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Aug 28, 2007 05:57 PM

Ocean Jewels rules!

Ocean Jewels is a bright, airy modern banquet hall opposite Flushing Mall. It serves Hong Kong style Cantonese food. I've been there three times over the past few years, and each time I've thought, this place has the potential to be New York's finest Chinese restaurant. After tonight, I think that is what it is.

Totally on a whim, I spent $19 to order steamed fish pieces with peculiar flavor. With a name like that, how could I resist? It arrived beautifully presented, the pieces carefully arranged on a big white platter. While not peculiar, the dish was unique, though it was inspired by the steamed fish with preserved vegetables that you can find just about anywhere in Chinatown. But it was a traditional dish refined and reinterpreted by a master chef. The fish was sea bass, and it was so good I was tempted to just eat it plain. It was served on a bed of what looked like preserved vegetables but were, I believe, fresh and macerated in house. Each vegetable had a distinctive flavor. There were dried plums, exotic shoots I had never seen before, flavorful tree ear fungus... all excellent. A very light salty broth brought out the different flavors.

If I had friends in Los Angeles and they took me to have this dish in the San Gabriel Valley, and said, Brian, didn't we tell you that the Chinese food here is light-years above what you can get in New York, I would have replied, yes you did, and you were right.

The only problem is that there are two menus (both in English) with several hundred dishes between them, and most of these dishes didn't appeal to me. But if every dish is as good as what I had tonight (or the fish head dish I had last year), I'd say that this is far and away the best Chinese food to be had in New York.

Ocean Jewels, 133-30 39 Av, Flushing (718) 359-8600

NOTE: Here, for the record, is my description of the fish head dish, written in September 2006. It too is a traditional Cantonese entree totally recast by a very talented and inventive chef:

"I had the fish head, not with clams but steamed with diced pepper. The steamed head was cut into strips, artfully arranged on a big plate shaped like a fish, covered with minced everything -- preserved veg, diced parsnips, chives, shredded meat, a bit of shrimp paste... but no diced pepper. Around all this was a red, fiery broth... not hot for Sichuan but hotter than anything I've had in a Cantonese place. I've never seen anything quite like this, though I've had steamed fish head with black bean sauce at Cantoon Garden in Manhattan"

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  1. i actually really like ocean jewel as well...if you have enough people you should get a private room in the back, makes for a great place to sit for a couple hours have some great food and go get drunk

    1. > if every dish is as good as what I had tonight (or the fish head dish I had last year), I'd say that this is far and away the best Chinese food to be had in New York.

      That's one huge "if," of course, especially given a sprawling menu of hundreds of items. Most likely Ocean Jewels, like most places, does some better than others.

      But I appreciate your report, as always, for its detail, context, and inviting chowish tone (see earlier Flushing tips at ). Welcome back to town!

      Ocean Jewels
      133-30 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11354

      3 Replies
      1. re: squid kun

        thank you for your review - it sounds like it's best to go to a place like this with a larger group of people?

        1. re: Linda

          Thank you. Yes it's best with a large group... but I always eat alone, and I've had good luck there

          If you want to plan ahead, their menu is online at their website (link in my post above)

        2. re: squid kun

          Yes that's one huge if. Lots more research is needed. I will be happy to do it!!!

        3. Well, I'll have to try this place. I was convinced recently that Imperial Palace in Flushing is the best Cantonese in New York. Have you been there, Brian?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Peter Cherches

            I love Imperial Palace. I wrote the original post to which you replied (and thank you for the detalied description of your meal, it gives me new ideas) I think BOTH places are best, since they do different things, as far as I can see. Imperial Palace takes dishes you can find in a lot of places and prepares them far better than almost anyone, takes them to a new level. The things I had at Ocean Jewels were, though inspired by traditional dishes, basically new dishes, creations of a talented chef. As far as I can determine (from extensive Internet research) Ocean Jewels is as close as we come to those new wave HK style Monterey Park banquet halls (like Triumphal Palace) that everyone on the LA board is touting.

          2. Haven't had dinner here but Ocean Jewels is my #1 dim sum spot. Everything is very fresh.

            1 Reply
            1. re: moymoy

              Yeah, I had pretty good dim sum here too. Looking forward to having some dinner one night now.

            2. any thoughts "versus" amazing 66? I've only been to ocean jewels for dim sum (excellent) but not for dinner or a formal meal. I've always enjoyed my dishes at amazing 66, just wondering how the two stand in relation to one another?