Chinese Calls, Call Albert
By Andrea & Sara/ email@example.com
Chinese restaurants may get the cold shoulder
from some during the hot summer months. But not from we Foodies.
We sometimes get a hankering for the robust and often hot
flavors found most prominently in this Asian cuisine no matter
how high the thermometer goes, and a recent trip to Albert’s
Mandarin Gourmet in Huntington Village was just the ticket.
Our server, an attentive man named Jiang,
started us off with the heaping serving of fried noodles that
initiate nearly every Chinese food experience. The noodles,
dipped in a cool bath of duck sauce and just the right bit
of spicy mustard, were crispy and luxurious without being
slick with grease. They were accompanied by a piping hot teapot
of fragrant traditional tea and before we had sipped our first
cup, Jiang delivered a pair of Mai Tais ($6.50), complete
with umbrellas. It was the first example of how the meal would
creatively infuse what most of us have come to know as “Chinese
Food” with slight touches of excitement and a little
bit of chill to offset the heat of the food.
A few minutes later we sampled the first
of what would be a long line of appetizers. The menu’s
list of starters is so extensive that Albert Leung, the restaurant’s
proprietor and namesake, asked that we be brought quite a
few so that we could sample some of his customers’ favorites.
We were first brought a dish of Chicken Soong with Lettuce
for Two ($6.95). The iceberg lettuce was picture perfect—not
a brown spot or a tear to be found—and the accompanying
mixture of chicken, vegetables, and tangy brown sauce had
just the right, slightly spiced flavor so as to meld deliciously
with the bland crunch of the lettuce. It was one of our favorite
parts of the meal.
Next came a dish of the Tropical Shrimp ($5.50).
We each got a large shrimp encased in a batter fried up and
doused in a sweet, milky sauce and placed atop a bed of shredded
lettuce. The luxurious, peach-colored sauce tasted citrusy
and hints of coconut explained the appetizer’s name.
Once Jiang saw that we cleared our plates—and
we did so expertly—he brought us each a baby lamb chop
($7.95). Cooked rare, it seeped with a buttery taste that
also carried hints of the strength of the Chinese fare we
were accustomed to. It came off of the bone effortlessly and
clichéd as it may be, literally seemed to melt in our
mouths. After the previous and unconventional samplings, the
lamb chop represented a more familiar Chinese taste that we
Next, Albert himself chose a few entrees
for us to enjoy. We were brought a dish of Chicken Manchurian
($15.95), Mandarin Pork ($15.95), Imperial Crown ($29.95),
and a plate of Fried Rice accented with whole shrimp, roast
pork, and chicken ($8.95).
We tasted the pork first. It reminded us
of sweet and sour pork famous of Chinese take-out. It was
one of Sara’s favorites but I found the “unique
aromatic sauce” to be slightly sticky and preferred
the velvety taste of the Imperial Crown—cubes of filet
mignon cooked medium rare with cuts of crunchy asparagus bathed
in a flavorful brown sauce.
The Chicken Manchurian was decorated with
scallions and served in a heavy, slightly creamy—though
translucent—sauce. We each preferred other tastes to
that of this dish, but agreed that it provided and interesting,
and mild alternatives for those of us who are not great fans
of the sometimes aggressive tastes of eastern cooking.
The overwhelming favorite was the fried rice
for its propensity to appeal to every preference. Luxurious
in its minimalist preparation, it hardly resembles the deep
brown color of take out Chinese fried rice. Nor did it include
the heavy, oily texture often avoided by the health conscious.
Slightly fried, the peas were robust and sweet; small, fluffy
morsels of egg were present throughout; the pieces of meat
were cooked to perfection and represented to us the perfect
Chinese side dish.
After the last piece of shrimp from the fried
rice was consumed, and the final bite of asparagus swallowed,
Jiang brought us each a damp towel to wash our hands with
before we proceeded to the Mandarin Delight dessert ($9.50),
a half pineapple and honeydew sliced on each side of the plate
with the rinds still intact. Possibly a bit early in the season
for these fruits, a few pieces were what we’d call crunchy.
But three scoops of rich ice cream completed the plate. The
vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio ice cream cooled us down
and pleased our tummies; the pistachio was the star for the
crunchy nuts and uncommon sweetness.
Albert is a mainstay of every guest’s
dining experience. His slight frame decisively makes his way
between the tables spread across two rooms, offering and receiving
suggestions and a pleasant smile providing a personal touch
to each guest’s meal. Throughout our meal, we overheard
him laughing and conversing with diners.
Albert’s is located on New York Avenue
in Huntington, just north of Main Street and provides a welcome
reprieve to the ubiquitous Chinese take-out that sometimes
misrepresents traditional Chinese food.