Where have all those old-school Chinese restaurants gone? Sleek Asian-fusion palaces, Chinese-Japanese hybrids and mammoth all-you-can-eat buffets have nudged most of them out of the picture.
Most, but not all. Here are some of the best traditional Chinese places on Long Island. Selections by Joan Reminick.
Chef Wang, New Hyde Park: At this big bi-level spot, highly credentialed Sichuan chef Ding Gen Wang offers a high degree of culinary authenticity. 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, the kitchen dishes are the main draw. Recommendations include smoked tofu with Chinese celery, a cold appetizer almost startling in its sprightliness, West Lake beef soup and cumin fried lamb, which unleashes a slow, seductive burn. Shredded pork with dry bean curd is a bold and smoky number. And youll want to keep your chopsticks busy with shredded duck and string beans in a subtly electric black pepper sauce.
Yao's Diner (2503 Middle Country Rd., Centereach): The fiery cuisine of northern China is the focus of this nondiner-like restaurant, opened by Adam Yao to offer fellow expatriate Stony Brook University students a taste of their native land. Among dishes not to miss: Cumin lamb, West Lake beef soup, stinging-hot kung pao chicken, sauteed sliced chicken with chili pepper, and spicy deep fried crabs (pictured).
Golden Dynasty, St. James: Chinese nostalgia classics, like BBQ spareribs, scallion pancakes and shrimp lo mein, are served with style at this classy Chinese newcomer whose roots in St. James go back more than two decades.
Red Tiger Dumpling House
Red Tiger Dumpling House (1320 Stony Brook Rd., Stony Brook): The Shanghai delicacy known as the soup dumpling is one of many specialties at this casual spot offering fare from Shanghai, Beijing and northern China. In addition to crystal shrimp dumplings and shrimp and pork shumai, you might want to try the cumin beef, beef stew noodle soup and "big meatball with brown sauce," also known as lion's head.
The Orient (623 Hicksville Rd., Bethpage): While you can order off the printed menu at this popular Chinese spot, you'd do best to ask host Tommy Tan to guide you. Standouts include shrimp with walnuts in mayonnaise sauce, crunchy fried chicken and the green vegetable of the moment. On weekend mornings, sample the fine dim sum. (Pictured: clams with black bean sauce.)
Ten89 Noodle House
Ten89 Noodle House (1089 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook): Stony Brook students who don't mind eating off plastic and Styrofoam can slurp hearty meal-sized noodle soups and dine on such fare as Japanese eggplant with garlic sauce and Shanghai-style heads-on sauteed shrimp and vegetable chow fun (pictured).
Green Tea Restaurant
Green Tea Restaurant (1015 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook): An Asian-born Stony Brook University student population favors this multiregional Chinese restaurant whose motto is "Remember the taste of home." Featured dishes include shrimp dumpling soup, fisherman-style fish fillet, cumin tofu and walnut shrimp with mayonnaise (pictured). Newly added: Shanghai-style soup dumplings, one of several dumpling choices.
Hunan Taste (3 Northern Blvd., Greenvale): For a generation, Hunan Taste has been a mainstay on the North Shore. Hits include scallion pancakes, chicken Soong, lobster in ginger-scallion sauce, moo go gai pan and kung po chicken. (Pictured is fresh crab.)
Moonstone (14 Northern Blvd., Great Neck): Truly a gem, this spot alone will restore your appetite in high-quality Chinese cuisine, as well as give you excellent service and an even better ambience. Start with Shanghai-style soup dumplings filled with pork, crab and delectable broth, or the recklessly rich, hoisin-glazed bacon sliders. Also recommended: pork pot stickers, roast pork-and-taro puffs, pan-seared chicken-and-Chinese chives dumplings, sanpei chicken claypot with Chinese sausage and cloud ear mushrooms (pictured), and wok-seared Frenched rack of lamb with spring-onion sauce. And allow the half-hour for the kitchen to prepare the one-course Beijing duck.
Fortune Wheel (3601 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown): Weekend dim sum brunch at this long-standing Levittown spot draws a big Asian-American crowd. They come for the roving cart service with all manner of steamed dumplings, as well as small plates such as lotus-leaf-wrapped sticky rice. Menu mainstays include crispy chicken, fried squid with spicy salt and mixed seafood casserole. (Pictured: shumai and steamed pork buns)
Pearl East (1191 Northern Blvd., Manhasset): What stays appealing about this Manhasset mainstay is its fresh look, comparatively restrained style and the fact that, while you can order fine sushi and satay, the kitchen's stars remain Chinese favorites. Pearl East's version of chicken Soong, minced and wrapped in a lettuce leaf is a winner, as are Shanghai-style soup dumplings with pork and crab, moist Beijing duck and deftly spiced General Tso's chicken (pictured).