reservations and the ring of a doorbell to enter the space, designed to replicate an elegant Chinese banquet, hosted by chef and Chinese food enthusiast (enthusiast is an understatement, this man’s life is Chinese food), Guo Wenjun.
The 19-course, $518 experience starts as soon as a dedicated server guides guests past the stone horse pillars (this is no P.F. Chang’s, but the decor is Insta-worthy) and at a table set with hand-painted chargers, royal yellow and gold-plated China. A soothing playlist of Chinese classical music plays.
Dinner starts as guests are seated in a heavy armchair (a throne, really), and with a gloved hand, a server lifts a ceramic dome to reveal the composed first course. Like everything at Chef Guo, the dish is aesthetically impressive, each bite created from many more ingredients than first appear in the plating. Like edible artwork, the starting course, Butterfly Falls in Love with the Flower puts edible soy paper flowers on a white porcelain canvas, surrounded by a flower created from cold appetizers, like pink shrimp petals, plus accouterments to awaken the senses—bitter melon, black beans and salted dried anchovies.
The meal progresses quickly—this isn’t a slow, drawn-out tasting menu, but rather a feast of small bites that keep up the pace. Elegant bites like foie gras and black truffle atop a bowl of two soups designed like a neon Ying Yang, are interspersed throughout the courses, which include a duck breast served over smoking charcoals, or a cut of sea bass topped with thin fried noodles. A piece of meat is served with a Japanese cookie on top, and the last course, an orange, is set on the table in a mini bamboo swing.
To drink, three tea pairings are served along with the meal, with unlimited refills. Wine can also be paired, for an extra fee.
Because Chef Gou shops for ingredients daily, and spends the day in the kitchen preparing for the meal, the menu may change seasonally or without notice. Two tops and larger tables are available for nightly seatings at 6pm and 8:30pm. Reservations via Tock.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.