Some Asian-fusion restaurants do it all well. For most, you need a battle plan. "Get the sushi but skip the cooked food." "The chefs are really old-school Chinese -- get the moo shu pork but stay away from the pad Thai."
The problem with Opera House is that the huge pan-Asian menu offers no clues as to which dishes are the winners. Certainly Opera House is a more ambitious endeavor than Tofu, which it replaced late last year. The decor has been updated with comfortable booths, modern lighting and a generous sprinkling of Oriental objects.
Like Tofu, the restaurant's roots are Chinese: The owners used to own Shanghai Tang in Flushing and chose a Chinese opera mask for their logo.
As for the Chinese offerings, hot and sour soup was estimably balanced with a clear top note of toasted sesame oil. A vegetarian main of eggplant with garlic sauce also was excellent. Another hit: Hong Kong-style salt and pepper crispy mixed seafood, light and crisp.
But the order-Chinese plan failed when it came to honey-walnut shrimp, the improbably delicious dish of battered, deep-fried shrimp, deep-fried walnuts and mayonnaise sauce. These shrimp had a soggy crust, the walnuts had an off taste, the mayonnaise sauce was limp. Likewise, Peking-style pork chop turned out to be little boneless cutlets of bland pork drowned in sweet sauce.
Nor did the kitchen's success with fried seafood ensure the success of grilled seafood. Korean-style BBQ seafood, from the menu's "grill" section, apparently wasn't grilled or barbecued, only topped with a candy-sweet glaze. Another must-miss from the grill menu was the 7 spice chicken, a hilarious misnomer for a bird whose overcooked meat and wan skin did not rise to the fiery heights of a supermarket roast chicken.
About half of the menu at Opera House is devoted to sushi. This is not the place for sushi purists -- the fish is undistinguished and served too cold; platings range from over-orchestrated to outlandish. But you will find plenty of elaborate rolls filled with the sushi kitchen sink, festooned with mango, avocado and caviar, and doused with sweet sauces. We thoroughly enjoyed the Opera House Roll containing spicy crab then draped with tuna, avocado, caviar, honey-wasabi sauce and gold leaf. Even better, and admirably restrained, was the black pepper tuna tataki appetizer: slices of lean, pepper-dusted tuna on a bed of matchstick cucumbers in a lightly tart broth.
The single best thing sampled at Opera House was the addictive roti canai, pleasantly greasy Malaysian flatbread served with curry dip.
But another Malaysian dish, the sambal beef, was a stir-fry of beef, snow peas and asparagus whose lavish dose of fish sauce turned an innocuous dish into an unpleasantly funky one.
Dessert is rarely a highlight at an Asian-fusion restaurant, but here it provides a welcome opportunity for cogent ordering advice: Get the ice cream; Opera House serves Häagen-Dazs.