Albany NY and Capital Region Restaurants

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nanking

Another weekend usually brings about more travel. It's been the case all summer long and last weekend was no exception. My uncle had been asking to meet up for dinner for the past few weeks now, and considering the fact that (1) he's one of my favorite uncles and (2) food was involved, no arm-twisting was required to get me to submit to his request.

We agreed to dine at Nanking - a relatively new Chinese/Thai restaurant in New Hyde Park (Long Island) NY. I tend to steer clear of dining establishments that try to serve more than one type of cuisine -- you usually end up with a botched attempt at both cuisines. Nanking also offers, in addition to the foregoing, "Hakka" style cuisine. Hakka food is, generally speaking, a type of Chinese cooking preparation in the Indian style and using Indian ingredients. The cuisine is attributed to the Chinese communities of Bombay and Calcutta where the curry influences were fused with the traditions they brought with them from the Canton province. I was particularly excited about Nanking's Hakka offerings.

After driving through the backroads of central Long Island for what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived to a packed parking lot. The unassuming exterior leads into a bright, loud and energetic space. The space is beautiful and my brothers (who also joined us at dinner) unanimously agreed that the structure was not very "long-island-like" and looked like something you'd find in New York City or Las Vegas. The space features copper tables, plush velvet seating, gorgeous wood floors, and large bamboo planters which separate the various areas of the restaurant. (NK +1)

The floor manager was overly friendly and treated each guest as if he or she was a special honored guest of the restaurant. I live for service like this. (NK+ 1). He personally greeted each patron with a healthy handshake, and gave an accurate estimate of the time until the party is seated.

We were led to our table which featured a small drink menu printed on a table tent and there were large oversized leather-bound menus already placed in front of us. Our server hastily rushed to the table to take our drink order. My youngest brother and I ordered each a drink special which were Asian influenced martinis, and my uncle ordered a ridiculously weak Scotch and soda. My drink was entirely too strong which took away from the hints of citrus and ginger which the drink was to be infused with.

For first course we ordered grilled lamb chops ($12) which brought 5 pieces to an order and breaded and flash fried shrimp ($12) which brought between 7-8 to an order. The lamb was pounded and incredibly tender despite being cooked well past medium/medium well. The lamb was marinated in garlic and chili and grilled. Hands down, this dish was the highlight of the evening. (NK +1). In fact, if I return, I'd be fine ordering this as an entree accompanied with a bowl of noodles or rice. The shrimp, regretfully, left much to be desired. NK seemed to use those 18-20 count shrimp, failed to really marinate them in anything, and over breaded the shrimp in a dense coating. (NK - 1). Fortunately, the dish was served in a incredibly fresh green garlic and onion "relish" which I and my dining partners made quick use of for the shrimp and for our lamb. (NK + 1).

Our server suggested that we order 4 courses for our dinner entrees, but we took a look around the dining room and it was clear that NK serves up copious amounts of food for each dish. We settled on 3 dishes: Crispy whole fish (~$20), Hakka Noodles with Chicken (~$12), and Crispy Chicken with Dried Chilies(~$15).

The Crispy Whole Fish dominated the table. It was served on an oversized platter and the head and tail of the fish was spilling off the edge of the plate. You could choose between pomfret or red snapper and we had settled on the latter. The fish was generously sauced with a deliciously complex sauce which was garlicly, spicy, sour and had gingery notes throughout. (NK + 1). The fish, on the other hand, was a bit overdone and was very difficult to dismantle and eat. The rice flour breading had hardened and was not as delicate as fried fish I've had at other places. (NK - 1).

The Crispy Chicken featured small pieces of white and dark meat lightly breaded, fried, and served in a sweet and spicy sauce with honey. It included diced peanuts, red and green bell peppers, and onion. Frankly, the dish was uninspired and reminded me of a breaded Kung Pao chicken. The dish included a large bowl of white rice.

The Hakka Noodles were pedestrian; they really didnt seem like much more a mere departure from lo mein noodles served in a Chinese restaurant. The noodles were woefully underseasoned and devoid any much, if any, chicken at all. (NK - 1)

As a general comment, we had ordered each dish "spicy," but we all found ourselves adjusting the spice using one of the three chili-based condiments available on each table.

Dessert was a welcome end to our dinner at Nanking. We ordered bananas wrapped in crispy rice paper which were then drizzled with honey. Two large scoops of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of fresh whipped cream rounded out the plate.

Final Score: NK +2

Nanking
2056 Hillside Avenue
New Hyde Park, New York
(516) 352-0009

2 Comments:

  • Excellent Mr.Kabrawala--you have it all--the looks, the taste and the brains. Keep eating :-)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:28 PM  

  • Thanks for all of the blogging you have been doing, it is nice to get so many reviews from around here and elsewhere. Too bad Nanking is on the other side of Long Island from where I will be staying- your review was great! Ever eaten anywhere around the Port Jefferson area? I'd love some suggestions!

    By Blogger Liberally Seasoned, at 10:31 PM  

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