Unless you're fluent in Chinese, you may want to wait a couple of weeks before venturing out to Yao’s Diner in Centereach for an authentic taste of China. Right now, though, the eatery's multi-regional menu is entirely in Chinese.
Although I couldn’t read a word, I was able to order, thanks to a helpful waiter who spoke some English. To start was West Lake beef soup ($12.95) — enough to feed at least four. Egg drop-like in texture, it virtually rang with flavor. Chicken with chili peppers ($6.95) featured boneless pieces of chicken fried to a crunch, tossed in a flurry of dried red peppers. I relished every firecracker bite. In soothing counterpoint were sauteed fresh snow bean sprouts ($9.95), which I preferred to the somewhat pasty Beijing-style noodles with soy bean paste ($5.50).
If you’re adventuresome enough to seek out the place, keep in mind that the words “Yao’s Diner” are hardly visible on its sign, which is written primarily in Chinese characters. And don't expect a diner; this attractive little strip mall spot is actually a full-fledged restaurant.
Owner Adam Yao, who hails from the Northeast of China, originally geared the place to the area's sizable Asian population, many with affiliations at the nearby Stony Brook University and hospital. An English version of the menu is in the works and should be available within about a week.
Yao’s Diner is at 2503 Middle Country Rd., Centereach, 631-588-2218.
Above: Chicken with chili peppers at Yao's Diner in Centereach