FrenAsia Asian Fusion, at 163-35 Crossbay Blvd. in Howard Beach (718-332-7690), is two blocks north of the Crossbay Bridge on the east side of the street (the side driving away from the Rockaways). From the outside it looks a bit kind of divey and unremarkable, and my folks, who live in the neighborhood, had never even noticed it. But once inside, it's a lovely, spacious room with a very nice bar up front, a sushi bar in the middle and a lot of tables in back that look out onto the pier in Old Howard Beach. The extremely attentive waitstaff is Asian. The chef is Malaysian and there's a Japanese sushi chef.
The menu is large and ambitious, which left us a bit skeptical as to whether they could pull it off. But they did. Appetizers run in the range of about $8 and the entrees run anywhere from $15 to $30, with most in the mid-$20s. Our party of 5 ate for $170 plus tax and tip, which included 4 glasses of wine, 4 appetizers, 5 entrees, and 2 desserts. The wine list is extensive and almost everything is available by the glass. We ordered four different wines by the glass and every one was good. Roasted butternut squash soup with coconut curry and young soy beans was as sensual and luscious as anything Ive ever eaten; miso soup took this staple of Japanese cuisine to a new level; seafood shumai dumplings were light and bursting with flavor and came with a dipping sauce that almost competed with the dumplings for top billing. Theres a complete, separate menu of sushi, while entrees emphasize fish and seafood, although lamb, chicken and beef are also available. Everything we ate was beautifully presented and creatively prepared, with the distinct flavors characteristic of Japanese cooking, and a wider range of ingredients: we had salmon with crab cake, sea bass, rack of lamb, and a seafood pad thai filled with shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams. Vegetables are an integral part of most of the entrees. The desserts were also big winners.
Despite the artful level of cooking, you can come in off the street in jeans and feel comfortable. Here are some suggestions: pick up your arriving out-of-town guests at JFK, or spend a couple of hours walking at the Jamaica Wildlife Sanctuary (dont forget your binoculars), and then stop at Frenasia for a meal that will knock your socks off.
PS - For those who live in the neighborhood: theyre open 7 days, and they deliver.