Sinclair Jones

Beijing Flavor Thrives as Philippe Welcomes New Captain on New York City’s Upper East Side

The latest from world renowned chef Philippe Chow is already seeing regulars

When Philippe Chow first opened in New York City 10 years ago, people came from near and far to try his authentic Beijing cuisine, including celebrities like Mariah Carey, Rihanna, and Carmelo Anthony. Of course, normal folks like us enjoy chowing down on his signature dishes, too, so we're glad that the eatery welcomes a diverse crowd to the sultry surroundings of its Upper East Side outpost. The Daily Meal was invited to try Philippe, and spoke with John Villa, its newly appointed president and partner, to get the scoop.

The Daily Meal: How does your experience helping grandma cook Italian Sunday dinner translate to the kitchen somewhere like Philippe, where you serve soup dumplings, Beijing chicken, and Peking duck?
John Villa: Growing up, my entire family was passionate about food. At my grandparents’ place, they made their own compost made from plums, zucchini and tomatoes. I remember my grandfather eating a raw tomato with olive oil and seasoning. It was about the simplicity of ingredients.

To this day, I can still remember the smell of Sunday dinners and homemade sauce. It made you feel alive. I even learned how to use my sense of smell from her. I use my sense of smell as an indicator to detect if a dish is cooked to perfection; I recall being able to smell my first stock and was able to gauge instantaneously if it would taste good or not. That’s when I knew I made the right decision for my career.

Are there any dishes on the menu that people will recognize specifically as a signature "Philippe Chow" dish? 
We have many staples here at Philippe: chicken satay, green prawns and Peking duck, just to name a few.

Any news dishes on the horizon, like lighter fare options? 
Our goal is to incorporate more seasonal items that are not thought of typical Chinese cuisine. Specifically, we’ll be working with raw ingredients to provide healthier and alternate options in addition to lightly seared fish such as tuna, among other delectable dishes.

You mentioned taking the sliver of chocolate cake promptly off the menu, slashing the prices, and adding a lot more festive treats…
We listen to our customers’ feedback and more importantly, cater to their appetite. My focus is to incorporate a Chinese signature dessert with exemplary tableside service. Within our repertoire, we perfected a Baked Alaska, which consists of ice cream and cake topped with browned meringue, flambéed over alcohol. Another dessert we created is a fortune cookie cake atop a cupcake with almond filled icing and ice cream. We want to continue to mesh these two cultures together.

Describe what you were going for with the interior design…I understand you’re going to be adding few more finishing touches.
My wife, Regina is one of the top movie set designers who is helping us renovate the restaurant. The idea isn’t necessarily to redesign, but to refresh the interior with minor touches to give our space more of an “in-vogue,” contemporary look. In the main dining room on the first floor, we’re going to add some texture, add a gold leaf tone, with a touch of drama, warmth and glitz. Pops of the Philippe trademark red will be used to accent color for pillows, decorative accessories, and floral arrangements. To help block out the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, we’re adding a privacy curtain composed of brown velvet to the breezeway of the kitchen. Ultimately, creating a much quieter setting for our dining guests.

What do you think the Philippe Chow name has come to mean over the years?
Philippe is synonymous with upscale, authentic Chinese cuisine for high-end diners with discretionary pallets. Guests at Philippe not only come for the food, but ultimately stay for the experience. They just don’t want an extraordinary meal, they want something unique, something that rejuvenates them from the monotony of their daily routine, and ultimately, keeps them coming back for more.

For more New York City dining and travel news, click here.

Related Links
7 Things You Didn't Know About American Chinese Food5 Bites of Beijing, ChinaBeyond Peking Duck: The Foods You Need to Try in Beijing21 Best Restaurants in BeijingChinese Survival Guide: Getting Around Beijing