New ownership and a new chef yield New Peninsula.
Too many kitchens on Long Island love to combine Chinese and Japanese cuisines. A few others add some Thai spice, too. You need a smart, resilient restaurateur to make the balancing act work. Enter Danny Wu.
He owns West East All Natural Bistro & Bar in Hicksville and Thom Thom Steak & Sushi in Wantagh. Now, Wu has a more challenging task: remaking the former Peninsula restaurant. The transition definitely is underway, but it's not complete.
New Peninsula still has the glitzy look of its predecessor, from the stone foo dogs at the door to the entry-area bridge over a koi pod. There's another pool in the back, a life-size model of a horse and carriage, and lighting meant to be noticed. It all could distract you from your meal.
At old Peninsula, that sometimes was a good thing.
Executive chef Andy Wong, a veteran of West East, is trying to change that. He succeeds in improving on what came before. But familiar problems resurface, too. You'll have to order carefully for a good meal.
That means skipping overdone chicken satay and bland pad Thai, dull chicken Soong and all-crunch, no-flavor lobster spring rolls. Cold noodles with sesame sauce taste waterlogged. Instead, try either the satisfying Cantonese wonton soup or the nonmedicinal hot-and-sour soup.
Traditional sushi and colorful sushi rolls can be very good. The riceless rainbow naruto roll is refreshing, in a cucumber wrap holding tuna, salmon and yellowtail. "Angry tuna" also is rice-free, using soy paper and highlighting slightly spicy tuna, lobster salad and shrimp tempura, and good of its kind. Nigirizushi is recommended for a starter or main.
The worthwhile Chinese choices include tender and flavorful lobster with scallion and ginger; and the crisp, meaty red snapper in a sweet-sour sauce that has some welcome heat. General Tso's chicken, while exceedingly mild, is tender. The one-course Beijing duck arrives lacquered and juicy, but with pancakes so dry they crumble with every fold. New Peninsula needs new buns.
Skip the room-temperature tempuras in favor of a modest salmon teriyaki; forgo chewy orange or tangerine beef and sample the hibachi steak. Eggplant with garlic sauce and "tangy and spicy" stringbeans complement both.
Ice cream and mango pudding are the standard finales. One fortune cookie advised, "Failure is not defeat until you stop trying"; another, "Things are turning for the bright side."
Both true at New Peninsula.