Flushing Review: Yi Lan Halal Restaurant
Has your boss has been yapping too much at work or have you’ve been eating too much of “the other white meat?”
Consider then swinging by Yi Lan Halal Restaurant 一蘭飯庄 (Yi1 Lan2 Fan4 Zhuang1) for a change of Chinese pace. They’ve been open about five months. The Owner/Chef is a man named 凌大伟 – Ling2 Da4 Wei3. Interesting because 大伟 Da Wei is the Chinese for David! Look for his photo with Hizzoner in the front behind the till. He’s Muslim and from Tianjin, so the dishes he is turning out definitely have a northern or Tianjin bent. And of course, there’s no pork present. His English is limited but ace waitress/hostess Cindy’s isn’t and she’ll take care of you just fine. Apparently Chef Ling’s family runs an Yi Lan Halal restaurant in Tianjin. First-run through here covered the following dishes:
Ox Tongue and Tripe with Spicy Peppery Sauce - Divine. Nice and spicy and very tender.
Stir-fried Cake - Or as dining companion Stan called it, the “Wacky Bing.” Here, a thick pancake or bing is shredded and stir-fried with beef, egg, carrots and cabbage. Unique and delicious. This is under their Rice and Noodle section of the menu and is not translated into English. In Chinese it is simply 炒饼 Chao3 Bing3. Only $5.95 too. Definitely a northern Chinese dish.
Sliced Fish with Hot Peppers – the Tianjin version of the Sichuan classic. Spicy fish filets presented, but it was not “blow out your mouth spicy” and the red broth was very savory. Be sure to pick out the good bits from the bottom after you’ve finished off the fish.
Cabbage in Sour Sauce – Stir-fried cabbage in sour sauce that packed a bit too much sweetness. The one dud here.
Lamb with Chili Pepper – again, the Tianjin version of Cumin Lamb. Boy you could smell that cumin as the dish was delivered tableside.
Mutton Soup – This is a special that is hand-printed in Chinese only, on the in-house menu but is listed on their take-out menu as “Hand Teared Lamb.” So pleased we ordered this. It also seemed to be on every other table. A hearty lamb broth with bones and a bit o’meat. And at least twice during the meal they added more broth to the hot pot! Who does that anymore? It’s called 手抓羊肉 Shou3 Zhua1 Yang2 Rou4.
Steamed Vegetable Shumai – 素燒麥 Su4 Shao1 Mai4. These dumplings were filled with cucumber, egg, wood ear, pickled vegetable and was that crab meat? Probably not at only $0.60 per each dumpling! This is another dish under the Rice and Noodle section of the menu that is not translated into English.
Eight Treasure Tofu - interesting dish and well presented. Deep-fried tofu cubes are topped with shrimp, squid, sea cucumber, dried scallops and a few crab sticks in a brown sauce.
Egg Fritters – for some reason called Yellow Vegetable in Chinese 黄菜 Huang2 Cai4. They serve four types of desert fritters under “Sweet Dish” on the menu: Yams, Egg, Pineapple and Longan. (Again none are translated into English.) Here eggs, oil and water (and flour?) are mixed together to create some type of dough, which is then deep-fried. Ours seem a bit under-cooked.
There are a lot more dishes worth exploring on this menu. Wasabi Arctic Surf Clams, Tomato with Noodle Soup, Moo Shu in Sour Sauce, Sour Cabbage and Lamb with thin Noodles, Sautéed Squid Rolls and a couple of Tianjin House Special Dishes.
Yi Lan Tianjin Dishes:
Stir-fried Cake – (Only for home cooks!) “How to Make” video in Chinese with background music from the World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band:
Yi Lan Halal Restaurant 一蘭飯庄 (Yi1 Lan2 Fan4 Zhuang1)
42-79A Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355
Open every day from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm.
Yi Lan Halal Restaurant
42-79 Main St, Queens, NY 11355
Always a delight reading about great regional Chinese on this side of the coast! Where I live there's no authentic Tianjin food, let alone Islamic Chinese from Tianjin.
You can see a pic of Chef Ling in this online NY World Journal article/ad
The Stir-fried Cake 烧饼 looks very similar to the Beijing homestyle dish stir fried pancake strips (loose translation) - 家常炒餅, and yes very mushu-esque (the real mushu, not the Americanized kind). Whoops I just clicked on the youtube link....exactly what I was going to say :-o
Be forewarned: the portions here are gargantuan. Solo diners should be prepared to: a)doggy bag it, b)let out your belt a couple notches, c) wear elastic pants or d) spontaneously combust.
I ordered two dishes, the above-mentioned shao bing and the 8 treasure tofu, and was lucky enough to have the wife and kid to share it with once I brought it home. we still have plenty left over in the fridge.
it seems as if this storefront has changed hands several times in just the past few years. i hope these guys make a go of it. it's a nice, clean joint with a friendly, helpful waitstaff, one of whom was very curious as to how I knew about the place.
i'll start with the cons. of all the northern chinese dishes I've tried, at several restaurants by now in this area, these were by far the oiliest. i'm feeling it right about now. that will bother or deter some, not others. and, of course, some may have a different experience. this was just mine.
the pros are that these guys have some good flavor going, enough so that I couldn't stop eating this stuff. just one more mouthful, i kept telling myself. the flavors were subtle, unique and not overly done. based on these two dishes, i'd say we have a nice counterpart to M & T and Golden Palace. the tofu of said 8 treasures was silky soft, the treasures numbering fresh and juicy shrimps, imitation crab, sea intestine, mushrooms and boneless deep-fried filets amongst their ranks (i know, i'm short 3 treasures - story of my life). the sauce combined a subtle sweetness with mild, residual heat.
i'm a fan of lamb, but get it so often at northern chinese venues that i opted for a change of pace here. thanks again to scoop for this scoop - completely piggy backed off your recommendations here, and shamelessly so. will be back for some lamb.
14009 Cherry Ave, Queens, NY 11355
Mucho Congratz!! After years of laboring in obscurity (here), cutting your teeth on stale bing, dealing with 'generous borrowings', now full credit from the Village Voice.
If your not too busy with lit agents and such do you know anything about the chinese Halal place that is soon to open near Sripraprai?
It's funny that I have an opinion on how the Chuan food should be, and this is not meant to criticize the Eastern variation (I'm all for it), but sometimes it tastes strange, even if the cook is spectacular.
I loved their shao bing shreds and their lamb noodle soup, yet I found the water-cooked fish somewhat strange (not bad!). I can easily spend 10000 words on why I feel that way :-) , but who cares really.
All in all, thank you for an excellent choice!