Village Chinese-food innovator targets the Upper West Side
Ed Schoenfeld didn’t say when RedFarm on the Upper West Side would open. Not exactly, anyway. The veteran restaurateur said that he prefers to “open slow,” minus the flashy grand opening that often comes with bad service from an inexperienced wait staff.
“It’s not my style to give out a hard date,” said Schoenfeld, age 63. “I want to take really good care of every guest who comes through my front door.”
Schoenfeld said the new RedFarm, at Broadway between 77th and 78th, will probably open in the days after Labor Day when he’ll “have a chance to get some fresh food in the place.”
“We’re going to start opening slowly,” said Schoenfeld. “Which for us might mean having a private party, having some friends and family, maybe opening to the public by just taking a few people or a few tables and gradually over the course of a week or two ramp up until we’re fully operational.”
RedFarm is a niche restaurant serving traditional Chinese food – dumplings, dim sum, spring rolls, stir frys – in a creative and modern way. The formula is working. With only 40 tables at Schoenfeld’s West Village location, he frequently has to turn people away. He said a recent “slow day” saw over 300 guests — even though a majority of his regular West Village customers are away on vacation.
Schoenfeld said the new RedFarm will start by only serving lunch. The menu will have some of the same items that are served at the West Village location, but will also feature some new fare from head chef Joe Ng, whom Schoenfeld said would “probably be the best dim sum chef in Hong Kong.”
Schoenfeld has previously opened three restaurants on the Upper West Side; Shun Lee on West 65th Street in 1980, Vince & Eddies on West 68th Street in 1990, and Fishin’ Eddie on West 71 Street in 1991.
“I sold my shares in the last two spots in 1993 and had been mostly doing consulting until I created RedFarm a few years ago,” said Schoenfeld. RedFarm’s Upper West Side location will be his 51st restaurant venture.
Schoenfeld has been watching the Upper West Side food scene for years, and chose the area because the timing is right.
“I think the neighborhood is really ripe for us. There’s a long tradition of eating Chinese food on the Upper West Side that I’ve been aware of,” said Schoenfeld. “It’s a really dense neighborhood and I think we’ll be well-received there.”
Schoenfeld said one of the problems with Chinese cooking today is that chefs are doing the same dishes over and over again in the same ways. RedFarm’s philosophy, he said, is to do some of those same dishes in a unique, new and creative way.
RedFarm’s food is playful and whimsical, he said, but never at the expense of taste or practicality, he said. “We have shrimp dumplings that look like Pac-Man and ghosts, and spring rolls that are fashioned to look like flowers, and crispy duck dumplings that have little faces on them … It’s going to be the same modern Chinese cooking that has a whimsical side, but it’s rooted in classic Cantonese food.”
The Upper West Side isn’t the only place Schoenfeld is making moves. RedFarm’s West Village location, on the second floor of an old brownstone, is set to move downstairs and be reincarnated as a pop-up called RedFarm Steak for 28 days only.
Eventually the space downstairs, a former laundromat Schoenfeld bought to expand the number of tables RedFarm could seat, will become “Decoy,” a mixology bar and restaurant that will specialize in Peking Duck set to open in October.
Schoenfeld said the Upper West Side RedFarm will be what the West Village location was, “except we’re going to change up a lot of items just so that it’s a little fresh and exciting and it’s fun for us to be doing some new stuff and being creative, and it’s also fun for our customers.”
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