My husband and I were fortunate to secure a 7pm reservation Friday night at this modest yet truly wonderful restaurant. Tasting Chef Nei's dishes brought back memories of some of my mother's best meals, yet I also experienced combinations of flavors that I never expected. His knife skills are the most refined that I have seen in a long time.
We arrived at 6:45 and the room was empty. The lone server invited us to sit anywhere. Within the next 15 minutes, all the tables were taken. It appeared that everyone had a 7pm reservation. We wondered how that worked out. Each table was handed the same little book that explained the way dinner would be served. Everyone except one couple asked for the $45 meal. The one couple asked for the $55 meal.
We got 8 cold appetizer plates: vegetarian chicken, sliced cucumber salad, shredded jellyfish salad, duck tongue, sliced stewed beef with stewed soybeans, sliced lotus root, diced five spice tofu with pickled cilantro, and a pickled vegetable (called gung4cai4) with a fiery chili sauce. We then got 8 hot dishes: kaufu stirfried with young bamboo shoots and tied bamboo strips, stir fried shrimp with gingko nuts and diced peppers, snow cabbage stir fried with pressed tofu strips, mung bean strips stirfried with virginia ham, tangerine beef, kungpao chicken, winter melon atop shredded seaweed (hai3dai4) sauced with ground pork in soybean paste, and fried candied eggplant. I had asked for rice when the snow cabbage dish arrived, though my husband didn't really insist on it. Though the dishes are seasoned just right that you don't require rice, having the rice actually accentuated the tastiness of each dish. The kungpao chicken was very spicy, but the other dishes did not overpower. The $55 meal had 3 extra dishes: abalone, sizzling rice with squid and shrimp and a little fried sweet & sour fish, scored to look like a pineapple. We were sated, yet not stuffed. My husband would have loved to have the 3 extra dishes, but it was really not necessary.
After the meal, I went to thank the chef, and the first thing he asked was whether or not we had had enough to eat. He said that we should come with a larger group so that he could serve more substantial dishes like duck or pork.
We really loved the food and admire what he is able to do with the most simple of ingredients. Judging by the rest of the diners, the feeling was unanimous.