A waiter grins as he ignites the contents of a large dark pot, which shoots up in flames. A party of adults and kids looks on, open-mouthed. The fire dies down, and everyone applauds.
No doubt, Fancy Lee Asian Bistro 'n' Sushi has what it takes to draw families. Housed in a former diner, the restaurant comes by its name because, says co-owner An Le Lee, "it looks fancy -- for a diner."
Dramatic lighting and sleek, polished surfaces notwithstanding, it remains, at heart, a friendly neighborhood gathering spot. Here, a crack team of sushi chefs turns out a colorful array of raw fish creations. The elaborate Foxy Lady roll -- salmon, yellowtail and avocado topped with spicy tuna -- features fresh fish and rice at proper temperature and consistency. A lush salmon-avocado roll and a vibrant yellowtail jalapeño roll are simpler but no less appealing. From the sushi bar, too, comes a stellar plate: king salmon carpaccio topped with tomato and black caviar over yuzu soy sauce.
Wontons in a savory broth rise above the heavy cliche, their thin skins dimpled over flavorsome pork fillings. The kitchen makes a fine flaky Indian pancake, to dip in or slather with a nuanced coconut-chicken curry sauce. That same pancake, or roti, enfolds roasted duck in the knockout "ganga style" duck roll, prettily drizzled with hoisin and spicy rémoulade. Yet it's hard to believe the same chef could have sent out such sorry chicken lettuce wraps -- iceberg cups with water inside -- having been washed but not dried -- to be filled with a mixture of overcooked chicken bits and pineapple in a gloppy sauce.
But then, along comes that flaming toban yaki clay pot beef, which turns out not only to be good theater but also good eating: ultra-tender slices of steak served sizzling with ginger and scallions. Pad Thai with chicken turns up smoky and delectable, pan-seared flounder with vegetables, a fresh and delicate affair. Malaysian-style red curry with vegetables is yet another lively winner.
Although not house-made, desserts maintain the meal's momentum. Finish with the mille-feuille, a layer "cake" fashioned of crepes and coconut custard. Fancy -- and satisfying.