Philippe by Philippe Chow in Boca Raton: Polished Service, Lively Crowd, Fair Prices

Philippe by Philippe Chow in Boca Raton: Polished Service, Lively Crowd, Fair Prices
Fortune Cookies by Philippe Chow. Check out more photos here.

"The chicken satays are amazing," said Carlton, our server, as he dropped off an amuse bouche of Philippe Chow's most famous dish at a table for two on a busy Saturday night. He was parroting New York Newsday's accolades, which were quoted in red on the menu like praise on a Broadway playbill.

Philippe by Philippe Chow, which opened in Boca Raton in August, is the sixth outpost featuring Chow's concept: fancified Chinese food, served on white tablecloths with silverware instead of chopsticks.

This idea isn't original. The Chinese-born Philippe Chow had moved to British-controlled Hong Kong as a teenager, then to New York City in 1979, where he began working at the über-trendy Mr. Chow — owned by Chinese-born, London-bred restaurateur Michael Chow. With a flagship location in London and another in New York, Mr. Chow was frequented by jet-setting A-listers like Mick Jagger, Ingrid Bergman, and Andy Warhol in the 1970s and '80s. Michael Chow understood that the guest list could be just as powerful as the menu.

Same service and menu as in Miami, for 30 percent less. Or so they say.
Same service and menu as in Miami, for 30 percent less. Or so they say.

In 2005, Philippe Chow left Mr. Chow after 25 years and opened his own place, Philippe, employing a similar formula. He took some of the mellowest Chinese standards — such as won ton soup, lobster spring rolls, and Peking duck (nothing too spicy or exotic) — dressed them up, and charged triple what the dishes would cost in Chinatown. Thanks to a well-oiled P.R. machine, celebrities dropped in frequently, and when they did, it was sure to make the papers.

These days, Philippe has two restaurants in New York as well as outposts in L.A. and Mexico City. The Miami branch, scheduled to reopen on November 16, is in the process of relocating from the Gansevoort Hotel to a freestanding space on Ocean Drive. The new Boca outpost is the first "casual dining concept" from the chain. That means one thing: lower prices. Company execs say they got a great deal on the real estate and are passing savings on to the consumer. But the menu and the white tablecloth service remain the same, and the P.R. machine is at work here too: A restaurant spokesperson was sure to tell me that J. Lo ordered takeout last month.

Michael Chow still has his restaurants — in New York, London, Beverly Hills, Vegas, and Miami — and the two Chows have been in legal battles since 2009, when Michael filed a lawsuit against Philippe that is still "dragging along," according to a spokesperson at the Philippe Chow Restaurant Group.

Back to our plate, upon which two mini-paillards of chicken on a stick rested crosswise. Wearing an orange hue from a carrot-juice-based marinade, the satays were drizzled with an ochre puddle of peanut sauce. The savory-meets-sweet bite was just enough to whet an appetite. 

The space lived up to Chow standards of glamour, with a dramatic contrast of black against white with red accents. A wine cellar and private dining room, both glass-enclosed, gave the building an open feel. Each night, a chef hand-pulls noodles in front of customers, adding an element of performance.

At the bar, guests spilled into the dining room. The soundtrack ranged from Pink Floyd to INXS. A ham-handed man in a white suit grabbed from a trough of spicy nuts. Four black-clad bartenders hustled back and forth. One woman sipped a gimlet of Plymouth gin, lychee, and basil. Her friend held a cosmo. "I'm going with an old-school cocktail," she joked. As they clinked glasses, liquid spilled over the rims to the floor.

It was the week of the Jewish holidays, so a group of about 30 New Yorkers had booked the private room, where they watched the Yankees spank the Tigers on a giant projection screen. Near the host stand at the entrance, managers in gray suits with Windsor-knotted ties and heavy specs wore earpieces like bouncers while stick-legged hostesses hedged the dining room. Servers, bussers, and runners hustled throughout the adjoining rooms, creating bottlenecks at doorways. Staffers politely twisted their torsos to let guests float past like counted sheep. 

At our table, Carlton — a fastidious blond whose drawl betrayed his Alabama roots — introduced himself and delivered his spiel, describing Philippe as "a traditional Chinese restaurant." From our seats at a banquette, we could see a corridor of statuesque lovelies and the lively bar crowd. At a nearby table, a man who was clearly a Philippe Chow VIP wore a noisy striped shirt and '80s era, tech-nerd bifocals. His girth suggested a tandem love affair with food as well as his wife: a handsome, raven-haired woman in a kelly-green jacket. Many men stopped by to pay homage to him. Our table seemed like a front-row seat on the runway during fashion week.

Our attention turned from the scene when a second male server arrived at our table and stood by my friend awkwardly, as if he wasn't sure if we had been waited on. "Are you here to ask for my phone number?" she joked. He laughed just as Carlton swooped in, delivering her glass of Riesling and my Grüner Veltliner. "I know I'm not as pretty, but I can bat my lashes with the best of them," Carlton said.

