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Mulan: Flashy Chinese fusion comes to Flushing

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Queens Crossing seems to be trying to create an upscale, artsy Asian ambiance with some impressive Oriental art installed in the public spaces. Mulan plays right into that theme with its fashionably designed space adorned with small masterpieces of hand-carved Shanghai glass. The central raised platform is surrounded by a curtain of water trickling down lit transparent strands into a tray of pebbles, forming a postmodern waterfall. Said platform is lit by a canopy of mod aluminum daisies. The linens and china, including an innovative combination porcelain spoon and chopstick rest, are thoroughly branded with the floral Mulan logo. Mulan describes its offering as "modern Asian cuisine." We would describe it as fusion cuisine, originating from an Eastern rather than Western sensibility. Executive Chef Peter How is the creative force behind the menu. He cut his culinary teeth in the New York kitchens of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurants, Mercer Kitchen, Jojo and Club 21, and in luxury hotels in Hong Kong. Mulan's dim sum platter is a perfect starter. In a traditional establishment, you would never see dim sum on the menu after 3 p.m. We always have found that unfortunate, so we are delighted to see that taboo broken. The platter is a sampler of all the various dumplings on the menu - steamed tiny bun, duck shu mai, shrimp dumpling, scallop dumpling, and edamame dumpling. We could not say one stood out above the others, although the duck shu mai with shrimp and Sichuan peppercorn sauce added some welcome heat. There was nothing discernibly eel-like in the crispy eel. A stack of crunchy bits of indefinable fried deliciousness was mounded on a plate with a sweet, spicy sauce. If you go in for exotic cocktails, of which there are many to choose from, this would make a awesome cocktail munchies. Cold slices of pork belly, wrapped around strips of cucumber and encircled by spicy sauce, are also just right for munching while imbibing..Spicy seafood salad brought the flavors of Southeast Asia into the mix. The nippy dressing lent a Thai taste to the shrimp, squid, scallop, red onion and mango.Shark fin and crab soup, served from a small wooden bucket, was a crowd pleaser at our table. The flavor was subtle but deeply satisfying in a surprisingly meaty way.Duck plays a prominent role on Mulan's menu. We chose its namesake preparation, Mulan Duck. We were rewarded with a pan-seared duck breast with Asian pear, chestnuts and mushrooms in a plum hoisin sauce. It was rather on the sweet side, but altogether luscious.Our vegetarian companion was ecstatic over her Mixed Vegetable Pulse. This thoroughly satisfying dish was made of tofu-skin packages filled with mixed vegetables in a robust brown gravy. There were a few disappointments on the menu. Skip the Chang Zang frog legs and duck pickle mustard fried rice noodle. Both were bland and uninteresting. Mulan's elaborate dessert menu is another radical departure from Chinese restaurant orthodoxy. If you want to fill your sweet tooth, we enthusiastically recommend sesame crme brulee with milk-tea ice cream. If you would prefer to feed your appetite for whimsy, go for the Thai fruits soup. The soup itself is pleasant enough - bits of fruit and melon, palm seed and basil seed in a coconut broth - but the real excitement is the presentation. The bowl of soup comes perched atop a teapot. The teapot is filled with water and dry ice so that when it is presented it appears to be furiously steaming away. Way cute!The Bottom LineThe innovative menu and the stylish ambiance make any occasion here feel special. Although the menu and clientele are largely Chinese, the sensibility is mainstream. Esoteric or spicy foods that are challenging to American palates take a back seat to universal crowd-pleasers. The staff is welcoming, multi-ethnic and most definitely English-speaking. The cherries on top are the modest prices and free underground parking.MulanQueens Crossing38-21 39th Ave., 2nd FloorFlushing, NY 11375718-886-8526Cuisine: Modern Asian fusionSetting: High dramaService: AttentiveHours: Lunch & dinner every dayReservations: RecommendedAlcohol: Full barParking: Underground, 2 hours free with validation Dress: Business casual to dressyChildren: WelcomeMusic: Private dining rooms with karaokeTakeout: YesCredit Cards: YesNoise Level: AcceptableHandicap Accessible: YesA SAMPLE FROM THE MENUDim Sum Platter É $9Crispy Eel É $9Pork Belly É $6Spicy Seafood Salad É $6Mulan Duck É $20Mixed Vegetable Pulse É $12Thai Fruits Soup É $5

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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