Authentic Chinese food is a passion of mine, and dedicated readers will have noticed over the years that I generally take a dim view of both Asian fusion and Americanized Chinese food. So I am happy to report on an entirely satisfying meal I had recently at Green Leaf in Port Washington, which bills its cuisine as Chinese, Japanese and Thai.
I’d heard about Green Leaf, which is right next to Uncle Giuseppe’s on Port Washington Boulevard, from a fellow Chinese food enthusiast. He gave me two pieces of advice: Get the Green Leaf fried rice, and let the owner, Simon Liang, decide the rest of the meal.
Liang, a tall, suave gentleman who looked more movie producer than restaurateur, came over to greet us, and I delivered my usual spiel: Please pretend we are Chinese. We like bones and heads. Make us what you eat after all the customers go home. Instead of merely nodding, Liang engaged me. “We don’t cook like that,” he said. “When we opened in 1996 we had things like that on the menu, but no one ordered them.” Points for honesty.
Liang asked what we liked; we said fish and vegetables. Soon, a waiter arrived with a bowl of tom yum kung, a Thai (-ish) soup made sour with lemongrass and lime, hot with chilies. It also featured lots of velvety shrimp, whole basil leaves, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes and really hit the spot on a cold night.
Our entree was a big fillet of fried flounder topped with black beans, baby bok choy, red and green peppers and fresh bamboo shoots. It was authentic Nassau County Chinese and it was delicious. Along with the fish we had the Green Leaf fried rice. Its delicate green color, Liang said, came from the quantity of green vegetables that are pureed and added to the rice as it cooks. “This helps the kids eat their vegetables,” he said. The bits of roast pork, scrambled egg and big shrimp were further inducements. Again, delicious.
The problem with much Chinese-American food, I realize, is not that it’s not “authentically” Chinese, it’s that it’s not that good. The shrimp are cheap and overcooked, the fish is frozen tilapia, the vegetable selection rarely strays from celery, frozen peas and those pinking-shear-cut carrots. Bravo, Green Leaf, for showing me the error of my ways.
Green Leaf is at 376 Port Washington Blvd., Port Washington, 516-767-8266.