**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2012/07/liang...
When I heard that Liang’s Kitchen opened in Flushing, I almost immediately went there. Liang’s Kitchen is originally from the San Gabriel Valley in Los Angeles, which is where most good Chinese food in LA is located. However, over time they expanded and have several branches in LA, a branch in Irvine and a couple branches in Northern California. I’ve eaten at the one in San Gabriel and the one in Irvine, which is fairly close to where my family lives. It’s generally been good dependable Taiwanese food, so I was quite excited to hear they had opened a branch in Flushing as good Taiwanese food has become somewhat difficult to find here.
Liang’s Kitchen actually isn’t straight up Taiwanese food; it’s supposed to be a take on the food that came from the migration of mainland Chinese to Taiwan. Many of these Chinese were military families who were part of the Kuomintang, some of whom intentionally moved to Taiwan in the 40s and some of whom fled to Taiwan in 1949 when the KMT lost against the Communists. Taiwanese food traditionally is southern Fujian food, but you will also find a lot of northern Chinese, Sichuan and other Chinese regional dishes as well. This is partially a function of the influence these military families had on Taiwan’s food culture. Last time I was in Taiwan I watched a documentary about these communities that surrounded or were on military bases where Chinese from a given province would all live together and then cook their regional food as part of community gatherings; the one I watched was about group of 30-40 families from Hunan that had kept cooking traditional Hunan dishes even generations after the original immigrants came.
The restaurant is located in the basement of the Best Western Hotel. It’s a brand new space; quite clean and reasonably nice. The walls have blown up pictures of their food, old pictures of Taiwanese military families and pictures of the chef and Liang family. This location isn’t on their website yet, but they have pictures of the CEO (Ivan Liang) and the new head chef, so I’m pretty sure that it’s an authentic location. The servers were reasonably nice and they speak English, so you shouldn’t have a problem if you don’t speak Chinese. However, certain appetizers and the entire main dish menu are only written in Chinese, so that will be sort of an issue. I’m going to write the characters of dishes we ordered that were on the Chinese only menu so that you can order them.
Here’s what we got:
- Stewed Tofu (Lu Dou Fu Gan Si): Lu wei is a type of Chinese cooking common in southern China, where you braise meats or tofu in a master stock made up of soy sauce, spices and other ingredients. This is actually smoked tofu that is stewed in a lu wei sauce. The version here was just okay, I didn’t think the lu wei sauce they used was flavorful enough, so while it tasted alright it was nothing to write home about. 7/10
- Seaweed (Liang Ban Hai Dai Si): This is a cold dish of long thin strips of seaweed tossed in sesame oil and mashed garlic. It tastes exactly how it sounds. The version here was decent, but not great. 7/10
- Stir Fried Corn and Shrimp (Yu Mi Xia Ren 玉米蝦仁): This is a very Taiwanese home cooking type of dish. It’s a simple dish with corn, shrimp and diced peppers stir fried with sesame oil and salt. The corn and shrimp were both very fresh and they were also generous with the amount of shrimp they gave. This version was quite good and I enjoyed it. 8/10
- Beef Tendon Noodle Soup (Hong Shao Niu Jin Mian): Hong shao is another type of braising that is common in Chinese cuisine and it’s very common for the beef to be stewed in this manner for beef noodle soup in Taiwan, which is actually the national dish of Taiwan. This dish is pretty hard to get right as the beef and broth require a lot of skill and hard work to get right. The beef tendon was surprisingly good; it was very tender and flavorful, definitely the best beef tendon I’ve had in NY beef noodle soup (although the rest have generally been pretty bad). Unfortunately, the noodles were overcooked so they were kind of mushy although they tasted fine. The broth was decent; I wouldn’t say it was great or anything, but it had decent beef flavor and the pickled vegetable tasted good. Overall, it’s probably one of the better Taiwanese style beef noodle soups in NY although just decent on an absolute basis. 7.25/10 (8/10 for the beef tendon, 6.5/10 for the noodles and 7.25/10 for the broth)
- Beef Pancake (Niu Rou Jia Bing): This is a scallion pancake that is lathered with hoisin sauce then thinly sliced beef and cucumbers are layered on top and it’s wrapped into a burrito. I love this dish and Liang’s Kitchen is known for it. The scallion pancake was good; it was freshly fried and not oily although I do prefer it to be a little thinner. The beef was pretty decent and tasted nice with the hoisin sauce. Overall, the version here was pretty good. 8/10
- Wontons in Hot Oil (Hong You Chao Shou): This is an example of that military influence as this is a Sichuan dish that you can find at any Sichuan restaurant in NY. The sauce was nice; it had good tasting hot oil and a slight sweetness to it. However, it’s less spicy than any of the Sichuan places. The wontons were good as well with very thin skins and nice filling. The only problem was that if you leave the wontons in the sauce for too long they start to fall apart because the skins are so thin. The wontons are definitely better than most of the Sichuan places and the sauce was quite good, but it depends on whether you want it to be as spicy as the Sichuan places or not. 8/10
- Shacha Beef with Water Spinach (Sha Cha Niu Rou Kong Xin Cai 沙茶牛肉空心菜): Sha cha is a sauce that is made of soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chillis, dried fish and dried shrimp. The dish consists of sliced beef sautéed in a sha cha sauce put over boiled water spinach (kong xin cai). I thought it was pretty good although could’ve used a little more salt. 7.5/10
- Five Flavor Steamed Pork (Wu Wei Bai Qie Rou 五味白切肉): This is steamed thin slices of pork served with thinly julienned ginger and a sweet bean and garlic sauce. This turned out to be the best dish and the surprise of the night. The pork slices were very tender and they tasted really good with the ginger and bean sauce. I definitely recommend ordering this. 8.5/10
- Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji 三杯雞): This is a very typical Taiwanese dish consisting of chicken on the bone cooked in a sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil (hence the three cups) and it also has sugar, basil and ginger in it. The version here was a little different because it’s not sweet at all, but the sauce still tasted pretty good. The problem was that there was not enough meat, it was mainly bones. I have no issue with the meat being on the bone (some people don’t like that), but there was so little chicken that the dish ended up being very small even though it looks big. I think Gu Xiang’s version is better than this one. 7.5/10 (could’ve been higher if they gave more chicken meat)
- Pork Chop Rice (Pai Gu Fan): I got this to go for my girlfriend. Taiwanese pork chop rice is a staple dish in Taiwan; it’s a pork chop that has been pounded thin and is fried in a sweet potato flour batter and five spice (wu xiang fen). It’s usually served with condiments of lu rou (stewed ground pork sauce), suan cai (pickled mustard greens) and lu dan (stewed hard boiled eggs). However, here they only gave a very small amount of lu rou, no suan cai and instead gave another pickled cabbage that had red chilis and Chinese sausage in it and also pickled daikon. The pork chop was excellent maybe the best version I’ve had in NY or at least on par with 66 Lu’s next door which most people consider the best (although I think their quality has gone downhill a bit). It was tender, crispy, wasn’t oily and had good five spice flavor. The pickled vegetables and lu dan were good as well. The only problem was they gave you no lu rou, which I love. It also came with a nice light seaweed soup that was pretty good as well. 8.25/10
Overall, I enjoyed my meal here and this is definitively some of the best Taiwanese food in New York now. I hope that the quality stays good as Chinese restaurants in NY have this tendency to start strong and then fade.