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Aug 17, 2009 01:17 PM

Dao Asian Restaurant: Huntington

Well, Dao Asian Restaurant in Huntington had a sign for “soft opening;” I couldn’t resist.

Went with the family at around 8:30 on Friday night. Since it was opening night, we went expecting service issues, but there were no dramatic glitches, and what there were gets a pass as they just opened.

That said, I don’t expect the restaurant to remain open for more than a month or two. As I had feared, the prices are totally out of control. Coupled with miniscule portions, the value just isn’t there. And though I’m happy (well, content) to pay through the nose for exquisitely prepared food, this was just slightly better than run-of-the-mill Chinese takeout.

Appetizers run an average of $8, entrees about $20-23 (and apparently, prices were raised between the time of printing the menu and the implementation of the computerized cash register – most of our dishes were invoiced at $1 or 2 higher than the menu price).

The menu itself is very strange. While there is a typically extensive sushi menu, the Chinese/Thai menu is ridiculously limited. About a dozen appetizers, maybe ten entrees. Not ten “chef specialties”, but ten dishes in total.

We started with Roti Canai ($5), Crystal Dumpling (har gao) ($7, billed at $8), and pumpkin soup ($8, billed at $10!). The roti for the Roti Canai was quite good, but about 4 inches in diameter, and the curry sauce was served in a shot glass. Literally. Really more of an amuse bouche than an appetizer – and not easy to split 4 ways.

The Pumpkin Soup was served in two dishes. A tiny soup ball holding some enoki mushroom, a waffle chip, a cherry tomato, etc. (maybe a tablespoon altogether), and a TEACUP full of pumpkin broth. Tasty - but this is a $10 dish. Where is the foie gras and caviar?

The Crystal Dumplings were below average. Four dumplings, typical rice flour based wrapper. A good har gao’s filling should be light and tender, with chunky bits of shrimp and water chestnut, scallion, etc. These were compressed and tough. My guess is the shrimp spent too long whirring in the food processor.

For entrees, we split Spicy and Tasty Chicken ($16), Thai Fried Sea Bass
($23) and Teriyaki Salmon ($19, billed at $20). The Spicy and Tasty Chicken was shocking. Basically, a typical “real” sweet and sour sauce (not the thick goopy red stuff, but a cornstarch thickened chicken broth cut with vinegar, sugar and some chile pepper) with some shredded red and green pepper and onions. Very common Chinese takeout dish – and done no better here than at my local takeout. However, you know how the takeout menu shows small size for about $5 and large for about $9? Well, this was the small. Maybe 1 and ½ cups of food. For $16.

The Thai Fried Sea Bass was OK, with the smallish fish filleted in the kitchen, chunked, battered and fried, then served alongside the whole fried fish carcass. In all, about 10 fish nuggets, with a sauce that was too close to the chicken dish. The Teriyaki Salmon (which we got for my middle son, the picky eater) was a single center cut of fish, perhaps 6 ounces. Not heavily glazed, it was more a plain grilled salmon with a bit of teriyaki garnishing the plate. Cooked properly (not rare, but not well done either), but nothing impressive. And it should have been $14-15.

Incredibly, no rice was served. Considering the Chinese phrase for eat food – chi fan, literally means eat rice, this was a surprise.

We hightailed it out, stopped at 7/11 for ice cream. Everyone was still starving.

This is the site of the former Empire Szechuan Gourmet. The ESG dining room was pretty "luxe" for a Chinese restaurant, and pretty busy most nights. Suddenly, it closed for a two year "renovation." Now, instead of a modern decor, it's a clash of baroque and modern decor -- marble floors, ornate moldings, neon purple lighting, and electric trees (and, strangely, rectangular 4-tops arranged in precise rows barracks style).

I suppose overcharging for run of the mill Chinese is the only way to recoup the costs of letting prime property remain closed for years while a ridiculous amount of money was poured into it. Not the most sensible business plan, if you ask me.

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  1. PS: Peter Gianotti did a short blurb in Newsday/Feed me, and said "first bite: very good." However, since he didn't review ANY dish specifically, I'm not so sure he actually ate there.

    1. We just had our first, and final, meal at Dao. sbp is correct on all counts with the exception of his (or her) optimism of a one or two month life-span. We had sushi and hand rolls which ranged from decent to pedestrian. The best part: My wife ordered an eel and cucumber hand roll and was served an eel and avocado combination. When she informed the server of this mistake she asked if my wife would be willing to accept it anyway. Would we have called her over if she had decided to accept it in leu of her original order? Very strange! If the management had invested more of their capital in an exceptional executive chef ( and some good acoustics for this cavernous space surrounded by hard surfaces - it is incredibly noisy) rather than glitzy, over-the-top decor, Dao might have developed quite a following. drmdz

      3 Replies
      1. re: drmdz

        :), I forgot to mention the noise! It reminded me of the tourist spot at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. I could hear people whispering from across the restaurant, but couldn't hear my wife from across the table.

        1. re: sbp

          Well, Last night for the first time, Me and my family ate at Dao. Let me start off by saying the place is beautiful. They did a wonderful job renovating from the old "Empire". My kids loved the koi fish pond outside and also the Fish tank inside with the exotic fishes. When we first walked in we past the lounge area where there is a baby grand piano playing while you eat dinner. It was pretty busy(granted it was friday night with no reservations), but lucky we got seated right away.

          We all shared Crystal Dumpling,Viet spring rolls and the edamame just to start off. Then we had Mango Chicken, Basil Beef, Chilean Seabass, and Peking Duck for our main course. Let me tell you, the food is excellent. Oh yea, finished off with the chocolate lava cake. Yummy! The prices was fair compare to other restaurants in the area.

          1. re: spree382

            For those looking for reliable sit-down Chinese food west of Huntington on 25A, try Hunan Taste down the road in Greenvale (across from T.J. Maxx). Great service and food for a reasonable price!

      2. My husband and I went to Dao last night. We thought the food was very good. The spring rolls and the roti canai were delicious. I agree, the portions for the appetizers could have been a little larger and did not really allow for sharing. We ordered the the spicy girl roll as well as a spicy tuna roll and found these to be excellent. My husband ordered the Peking duck which was perfectly cooked. I ordered the Shrimp Pad Thai which was very good. Over all, I felt that we had a great meal. It is not the run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant that is so common on Long Island. The restaurant served all different types of Asian cuisine which made for a fun dining experience for us. We will definitely return.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MariaGC

          Your husband ordered Peking Duck as his entree? Isn't that a lot for one person -- typically, Peking Duck costs over $25 and is a whole duck, served as soup and in little Mandarin pancakes (and sometimes an additional course). How much did Dao's version cost, and how much duck was served?

          The rotie canai was pretty good, but "did not allow for sharing" is an understatment. The sauce is served in a SHOT GLASS; literally.

          Really, the selection of cuisine is no different than most Chinese restaurants nowadays -- Japanese, a little Thai, maybe some Indonesian. You know, like Empire Szchezuan's menu before it shut the location down to make way for Dao. The only difference is there are 1/3 of the choices and the prices are 30% higher.

          What sets Dao above Empire Szechuan, Precious, Jani, etc. to justify such higher prices (and smaller portions)?