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Opera House in Roslyn Heights: First bites

Roti canai, a Malaysian flatbread, is one of

Roti canai, a Malaysian flatbread, is one of the appetizers at Opera House in Roslyn Heights. (April 24, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Opera House, the four-month-old Asian-fusion restaurant that opened in the former Roslyn Heights home of Tofu, proved to be a very mixed bag on a recent visit, with high highs, and very low lows.

I was there with a friend who had never tried honey-walnut shrimp, the resolutely inauthentic and improbably delicious Chinese dish made from battered, deep-fried shrimp and sugar-infused, deep-fried walnuts, served with steamed broccoli and mayonnaise sauce. At Opera House, the shrimp ($16) were encased in a soggy crust, the walnuts had an off taste, the mayonnaise sauce was limp, and in place of the broccoli was shredded lettuce. (I’m going to have to drag my friend to The Orient in Bethpage for some remedial eating.)

Also disastrous: “7 Spice Chicken” ($18), comically marked as “spicy” but whose overcooked meat and wan skin made Boston chicken seem like the fieriest Jamaican jerk.

These two missteps were in sharp contrast to our starters. The addictive roti canai, pleasantly greasy Malaysian flatbread served with curry dip, was only $5; we should have ordered a few more. And the Opera wrap ($10), a rich flatbread rolled round truly spicy beef and peppers, was gutsy and original.

I still don’t know what to make of the Malaysian sambal beef ($12), a stir-fry of beef, snow peas, asparagus and pineapple that was shockingly assertive in its use of fish sauce. Was it a proud, South Asian shot across the bow of defanged American culinary expectations? Or a sour, almost fetid screw-up by a careless line cook?

In addition to Chinese and Malaysian, Opera House’s large menu also includes a little Thai and a whole lot of Japanese hot dishes and sushi.

Opera House is at 255 Willis Ave., Roslyn Heights, 516-484-7456,

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