Monsoon sweeps into Babylon. And it's where you want to eat now.
This electric, pan-Asian reverie is the newest and boldest table from the Bohlsen Restaurant Group, which also owns Prime in Huntington, H2O in Smithtown and both Verace and Tellers Chophouse in Islip.
Monsoon, like Tellers, rises in a grand, transformed bank building. The illuminated, gray-stone 1922 Bank of Babylon houses a two-level fantasy with a 35-foot ceiling clad in red tile and black lattice.
The show also goes on at a bright, 30-foot bar, and on an 8-by-12-foot video screen, which presents a made-for-Monsoon movie of Asian images, complete with a martial arts tale -- entertainment in case anyone thinks the vivid food isn't enough.
Michael and Kurt Bohlsen stirred up Monsoon after traveling in Asia. Their ambitious, clever, full-flavored adaptation of cuisines Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and more comes alive via executive chef Michael Wilson. The colorful result reflects less Manhattan's Chinatown and Flushing's Asian repertoire than it does a precisely calibrated gauge of Long Island's appetite.
Wilson worked with BRG's former corporate chef, Cornelius Gallagher. He has been chef at Verace and a sous-chef at Prime. Here, Wilson oversees a kitchen sure to keep everyone's chopsticks in overdrive.
Begin with the outstanding vegetable dumplings, made with silky, translucent dough; and plump, puffy steamed buns, especially the pork or duck variety. Nibble on the kimchee pancake, sparked by spicy sesame mayonnaise. Refresh yourself with the shrimp-and-pork Vietnamese summer rolls, finished with chili-peanut sauce; and the green papaya salad, with shimmering cubes of aloe vera.
Enjoy the whimsy and the taste of kung pao monkfish, a delectable creation spiked with Sichuan chili sauce. Aromatic and rich: "millionaire's curry crab," colossal in every way. Shaking beef, a classic Vietnamese dish, effortlessly balances heat and herbs.
Wilson playfully sends out an updated, refined spin on chicken chow mein, under a crisp dome of bean-thread noodles. But his big bird is a terrific one-course service of Beijing duck, easily the best in Nassau or Suffolk, from lacquered skin and tender meat to the steamed buns and accompaniments.
For dessert, the fanciful mango sundae, chocolate torte with a chili accent and cheesecake with a gingery crust precede the fortune cookies. A recent one confidently read: "It's all downhill from here." So, make a reservation.
A monsoon signals major change. Bank on it.