100-30 Queens Blvd.
Forest Hills, NY 11375
When a new restaurant opens, we usually give them a little time to settle in before we subject them to our scrutiny. We broke our own rule with The Bund because we were so excited that a new sit-down Chinese restaurant was opening in our very own nabe. We rocketed over on opening night, prepared to cut them some slack, it being their maiden voyage, but it turned out we didn’t have to. There was none of the confusion or clumsiness that often occurs during a restaurant’s early days. We got lucky.
The Bund’s name pays homage to Shanghai’s cosmopolitan business district, which runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River in the eastern part of the city’s Huangpu District. David K, the restaurant’s founder is a Shanghai native who immigrated to Queens in the 1980s. He also has a Forest Hills connection as an alumnus of Forest Hills High. Back in Shanghai, David K’s aunt known as Madam Fu, operates three celebrated restaurants serving modern Shanghainese cuisine. David sought to replicate that experience, bringing over two chefs from his aunt’s operation to run his kitchen. He underscored the theme by decorating the space with artwork imported from Shanghai depicting scenes of the Bund district.
We tried to zero in on dishes that sounded the most authentically Shanghainese, although that’s a little tricky. We were somewhat nonplussed not to find xiaolongbao, those iconic Shanghainese dumplings with the soup inside, on the menu.
“I want to make this a relaxing sit-down restaurant. Those are eaten like fast food,” David K explained.
Having long been one of the most cosmopolitan cities of China, Shanghai’s cuisine has absorbed the influences of other regions as well as those of the West. That said, typical Shanghainese dishes tend to have a soy sauce base, a little sweetness, sometimes paired with the sour, and seldom more than mild heat.
From the appetizers, we went with Classic Shanghainese Duck in brown sauce, Old Shanghai Smoked Fish, and an order of Garlic Cucumber that the owner comped us. The duck was meaty and flavorful with more than a passing resemblance to drunken chicken. The half duck would have made an ample entrée. The smoked fish derived its flavor more from spicing than smoke. The fish is hacked up bones and all, so that if you are fussy about removing any extraneous bits, you will have your work cut out for you. Still, the tastiness is a good payback for the effort. Garlic cucumber is a great refresher, especially for die-hard garlic lovers.
The outsized Lion’s Head Meatballs, with their traditional Shanghai cabbage “manes,” were uncommonly light and fluffy. Shanghainese Pork Belly Stew, sprinkled with pine nuts, was a bit of an overlap with the meatballs, the sauces of the two dishes being rather similar—both with a definite dose of sugar in them. Whole Fish with the Bund special sauce was elegantly done with a hint of heat. Crabmeat with Beancurd was a silky, comfort food counterpoint to our other choices.
Taken individually, there was not a misstep in any of our choices. If we had any reservations, it was that there was a strong similarity in the flavors of the sauces of most of the dishes we sampled. We thought perhaps we didn’t choose well, so we returned the next day to try a couple more items. On David K’s recommendation, we ordered the Jumbo Shrimp with Wasabi sauce. The zaftig shrimp were expertly fried, and slathered with a mayonnaise based sauce that hinted of wasabi. It was a real crowd pleaser. We also tried Shredded Pork with Rice cake. It was OK, but there was that same brown sauce again. So the lesson is check which dishes come in brown sauce, and don’t order too many. Do that, and you’ll have an outstanding meal.
The Bund is a welcome new addition to Forest Hills’ restaurant lineup. Its menu is a mashup of authentic Shanghainese dishes with enough American Chinese restaurant fare included that if someone in your party is determined not to expand their culinary horizons, they can stick with the familiar. But, of course, they would be missing an opportunity to enjoy a delicious cuisine prepared by a kitchen that knows how to do it right. We suspect that there is more to enjoy here than we’ve thus far explored, and will definitely be back.
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 qnsfo
©2016 Community News Group
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