The Samanea New York mall is creating a "restaurant row" for Asian food that includes Korean barbecue and hot pot chain and a standout Sichuan restaurant with an encyclopedic menu. Credit: Alejandra Villa; Newsday Staff

Strolling the food court at the mall, a worker approaches carrying a sample tray with little cubes of chicken on toothpicks. Who can resist? The thigh is juicy and tender underneath a delicate fried karaage shell, a mastery of technique in one little nibble, nevermind the sounds of screaming toddlers and an arcade game siren in the background. 

Just when did the mall became an exceptional destination for Asian food? Around the time that skilled chefs including Momofuku alum Kai Wang started moving in, bringing everything from seasonal ramen to Shanghai siu mai dumplings and spicy Sichuan fish hot pot. Wang, a sorcerer of the mall sample, is just one standout chef that's helping to reinvent the shopping mall as we know it, catering to an ever-growing clientele searching for exciting food experiences. 

His Yume Ramen and Cake is tucked into the food court at Smith Haven Mall near Stony Brook, but the Asian food options are staggering at two malls in Nassau County. Roosevelt Field has a killer food court that boasts everything from halal Indian food to Michelin Guide-recommended hand-pulled noodles. Downstairs, there's Taiwanese bubble tea and a minimalist izakaya bar, Nomiya, serving a full omakase chef's experience. 

Just two miles away, the Samanea New York Mall is creating a "restaurant row" for Asian food. Right now it boasts a sprawling 99 Ranch Asian supermarket complete with a food court, as well as a Korean barbecue and hot pot chain, KPOT, and a standout Sichuan restaurant with an encyclopedic menu. Opening later this year: Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, a Shanghai-based chain known for its multicolored soup dumplings.

Here are three new food court stalls and restaurants to check out, even if you're not going shopping. 

Yume Ramen and Cake

Smith Haven Mall, Lake Grove 

From an unassuming kiosk at the Smith Haven Mall food court, Kai Wang prepares some of the most interesting bowls of ramen and Japanese bites on Long Island. The chef cut his teeth at David Chang's Momofuku empire as well as the modern Korean ramen house Jeju Noodle Bar, which has been called the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. At Yume (which means "dream"), he embraces seasonal cooking and plays with unexpected flavor combinations, like macadamia nuts on a plate of spicy edamame beans. Truffle's earthy aroma catches your nose as a tray appears from the kitchen holding shiitake mushroom skewers that have been graced with soy sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Wang's kombu chicken ramen ($12.99), with its artfully arranged toppings of little fish cake flowers floating in a crystalline pond of scallions, evokes a tranquil feeling, like looking at a Japanese woodblock print. This may actually be the dreamiest dish on the menu, and is delightfully lighter than you expect a ramen to be. But you can see that a lot of time and skill went into it, as the roasted chicken is just right and the hot broth is elegant, yet comforting and homey. More info: 631-456-9013,

Yume Ramen and Cake's spicy miso tonkotsu with karaage chicken and strawberry...

Yume Ramen and Cake's spicy miso tonkotsu with karaage chicken and strawberry chiffon cake at Smith Haven Mall. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Kungfu Kitchen

Roosevelt Field, Garden City

The food court space looks like a Johnny Rockets throwback diner. But when you step up to the wraparound kiosk at Roosevelt Field, you'll see steamer baskets of soup dumplings and workers firing woks and rolling dough for noodles. This is Kungfu Kitchen, a satellite of the popular Northern Chinese restaurant from New York City. Chef Peter Song was featured on a viral BuzzFeed video for the arftul way he prepares hand-pulled noodles, which are smooth and snappy in the soup almost like spaghetti. 

Kungfu Kitchen labels all its soups as ramen, which seems like a misnomer but is actually a common term for the Chinese counterpart, lamian wheat noodles. The hand-pulled noodles in the spicy beef soup ($9.75) were surprisingly delicate, the bouncy but uneven strands showcasing the fact that they were made by hand. Shanghai siu mai dumplings are a rare find, stuffed with nothing but sticky rice in a thin wrapper. And the soup dumplings are also masterful, wound tighter than most with a delicate display of pleats showing the handiwork of the chef. They arrive in plastic containers with little compartments for each dumpling, very cute and thoughtful. More info: 516-675-2829,

Chuan Tian Xia

Samanea New York mall, Westbury

In a grandiose dining room steps away from The Cheesecake Factory, a server sets down a spicy peanut to test your heat tolerance. Chuan Tian Xia, also known as Sichuan World, is a Chinese restaurant from Sunset Park, Brooklyn. For the second location, owners Queenie Dong and Zee Zheng bring the tingly peppercorn spice to the Samanea New York Mall. Their menu is a work of art in itself, nearly 50 pages long with lush photos of lobster stir fries and jelly noodles, all graced with a shimmering display of red chiles and pepper oil. 

The food isn't always mouth-searing spicy, but you'll probably have a hard time avoiding the buzz of Sichuan peppercorn, which zings up everything from a cold appetizer of cucumber spears wrapped in slices of fatty pork to a dry pot of long-stem cauliflower, pierced with garlic and dried chiles. Chuan Tian Xia goes hard on the seafood and Sichuan fish hot pots, steamed in paper or grilled Wanzhou style and served in a long tray that takes up most of the table. With all the noodle and veggie add-ons, this can easily become your whole meal. So if you're planning to share different dishes, just get green pepper fish instead ($36.99), a lighter soup of white bass swimming in a pickled broth with spunky fresh green peppercorns. More info: 917-836-9899,

Spiced peanuts, green peppercorn fish, cumin lamb, Chengdu cold noodles,...

Spiced peanuts, green peppercorn fish, cumin lamb, Chengdu cold noodles, Chinese cauliflower and salted egg yolk tofu at Chuan Tian Xia at Samanea New York mall in Westbury. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

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