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Follow the ‘Bliss’ to culinary delight in Sunnyside

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The white walls and peaked ceiling create a countrified feeling of light and airiness, enhanced by windows trimmed in natural wood. The walls are lined by forest green banquettes, and decorated with changing exhibitions of work by local artists. Currently, a beautiful collection of photos of landscapes and architectural details by Peter Killian is on display. Bliss describes its fare as "American cuisine based on seasonally available ingredients." This translates into a wonderfully inventive collection of sophisticated offerings. Memorable among them was the "duck ham" which the chef cures with mustard seed, fennel, salt and sugar. It turned up in several of the dishes we were about to enjoy.The duck ham suffused the soup of the day, which happened to be lentil, with a deeply fragrant smokey richness. We usually consider lentil soup to be unexciting at best, but this version really caught our attention.Duck ham is also served as the main component of duck ham and arugula salad. Here you can get the full impact of the duck ham, which is somewhat reminiscent of proscuitto. It is accompanied by parmesan cream on a bed of arugula. The parmesan is mixed with cream and served in a diminutive scoop, glazed with spiced honey. The three components formed an unlikely but delicious combination.The crab salad delighted all our senses. It is served in a tall glass like a parfait of crab over avocado, citrus pesto, tomato jelly, and some greens, garnished with crunchy threads of fried horseradish. Again, the chef has ingeniously combined disparate flavors to achieve a succulent harmony.One of our entres, mahi mahi, was a special that appears with some regularity on the menu. This Hawaiian fish (the name translates as "strong strong") was presented with fennel tomato couli, preserved lemon, and "forbidden rice." Forbidden rice is a Chinese black rice whose name derives from having once been considered so precious that it was reserved for the emperor's consumption. Chinese agricultural advances have made it more widely available, so now the rest of us can try it. It is a long slender black grain with a nutty flavor somewhat similar in texture to wild rice (which isn't a rice at all). Score another success for the chef; the tartness of the preserved lemons play well off the other milder ingredients.We balanced one complex entree with another that was deceptively simple-roasted organic chicken. Delivered with salt roasted potatoes and slender French green beans embellished with thyme gravy and a scattering of sauteed shallots, this unpretentious dish scored high marks for flavor. Credit here goes to the excellence of the organic chicken.To complete your meal, you can choose from several excellent coffees from Ozone Park-based importer of estate grown coffees, Dallis Coffee, or wonderful and unusual teas from Long Island City's Serendipitea tea importers. Without undue Queens pride, we can say that both of these local purveyors provide the top of the line in their respective products.Bliss refers to their sweets as "Blissful desserts" and we wouldn't argue. Our's was a molten chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream. The warm chocolate cake was light, not too sweet, and gooey in the middle, the hazelnut ice cream rich and nutty. Yes, blissful.The Bottom LineThis restaurant is a must-try for discerning diners. Outdoor dining will begin in June. Get there before it becomes "discovered" by the crowds. For anyone with lingering doubts, Bliss proves that "sophisticated Queens restaurant" is not an oxymoron.Bliss45-20 Skillman AvenueSunnyside (on the corner of 46th Street and Skillman Avenue)(718) 729-0778www.blissgardens.comCuisine: Eclectic American with seasonally available ingredientsSetting: Sleek and appealingService: Efficient and professionalHours: Dinner six days, Sunday brunch, closed Tuesdays until Memorial Day, closed Mondays after Memorial DayReservations: OptionalAlcohol: Full BarParking: StreetDress: CasualChildren: WelcomeMusic: RecordedTakeout: No menu, askCredit cards: YesNoise level: AcceptableHandicap accessible: YesRecommended DishesLentil Soup... $7Duck ham salad... $10Crab Cocktail... $11Roasted Organic Chicken... $13.95Mahi Mahi... $17Molten chocolate cake... $7

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