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Amerrickana Tapas & Bar review

Spinach and pomegranate salad with chicken is served

Spinach and pomegranate salad with chicken is served out of a Chinese take-out box at Amerrickana Tapas & Bar in Merrick. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman

You can see chef Howard Fay hard at work through the kitchen window at this little jewel box of a restaurant, with its pale, pretty woodwork and oversized black-and-white photos. As he composes plates both small and large, Fay gives every appearance of being in total control. And that's a good thing.

First to hit the table at Amerrickana: Crisp gratis house-made potato chips imbued with hints of salt, vinegar and Parmesan. These are irresistible. If only the warm, but rather characterless cheese dip served alongside measured up.

Plating is done with wit and whimsy. One meal begins with a "tapas" of crisp fried shrimp and spiced popcorn, all spilling out of a popcorn box. A spinach-pomegranate salad with chicken emerges from a Chinese takeout container onto a plate. Still, it would have been better had the poultry been warm, the lemon vinaigrette tossed in instead of offered on the side, which Fay says is the preference of most of his clientele. Plump, meaty chicken wings turn out to be an all-out hit, whether tossed with BBQ sauce or Thai chili glaze. And creamy-rich lobster mac and cheese is hard to stop eating.

Real standouts: Fish tacos. They're presented in a bento box and feature chargrilled logs of mahi mahi atop little tortillas, to be rolled up with Napa slaw, pickled red onions and guacamole. You'll find allure, as well, in a fig and prosciutto flatbread. Smoky, juicy beef sliders make for easy eating. Stuffed inside are house-made pickles. These also figure into a savory Cuban panino. Other successes: Moist grilled salmon and "garlicky" shrimp — which are precisely garlicky enough.

There's a fine and fudgy chocolate espresso torte on the dessert menu. Cheesecake, too. But there can be no other finale than the lush and opulent challah white chocolate bread pudding. Anyone who's ever tasted the bread pudding served at celeb chef Todd English's Figs restaurants will recognize this one as one and the same. Turns out Fay was the chef who opened Figs at LaGuardia Airport.

Here in Merrick, more than a decade later, he shows he can still fly.

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