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Pine Tree: Pines highlight Great Neck’s new Korean, Japanese restaurant

PINE TREE

324 Great Neck Road, Great Neck, L.I.

516-504-1301, Fax 516-504-1292

Five young pine trees grow along the edge of the wooden deck out front. Come summer there'll be outdoor tables, each with a built-in barbecue, where short ribs marinated in a Korean sauce are grilled over charcoal. That's nice to contemplate when seated at tables with pink cloths inside at Pine Tree, Great Neck's new Korean and Japanese restaurant. Korean food is a first for Great Neck.

Japanese cuisine is influenced by the Pacific Ocean surrounding the island nation. There's an abundance of seafood and the soy-based food tastes clean and mild. Korean food features barbecued meats with stronger flavored, spicy food. Fittingly, there are two chefs at Pine Tree - one for Korean food and one for sushi.

The restaurant is very wide with the sushi bar at the right. Expectedly, the carpet is a deep green - pine tree green. Blonde wood is every where.

I can't say too much in praise of my waitress. She was extremely knowledgeable, starting with the drinks listed on the menu. Korean saki has a higher alcoholic content than Japanese saki and is always served cold. And then there are a number of Korean gins which are even higher. My waitress made a slight hand gesture with the merest of bows throughout the service that was ever so charming.

A solo supper began with a deep fried soft shell crab. One crab, dusted with crumbs, deep-fried, was served with garnish of a cucumber rose and sculptured carrot slice plus an accompanying dipping sauce to be eaten with chop sticks, of course. Light and lovely.

In true Korean style small dishes of appetizers were set before me. They are to be eaten with the main course but I never can wait and they tend to disappear between appetizer and entree: The cold spinach with garlic; the soy bean sprouts; kimchi in a one-inch long roll; and, surprisingly warm cubes of tofu in a sauce. The miso soup was rather non-descript for me but could be what appeals to others.

A traditional Korean specialty, chap chae - thin, clear noodles, beef and vegetables sauteed in a nicely seasoned sauce - followed. Another Korean relish was added, plus refills of the spinach and tofu - my favorites.

It was amazing - toothpick-long and toothpick-thin shreds of raw potato tossed with a special sauce, yet pure white. There's always something new under the sun whether it shines in the East or West.

For dessert there is fresh fruit or ice cream - green tea, red bean or ginger. I asked for a bit of red bean and ginger. Go for the green tea. I like a beanier red bean and a fresh ginger. This tasted more like ground ginger. And then there is a cold drink called sikhye that I would like to try for dessert.

I also tasted the Korean and Japanese fare as take-out. A complimentary mug of tea - roasted barley - is served while you wait. A nice touch. Beef nagimaki, thinly sliced beef rolled with scallions and broiled with teriyaki sauce, is a great appetizer and would make a fine party hors d'oeuvre although some might find the sauce sweet. Sankai, the seafood salad (salmon, baby octopus, squid, crab) had not merely iceberg (as in some Japanese restaurants) but several greens plus red cabbage, red and green peppers, and sliced radishes with a Japanese dressing.

The Korean pancake, hae mul pajun, with squid, shrimp and scallion was very good but a bit too oily (which I have found in other places, too) for American tastes. There is a seafood version and a popular hot pepper and scallion version. I liked both.

While sipping your tea as you wait for the order, note the four family packages listed on the take-out menu ($85 to $185): It includes the Korean pancake, barbecued short ribs, roast beef sliced very thin with a dipping sauce, Korean cold noodles with a vinegar dressing, a dumpling soup and fruit or a cold drink.

Or contemplate sitting on the deck with short ribs being grilled at your table in the summer.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Attractive, new Korean and Japanese restaurant in Great Neck. Barbecue indoors, and outdoors on deck in summertime. Sushi bar. Very fine service.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Sashimi (three kinds of fresh, raw fish)...$9.00

Beef Negimaki (thinly slice beef rolled with scallions and broiled with teriyaki sauce)...$6.50

Nabeyaki Udon (noodles with shrimp, chicken, and vegetables cooked stew-style)...$9.50

Yaki Udon (Grilled, fried udon with seafood)...$13.50

Temaki Combination (assortment of temaki, tekka, California yellow-tail eel with cucumber and pickles)...$15.00

Dragon Roll...$9.00

Rainbow Roll...$8.00

Dinner Box (shrimp tempura, broiled fish, salad, and soup)...$20.00

Salmon and Chicken Teriyaki...$18.00

Kal Bi Gui (prime short rib marinated in a special sauce)...$18.00

Chap Chae (thin, clear noodles, beef and vegetables sauteed in seasoned sauce)...$18.00

Hae Mul Pajun (Korean pancake with squid, shrimp, scallion)...$13.00

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