Wild Ginger explodes upon the Great Neck dining scene like a fireworks display. The cavernous dining spot, with stunning Asian-style murals in hues of orange and yellow, is a place where faux palm trees grow and a mini-waterfall flows. From the open kitchen, woks sizzle and clatter. Even on a weeknight, the crowded space reverberates with enough noise to make text messaging the preferred method of communication.
The food is Asian-ish -- Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese -- a fusion rather than an authentic representation of any one country's cuisine. Staff members, while good-humored, seem oblivious to certain requests. Despite an entreaty to have a dish prepared extra-spicy in the kitchen, our waiter insisted on bringing hot sauce on the side.
Overall, however, Wild Ginger leaves a highly positive impression. Crab cakes, served with a lively pineapple salsa, are full of crab and flavor. Try the Vietnamese summer roll, rice paper enfolding a sprightly filling of greens and fruit. Dim sum, appealing little shui mai dumplings, are a delicate treat, but chicken dumplings are leaden. Better are the ravioli .Sichuan style, al dente pasta with a savory pork filling and an intense, if gloppy, peanut sauce. For sheer refreshment, the Vietnamese salad -- shredded napa cabbage and jicama with peanuts and cilantro -- is terrific, if in need of a bit more color.
"Fire wok" combines lobster, shrimp and scallops in a Thai-influenced curry sauce. Despite its menu designation as spicy, the Thai red curry with shrimp and chicken needs more wattage -- and not from hot sauce on the side. A welcome surprise (since shrimp so often arrives overcooked) is the grilled lemongrass shrimp with steamed watercress, galangal and red onions, the large, spice-coated crustaceans done to sweet succulence. Artfully plated pan- seared rare tuna, with soba noodles and wasabi green tea vinaigrette, is a knockout. And you won't be able to get enough of the wok- glazed ginger duck, chunks of skin-on poultry in a rich mahogany sauce with shiitake mushrooms. In comparison, both shrimp pad Thai and Singapore rice noodles with chicken come off as routine, if respectable.
Desserts, crowned with dark chocolate pastilles inscribed with the name Payard, are showstoppers. (Our waiter said they were made in-house by a Payard- trained chef, but this proved to be not so.) A confection called "New York New York" features lemon sponge, cream cheese mousse and a fresh berry syrup. The misspelled "Lourve" (Louvre), a personal favorite, is fashioned of chocolate and hazelnut mousse with a hazelnut dacquoise wafer. And the "Manhasset" translates into a black currant mousse with raspberry gelee and shortbread cookie crust. Sorbets, served with each of the above, are superior.
So take earplugs. Or equip your group with the latest in instant-messaging technology. And just enjoy the fireworks.