Ding Gen Wang, executive chef at three well-reviewed Manhattan Sichuan restaurants, recently launched Chef Wang, a big, bi-level New Hyde Park spot specializing in the cuisine of his native Sichuan province. Since this is, after all, Long Island, the restaurant is equipped with a sushi bar. As fresh and well-cut as the raw fish turns out to be, it's hardly the main draw at a place with such a well-credentialed chef in the kitchen.
Enter and you'll cross over a little interior fishpond. It must be noted that on one occasion, a camphor scent is perceptible near the entryway; another time, it's absent.
A gratis plate of roasted peanuts takes the edge off appetites. You may want to start with Wang's irresistible smoked tofu with Chinese celery, cool and sprightly. From Shanghai comes West Lake beef soup, whose flavor is richer, more herbal than you'd expect from such a pale, egg white-laced brew. Wonton soup floats delicate dumplings; hot and sour soup comes out fine and fiery one time, a bit flat the next.
Wang hits the mark with his cumin fried lamb, which unleashes a slow, seductive burn. With its soft texture and oily red sauce, ma po tofu with minced pork may not be for everyone. More universally appealing is shredded pork with dry bean curd, a bold and smoky number. And you'll want to keep your chopsticks busy with shredded duck and string beans in a subtly electric black pepper sauce. Kung pao shrimp, ordered medium-hot, is carefully calibrated to be just that.
Wang's beef chow fun, a well-rendered Cantonese classic, is hard to stop eating. And Singapore-style mei fun noodles with chicken features rice noodles so light they almost dissolve on the tongue. Less successful is vegetable lo mein, which drowns in soy sauce.
If you look around the restaurant, you may see people cooking raw food -- anything from sliced fish to cow throat -- in hot pots filled with bubbling broth, then dipping the items into various sauces. Throughout China, this is a popular, and interactive, way to dine.
While you can end with ice cream truffles, such finales as sweet potato cake and glutinous rice ball seem more in the spirit of authenticity.