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周英华与屹立不倒的中餐馆传奇

更新时间:2016-9-16 10:29:22 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Sky-High Prices? Bad Reviews? No Matter: Mr. Chow Powers On
周英华与屹立不倒的中餐馆传奇

Michael Chow looked at ease in his favorite banquette at the Carlyle hotel, beneath a portrait of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in their “Easy Rider” prime, but something in his peripheral vision nagged at him.

周英华看上去轻松自在,他坐在卡莱尔饭店自己最心爱的靠墙软座里,头上是一幅彼得·方达(Peter Fonda)与丹尼斯·霍珀(Dennis Hopper)的照片,照片上的两人正值出演《逍遥骑士》(Easy Rider)的全盛时期。但是透过眼角余光,他看到的景象有点让他心烦。

A nearby couple had gotten up to avail themselves of the breakfast buffet, leaving their table askew. Through his signature circular spectacles, Mr. Chow kept darting glances that way.

不远处有对伴侣起身去拿自助早餐,他们的桌子歪歪斜斜地放在那儿。周英华透过他标志性的圆形眼镜不住地盯着那边。

“The table’s not straight,” he finally said, giving the impression that he was prepared to get up and tackle the symmetry issue on his own if need be. “I’ve been in the restaurant business too long.”

“桌子放得不正,”最后他说,让人觉得,如果有必要,他好像打算亲自过去解决这个对称问题。“我在餐饮行业待得太久了。”

That longevity, he contends, has hinged on his paying attention to countless details, both great and small. Mr. Chow opened Mr. Chow — the original, in a glamorous neighborhood of London — on Valentine’s Day in 1968. Almost half a century later, at the age of 77, he can remember how that felt.

他强调,正是由于对各种细节事无巨细的关注,他才能这么持久。1968年的情人节那天,周英华在伦敦的繁华地带开了最早的一家Mr. Chow餐厅。将近半个世纪之后,77岁的他还记得当时的感觉。

“On the first night, everybody came: the Stones, the Beatles,” he said. “Everybody was rocking. The energy there was fantastic.”

“第一天晚上,所有人都来了:滚石(Stones)、披头士(Beatles),”他说。“所有人都那么摇滚。气场棒极了。”

It snowballed. A Beverly Hills, Calif., branch opened in 1974; in 1978, Mr. Chow came to East 57th Street, and 10 years ago, to TriBeCa. Everything that was surging in high art and pop culture seemed to converge and collide over noodles and dumplings at Mr. Chow. He ticked off the names of film directors, musicians, actors, painters and models like Federico Fellini, Daniel Barenboim, Jack Nicholson, David Hockney, Yoko Ono, Jerry Hall.

他的生意越做越大。1974年,他在加利福尼亚州的比佛利山庄开了分店;1978年,Mr. Chow来到了东57街;10年前,又来到了翠贝卡。高雅艺术和流行文化界的一切新潮似乎都在Mr. Chow餐厅摆列面条和饺子的餐桌上融汇、碰撞。他谈起不少电影导演、音乐家、演员、画家和模特的名字,比如费德里科·费里尼(Federico Fellini)、丹尼尔·巴伦博伊姆(Daniel Barenboim)、杰克·尼克尔森(Jack Nicholson)、大卫·霍克尼(David Hockney)、小野洋子和杰莉·霍尔(Jerry Hall)。

But along with success came scrutiny, including a scathing zero-star review in The New York Times from Frank Bruni, who wrote in 2006 of a lamb shank at the TriBeCa restaurant: “If I learned that it had been plucked from a freezer after the better part of a decade and then nuked in a microwave for the better part of a day, I’d be shocked. It didn’t taste nearly that tender or flavorful.” Adam Platt, the New York magazine critic, reported that “a dish called Drunken Fish ($31 à la carte) consisted of a couple of wet pieces of sole sunk in a curious gelatinous substance which had no color and very little taste and looked perilously like pond slime.”

但是伴随成功而来的还有挑剔。比如2006年,《纽约时报》上就曾经刊登过一篇尖刻的餐评,给Mr. Chow打了零星,作者是弗兰克·布鲁尼(Frank Bruni)。他这样描写翠贝卡餐厅的一份羊腿肉:“如果我知道它是在冰箱里放了快10年才拿出来,然后又在微波炉里加热了差不多有一天,我会震惊的。它尝起来远没有那么柔嫩美味。”《纽约》(New York)杂志的评论家亚当·普拉特(Adam Platt)

Under normal circumstances, lines like those would be enough to sink a restaurant. Yet the Mr. Chows in Los Angeles and New York are still thriving, drawing celebrities and other customers who weren’t born yet in 1968, or 1974, or 1978.

