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Masala Wok & Grill

The Hakka chili chicken, boneless pieces of pan-fried

The Hakka chili chicken, boneless pieces of pan-fried chicken with herbs and chilies, at Masala Wok & Grill in Selden. Hakka is a fusion of Indian and Asian cuisines. (June 18, 2011) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

Calling itself an "Indo Pak style Chinese Thai grill restaurant," the new Masala Wok & Grill qualifies as a true hybrid. With counter service on one side, a formal dining room on the other, the restaurant is that rare Suffolk County spot serving the multicultural cuisine of the Hakka Chinese people who settled in India. Just the kind of spice to keep things interesting for students and teachers at the nearby Suffolk Community College and Stony Brook University.

WOK ON

Hot-and-sour soup has depth and nuance, putting a whole new read on a Chinese classic. A real eye-opener is the "spicy" lemon coriander soup, more about complexity than fire power. Both chicken noodle and spinach-tofu soup deliver comfort.

An appetizer called drums of heaven translates into chicken wings fried with herbs, garlic and chili sauce. Sticky-spicy goodness.

Although Hakka chilly chicken (boneless chunks pan-fried with herbs and chilies), ordered extra-hot, arrives medium, it still resonates. So, too, does the dish called kung pao potatoes, a successful vegetarian riff on the familiar Sichuan chicken with peanuts. Hakka noodles with vegetables is a ringer for lo mein. Smoky, savory lo mein. I'm impressed with how delectable the pad Thai with shrimp turns out to be. The same holds true of the goat curry, tender bone-in pieces of meat in a mellow brown sauce.

One night, I find myself virtually seduced by the paratha, tandoor-baked whole wheat bread. Garlic naan is a runner up.

Dinner concludes well, with gulab jamun (fried dough in syrup) and creamy rice pudding redolent of coriander.

WOK OFF

I'm not a fan of the crispy lotus, which I find hard, lukewarm, sticky-sweet. An appetizer called pan fried dry chili fish is basically deep fried batter in a thick reddish paste. Sichuan shrimp drowns in gooey sauce.

"Wait till you try the paratha," I tell friends on a second visit. This time, though, it's overcooked and dry.

BOTTOM LINE

Inexpensive and never boring.

 

FOR MORE ASIAN COMBOS

New Chilli & Curry Restaurant

Tibetan and Thai dishes are cooked as spicy or mild as you like at this friendly spot where authenticity rules. Chile-garlic noodles can scorch and comfort at the same time; biryani with lamb, chicken and shrimp has spunk. More mellow: goat pasanda.

Spice Village Grill

A multiplicity of South Asian influences inform the menu at this downtown corner spot. Standouts include kaukswe (pronounced cow-sway), a subtly piquant Burmese chicken-coconut-lentil soup, flaky naan and a mixed grill of kebabs.

Copper Wok

Indian, Thai and Hakka Chinese dishes are well presented in an attractive dining room. Try the appetizer combination platter with spring rolls, momo dumplings, lamb chops, satays and shrimp with black-bean sauce.

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