“Very good” – The New York Times
October 3, 2014
Asian restaurants on Long Island used to be modest spots, with minimal décor reminiscent of the country in question. Most Japanese establishments were known for their simple lines, pale wood and shoji screens. Thai restaurants might add a few statues of Buddha or royal elephants, and some traditional Chinese places relied on dragon imagery and red-tasseled lanterns.
All that has changed. Now many of these local restaurants — most of them pan-Asian — are veritable palaces, one more stunning than the last.
Moonstone is serene, with a décor in shades of white, silver and gray. The eye-catcher in the room is an Art Deco-inspired wall: Light and shadows bounce off its tiny glass tiles, a dramatic effect produced by recessed lighting. The bar, too, is stunning: A curved ceiling is inset with small gray stones.
Tables are topped with white tablecloths and dove gray napkins. Service matches the décor. No gruff waiters here. A basket of crispy noodles, the good, wide, super-crunchy kind, was brought as soon as we were seated. We made short work of them, but another bowl arrived before the first was empty. One of my favorite appetizers, the hoisin-glazed bacon sliders, was assembled tableside with élan. The dish consisted of six small steamed buns folded around an assembly of tasty pork belly, pickled green papaya and shredded carrots, all brushed with hoisin sauce.
Also very good were the lacquered and meaty spare ribs, called glazed dragon tails on the menu, and the scallion pancake, served in eight thin, hot and crisp wedges. The pork pot stickers, filled with generous amounts of meat, were also a hit. Although not as delicate as Japanese pan-fried dumplings, they were superior to the overly thick versions found at many Chinese restaurants.
My favorite entree was called white prawn: seven jumbo shrimp tossed with long slices of cooked yet still crunchy celery and white lily buds, the last of which were crisp-tender with a slightly nutty flavor. The drunken halibut, small fillets in a light white wine sauce, was delicately delicious. More robustly delicious were three, fork-tender meat dishes, all served with crunchy vegetables: a thrice-cooked pork tenderloin with cabbage and three colors of peppers; a beef with crisp broccoli; and a chicken in a spicy garlic sauce.
One of my family’s favorite go-to Chinese entrees, the Singapore mei fun — angel-hair pasta in a light curry sauce with chicken and shrimp — was a bit spicier than most we’d tried, but we were still quite happy with this moist, ample dish.
Desserts are made in-house (except for ice cream) and include selections from both the East and West. A hit from the East was the crisp banana spring rolls served with a luscious lychee sorbet, studded with fruit. Western picks included a tangy key lime pie with graham cracker crust and an individual apple tart served with toasted coconut ice cream.
With sweets like these, we didn’t miss the traditional fortune cookies (which are available upon request). We liked nearly everything at this lovely new restaurant. It should make Asian food lovers in Nassau County very happy.
September 11, 2014
The moonstone, a symbol of passion and luck, now signifies something even better: standout Asian food.
Sleek and contemporary, bright and handsome, Moonstone artfully transforms this Northern Boulevard space close to the Nassau-Queens border, erasing memories of Harvest Buffet and creating new ones with a taste long missing between Flushing and Montauk.
The near-demise of high-quality Asian cuisine in Nassau and Suffolk needs no more chronicling. Just look around. You could count the stellar ones with a pair of chopsticks.
But Moonstone will turn you optimistic and restore your appetite, if not with double-fried beef, hacked chicken and spicy cabbage, then with its own reliable repertoire.
Immediately, order the puffy, Shanghai-style soup dumplings filled with pork, crab and delectable broth. Use the spoon, bite the knot, suck in the soup, down the dumpling, smile. Nibble on recklessly rich, hoisin-glazed bacon sliders, a tribute to pork belly and pickled green papaya, updating the classic bun. Twirl tasty wheat noodles in sesame-peanut sauce.
Be nostalgic and sample the fine pork pot stickers. Try the lettuce wrap packed with chicken or seafood. Share the roast pork-and-taro puffs and the pan-seared chicken-and-Chinese chives dumplings.
Allow the half-hour for the kitchen to prepare the one-course Beijing duck. Tender meat, crackling skin, spring onion, cucumber, hoisin sauce, all neatly folded in pancakes, arrive in a steamer, duck legs plated alongside. Savor the spin on a sanpei chicken claypot, here with sausage and cloud ear mushrooms. Taste the tender, wok-seared Frenched rack of lamb with spring-onion sauce.
Pick the memory-lane, citrus flavor crispy beef, sweet-hot and threaded with carrot, and the elemental shrimp with lobster sauce, and the updated “green” shrimp with asparagus and broccoli. Naturally, there’s kung pao chicken. But catch the kung pao monkfish with leeks, chilies and peanuts. Florida red snapper becomes “crispy whole fish,” a sweet-tart swimmer, crunchy, snowy, balanced with flair. Even better: “kung fu” halibut in a zesty, peppery Sichuan-style mala sauce.
With these or any main dish, consider the excellent eggplant in garlic sauce and the stir-fried string beans with minced pork.
Conclude with mango pudding, coconut tofu pudding or the banana spring roll rather than riffs on tarte Tatin and Key lime pie, or the dull fried ice cream and red bean-cream filled sesame ball. Sip green tea, contemplate takeout, plan your next visit.
Moonstone is a gem.
Wednesday June 25, 2014
Moonstone takes over the Great Neck location formerly occupied by Harvest Buffet, June 23, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)
Harvest Buffet had a good run. The all-you-can-eat restaurant on Northern Boulevard opened in 1999 and for the next 14 years encouraged Long Islanders to eat their fill of dozens of Chinese (and not-so-Chinese) dishes.
All traces of unbridled excess have been swept away by the sleek, elegant Moonstone Modern Asian Cuisine, which opened last week. The decor is modern, but subdued, with lots of soft whites and neutral accents. The dining room has both booths and tables, a separate lounge has a granite bar and low, intimate tables.
Over the last decade or so, many Chinese Americans have migrated from Flushing into Little Neck and, more recently, Great Neck and points east. Authentic Asian restaurants have followed this migration. Moonstone’s menu strikes a balance between satisfying these customers and appealing to diners who have been raised on more Americanized Asian food — and also adding a modern, luxurious gloss to the proceedings.
To wit: Appetizers include the Chinese-American favorite spareribs ($12), the Cantonese classic salt-and-pepper squid ($10), the utterly of-the-moment hoisin-glazed pork belly sliders ($13), and the very impressive sounding imperial veal short rib ($13).
Most main dish prices are less than $20. Some of the more intriguing are Sanpei chicken claypot with sausage and mushrooms, drunken halibut in white wine sauce, steamed whole branzino, wok-seared Frenched rack of lamb and thrice-cooked pork tenderloin. A whole Beijing duck is $40 (half is $20).
For the rest of June, Moonstone is offering a 20 percent discount on all menu items.
Moonstone Modern Asian Cuisine is at 14 Northern Blvd., Great Neck, 516-829-1191.