“We eat everything with four legs except tables and everything with wings except airplanes,” is a saying we heard in southern China, where we sampled such delicacies as scorpion on a stick, pig-blood soup, fried starfish, grilled snake and lots of internal organs from species unknown. In the spirit of Chinese voraciousness, Richard Hales has gotten creative without going fusion on his menu at the new Black Brick, also known as Midtown Chinese. Best of all, he’s imbued his place with personality and a sense of humor.
“I want it to be true to where it started,” Hales says. “We are using the best ingredients and mastering the techniques to help this city recognize that we should have a Chinese place not doing sushi.” With the help of chefs from Hong Kong and Hunan province, Hales is putting out treats like lamb tongue flatbread, General Tso’s Alligator, fried duck head, whole rabbit and jellyfish salad.
His casual, fast-paced spot is at once hip and welcoming. It helps that prices are reasonable and the staff super friendly. Most days find Hales in the open kitchen, where an occasional chili bomb fills the air with pungent spice that makes your eyes water. Thanks to a powerful fan, the sensation lasts only a moment.
Ambience: Less than comfy with its hard-back wooden booths and metal stools, the space is like a backstreet nightclub. Namesake brickwall segments set off shiny red paint inter cut with stripes of graffiti art and images of Hales heroes including Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and Keith Richards. Cage-like hanging red metal lanterns lend a whimsical edge. Waiter service and a full bar with a tiny but well-curated wine list, classic cocktails and local brews raise the experience beyond Hales’ Sakaya Kitchen and his sought-after dim sum truck.
- Pork laobing – a delicious flaky, folded roti stuffed with succulent pork and loaded with spice
- Fluffy fried rice with roast duck and sausage
- Fantastic house-made bucatini buried beneath slabs of juicy Berkshire pork, sweet sesame paste, Schezuan pepper, diced scallions and chopped roasted peanuts
- Fluffy buns that are as soft and white as marshmallows stuffed with smoky, cumin-spiced lamb
- Wonton soup made from textured & delicate stock from rabbit and duck bones; packed with hand-rolled shrimp wontons and topped with tender, flavorful pork slices
- Dumplings wrapped in thin, chewy dough that are as comforting as a nap in the sun
- General’s Gator a spicy, gloppy, deep-fried dumpling
- Egg rolls with a sweet and sour pumpkin sauce
- Crispy-skinned Peking duck served with puffy buns, buttery, roti-style discs and traditional slivered cucumbers and scallions
- Thumb-sized eggplants as purple and glistening as amethyst
- Baby bok choy stir-fried with bits of bitey ginger
- Green beans dry-fried and tossed with nice spice
- Peanut butter ice cream topped with sriracha sauce and toasted coconut
- Decadent banana and bourbon trifles
- Big, crispy waffle cookies stuffed with goofy messages — “Laugh alone and the world thinks you’re an idiot.”