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Dining Out: Seven-year-old Chinese restaurant in Bayside is different from the rest

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GARDEN OF FANTASY

39-28 Bell Blvd., Bayside

423-0559, 631-0888

"Asparagus Chicken. Asparagus with Green Beans. Asparagus with Beef."

The sandwich sign outside had a continental ring. Over there, when asparagus are in season, they go all out. They gourmetize with an entire meal of nothing but.

And that's exactly what I elected to do that evening at Garden of Fantasy, a seven-year-old Chinese restaurant on Bell Boulevard in Bayside. Every couple of months at Garden of Fantasy, you may splurge, in season, on broccoli, shrimp. asparagus , mushrooms or eggplant.

The smoke-tinted glass, from floor to ceiling across the entire front, gave no hint of the smart modern interior. Viewable as you enter, a tall, striking, gray-green jardiniere and a huge pottery fish balanced on his tail, are the only Chinese notes. (Fish symbolize abundance, and that's why it's there.) A blue neon tube curls across the ceiling. A mod bar is center stage.

Seated on the raised area upfront, nibbling on the housemade crisp noodles, we informed our waiter of our intentions. He chuckled and took it pretty much in stride, moving another table for two in position abutting ours.

Five platters appeared before us. In each one the asparagus was sliced on the angle, a vivid emerald green and tender crisp. Asparagus with shrimp would be our first encounter. Great. The shrimp were cooked as perfectly as the asparagus. Next we tried the solo asparagus dish - it was super and turned out to be our favorite of the lot. It had an undercurrent of fresh ginger that was delightful.

Scallopine of chicken was added to the next asparagus creation. It was bland and my guest requested some seasoning. A small dish of red paste, spicy red paste, appeared. Still, chicken asparagus wound up at the back of our taste parade.

Beans ... the long, green Chinese beans in 2-inch pieces were added to the fourth asparagus dish. It proved a great combo and had a slightly sweet brown sauce. It's the yard-long Chinese beans that make the dish. They marry so well with asparagus. The accompanying brown rice (ask for it) was excellent and Garden of Fantasy has a house special of fried brown rice.

Tender beef with asparagus met with our approval - What we particularly liked was that all dishes were discretely seasoned. The soy connection was not obvious.

Five items for two meat doggy bagging. Here's a sampling:

A slivered, cooked, green pepper, was added to the chicken. The asparagus solo and asparagus with long green beans were tossed together for a salad with the meal. The beef and asparagus were partnered with cous cous. Polenta was another possibility. Shrimp and asparagus was tossed with canned quail eggs. (Baby ears of corn would be good.) The seasoning at Garden of Fantasy is such (fusion Chinese/American) is adaptable.

Black and white fortune cookies (attractive, tasty) and orange wedges were dessert. There are almond cookies, lychees and such. And we received a complimentary glass of pineapple/coconut milk and grenadine with a touch of rum.

American specials are on the menu: Fried chicken wings, rib tips, baby shrimp,. scallops and french fries. But the little girl at the next table had mooshu. Other American palate pleasers listed under house specialties are: basil delight, a chicken, shrimp, mushroom dish in a brown sauce with garlic and basil and steak and shrimp in a wine sauce - Chinese surf and turf.

There are a number of dishes with a honey sauce: crispy duck, sesame chicken, shrimp, beef and scallops battered and deep fried, then coated with a honey sesame sauce. And at lunch there's honey crispy chicken.

There are several lamb dishes: lamb with double tastes, lamb with basil, and ma la lamb with mushrooms, red peppers and snow peas in a hot sauce.

At the Garden of Fantasy, whose chef comes from the coastal island of Hainan, you'll find fanciful new dishes, fine-tuned, but never outrageous.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Modern, funky decor. Most attractive. Fusion Chinese-American cuisine. Different from the rest. Fine service.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Scallion Pancake...$2.75

Steamed Vegetable Dumplings

(6)...$4.25

General Tso's Chicken (the remark

able dish created by General Tso dur

ing the Ching Dynasty)...$10.50

Basil Delight (sliced chicken, jumbo

shrimp and mushrooms in a brown

sauce seasoned with garlic and mush

rooms).. .$ll.95

Steak and Shrimp (a combination of

jumbo shrimp and meat chunks in a

wine sauce seasoned with gar-

lic)...$13.95

Two Brothers Special Shrimp (jumbo

shrimp lightly fried topped with a

fruity white sauce and embedded on

broccoli)...$12.95

Vegetarian Orange Beef...$9.75

Cuisine: Chinese/American

Setting: Modern. Funky

Service: Very fine Hours: L & D 7 days

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Children: Share

Credit cards: All major

Private parties: To 50

Takeout: Yes

Off-premises catering: Yes

Smoking: None

Noise level: Moderate

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