The only things that the much-mourned Palace Diner had in common with its replacement were an encyclopedic menu, lighting adequate to read the change of terms insert in your credit card statement, and plenty of glitz. It’s Cantonese, but not your parents’ Cantonese, unless, in fact, your parents happen to be Cantonese. Lake Pavilion emphasizes some of the haute cuisine of Cantonese dishes, catering to folks who know from Chinese food.
As if the old diner wasn’t showy enough, the spacious quarters are bedecked with crystal chandeliers, festooned with lavender tulle, lined with glass fronted dioramas of exotic tropical plants, and decorated with colored glass sculptures of Asian produce. This is to say nothing of the multicolor exterior lights that flash, change color, chase, and dazzle.
By day, carts of dim sum weave in and out of large round communal tables, offering up some of the best of those Chinese small plates to be had in Flushing. In the evening, the tables are reconfigured into smaller sizes, draped with striped satin clothes and linen napkins, and turned into a banquet hall. The menu is in your face with flashy color pictures of its most high end banquet offerings, like fresh abalone, shark’s fin, lobster and crab, but that doesn’t mean you can’t order a meal of their more affordable and equally delicious fare.
We passed on the Braised Superior Shark’s Fin soup at $110/per person for both financial and environmental reasons, opting instead for West Lake Meat soup. It is a flavorful and filling rendition of egg drop soup, liberally supplemented with ground meat. If you’re a fan of hot and sour soup, that staple of every Chinese take out joint, the version here has an unusually vibrant flavor.
Don’t pass up the Peking duck here, which comes with spectacle. A server rolls it over on a cart along with a bamboo steamer filled with thick buns. She slices the crispy parts of the duck/skin duck and forms the little “sandwiches” of crispy skin and duck meat along with hoisin sauce and scallions. After the cart is removed, she returns with the rest of the meat from the carcass. The duck is crisp skinned and meaty, and the fat, while not exactly health food, contains less saturated fat than most other meats. Half a duck is more than ample for two diners, especially assuming you’re ordering other dishes.
We weren’t so impressed by the Crispy Home Made Spare Ribs. Despite being described as crispy, they were more like stewed or steamed, and very fatty with little meat. They did rise to the occasion in what seemed to be an unrelated casserole dish, Braised Spare Ribs with Eggplant and Scallions. Served in a well-used pottery casserole over a flame, this combination gave the chunks of ribs the synergy they lacked in the appetizer. The sauce is rich and well balanced and very satisfying.
We unearthed a few gems in the Veggie/Bean Curd category. Sautéed String bean w/Minced Pork is a tasty way to de-emphasize meat without totally eliminating it. The beans are tender-crisp, and the sauce is garlicky. If you want to pass on the meat altogether, try Braised Fresh Mixed Mushrooms w/ Japanese Bean Curd. It brings together familiar and exotic mushrooms with some creamy tofu, snow peas, and a cucumber-like vegetable a thickened brown sauce.
There is also an impressive selection of noodle and rice dishes. Seafood Pan-fried noodles is a stir fry of mixed seafood with greens that rests on a bed of crunchy noodles.
Forget about fortune cookies, but at the completion of the meal, if they’re in the right mood, along with an orange, you may be presented with a complimentary bowl of red bean soup. It is thick, and slightly sweet, and not exactly a westerner’s idea of dessert, but a nice gesture all the same.
With Chinese New Year on the way, it’s a festive time to visit a Chinese banquet-style restaurant. If there are 10 of you, they have set New Year’s banquets starting at $500. If not, you can always create your own banquet with all that selection. Gung hey fat choy!
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
60-19 Main St
New York, NY 11367
Price Range: Moderate to expensive depending on what you order
Cuisine: Authentic Cantonese
Setting: Large, glitzy banquet hall
Service: Friendly, accommodating, fluent in English
Hours: 9 a.m.—2 a.m. seven days
Alcohol: Full bar
Parking: Own lot with valet service or street
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes
©2013 Community News Group
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