Ten years ago, most of Long Island's Chinese restaurants fell into one of three categories: neighborhood takeouts, old-fashioned Chinese-American egg-rolleries and newer Asian-fusion spots where General Tso got an assist from sushi and pad thai.
Now we are in the midst of a regional Chinese food boom, with Canton, Sichuan, Dongbei and, new for 2019, Yunnan and Shanghai strutting their culinary stuff.
The boom, which shows no sign of slowing down, is driven by hungry Chinese students attending Stony Brook and Hofstra, Chinese families moving across the Queens border into Nassau and Chinese food lovers of all stripes who are thankful they don't have to drive into Flushing for authentic dan dan noodles, soup dumplings or tea-smoked duck.
Note: Most dishes mentioned are samples of the restaurants’ menus and may not be available at all times. Seasonal changes and dish substitutions are common.
Beijing House (170 Jericho Tpke., Syosset): Before 2015, Nassau's North Shore had never seen a Chinese restaurant like Beijing House. The small, L-shaped dining room looked like scores of others, but the bustling kitchen was putting out seaweed and slow-cooked pork spare-rib bone soup, cold sliced oxtail with chilies and cumin, green bean jelly noodles with cucumber, braised beef noodle soup, stir-fried pork intestine. Local Chinese families showed up in droves and, gradually, curious and adventurous non-Chinese have joined in. While the menu offers Chinese-American classics, don't miss the opportunity to sample such Northern Chinese winners as sautéed lamb with scallion, spicy dan dan noodles, Chinese thin celery with sliced dried tofu or whole fish in hot chili oil. More info: 516-864-0702, beijinghousesyosset.com
Lamb with scallions from Beijing House in Syosset.
Chef Wang (1902 Jericho Tpke., New Hyde Park): The restaurateur behind several Manhattan spots -- Legend 88, Legend 72 and Legend Upper West -- presides over this sprawling eatery whose decor is Swiss chalet crossed with Buddhist temple. You can get sushi here, as well as most Chinese-American standards, but Wang is at his best with classic Sichuan dishes such as braised pork belly with leeks (surprisingly lean), cumin lamb (or beef or ribs), cold rabbit with spice ("cold" refers to the numbing presence of Sichuan peppercorns; the chunks of bone-in rabbit with fresh bamboo shoots is served over flame), and a terrific noodle soup with shredded pork and pickled vegetable, a rib-sticking brew with an unexpected sour kick. There are also five types of you-cook-at-the-table hot pots. More info: 516-354-2858, chefwangny.com
Braised sliced fish with hot chili sauce is one of the Sichuan dishes served at Chef Wang in New Hyde Park.
Cheng Du (947-949 Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square): This 2018 takeover of the old Jani satisfies every Chinese yen. At Cheng Du, you can still have your egg roll, wonton soup and chicken with broccoli (and even sushi) but the draw here is regional Chinese cuisine, largely Sichuan (Chengdu is the capital of that province). Groove on fresh bamboo shoots or wontons bathed in chili oil and showered with sesame seeds, dry-fried chicken or tea-smoked duck. Or go farther afield with Shanghainese soup dumplings, Taiwanese pork buns, Cantonese salt-and-pepper shrimp. The dining room is roomy and opulent, service is solicitous and fortune cookies still cap every meal. More info: 516-358-1603, chengduny.com
Salt and pepper shrimp, prepared at Cheng Du in Franklin Square.
Coco Palace (19 Northern Blvd., Great Neck): What an adventure awaits the diner at Coco Palace, the only restaurant on Long Island serving the food of Yunnan (and one of very few in New York). The province is bordered by Sichuan, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam, and you'll discern all of these influences in dishes that are, by turns, subtle, pungent, herbal and spicy. Jingpo chicken and Old Kunming eggplant are two must-order cold dishes. For pure drama, get the Crossing the Bridge Noodles, here called Yunnan Oriental-style noodles, prepared tableside in a simmering caldron. The kitchen veers, successfully, into more East-West territory with truffled wontons in broth and bacon-wrapped, spiced branzino. Enjoy it all in Coco Palace's serene dining room and BYOB while wine-beer license is pending. More info: 516-708-1978
Crispy buckwheat snacks are served as an appetizer at Coco Palace in Great Neck.
