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Canton Gourmet: Familiar yet exotic in Flushing

Canton Gourmet is a busy restaurant on Flushing's Prince Street, where the competition from all manner of Asian eateries is formidable. The large space is divided by a partition into two dining rooms, both decorated mainly by large colorful posters of Canton Gourmet's specialties. The lengthy menu follows suit with full-page, glossy photos of CG's most visually appealing dishes.One glance at the menu told us this wasn't our father's Cantonese. It leans heavily toward parts and creatures that Westerners generally don't eat. Working our way down the list of appetizers, we bypassed four different preparations of jellyfish and fried crispy pork intestine before our eyes lit upon something that appealed. The Crispy Seafood Roll, which turned out to be four rectangular, patty-like portions, were loaded with seafood. All fillers except seafood were blissfully absent. The outside was crispy as advertised, and the interior luxurious. Of the 11 choices of soup offered here, we honed in on the Superior Seafood Bisque. Never having had a bisque-style soup in a Chinese restaurant, let alone a superior one, we were intrigued. Obviously something was lost in translation, because their interpretation of bisque was something utterly indistinguishable from egg-drop soup with a lot of seafood in it. Their seafood generosity didn't quite make up for the blandness of the broth. We felt the need to add copious amounts of soy sauce just to lend it some flavor. A few crispy noodles wouldn't have hurt either, but that's obviously an inauthentic American convention. Since we'd probably buy garlic-scented perfume if it ever came on the market, Famous Garlic Aromatic Crispy Chicken sounded irresistible to us. It lived up to its name explicitly (except for the famous part, which we have no way of confirming). Half a chicken was fried to an admirable degree of crispiness, and then hacked into chunks, including the bones. This was topped with fried garlic and, we suspect, fried shallots and raw scallions. In the unlikely event that the Crispy Chicken doesn't satisfy the garlic lover in you, you can have another chance with the rack of lamb. We doubt very much that rack of lamb is a traditional Cantonese favorite, but here's living proof that fusion cuisine cuts both ways. Rack of lamb is one of the specialties CG features prominently, with an oversized poster on the wall and full-page glossy in the menu. A high ticket item on most menus, the dish at CG is an affordable $17.95 for tender baby lamb chops that compare favorably in quality with rack of lamb we've eaten anywhere. The rack is seared on the outside and the center is left extremely rare, which we think is ideal. If you don't like your meat red in the center, let them know that beforehand. The rack is served sliced into chops and topped with the same garlicky topping as the Crispy Chicken, which enhances this dish equally admirably.Detecting a noticeable Fujianese bent to many of the dishes served here, we decided to experiment with the Fujianese fried rice. It was not at all what we expected. A layer of lightly fried rice with bits of scrambled egg was topped by a layer of seafood goop that resembled our seafood bisque, only with some bits of Chinese broccoli and more corn starch. It was just as bland. The Bottom LineWe found some real high points at this establishment, like the Crispy Chicken and rack of lamb. The primary clientele here is ethnic, but the staff is fluent and helpful. The photographs on the menu and walls ease the way. If culinary exploration is your thing, there's plenty worth exploring at Canton Gourmet. And, by the way, san nin faai lok (Cantonese for "happy new year") and kung hei fat choi (Cantonese for "congratulations and be prosperous"), the traditional New Year's greetings.Canton Gourmet38-08 Prince StreetFlushing, NY 11354718-886-9288Cuisine: CantoneseSetting: Light spacious Chinese restaurantService: Attentive, informativeHours: Lunch & dinner every dayReservations: NoAlcohol: Beer & WineParking: Street or nearby muni lot. Good luck.Dress: CasualChildren: WelcomeMusic: NoTakeout: YesCredit Cards: Visa & MCNoise Level: AcceptableHandicap Accessible: YesA SAMPLE FROM THE MENUSeafood Roll É $4.95Superior Seafood Bisque É $10.95 (Family-size bowl)Famous Garlic Aromatic Crispy Chicken É $10.95Rack of Lamb É $17.95Fujian Fried Rice É $12.95

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