14 Northern Blvd, Great Neck
(516) 829-1191 | moonstoneny.com
Let’s hear it for a Chinese restaurant without a sushi bar or small Japanese or Thai menu that does not call itself Asian fusion or pan-Asian!
Moonstone, which replaced the 14-year-old Harvest Buffet on Northern Boulevard in Great Neck, is an unapologetically Chinese restaurant—one of the very few that have opened in the recent past.
And if its stunning surroundings promise more than it sometimes delivers it’s nevertheless worth a visit. This slick, sleek, modern spot on the Great Neck-Queens border features Chinese-style room dividers bathed in soft red lighting, circular lighting fixtures with tiny moonstone shaped marbles imbedded in them, an attractive glass wine cabinet and white table cloths. Overhead, polished wood beams frame the main dining room.
The comprehensive Cantonese-skewed menu features many traditional Chinese mainstays (won ton and egg drop soup, scallion pancakes, moo shu pork, General Tso’s chicken) along with some more imaginative possibilities (sampei chicken clay pot, Cantonese quail, drunken halibut and wok-seared rack of lamb). There are no strikeouts on the bill of fare, a few home runs and a lot in between.
Meals begin with some of the crispiest, broadest, fried noodles I’ve tasted in a long time. (Those skinny little ones often served elsewhere don’t cut it). A scallion pancake ($7) was a typical in betweener. It was thin, crisp and greaseless yet without quite enough scallion taste. A generous portion of hoisin-glazed bacon sliders with pickled green papaya and carrots on a warm steamed bun ($13) was a welcome step up, but a bland shrimp lettuce wrap ($12) yielded virtually no flavor until its pistachio and plum sauce was added. Highly recommended is the chef’s steamed dim sum platter, a variety pack of crystal dumplings, pork shu mai, green vegetarian dumplings, chicken, shrimp and coral dumplings all served in pairs ($15). There are no losers in this array and the crystal dumpling with shrimp and bamboo shoots and the coral dumpling packed with lobster, scallops and snow pea leaves are standouts.
Speaking of standouts, order the thrice-cooked pork tenderloin— tender, slightly spicy meat with Chinese vegetables ($16). The tiny, slightly overcooked Cantonese spring quail with five-spice salt ($12) was uninspiring as were the bountiful ocean delicacies in a crisp bird’s nest ($23). It contained first-class seafood, but little or no seasoning. A plump, crispy soft shell crab enlivened by soy chili dipping sauce ($12) is a better bet.
Desserts feature mostly western sweets although the Asian entry, three warm and crispy sesame balls with red bean filling ($6) were the top pick of the two Chinese-American diners at our table. Other than that we sampled a thin, respectable warm fudge brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ($7) and an apple tart ($6) heavy on crumbs and light on apples.