Red Farm (New York City): Playfully crafted dim sum — and white dishes — provided the first design inspirations for a farm-to-table, Chinese-inspired eatery

Owner Ed Schoenfeld describes Red Farm’s look as rustic farmhouse with a touch of Asian flair.  Photo by Tom O’Connor

Red Farm is an “anything but authentic” Chinese restaurant.  So says owner and Chinese food impresario Ed Schoenfeld of his frenetic, magnetic West Village dim sum destination.

So don’t come to this year-old, farm-to-table eatery expecting conventional Chinese-American décor — or immediate seating.

Instead, prepare yourself for a good, long wait.  “And a farmy, rustic, natural-wood look with subtle Asian overtones,” Schoenfeld says.

Schoenfeld’s first bits of design inspiration came from chef Joe Ng’s whimsical fare, along with the white serving pieces he decided were perfect for spotlighting the dim sum master’s creations.  Photo courtesy of Red Farm

Housed in the renovated parlor of a 19th-century brownstone, the 46-seat restaurant pairs the talents of Schoenfeld and dim sum master Joe Ng, chef of the now-defunct Chinatown Brasserie.  (The duo will soon open a second Red Farm location on the Upper West Side.)  Jun Aizaki of Brooklyn-based Crème Design was brought in to to make the Red Farm concept come to life.

When it came time to design the room, Schoenfeld had already named the restaurant, and and he and Ng had a solid vision of their happy-go-lucky, green-and-clean, Chinese-influenced menu — think Pac-Man shrimp dumplings and Katz’s [Deli] pastrami egg rolls.  Additionally, they were quite familiar with Aizaki’s unpretentious, unfussy design sensibility.

“Those were three of the things that were all a given and would not change in the context of this design,” says Schoenfeld, who had many elements figured out from the get-go, and essentially “worked backwards” on the project.

He knew, for example, that Ng’s fanciful creations should be presented on white geometric serving pieces.

“His food is extremely visual and playful, and not presented in a classical way,” Schoenfeld says.  And from there, he decided Ng’s whimsical plates “would look just perfect on a white oak table.”

Blond-stained white oak tables complement Ng’s food and the eatery’s serving dishes, while adding a subtle Asian touch to the rustic room.  Photo by Tom O’Connor

Voilà! The restaurant features white oak tables. And it made sense in the small, narrow space — and was in keeping with the farmhouse look — to go with the communal variety, Schoenfeld says.  So one white oak communal table runs across the room’s front and another down its center.  The white oak tables also appear in the cozy booths that line the eatery’s whitewashed brick walls.

Although not universally embraced — but clearly not a deal breaker — the communal tables contribute significantly to the restaurant’s intentionally convivial, spirited vibe, Schoenfeld says.

The communals are paired with a hodgepodge of dining chairs (bentwoods, ladderbacks) that mix new pieces with Schoenfeld’s recent flea-market finds.  The groupings “preserve the funkiness, spirit and look” of the restaurant, he says.

Several elements round out the farmhouse aesthetic, including Red Farm’s beamed ceiling, original wide-plank hardwood flooring, and the large-scale, red-and-white gingham fabric that upholsters its booth backs.

“It all made sense with our tables,” Schoenfeld says.

Crème Design’s Jun Aizaki placed sculptural metal pipes over the communal tables; the structures hold an assortment of decorative and functional objects. Photo by Tom O’Connor

Bringing in a touch of Asian flavor, Aizaki created open wood-beam structures that not only house the booths, but add valuable storage space above them.  Along with actual product cases, fanciful vintage wood crates — more of Schoenfeld’s flea-market finds — double as charming storage bins and add a fun visual element.  A similar arrangement of beams, shelving and crates also tops the small brick-faced, four-seat bar at the back of the restaurant.

The shelves evoke “the eaves of a barn or a plane, train, or boat where there is a place to stow everything,” Schoenfeld says.

(The restaurant’s space issues hopefully will soon ease up a bit, as a basement-level bar and small dining area are slated to open this fall.)

Two elongated metal pipe structures — an Aizaki signature — hover above the communal tables, and also add visual interest along with a clever functionality.  The pipes display an array of goodies suspended from wire hangers:  plants, candle holders, chopstick-filled canisters, and clipboards with daily special menus.

All of which look great with the tables.

Red Farm
529 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014

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2 Responses to Red Farm (New York City): Playfully crafted dim sum — and white dishes — provided the first design inspirations for a farm-to-table, Chinese-inspired eatery

  1. tom o'connor says:

    great post on Red Farm — thanks for letting me be a part of it!

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