F.A.N. Authentic Chinese Cuisine
F.A.N. Authentic Chinese Cuisine (534 Commack Rd., Deer Park): A little strip mall across the street from Tanger Outlets is not where you'd expect to find a first-rate regional Chinese but F.A.N. upends most expectations. It's a neat, bright spot whose kitchen is largely Sichuan, with some interlopers from Taiwan, Shanghai and the American suburbs. Don't miss the pea sprouts in house special soup, a silky symphony flavor-bombed with both salted and smoked duck eggs and little red goji berries, the wontons in chili oil, dry-braised calamari or the shockingly verdant green scallion sauce egg fried rice. More info: 631-586-6888, fanchinesefood.com
Green scallion sauce and egg fried rice is served at F.A.N. Authentic Chinese Cuisine in Deer Park.
Fortune Wheel (3601 Hempstead Tpke. (Nassau Mall), Levittown): Fortune Wheel planted its flag in 1993 in this unlovely Levittown shopping center. As Long Island's Chinese restaurant scene has embraced sushi, fusion and Sichuan, it has remained steadfast in its devotion to two Cantonese treasures: dim sum and seafood. The former is available every day, but on weekends you can order it from the rolling cart. As for the latter, you'll always find superb clams with black bean sauce and stir-fried lobster. For daily specials, check out the fish tanks on your way to your table and order accordingly: live coral shrimp simply steamed, Dungeness crab in a casserole with sticky rice and sausage, fresh water fish with ginger and scallion. More info: 516-579-4700
A selection of steamed dumplings at Fortune Wheel in Levittown.
New Fu Run
New Fu Run (50 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck): This sparkling satellite of Flushing's Fu Run specializes in the cuisine of China's Dongbei region (the northeasternmost area that used to be called Manchuria), which is heartier than Cantonese, less incendiary than Sichuan. There are comparably authentic Chinese restaurants on Long Island, but what distinguishes New Fu Run is that it aims to serve diners of all backgrounds: much English is spoken. Recommended: a cold starter of country-style beef shank with cucumber, stew cabbage (sauerkraut) with pork and vermicelli served in a gleaming soup tureen, triple delight vegetables (a salty-sweet stir fry of potatoes, eggplant and red and green peppers) and the signature dish, cumin lamb chop, a rack of lamb ribs that hasn't been seasoned so much as overwhelmed by cumin. More info: 516-708-1888, furunrestaurant.com
Lamb chop with cumin is served at New Fu Run in Great Neck.
Spice Workshop (2503 Middle Country Rd., Centereach): When the revered Yao's Diner closed earlier this year, many hearts broke. The no-frills Sichuan restaurant consistently landed among the top 10 Chinese restaurants on Long Island. Fortunately, Spice Workshop picks up where Yao's left off, with an interior freshly painted cherry red, a more refined vibe and a menu equally strong in fiery Sichuan cuisine. Owned by a former SUNY-Stony Brook student, Spice Workshop cinches together crowd favorites such as excellent steamed dumplings (filled with minced pork) and cold lo mein noodles doused with chili oil and preserved vegetables with seething staples such as mapo tofu and cumin lamb. The sour fish soup, dense with flaky white fish, cabbage and mushrooms, is a queen among soups, and large enough to feed two. BYOB. More info: 631-676-5065
Cumin lamb with chilis, bell pepper and cilantro is served at Spice Workshop in Centereach.
Spicy Home Tasty
Spicy Home Tasty (1087 Jericho Tpke., Commack): Owner Yuling Chou and her partner, chef Xian Chun Du, serve dishes from all over China (as well as some Chinese-American standards), but the focus is on the sophisticated cuisine of Sichuan province, some of which is indeed spicy, but all of which is tasty. The menu is full of the hearty, fiery specialties from that region in China's southwest, among them: hot and spicy fish fillet, beef tendon with carrot and Chengdu-style roast chicken. Sichuan starters include pork belly with sweet chili oil, wontons in chili oil, and spicy, crispy cucumber. From the "authentic noodle" roster: dan dan noodles, crystal noodles with pork intestine and spicy beef noodle soup. More info: 631-543-8880, spicyhometasty.com
Dry pot lamb is topped with celery, fungus, lotus roots, red and green peppers and bamboo shoots at Spicy Home Tasty in Commack.
Tao's Fusion (1310 Middle Country Rd., Selden): Don't let the word "fusion" in the name fool you: In Tao's case, it means pan-Chinese, not Chinese-American with a side of sushi and pad thai. English-speaking guidance is at a premium here, but persevere and be richly rewarded by a whole leg of cumin-infused lamb that comes to the table a-sizzle, beef tendon shaved so thin it's translucent and buzzy with a touch of numbing Sichuan peppercorns, white fish poached in a green herb broth and, rare on Long Island, Peking duck made on the premises. More info: 631-320-0414, taosfusionselden.com
The swai fish filet in green sauce at Tao's Fusion in Selden.