一般情况下,这样的评论足够毁掉一家餐厅,但是洛杉矶和纽约的Mr. Chow餐厅仍然红火,吸引着各界名流和其他在1968年、1974年和1978年还没出生的宾客们。

Somehow, at a time when 10 years seems a full life span for big-city restaurants, Mr. Chow persists, and even grows. A Las Vegas outpost arrived at Caesars Palace late last year; a Mexico City version is around the corner, and Mr. Chow is building a 60,000-square-foot art and cuisine center in Los Angeles.

如今这个时代,对于大城市的餐厅来说,10年似乎已经足以走完从盛到衰的生命历程,但是Mr. Chow却生存下来,而且还在发展壮大。去年年底,它的拉斯维加斯分店在凯撒宫开张;墨西哥城店也快要开了,周英华目前还在洛杉矶打造一家占地6万平方英尺的艺术与美食中心。

In this sense, the Mr. Chow brand has evolved into a prime example of the bulletproof restaurant. Just as there are superhero movies and hit songs that continue to rally a wide audience despite the wincing disapproval of critics, the allure of Mr. Chow does not seem to dim no matter how many times customers are told that they’re crazy to pay that much for stir-fry.

在这个意义上,Mr. Chow已经发展为一个屹立不倒的餐厅的典型。虽有评论家们的皱眉反对,超级英雄电影和热门金曲还在继续吸引大批观众和听众;同理,不管消费者被告知多少次,花那么多钱吃Mr. Chow的炒菜简直是发疯,它的魅力似乎依然没有减弱分毫。

If critics tend to say that nobody goes to Mr. Chow for the food, Mr. Chow and his wife, Eva, who plays a key role in the brand’s expansion, beg to differ. Their fare is an authentic reflection of Beijing cuisine, they say, and they recruit chefs and cooks from Hong Kong and Beijing to prepare it.

评论家们会说,人们去Mr. Chow根本不是为了吃饭,周英华和他的妻子,在品牌扩张中发挥了关键作用的艾娃(Eva)对此不能苟同。他们说,他们的菜肴是北京菜的真实反映,而且,他们的主厨和厨师都是从香港和北京聘请的。

“Sticky-sweet,” “gooey-sweet” and “crunchy-sweet” can seem to be the dominant effects, but for diners who hew closely to the dependable territory of soup dumplings and salt-and-pepper prawns, a pleasant meal can be had.

菜品的主要口感似乎是“甜腻”、“甜糊”和“甜脆”,但是对于那些只点可靠的菜肴,比如馄饨与咸辣口味的对虾的食客们来说,他们还是可以享受到愉快的一餐。

Should you point out that the prices seem punishingly high (Beijing duck, for instance, is $74 per person), Mr. Chow will smile and nod in affirmation. Steep prices are part of the strategy.

如果你说,这里的菜价实在高得过分(比如,北京烤鸭是74美元一位),周英华会笑着点头表示同意。极高的价格也是战略的一部分。

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s so expensive,’” he said. “I say, ‘Fantastic!’” He added: “Expensive is important. Very important.”

“人们会说,‘啊,太贵了’,”他说。“我却说,‘太棒了!’”他补充说,“昂贵是很重要的。非常重要。”

First off, charging exorbitant prices has allowed him to make a statement about the cuisine of his homeland. (His name at birth, in Shanghai, was Zhou Yinghua; his father, Zhou Xinfang, was a titanic star of the Peking Opera.)

首先,定高价是他对自己家乡菜的一种宣示(周英华在上海出生,他的父亲周信芳是一位京剧大师)。

“Chinese food was supposed to be cheap,” Mr. Chow said. “I changed all that. But it took me almost half a century.”

“中国菜过去一直被当做便宜货,”周英华说。“我改变了这一点。但是这花了我将近半个世纪的时间。”

He is happy to go further. (“Too old to be too cautious,” he said.) Are those pricey portions at Mr. Chow noticeably small? Yes, he said, on purpose. He always wanted portion sizes to stand in stark opposition to the heaping platters at chain restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, where you might dig into “a salad you keep eating for two hours.” (At breakfast in the Carlyle, he consumed only a bowl of plain yogurt.)

他还乐于走得更远(“我太老了,来不及谨慎行事了,”他说)。Mr. Chow的昂贵菜品菜量是不是特别少呢?是的,他说,这是故意的。他一直希望Mr. Chow的菜量和Cheesecake Factory之类连锁店的大盘子大碗形成鲜明对比,在那样的地方,“沙拉能让你吃上两个钟头”。(在卡莱尔饭店吃早饭时,他只吃了一碗原味酸奶)。

High prices have also allowed him to foster the see-and-be-seen cachet he wants to cultivate. To this day, a Champagne cart rolls up alongside your table when you sit down at Mr. Chow. “Champagne is luxury,” he explained. “There’s no luxury without fantasy. And no fantasy without sex.”

