After four decades wooing the tabloid set from London to Las Vegas, Michael Chow has mastered the formula for packing his eateries with diners looking more for a good time than a great meal. It happens every night at Mr. Chow South Beach. Guests are greeted by a team of gorgeous models/hostesses and handed off to white-tuxedoed waiters who are better trained in the art of schmoozing than serving.
The food? Do you really have to ask? It’s good. Sometimes even delicious. But really, it’s not about that. Mr. Chow’s guests are not expected to work very hard or think very much. It is, in fact, nearly impossible to order your own meal. I tried. But the suave salesmen, er, waiters, take care of everything. Fish, chicken, beef? How about lobster? Why not start with a champagne toast? How elegant. How much? If you have to ask … $28 for a glass of nonvintage Veuve Clicquot ros.
Ambiance: The posh white-on-white dining room, mammoth gold-leaf and Swarovski crystal chandelier and sultry al fresco dining area greet at the swanky W Hotel. If you find yourself at one of the dozen-plus tables that are separated by less than the width of an iPhone, dont sulk, start up a conversation – just be prepared to chat over blasting classic rock tunes.
- Springy and hot soup dumplings in a nice, bright broth
- Dark, dramatic and divine rice noodles with squid ink
- Excellent, super-fresh unctuous drunken fish in a sweet, buttery sauce so thick it could nearly hold up a spoon
- Sublimely crunchy and colorful vegetables
- Gently stir-fried rice with impressively tender, knuckle-sized shrimp
- Tiny, but heavenly, lobster in its shell
- Well-executed, albeit formulaic, molten chocolate cake
- Plenty of perfectly good wines on the pricey international list: a crisp and grassy sancerre and a ros, both from the Loire Valley
What Didn’t Work
- Soft and slippery cod dumplings served with a rather average soy-vinegar sauce
- Gummy, overcooked pork pot stickers (brought out despite telling the waiter that guests didn’t eat meat)
- A smattering of tiny clams over chewy rice
- Anything in salty XO sauce, including shriveled green beans
- Anything with “glazed” in its name, including fresh spring prawns with walnuts that were as sweet as dessert
I understand Madonna loves the place. Brad Pitt is said to favor the chicken satay and Jennifer Lopez the lobster. But I can’t help thinking I’d really just love some good Chinese takeout.