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32 comments
Belinda Abbott
Belinda Abbott

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Russ
Russ

Mccart is a tool. When does the advertising start?

ELIZABETH
ELIZABETH

WOULD LIKE TO CHECK OUT THE MENU B 4 PAYING A VISIT.

Daniel
Daniel

I've read a few reviews from Melissa McCart.... unfortunately she is not very good...

Klaus
Klaus

I think it's time to strike the gong on the new girl. Is this serious? You split some apps and you're claiming you had a 3 course meal? Is Alan Funt going to pop out of my screen? The avg entree is $25.

Why parrot the 30% lie when any 8th grader could just compare menu prices? Too much trouble to pull a menu to check it out? Seems like a trend.

Rule of thumb: if the gab group is saying it, it's probably not the truth.

Your analysis here seems to have no foundation. This place is 40% more expensive than any other chinese place in the area. You're not comparing it to NY or to Miami; you're comparing it to other places in the area. You didn't seem to think it was that good. So what's fair about it? you could have had what you had here for $40 anywhere else

Melissamccart
Melissamccart

Hi, Dennis. Always a pleasure to see you here.

Stratis
Stratis

Klaus not sure of your intention to write these false statements but I could not read your nonsense without a comment. You Klaus should do yourvhomework and go back to school and retake math! To compare chef Philippe to take out joints in South Florida shows your inability to understand fine dining! Yes the prices are 30-40% less then our other restaurants and NO our avg entree is from $15 to $25. So no idea what your motives are and personally I don't care! We are thrilled to be in Boca and the locals have welcomed us with open arms!

There is a table waiting for you at Denny's. Tell them I sent you!

Stratis Morfogen CEO Philippe Chow

MelissaMcCart
MelissaMcCart

Klaus. Good comment. Thank you. When I review a place I have to decide what to pull from the the two or three visits. I chose this one visit to profile because I thought it captured what the place has to offer: service and eye candy and pretty good food.

Next time, I can pull more from the entrees and three course menu. What I think is fair about Philippe is that the price point is less than the Miami restaurant for the same scene, service, and cuisine.

As far as authentic Chinese food, you already know that your options in South Florida are incredibly limited.This is the Rosa Mexicano of Chinese but better food. It is not a takeout joint in the same way that a mom and pop taqueria is not a big chain with a high price point that sucks up a corner of expensive real estate.

Chinese take out and Philippe Chow are apples and oranges, the same way comparing a burger joint and a Eleven Madison Park in Union Square in New York are contrasts as examples of American cuisine. I chronicle what I think is strong about this particular experience-- service- because the restaurant does it well.

Do you want iceberg lettuce, orange chicken in a pool of peanut sauce, or a dish that you can get for less at PF Chang, which is likely in a mall? Do you read Newsday and use it for your critical reviews? You can probably make those choices for yourself based on your values. I don't choose to tell you what to think here.

I'm still culling what South Florida has to offer in terms of restaurants-- going out to dinner and lunch sometimes twice a meal. This market is still new territory, especially the cooking-as-folk-art that seems to permeate the area's food scene.That there are so many New Yorkers, for example, yet the food quality or diversity doesn't match, or that I expect mussels at a place named Brother Tuckers but get giant portions of Mexican and bar food riffs-- It's new to me and doesn't follow rules. I think the people here are interesting characters and certainly contextualize the food scene. That's a big part of my focus so far.

I really appreciate your feedback. Feel free to email me directly as well.

Mr Chow
Mr Chow

You mean the guy who used to chop veggies at Mr Chow?

You've inspired me you call you out publicly; I'm sure some of my 40k readers per month will find my analysis interesting. I also give you some free business advice, so it might be worth a look. My "motive" is to bring some accountability to an area that seems to thrive on lies and deception.

http://www.insidefortlauderdal...

It's the lead article so you can find it easily.

Chow Down Too
Chow Down Too

I see little evidence that Philippe chow and other Chinese restaurants are " apples an oranges". You just buy into the marketing. I've had better dumplings almost everywhere else. Chinese takeout and sit down restaurant food is exactly the same. Would you take out chows food? Probably not.

Anyone who knows anything about Chinese food knows that the best food is in places like chinatown and not some faux place where you can't even get your favorite dishes. Philippe chow is more like PF Changs than not. A fancy wrapper around ordinary food.

What I see is that you regularly miss the story. The story with this place is that's it's all fluff and that their marketing is deceptive.

Chow Down Ho
Chow Down Ho

South beach is the same scene as east boca? Do you really expect to pay the same in the suburbs where the rent is half as much?

Why do you have to pretend you've made one visit when you've made 3? The point is to give you a comprehensive understanding of the place. Yet you don't mention that the wine prices are as bloated as Miami, and you miss the fact that even their early bird menu is $29pp, so the idea that 2 people can get out of there with a 3 course meal and drinks for $70 is just ridiculous

If you're going to waste your company's money on 3 meals you should have done one of them in Miami when it opens. Then you'd have something that might be worth reading.

 
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