Hell’s Kitcheners mourning the demise of historic Manganaro’s sub shop will be happy to hear that a new eatery has taken over the West Side space. Chi Restaurant and Bar, a fine-dining Chinese eatery celebrated its grand opening on Saturday — complete with lion dancers. 

Chi Restaurant
Chi got its grand opening Saturday after a September soft launch, with lion dancers to wish it good luck. Photo: Naty Caez

The grand opening, attended by Council member Erik Bottcher and Wellington Chen, the executive director of the Chinatown Business Improvement District, featured the New York Choy Lay Fut Lion Dance Team, whose spectacular display is intended to guarantee future prosperity.

The spacious 492 9th Avenue restaurant — located between W37th and W38th Street in what once was the home of New York’s premier six-foot hero sandwiches — specializes in Szechuan cuisine as well as Cantonese fare and flavors from Hunan and Beijing. There are also elements of Pan-Asian fusion, with dishes originating from Korea and Japan. 

Chi is stepping into the historic site which was home to Manganaro’s, one of the most storied names in Italian-American cuisine which closed in April 2021. Photo: Phil O’Brien

“We have a great chef who is very creative, and he wants to bring authentic Chinese food to both Chinese and American clients,” said general manager Nancy Xiao of executive Chef Tom Lei, who comes to Chi after their work together at China Xiang on W42nd Street. 

Serving up everything from Asian tapas favorites like BBQ Spare Ribs and Salt & Pepper Tofu to Szechuan standards like Braised Beef in Hot Chili Sauce and a significant Dim Sum menu, Chi Restaurant and Bar aims to offer something for everyone — including those looking for a great cocktail hour. 

The interior of Chi on 9th Avenue
Chi has used the spacious interior at 492 9th Ave to combine a relaxed bar and a full-service restaurant. Photo: NYC Restaurant

The eatery has just been granted a long-awaited liquor license, allowing them to launch an extensive wine and beer program as well as curated cocktails. “We have a really big bar, with six signature cocktails and selections like Chinese baijiu, Japanese sake, Japanese whiskey — everything!” said Xiao. 

Xiao hopes West Siders will love the space’s three private dining rooms, perfect for hosting holiday get togethers and business lunches. “We like that the location is really central to Times Square, Hell’s Kitchen and Hudson Yards,” said Xiao, adding that they hoped to become a convenient and tasty go-to meeting point for Midtown visitors and local foodies. 

And foodies are sure to appreciate the care taken by Executive Chef Lei, who studied at a top-tier Beijing culinary school before moving to America as a cuisine consultant for a variety of New York restaurants before opening his own space, Spy C Cuisine in Forest Hills, Queens. It was there that his kitchen talents caught the eye of fellow chef Thomas Lo, who has now teamed up with Lei to develop the menu at Chi. As the restaurant’s website states:  “The two Chef Toms are on a mission to bring the most innovative Chinese food to the neighborhood, while staying true to their roots.” 

A restaurant veteran who has worked for over a decade managing eateries throughout Queens and Manhattan, Xiao is excited to connect with the Chinese-food enthusiasts of Hell’s Kitchen. “I think the Hell’s Kitchen community is going to help with the business,” she said, adding that the rave reviews they’ve received during the soft opening have all reflected one thing: “Everybody has been telling us that they need more authentic Chinese food in the area!” 

Chi's Executive Chef Tom Lei and General Manager Nancy Xiao
Executive chef Tom Lei and general manager Nancy Xiao at the grand opening of Chi. Photo: Naty Caez

Chi will bring new life to the space that has sat empty for over a year. Opened in 1893 as Grosseria at 488 9th Avenue, Manganaro’s had more than 100 years as one of New York’s revered homes of Italian-American cuisine. In 1956, the eatery expanded next door with the opening of Heroboy, and in 2011, Grosseria and Heroboy were split in a bitter family feud — with cafe Tavola now located on the site of the original Grosseria.

Along the way, Manganaro’s produced an unknown number of six-foot heroes, which they boasted weighed 22lbs and could feed 40 people, including customers like Senator Jacob Javits. It was also where New York’s Italian-American sandwiches gained the name hero — with Clementine Paddieford, food writer for the now defunct New York Herald Tribune saying in the 1930s: “You had to be a hero to finish one.”

Manganaro's final hero
One of the last of Manganaro’s six-foot subs nears completion back in April 2021.

Sadly the impact of the pandemic brought the era of the six-foot hero to a close. W42ST wishes Chi good luck following in such historic footsteps!

Chi Restaurant and Bar is located at 492 9th Avenue between W37th and W38th Street, and is open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, dinner Monday to Friday  2:30 pm – 10:30 pm, and dinner Saturday and Sunday 12 pm – 10:30 pm. Brunch coming soon!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *