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A Chain Opening That’s Worth Getting Excited About

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Photo: Teddy Wolff/Teddy Wolff

The chicken at Grandma’s Home, a two-month-old restaurant in Flatiron, is a must-order: A server lifts the lid off a clay pot to reveal the whole bronzed bird underneath, a line of tea leaves and goji berries strewn across the backbone and a still-bubbling pool of concentrated chicken and green-tea jus underneath. The meat is yielding enough for them to dislodge the carcass with just a fork and spoon, leaving diners to pluck their desired pieces. It nearly falls off the bone after hours of baking under the tight seal and being finished on the stove to reduce the sauce. The cooking process seems to imbue the meat with its own gravy; even the breast pieces facing the bottom of the pot are — to put it delicately — succulent.

Thanks to the 200-plus locations of Grandma’s Home in China, this chicken — which is $48 and designed to feed three or four people — is already very famous, and now the bird has made its overseas debut here in Manhattan at the newest Grandma’s Home. Despite its name, the restaurant is not a rustic abode, nor does it feel like a franchise with its stone walls, contemporary art, and dining areas separated by carved wooden screens. You would never know it was an import but for the food, which was clearly practiced and perfected before arriving Stateside.

Grandma’s Home specializes in the cuisine of Hangzhou province, where it first began. Hangzhou is most renowned for its Longjing green tea, also known as Dragonwell, hence the clay-pot chicken. Slices of yellow croaker also get the clay-pot treatment, this time roasted over a bed of whole garlic cloves that perfume the fish and the table.

The company has built a reputation for other things as well. The mapo tofu was once sold in China for the equivalent of 50 cents; the price has gone up but is still a reasonable $12 in New York. The sweet-and-sour pork is cubes of braised meat that are crisped and clad in a vinegary sauce. It is not like any version of the dish I’ve had before. In the vegetable-heavy fried rice, each grain maintains its chew, while bouncy scallion noodles get their fresh onion flavor from an infused oil. For vegetables, there is bright-green choy sum, chopped and cooked just until the thick stems acquire a tender snap and sprinkled with translucent white dried baby shrimp, and blistered stir-fried string beans speckled with chile and ground-beef crumbles that are rendered until they resemble chicharrón. You should order both.

There are nods throughout to current dining trends, like the black truffle in the tofu-skin rolls. Julia Zhu, the U.S. managing partner and daughter of one of the chain’s founders, said she wanted to focus on cocktails and an extended wine list in New York. (My friend and I were delighted with the $60 bottle of Mâcon-Villages we ordered.)

My favorite dish on the menu was another house spin on a classic: youtiao, or fried cylinders of dough typically consumed plain with soy milk for breakfast. At Grandma’s Home, the hollow doughnuts are stuffed with shrimp paste before frying and served hot with a squiggle of honey mayo and a sprinkle of pineapple and lime zest.

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Tammie Teclemariam , 2024-05-23 14:00:28

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