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Dining Out: Try it for good luck

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YAMAGUCHI

242-03(A) Northern Blvd., Douglaston

224-8666, 747-2686

Luck is everywhere!

At Yamaguchi in Douglaston, for starters, a tall bamboo - for luck - with red ribbon stands by the door. Three plaster lucky cats, each waving a paw, sit on the shelf behind the two-seater sushi bar. And there's a lucky Lucite block calendar - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. A lucky cloth-hanging shields one of the doorways.

The grand opening of the restaurant was two months ago. But the string of multi-colored plastic flags still hangs from the awning (lettered "Yamaguchi Japanese/Chinese") to the telephone pole at the corner.

It's a cheerful spot with mini lanterns strung over the sushi bar, long red paper sushi lanterns in the window, and two bubbling cylinders standing by the wall. A Japanese parasol mobile plus a parasol or two hang from the ceiling. A large print of a sailing ship floats above the kitchen doorway covered with a hanging of a fierce Japanese fighter.

When you're seated at light wood tables and chairs, there is a surprisingly attractive Northern Boulevard viewed through the string of mini colored lights.

A bit of seaweed salad is served, which goes well with some hot saki. I was lucky to order the appetizer, "dynamite." (With a name like that, how could I resist?) It was made at the sushi bar and brought to the table. With grilled crab, scallop, caviar, mushrooms and Japanese mayonnaise, it was, well, dynamite. Each item was barely warm and seasoned to perfection with a light mayonnaise. (If you go in for take-out, order this appetizer to savor there. It's not to be missed and should be eaten then and there.)

A light broth with mushrooms and the house salad followed. Spider roll was listed on the blackboard specials - it was made with deep fried, soft shell crab, lettuce, cucumber, avocado, and tobiko. Every time I have a warm roll, I'm impressed. Here the claws are used to garnish some of the rolls and the remaining crab in others. Spider roll deserves a tongues-up rating. Try it while soft shells are in season.

Tempura would be nice and I've not had all-vegetable, so all-vegetable it was. Delicious! Fine dipping sauce. Doggy-bagged, it heated nicely the next day.

I had recently seen a video on making buckwheat noodles that was very impressive. So I went for zaru soba, cold buckwheat noodles with dipping sauce. They were served on a bed of crushed ice. That I liked. But sorry, a cold noodle is a cold noodle, and I can not enthuse over zaru soba. Or was it the sauce to which you added scallions and fish flakes that was lackluster?

I have heard good things (and I sampled it as well) about the beef tatki, sliced rare, charbroiled beef with ponzu sauce. The seafood salad was with real crab, chopped lettuce, asparagus, avocado, octopus, masago row and shrimp tempura, chicken, vegetables and a large, whole egg floating on top.

Meanwhile the waitress, wearing a happy coat and DKNY sneakers, was juggling take-out orders.

Lunch specials served with soup, salad and rice and a sushi lunch with soup and salad offered a dozen selections each. There were 10 bento box offerings with dumplings, California rolls, salad, soup and rice. Yaki Udon and Yaki Soba were listed, so...

The black plastic, compartmentalized box looked delightful. I decided to picnic in the car. The low container of soup fitted perfectly in the 4x4's mug holder - a plus. It was a fine miso with a leek-like, broad leafed seaweed. The melange of long, pencil-thick noodles and a variety of vegetables was very savory. I appreciated the touch of dark sesame seeds scattered on the white rice. And there were ginger and wasabi for my sushi. The dumplings couldn't be better.

It was great. Good luck, Yamaguchi.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Small and cheerful Japanese restaurant with two-seater sushi bar. Fine Japanese food. Also serves Chinese.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Dynamite (grilled crab, scallop,

caviar, mushroom, mixed with

Japanese mayonnaise)...$6.50

Beef Tataki...$6.95

Seafood Teriyaki (grilled lobster tail,

shrimp, scallop, salmon & vegetable

with teriyaki sauce)...$21.95

Beef Negima (sliced steak broiled

with scallions)...$12.50

Tempura (shrimp & vegeta-

bles)...$11.95

Spider Roll...$7.50

Maki Special Roll (salmon, tuna,

tobiko, avocado, wrapped with

cucumber)...$10.95

Food: Japanese (and Chinese)

Setting: Japanese

Service: Good

Hours: L & D, 7 days

Reservations: Yes

Parking: Street

Location: East of Douglaston

Parkway

Dress: Informal

Credit cards: Over $15

Children: Share

Takeout: Yes

Private parties: Yes

Catering: Yes

Smoking: Yes

Noise level: Low

Handicapped accessible: Yes

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