高昂的价格也让他为餐厅创造出那种上流场所的气派,那正是他想要的。直到今天,在Mr. Chow入座时,侍者还会推着香槟车走过你的桌边。“香槟是奢侈品,”他解释说。“有奢侈品就有幻想。有幻想就有性。”

Does it seem like kind of a show? It’s supposed to. “It’s all about theater,” said Mr. Chow, also a painter whose artwork was recently shown in an exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. “It’s very important that you cast it like a theater. It’s all about, ‘Don’t bore the audience.’”

这听上去有点像作秀?要的就是这个效果。“这一切都是戏剧性效果,”周英华说。他也是一个画家,作品前不久曾在匹兹堡的安迪·沃霍尔美术馆展出。“像打造一出戏剧那样去塑造它,这很重要。一切都是为了‘别让观众感到无聊’。”

Servers, whose ancestral homelands are apt to lie closer to the Mediterranean than to the Yellow Sea, hover like Broadway stagehands, making sure that props are in place.

餐厅服务员的祖国大多更靠近地中海,而不是黄海。他们像百老汇的舞台工作人员一样忙来忙去,确保道具就位。

At his table at the Carlyle, Mr. Chow demonstrated how he always wants the tines of a fork to be pointed downward, toward the table. (He harbors an anxiety that when they are pointed upward, someone could accidentally smack them and send the fork flying into an eye.) It can take weeks, he said, to teach a server to place the utensils properly.

在卡莱尔饭店的桌边,周英华演示了他如何一直要求摆放叉子时,叉子尖一定要向下,冲着桌面(他总是担心如果叉尖向上,如果有人不小心拍在上面,会让叉子飞起来,刺中眼睛)。他说,教会一个侍者怎样摆好餐具可能需要花费好几周的时间。

“If you build an environment based on details like that, you will create a harmony,” he said. “Every single thing you do properly. It’s all connected.”

“如果你营造这样一种建立在细节基础上的氛围,就能创造出一种和谐,”他说。“每一件小事都做得恰如其分。一切都是联系在一起的。”

Julian Schnabel, the artist and filmmaker who has been a Mr. Chow regular since around 1980, said that sense of harmony can be felt from the moment you pass through the front door. “You feel like you’re going somewhere auspicious when you go there,” he said. “There’s a sense of ceremony about it. He’s got a method to his madness, I guess.”

艺术家、导演朱利安·施纳贝尔(Julian Schnabel) 自从1980年左右便是Mr. Chow的常客。他说,一走进大门,便可以感受到那种和谐。“到那里去,你会觉得来到了一个吉祥的地方,”他说。“有一种庆典的氛围。我猜他这种近乎疯狂的做法自有它的道理。”

In his 1996 film, “Basquiat,” a portrait of his friend the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mr. Schnabel shot scenes in the Midtown Mr. Chow to recreate the ambience of a place where stalwarts of the Upper East Side establishment could trade glances with strivers from the worlds of avant-garde painting and hip-hop.

施纳贝尔1996年的电影《轻狂岁月》(Basquiat)描绘了他的朋友、画家让-米切尔·巴斯奎特(Jean-Michel Basquiat)。施纳贝尔在中城的Mr. Chow取景,重现了那种上东区主流社会的拥趸与前卫绘画派和嘻哈乐圈的奋斗者彼此对视的氛围。

“I think there’s a great understanding of spaces, in the places he has, so that people can see each other,” he said.

“我觉得他的餐厅有对空间的极好理解,人们可以相互看得见,”他说。

The actress Olivia Wilde, a frequent customer at Mr. Chow in TriBeCa and elsewhere, echoed that notion of ceremony. “It makes you feel like you are part of something that is larger than just a meal,” she said. “I think that’s why people are drawn to it.”

女演员奥利维娅·怀尔德(Olivia Wilde)是翠贝卡及其他地区的Mr. Chow餐厅的常客。她也提到庆典这个概念。“它让你觉得你属于某种比一顿饭更宏大的东西的一部分,”她说,“我觉得那是它吸引人的原因。”

If there is something cinematic about the mise-en-scène, that is probably no accident. Ms. Wilde said that she and Mr. Chow have a continuing conversation in which she will randomly mention the name of a movie from the past century. “He can tell you the opening shot of the film,” she said. “I challenge you to challenge him.”

