The final restaurant space has been filled at The Statler, and in its first week, Fine China made a grand entrance.
With a large dining room with modern design, a few rooms for private dining parties, a partially exposed kitchen in the back and some of the prettiest bathrooms, Fine China is a pleasant place to dwell. A long table in the entrance of the dining room offers a perfect spot to make new friends dining next to your party.
And the menu makes it a worthy place to linger.
Booze in a box: Fine China's tiger's eye cocktail.
To start, you may order the tiger’s eye ($12) with bourbon, Gran Classico, vermouth and bitters. The drink is well made, but someone went a touch past creative and decided to put it in a small wooden box, despite the fact that this isn’t sake, and a large ice cube dominates the square opening.
The beverage menu takes up a few pages, offering a sake list — with a few on tap ($6-$9) — beer, wine and cocktails.
Beer options include Sapporo ($5) and Tiger ($6). Cold-brew and looseleaf teas ($6) provide excellent non-alcoholic alternatives.
The drink choices from Japan and Singapore are a reminder that while “China” is in the name of this place, you shouldn’t anticipate traditional Cantonese here.
Executive chef Angela Hernandez is taking her own approach to American Chinese food. It’s not surprising she knows how to play with flavors after working in chef Tyson Cole’s kitchen at Top Knot.
The food menu begins with dim sum, offering crispy pork wontons with garlic and chili oil ($7), duck confit croquetas with shishito yogurt ($10) and spicy chicken wings with sama sama sauce ($12) among the nine options. If you can’t decide from those, the “sum to share” is a wooden platter of the chef’s selections.
More dumplings, please.
Xiao long bao ($6) is thankfully part of this list, too. The soup dumplings are flavorful, even with a dough that felt a bit too thick. The only real complaint is that one order gives you three small dumplings, so don’t bother trying to share.
The other side of the menu offers noodles and large plates.
Chilled dan dan noodles ($12) are the highlight, coming out in a simple metal bowl and topped with (allegedly spicy) pork ragú, chili oil and crushed peanuts. As you mix the ingredients together with chopsticks, you’ll find these flavors hard to resist.
While it could’ve been spicier, this was an excellent bowl of noodles. If you live or work downtown, this should be in your future for takeout, at the very least. And if Fine China can nail a bowl of cold dan dan noodles, there’s great hope for the other noodles on the menu.
Large dishes are resplendent with tempting items, such as the wok-fried crab omelet ($18) with bean sprouts, local greens, oyster sauce and steamed rice.
But there’s a little featured box toward the end of the menu with Cantonese roast duck that you shouldn’t ignore. If enough people are at your table, you might justify the $75 price tag for the full order. But the half order ($38) will satisfy two large appetites.
Served with cucumber, scallion, a hoisin barbecue sauce, small steamed buns and a tiny pile of sea salt, this crispy, fatty duck is decadent. It’s apparently only available for dinner, and availability is limited. So get here early.
If you let your server tempt you with dessert, go with the golden Mantou ($7). The little steamed buns are fried and topped with powdered sugar. While their aroma might evoke the State Fair of Texas, the dulce de leche next to the basket elevates everything. Yes, that bowl of sauce looks rather large — until you pair it with this sweet, fried bread.
Fine China, welcome to downtown. Keep doing what you’re doing.
Fine China, 1914 Commerce St. (downtown)