One minute, you’re reveling in the comforts of an aromatic soup filled with seaweed and slow-cooked pork rib bones. Next thing you know, your mouth is set ablaze by the most innocent-looking shredded potatoes laced with green chili peppers.
That’s the cuisine of northern China for you. And, at the new Beijing House in Syosset, chef James Zhang stays true to culinary traditions. Already, the small place is packed with large family groups, many of them ordering in Mandarin. On weekends, when the noise level can be deafening, it might be best to get a table up front, or, better yet, to hit the place on a quieter weeknight or afternoon.
One meal begins with a homestyle soup of meatballs and bok choy, followed by tender steamed dumplings filled with pork and chives. Easy eating all around. Then come noodles with spicy sauce, and, suddenly, you’re feeling the burn. An order for thousand-layer pancake results in a doughy affair that the waiter pulls apart with a fork.
Vinegar can be integral to some dishes, among them a syrupy version of kung pao chicken that, while authentic, has limited appeal. But it would be hard for most anyone to resist the fragrant allure of sautéed bok choy revved up with chilies. Eggplant with minced pork is hearty, satisfying, and, as many northern Chinese dishes are, oily. Sliced lamb with scallions, a real crowd-pleaser, has a modicum of wattage, while sautéed lamb with cumin seed is positively palate-searing — but there’s pleasure in the pain. For something a bit milder (and meat-free), try dry tofu with thin Chinese celery.
What stands out most, though, is one of the simplest dishes: Fried baby shrimp with salt and pepper, a puff of air separating the filigree batter crust from the shellfish.
Some might want to conclude with honey glazed taro or Japanese yam with blackberry sauce. For others, there’s always chocolate ice cream.