While Chinese food may be the draw at this midtown eatery, it is Joe’s miraculous optical illusion that really got me. The thing looks like a little, dinky joint from the outside, but is a sprawling multi-level metropolis of bad Chinese decor on the inside. It’s as if the early-eighties exploding all over the place. Whoever said dusty rose walls were a good idea was probably the same person who ordered the vinyl seat covers and the bent fork I got for my chicken and mixed veggies. I also believe there were skylights in the room in which we sat, which is about as good an idea in New York City as an air intake duct blowing into the dining room of a joint in Elizabeth, NJ. These gripes and illusory references aside, I have to say that I very rarely eat Chinese food in-house anyway. I can probably list on one hand the number of Chinese restaurants in which I’ve actually sat down to eat in Manhattan. It’s not only the nature of the food (and their terrific lunch specials), but also the relative lack of ambiance and care in their general cleanliness that makes me want to take that plastic bag back to my desk or apartment. There’s just something a wee bit depressing about the paper calendar decor, clearance sale chairs and stained tablecloths at most Chinese joints. It’s not that Joe’s is dirty like that, but mix just a little of that with the curt, grumbly service and slightly downtrodden clientele, and you have a good facsimile of the stereotypical Chinese lunch experience. My food was just okay, although it was mostly my fault for not asking if the chicken item, which typically comes in a brown sauce, did in fact come in a brown sauce. Dude, Chinese in white sauce just sucks. It’s like eating boiled chicken in soapy dishwater. Oh well, thank God there are like 500 other Oriental cuisine choices in the immediate area. [MF]
24 W 56th St.