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Royal Tagra Masala

A quarter century ago, Kenneth Chen left India for the United States; he was the fourth generation of a Chinese family that had called the city of Calcutta home. These days, in New Hyde Park, Chen offers adventuresome diners the unusual brand of Indian-influenced Chinese fare he grew up on.

Since this is a hybrid cuisine, you'd do well to abandon preconceptions. The restaurant serves neither tea (a given at most Chinese restaurants) nor bread (an Indian restaurant staple). The background music is Indian pop. And the food? "Hot and spicy," Chen said. Irresistibly so, I would add.

The innocuous-sounding vegetable noodle soup is a vibrant brew, as is the subtly incendiary vegetable Tangra masala soup. Peppery chicken wonton soup floats light and savory dumplings. Try the hearty Tangra seafood soup, which contains almost as much seafood as soup. The Thai shrimp and the Thai chicken soup are crimson-hued, fiery (the smattering of Thai dishes are neither Indian nor Chinese, but work anyway). The hot and sour soup is a knockout. For something more soothing, try the corn soup with chicken or crab.

Leaning more toward the Indian than the Chinese is the appetizer called Tangra masala fish fingers, thin strips of tilapia marinated in a heady mix of Indian spices and deep-fried to greaseless delicacy. Lollipop chicken (drumsticks with the meat scraped into a ball at the end of the bone) is accompanied by a piquant dip that looks and tastes like a Creole remoulade. While the fried "spicy" chicken wings are surprisingly mild, they're also very good, as are the fried, chicken-filled wontons.

We had the Manchurian tiger prawns sans sauce (they may be ordered "dry" or "with gravy"). Far from dry, the large crustaceans were coated with a megawatt blend of spices and stir-fried with vegetables. Given the same options for the beef Tangra masala, we opted for the gravy. The result was delicious.

Splendid, too, was goat (a meat more common on Indian than Chinese menus) in a zesty black bean sauce. General Tso would be pleased with the rendition of his eponymous chicken dish.

Here, chow mein is a close relative of lo mein. Try the mixed Manchurian version, noodles with shrimp, chicken and vegetables.

Finish with Malaysian ice cream in such flavors as mango or falooda, rose-flavored and neon-pink, like the drink of the same name. An apt ending to a meal both multicultural and marvelous.


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