In an East Northport building whose architecture says "Pizza Hut" you'll find a restaurant called Precious. It is that true rarity on Long Island: a source of great Chinese food and a place that lives up to its name.
The moment you sample something as seemingly prosaic as wonton soup, you'll feel transported from East Northport to Flushing or Chinatown. The broth is ultra-savory, the wontons filled with a delicate mixture of ground pork and whole shrimp. Hot and sour soup will warm your spirits as it jolts your palate. If you've given up on chicken and corn chowder as a bland porridge, then order the peppery brew here. Or try the vibrant hot and sour seafood soup, pale in color only, brimming with fresh shrimp and scallops.
Roast pork buns are noteworthy. Order the Chinese minced chicken, a distinctively robust mixture, and you'll realize that iceberg lettuce was put on this earth as its ideal wrapping.
Shrimp dumplings are light and buoyant, cold sesame noodles subtly fiery. And don't miss the crisp, oniony scallion pancakes.
A memorable dish is the "parchment prawns," the jumbo shrimp lightly encrusted with salt and pepper, fried to a delicate crackle and topped with a mix of fresh shredded ginger and peppers. Peacock chicken showcases shredded poultry done two ways, with a delicate rice wine sauce and in an intensely gingery dressing. Mala lamb is tender, piquant, delicious. And this restaurant's version of what has become a Chinese restaurant staple - "revolution diet" chicken with water chestnuts, broccoli and spicy orange flavor - is actually too good to be believable as "light" fare. In fact, it's every bit as appealing as General Tso's chicken, a more caloric and subtly incendiary classic.
Sesame tofu will delight even the most finicky vegetarians. Vegetarian "chicken" is animated by a high-voltage garlic sauce. Moo shu vegetables, wrapped in hoisin-slathered pancakes, have crunch, color and a light smokiness.
The "revolution diet" menu lists chicken with water chestnuts, broccoli and spicy orange flavor as well as a "protein" trio of scallops, chicken and jumbo shrimp with snow peas, bean sprouts and broccoli in spicy Hunan sauce.
With the advent of buffet-style Chinese restaurants, many of us have almost forgotten how satisfying fine made-to-order Chinese cooking can be. To remind ourselves, we make the occasional pilgrimage to Flushing or lower Manhattan or visit one of a mere handful of worthy Chinese restaurants on Long Island. Count Precious among that handful. --Joan Reminick
Lunch, Monday to Saturday; dinner, nightly.
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