1197 Walt Whitman Rd, Melville
(631) 421-8000 | kentali.com
Kenta, in Melville, is a modern Asian restaurant with a strong Japanese skew that serves a dessert of deep-fried Oreos. But that is not the only difference between this dramatic newcomer and most other Asian restaurants in the current avalanche of such places that’s engulfing Long Island. In addition to the usual sushi, sashimi, special rolls, yakitori, tempura, teriyaki and pork katsu, Kenta offers filet mignon, pancetta Brussels sprouts, crab bisque and calamari-watermelon salad.
Kenta is noteworthy beyond breaking the Asian menu mold. Its maître d’ will take diners’ parking tickets and have their cars waiting for them upon departure and every employee (waiters, busboys etc.) deliver dishes without fail to the diner who ordered them (a rarity on Long Island). Supreme, sometimes jaw-dropping presentations are the order of the day (check out the sushi and sashimi for two), while silverware and dishes are removed and replaced almost the instant there is a need.
Kenta, where Barolo stood for many years and where Nisen 110 made a brief stay, is a hip, polished, minimalist spot with a big city vibe. Its flaming outside torches, beamed ceiling, rattan wall coverings, red mosaic backdrop, upholstered banquettes and candles, along with an elevated sushi bar alive with constant motion, make for a contemporary feel.
The main ingredient in levitating salmon is magic
Fortunately the scene does not detract from the food, much of which contains a mild spike of spiciness—just enough to make it interesting. Typical is a rich, roasted red pepper and tomato soup harboring sundried tomato, corn crostini and a welcome kick ($10). Lettuce wraps ($12) were a two-plate production here. An upright stand of fresh hearts of Romaine came on one dish and a huge load of indifferent bits of minced beef in need of seasoning on the other. Tastier by far were the avocado toast rounds with burrata, roasted chili and basil oil ($12). Diners who desire more than a hint of spice will find it in the accurately described spicy tuna hand roll ($6).
The 10 or so fried jumbo prawns ($22) are spicy as well, but the sauce is balanced nicely with sweetness. A garlic scallion chicken scramble of scaloppini white meat and steamed rice ($19) generated little punch or excitement, but a special, rising sun roll ($14) did. Arrayed in an appealing multi-piece row, it held layers of shrimp tempura, lobster salad, mango and avocado surrounded by yellow soy wrap and crispy onions with a sweet mustard counterpoint. Strips of breaded pork katsu ($17) were tender, though not at all different from this dish everywhere it is served.
Those four fried Oreos come with a scoop of ice cream and strawberry flecked whipped cream all for $6.