It’s been open since the early 1980s, but there’s nothing dated about Chengdu 46. The gourmet Chinese restaurant has managed to keep a steady crowd of happy customers for the past 30 years thanks to two things: its romantic ambiance, and crack team of native Sichuan chefs. Families and dinner dates alike gather beneath red paper lanterns to savory crispy peking duck and empress chicken by the flickering candlelight. One chef specialty known as Spicy South Sea Pearls consists of whole sea scallops that have been fried, sautéed, and arranged to resemble a more grown-up version of a candy necklace. All food can be prepared for dine-in or takeout, and parties of four or more can reserve a private room and dine from a multicourse banquet menu.
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Lucky Cheng's — whose décor was immortalized in lush photos printed in NY Magazine — has billed itself as "the Drag Queen Capital of the Universe" since its inception 20 years ago, when it was still located in the East Village. Today, it sits amid the bustle of Times Square, but many aspects of the business still remain: lively drag cabaret, menus of pan-Asian fare, cocktails made with house-infused vodkas, and an ever-growing list of outrageous celebrity antics to make even the most seasoned tabloid reader blush. Under the soft, pink glow of delicate paper lanterns, Ashley Olsen allegedly threw a tantrum. On a break from filming The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey were rumored to carouse on Martin Scorsese's dime at a late-night bash. Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton were spotted here shooting scenes for an upcoming flick, and Ethan Hawke allegedly escaped here to nurse post-breakup wounds. And, enveloped in an all-red cabaret room, Britney Spears is said to have stormed the stage and plucked off the clothes of patrons competing in a boxers-or-briefs contest. Lucky Cheng's has also appeared on iconic small-screen shows, making cameos on favorites such as 30 Rock and Sex in the City.
But for all its association with Hollywood stars and Page Six-level shenanigans, Lucky Cheng's boasts plenty of drama of its own. The establishment's famed drag performers adorned in jewels, shimmering embroidery, and sharply contoured cheekbones bring their most incandescent selves to the stage every night, as diners enjoy pre-fixe meals and sometimes even join in on the act.
Though it has held a prominent location in Chinatown for more than three decades, Jing Fong Restaurant doesn't really exist within New York City. The lights and sounds of the Big Apple fall away as soon as diners pass the marble lions guarding the dim sum restaurant's exterior. Just inside, an escalator travels upwards towards a twinkling crystal chandelier, and by the time it reaches the third-floor dining room, the moving stairs have transported guests thousands of miles away to Hong Kong.
The space is massive. 120 tables fill the dining room, framed by red walls sprinkled with golden Chinese characters. All around, waiters—clad in chic yellow jackets—push rolling carts filled with the things hungry dreams are made of: steaming bamboo baskets bearing more than 100 types of dim sum. Steamed pork buns, fried shrimp balls, almond tofu, or perhaps even mango pudding could all be waiting within the piping hot packages. Follow these bite-sized eats back to the kitchen, and you'll find several skilled Chinese chefs. In addition to dim sum, this culinary army prepares traditional Cantonese recipes for everything from Peking duck to oxtail curry casserole.
Since it's meant to be shared, Jing Fong Restaurant's food makes for a communal dining experience—one that's filled with conversation and laughter between family and friends. In fact, you could celebrate nearly every important life event at the restaurant. An on-site banquet room contains 800 seats, which sit beneath a chandelier even bigger than the one Donald Trump uses as a book light.