如果说餐厅的氛围有某种电影的感觉,那很可能不是偶然。怀尔德说,她和周英华一直在对话,当她随便提到上个世纪某部电影的名字。“他能告诉你那部电影的开场镜头,”她说,“我建议你也向他挑战一下。”

His attention to detail applies to customers, too. When her son, Otis, was 9 days old, Ms. Wilde and her partner, the actor Jason Sudeikis, dropped into Mr. Chow for a meal. She soon realized that she needed to heat up some milk to feed the baby. Servers took note.

他对细节的关注也用在顾客身上。怀尔德的儿子奥蒂斯(Otis)9天大时,她和男友演员杰森·苏代基斯(Jason Sudeikis)去Mr. Chow餐厅吃饭。她很快意识到需要热点奶喂孩子。服务员注意到了。

“They brought me the most beautiful silver bowl of water to warm up the breast milk,” she said with a laugh.

“他们拿来一个非常好看的银碗,里面盛着热水,供我热母乳,”她大笑着说。

If there is one central principle that keeps the Mr. Chow mission chugging along, it’s the same that applies to Shake Shack or Starbucks: consistency. If you are familiar with the menu at the Southern California branch of Mr. Chow, and happen to drift into the Midtown Manhattan branch, don’t worry: The menu is essentially the same.

如果有一个中心原则,推动周英华的生意不断稳步前进,那就是与Shake Shack或星巴克(Starbucks)相同的原则:一致性。如果你熟悉Mr. Chow南加州分店的菜单,然后偶然走进曼哈顿中城的分店,那你不必担心:菜单本质上是一样的。

“I do love how loyal to the original menu they stay,” Ms. Wilde said. “It’s so nice to be able to walk in and not look at a menu: ‘This is what I want. This is what I’m craving.’”

“我非常喜欢他们如此忠于最初的菜单,”怀尔德说,“这真是很美好的事:走进去,不用看菜单就说:‘我想要这个。这个我渴望已久。’”

In Beverly Hills, “we have waiters that have been with us since 1974,” Ms. Chow said. Many of today’s loyal customers, she added, are the children of their fans from the 1970s and ’80s.

周夫人说,在贝弗利山,“有些服务员从1974年就在那里工作了”。她补充说,如今的很多忠实顾客是我们在20世纪七八十年代的粉丝的孩子。

The couple live in Los Angeles but are buying a place in Brooklyn. Ms. Chow recently worked closely with a manufacturer in Ohio to help create mass-market versions of three signature Mr. Chow sauces.

这对夫妇住在洛杉矶,不过正在布鲁克林购房。周夫人最近正在与俄亥俄州的一个厂商密切合作,开发三种Mr. Chow标志性酱汁的大众市场款。

Mr. Chow has three children: China, Asia and Maximillian, who is the head of culinary operations for the restaurants. (He has been married three times, once to the fashion editor Grace Coddington.)

周英华有三个孩子,分别名叫中国(China)、亚洲(Asia)和马克西米利安(Maximillian)。最后这位掌管餐厅的厨房运作(他结过三次婚,有一任妻子是时尚编辑格蕾丝·柯丁顿[Grace Coddington])。

Ultimately, the secret behind Mr. Chow may simply be Mr. Chow himself. There is a reason the man’s portrait has been painted by the likes of Warhol, Basquiat and Keith Haring. In person, he is effortlessly charming and unflappable, tossing out quotes from philosophers and smiling in a way that suggests that critics who harp on the air-kissy, grand-operatic excess of his restaurants are missing the point.

说到底,Mr. Chow餐厅背后的秘密,可能就是周英华本人。沃霍尔(Warhol)、巴斯奎特(Basquiat)和基思·哈林(Keith Haring)等人画过他的肖像是有原因的。他轻松自如,充满魅力,从容镇定,经常引用哲学家的名言。他微笑的方式像是在暗示,那些大肆谈论他的餐厅宏大奢华歌剧风格的批评家们没有切中要点。

Running a restaurant is rumored to be impossible. Mr. Chow respectfully disagrees. “Very easy, no?” he said. “Be true to yourself — you can’t go wrong. Don’t follow trends. Be yourself. Just be true.”

据说经营餐厅是一件不可能成功的事。周英华不敢苟同。“非常容易,不是吗?”他说。“忠于你自己——你不可能出错。不要追随潮流。做你自己。就是诚实。”

Moments later, having left the Carlyle, he sent a text that signed off with his own emoticon:

片刻之后,离开卡莱尔饭店,他发来一条短信,以他自己的表情符号结尾:

~O-O~.

~O-O~。

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