Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Queens Blvd., Forest Hills, NY
Review by MaceVindaloo, SuSu
Sometimes you're hungry but you don't know what you want to eat. You could just as easily go to bed, but you really should eat something before it's too late and you can't eat ... and you wake up in the middle of the night being lead by the stomach to the kitchen for something anything! to eat! To avoid the loss of sleep and sanity the next day, eat something! But the act of having to actually decide on something and eat it can leave you quite grumpy ...|
That's the mood we were in when we parked the car on the street just outside this restaurant. We'd intended to go to Just Like Mom's for their superlative, inexpensive soups, but we were grumpy enough not to want to walk the four blocks ... Parking can be a bit tight on Queens Boulevard, and hunger becomes an all-consuming thing! This place was well-populated with Chinese and others of all ages i.e. family units but there looked to be room for our little group, so we went in.
We think Chinese restaurants have televisions mounted on the four corners of the big room so that people who come just to have a meal can feel like they're at home. Most people in this world watch television while they eat. Yeah, it's an abhorrent practice to have to admit, but reality is reality, and this place obviously decided to cater to those folks who cannot miss the game or the news or the latest sitcom episodes as they consume their meals. This makes it more like a bar, and yet there were plenty of families not watching the screens at all, just eating as you'd expect families to eat.
On the menu, there were "banquets" which have replaced the "pick one from column A and two from column B" from the days of yore. Depending on the number of people in your party, there were lists of dishes to be shared "family style" a large tureen of soup, some meats, some seafood, some vegetables, accompanied by steamed white or fried rice. We decided to be daring and order some things more to our temperaments that day: a dim sum samples of four different types of dumplings, winter melon soup, braised watercress, "house" fried rice, a seafood and broccoli stir-fry, offered in a potato basket, and braised eggplant in oyster sauce. A lot of food, and all very good!
We love when things turn out better than you expect. From the big phoenix and dragon gold and red high-relief sculpture things mounted on the back wall to the pink and yellow carpet ("golden sea," get it??), big warning bells seemed to go off ... but believe it or not, these things can be hallmarks of "authentic Chinese banquet cuisine." Real home-cooked Chinese food has no sauces, no spices, and generally lacks what we might consider as 'creativity.' What we eat as "Chinese" food here is the stuff of big parties.
We were impressed with how precisely the vegetables and meat in the fried rice was chopped and cooked prior to mixing with the rice. And how prettily the dumplings were wrapped before their steaming or frying, in different kinds of wrappers. We liked how the sauce infiltrated the space between the branchlets of the broccoli florets, tasting of hot-cooked seafood. The wintermelon soup was a bit bland, but actually good in the context of the whole meal, and we liked the almost-raw peas in there. We really liked that instead of those fried noodly things they normally give as nibbles while you look through the menu, we got unskinned salted peanuts. We were dorks and ate them with the big, chunky, plastic Chinese chopsticks that are standard issue. Everything was good, and we packed all the leftovers to come home with us!
Another "authentic" Chinese touch dessert was fruit, specifically orange wedges, and fortune cookies. Okay, the latter is hardly authentic, but in the USA, it's certainly traditional to get a fortune cookie per person with your bill. The tab came out to about $60 all up, which came out to about $8 a dish, a superlative deal. We would have come away with under $20 for a normal dinner if we weren't so excited about trying everything. And leftovers were excellent for lunch and dinner the next day, so we got three meals out of it.
By the way, on weekend evenings, this place is so packed that waiting lines go out into the street, even in cold weather. Often, a hand-lettered signed reading, "Sorry, full house till after 9PM!!" will appear on the door ... and this is at 6:30! Don't be disappointed if you can't get in when you want, it just means they are really good. But they are busy but not "full house" on week nights, so try then, or come early or late.
Eh, so, take a chance when you're grumpy; the worst it could do is keep you grumpy, and the best it can do is improve your evening!
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