Well, Dao Asian Restaurant in Huntington had a sign for “soft opening;” I couldn’t resist.
Went with the family at around 8:30 on Friday night. Since it was opening night, we went expecting service issues, but there were no dramatic glitches, and what there were gets a pass as they just opened.
That said, I don’t expect the restaurant to remain open for more than a month or two. As I had feared, the prices are totally out of control. Coupled with miniscule portions, the value just isn’t there. And though I’m happy (well, content) to pay through the nose for exquisitely prepared food, this was just slightly better than run-of-the-mill Chinese takeout.
Appetizers run an average of $8, entrees about $20-23 (and apparently, prices were raised between the time of printing the menu and the implementation of the computerized cash register – most of our dishes were invoiced at $1 or 2 higher than the menu price).
The menu itself is very strange. While there is a typically extensive sushi menu, the Chinese/Thai menu is ridiculously limited. About a dozen appetizers, maybe ten entrees. Not ten “chef specialties”, but ten dishes in total.
We started with Roti Canai ($5), Crystal Dumpling (har gao) ($7, billed at $8), and pumpkin soup ($8, billed at $10!). The roti for the Roti Canai was quite good, but about 4 inches in diameter, and the curry sauce was served in a shot glass. Literally. Really more of an amuse bouche than an appetizer – and not easy to split 4 ways.
The Pumpkin Soup was served in two dishes. A tiny soup ball holding some enoki mushroom, a waffle chip, a cherry tomato, etc. (maybe a tablespoon altogether), and a TEACUP full of pumpkin broth. Tasty - but this is a $10 dish. Where is the foie gras and caviar?
The Crystal Dumplings were below average. Four dumplings, typical rice flour based wrapper. A good har gao’s filling should be light and tender, with chunky bits of shrimp and water chestnut, scallion, etc. These were compressed and tough. My guess is the shrimp spent too long whirring in the food processor.
For entrees, we split Spicy and Tasty Chicken ($16), Thai Fried Sea Bass
($23) and Teriyaki Salmon ($19, billed at $20). The Spicy and Tasty Chicken was shocking. Basically, a typical “real” sweet and sour sauce (not the thick goopy red stuff, but a cornstarch thickened chicken broth cut with vinegar, sugar and some chile pepper) with some shredded red and green pepper and onions. Very common Chinese takeout dish – and done no better here than at my local takeout. However, you know how the takeout menu shows small size for about $5 and large for about $9? Well, this was the small. Maybe 1 and ½ cups of food. For $16.
The Thai Fried Sea Bass was OK, with the smallish fish filleted in the kitchen, chunked, battered and fried, then served alongside the whole fried fish carcass. In all, about 10 fish nuggets, with a sauce that was too close to the chicken dish. The Teriyaki Salmon (which we got for my middle son, the picky eater) was a single center cut of fish, perhaps 6 ounces. Not heavily glazed, it was more a plain grilled salmon with a bit of teriyaki garnishing the plate. Cooked properly (not rare, but not well done either), but nothing impressive. And it should have been $14-15.
Incredibly, no rice was served. Considering the Chinese phrase for eat food – chi fan, literally means eat rice, this was a surprise.
We hightailed it out, stopped at 7/11 for ice cream. Everyone was still starving.
This is the site of the former Empire Szechuan Gourmet. The ESG dining room was pretty "luxe" for a Chinese restaurant, and pretty busy most nights. Suddenly, it closed for a two year "renovation." Now, instead of a modern decor, it's a clash of baroque and modern decor -- marble floors, ornate moldings, neon purple lighting, and electric trees (and, strangely, rectangular 4-tops arranged in precise rows barracks style).
I suppose overcharging for run of the mill Chinese is the only way to recoup the costs of letting prime property remain closed for years while a ridiculous amount of money was poured into it. Not the most sensible business plan, if you ask me.