The Grand Lux Cafe looms large over Roosevelt Field, visible testament to the notion that bigger and flashier are better.
Ceilings soar 22 feet high, cushioned booths seat more than 300, and there's enough Italian marble to furnish a Roman temple -- or a Vegas casino. The freestanding cafe is located not far from the multiplex.
As with most major production numbers, ambition and reality mesh some, but not all, of the time.
Here, service proved itself star-quality on all three of my visits. Food -- the kind of global potpourri typical of American cuisine (from Mongolian steak to Yankee pot roast to Thai chicken pizza) -- was good, if not stellar.
I first went for lunch and .ordered miso-glazed salmon. It arrived moist and delicate, glazed with a sweet but not cloying sauce. My husband's ample lunch-sized Southwestern salad, topped with plenty of chicken, black beans, cheese and vegetables, sported a vibrant honey-lime vinaigrette.
Early on a subsequent weekend, while waiting for our buzzer to inform us our table was ready, I learned that the restaurant offers both "royal" tea and a four-course "dessert experience" late afternoons in the dessert bar or the lounge.
Dinner for our party of four began with a "grand" appetizer assortment that was a bargain at $25, since it easily could have fed eight. A spinach artichoke dip, with tortilla chips and a cilantro-enhanced salsa, was creamy and rich. Duck pot-stickers, dumplings filled with moist pieces of duck in a sweet brown sauce, tasted authentically Asian. So did the crisp shrimp and chicken spring roll. Coconut macadamia chicken satays were crunchy outside, moist within. I was surprised that I liked the gimmicky-sounding Buffalo chicken rolls, mini-wraps stuffed with hot-sauce-seasoned chicken. Light Vietnamese summer chicken rolls had crunchy julienne vegetables and shredded chicken inside.
I wasn't so pleased, though, with a tuna "burger," a rather thin and greasy pepper-seared fillet on toasted brioche. A special of sauteed sea bass proved fresh and simple, while a Jamaican pork tenderloin with a properly spicy black pepper sauce, black beans, mashed sweet potatoes and mango salsa was piquant and satisfying. A standout was slow-roasted beef short ribs with a vinous red wine gravy, roasted carrots and mashed potatoes and horseradish sauce on the side.
At the outset of the meal, we had ordered a baked-to-order apple pie a la mode -- a warm, flaky free-form tart. It was a worthwhile indulgence.
Impressive, as well, were the mini-desserts enjoyed days later in the lounge as part of the four- course "dessert experience" for $12. Two highlights were warm beignets (mini holeless doughnuts) with a trio of dipping sauces, and a banana bread pudding. My husband's "royal" tea ($21 for mini sandwiches of chicken and walnut salad, cucumber, egg, and mozzarella, followed by little scones with Chantilly cream- lemon curd plus assorted pastries) came with a pot of tea and a glass of port. The problem was that the kitchen, short-staffed that afternoon, had problems pacing the meal.
Timing your visit is essential. Unless I'm already at the mall, I would avoid a busy Saturday night. After a late movie, though, I'd keep this place in mind for appetizers or dessert. And I might try dinner on a weeknight. Or a late breakfast one Saturday or Sunday morning. Grand Lux Cafe plays it smart by offering no shortage of options.
Grand Lux Cafe is located at Roosevelt Field Mall, Garden City, 516-741-0096