Episode 16: Chinese Tuxedo + Well-Traveled Chinese Food
Located in a former opera house on the historic Doyers Street of NYC’s Chinatown, Chinese Tuxedo is not your average Chinese restaurant. Co-owner Eddy Buckingham, and Executive Chef Paul Donnelly talk to Lynda and Iris about all the different cultural influences that they brought to New York and reinterpreted at this contemporary Chinese restaurant.
Lynda and Iris start the discussion with Chinese food in Australia - where Eddy was raised and where he met Paul, as it is one of the major influences on Chinese Tuxedo's food. Iris gives a brief history of how Chinese food came to Australia with indentured laborers during the gold rush in the 1850's and how the cuisine developed over the next century. Eddy picks up where Iris left off and describes how food culture changed in the last couple of decades and how Chinese food in Australia differs to American Chinese food.
Lynda then asks Eddy and Paul about how their menu represents their various influences, specifically the unique crispy eggplant with Sichuan and peanut caramel in contrast to the more traditional whole crispy skin squab with spiced salt, and New Yorker's reaction to the whole bird!
Eddy and Paul then talk about the special space. Chinese Tuxedo is located in the original Chinatown opera house--the first Chinese-language opera east of San Francisco in the US. The restaurant is on Doyers Street, formerly known as the "Bloody Angle", which was at one point known as the most dangerous street in the country. (Former guest, Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor also talked about this historic street!)
They then discuss the reception Chinese Tuxedo has been getting, as well as the different types of clientele they find at the restaurant. Lynda also poses the question, what makes good contemporary Chinese food? They go into a discussion about the double standard that exists when it comes to prestige and perceived value when you compare Chinese cuisine to the likes of French or Italian.
29:25 "It enthuses and excites a lot of our guests. They go, 'I'm so pleased to see dishes like this prepared in this way, served in this environment.' But some guests...they might have sticker shock. To their mind, there's a ceiling to what they think Chinese food can be and what it's worth. We want to shift people's perception of what the food can do and can be." - Eddy on the perception of Chinese food and the stigma Chinese Tuxedo occasionally fights.
Finally, they talk about what's next for Eddy and Paul, as well as The Good Sort, the vegan café next door that Eddy calls the yin to Chinese Tuxedo's yang. In conclusion, Chinese Tuxedo's food cannot be pinned down or easily defined, so you'll just have to stop by and try it!