LAVERNE OF GREAT NECK
Great Neck (516) 829-8200
Things are looking up at 9 Cutter Mill Road in Great Neck. Until a few months ago, the deservedly short-lived Bangkok Station occupied this storefront. Now that space is where Laverne of Great Neck, a Japanese, French-Fusion and Thai restaurant, has set up shop. Laverne began life in Westbury, then closed about two or three years ago before popping up again in the center of Great Neck. It represents a huge improvement over the former tenant. Its diverse Asian and European dishes create an agreeable culinary coexistence.
The unpretentious Laverne, with its bare tables, sushi bar, dark-wood walls punctuated with a band of silver and gold tile, serves everything from pad Thai, sushi and sashimi to steak frites and coquilles St-Jacques. Despite a few French possibilities, Laverne could be mistaken for a Japanese restaurant.
Though fewer, the Thai, French and cross-cultural preparations give a good accounting of themselves. The steak frites ($19), for instance, is a true fusion dish at a time when that term is often thrown around carelessly. The superior sliced sirloin steak is combined (and enhanced) with an addictive Asian sauce. Unlike restaurants that serve various standard ethnic dishes and call them fusion, Laverne really fuses two different cuisines. Just below the steak listing is a noodle section that offers great values and substantial portions. Among them are commendable versions of pad Thai ($10), Thailand’s signature dish, Kwyatio pad gai ($10), a stir fry of thin, crispy noodles with chicken, vegetables and lime leaf and drunken noodle ($11), broad rice noodles, basil, onions, bell peppers and chicken, shrimp or tofu. Pay no attention to the red peppers next to their listings signifying spiciness. While all three are tasty treats, there is not a hint of heat or kick in any of them. Not every dish was absent of heat, though. The commendable, big (and I mean big) tuna sandwich ($13) supplied the promised spicy tuna. Yet three non-spicy seafood selections were among the best picks. Try the Paradise crab meat ($11), a lovely layered meld of salmon, avocado, scallions and baked king crab; the flaky, fresh almost floating on air Chilean sea bass ($22); and the medley de coquillages ($28), a colossal plate full of excellent shellfish.
Among the starters sampled were a standard array of fresh sashimi ($10), a predictable lobster salad ($10) of lobster and fruit flecked lettuce, flying crab ($14), a fortuitous mix of shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, avocado crowned with a tender whole soft shell crab tempura napped in a sweet sauce and magret de canard ($14), a starter that sounds French, looks Asian and tastes good.
Oh, yes, for an authentic French appetizer, target coquilles St- Jacques ($11), soft, buttery scallops in a nest of thatched, deep fried noodles.
Meals at Laverne begin with complimentary, thin, crisp, delicate sweet potato chips. Pairing them or most other dishes with honey ginger tea is also a good idea (although I only drink hot tea when I’m ill, this brew was a hit).
Western desserts dominate the sweets. We tried the small, but light, tangy, full-flavored key lime pie ($6.95) with its graham cracker crust and plenty of real whipped cream; the moist, tender Caramel apple tart ($6.95) featuring crisp, ripe fruit; a light grease-free portion of banana spring rolls ($5); and a so called Thai chili molten chocolate cake ($6.95) that’s a commendable but standard version (forget the Thai chili business).
Although there are few food failures at Laverne, the fried ice cream ($4.95) qualified as one. Its rubbery dough wrap stuck together preventing diners from eating manageable, small bites. Additionally, diners should not expect knowledgeable wine service or all the dishes in each course to arrive at one time.
photos by stephen lang