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Full Ho Seafood Restaurant (Flushing NY)
||135-11 40th Road,|
Flushing, NY 11354
Reviewed by: Harley Spiller
Volume: 1998 Issue: 5(2) page: 15 and 16
This review appeared as an article titled: Off the Menu: Amaranth, Brassica, and Full Ho. There, it touts this popular Queens eatery in Flushing and says: Shellfish, pink marble tiles, all the rage in Hong Kong swim up and over and in between the first and second floor windows. Birds roost comfortably in the big, fat gold characters of the Chinese and English signs. Immaculate aluminum panels gleam in the sun, making Full Ho Seafood Restaurant stand out on its block like a diamond in a coal barrel.
Full Ho's rich exterior calls to mind the great lengths to which Chinese people go to in order to consume rare and expensive delicacies. In fact, Chinese menus frequently resort to Latin terms to try to explain their infinite variety of foodstuffs. This can make for confusion even among food professionals, as evidenced by a recent letter to The New York Times. Dining in China, food critic Ruth Reichl wrote, was her chance to taste armadillo. However, armadillos are only found in the Western hemisphere. As the letter writer points out, Ms. Reichl had probably supped on pangolin, a scaly anteater considered a delicacy in Southern China.
Flavor and Fortune enthusiasts are familiar with ostentatious foods such as shark's fin and bear's paw, but what terms could a menu-writer use to best describe stir-fried seventeen-year old cicadas? Think of it, nonagenarians may only have been able to eat them five times in their entire lifetimes! Or how about coming up with a mouth-watering description for the mainland Chinese blocks of tofu containing worms that were lured to their quick-steamed deaths in the delicious cooling cakes of fresh curd?
Forget the legends of America's wild, wild, West; such challenging and showy Chinese fare makes for an even wilder and woolier east. All this thought of Chinese food only begets more dreams about Chinese food, and I conjured up an idea of the enormous cachet Chinese people would accord a speciality restaurant where diners would have to clamber up towering cliffs over the South China Sea before enjoying bird's nest soup at its very source.
The feasibility of such precarious high-priced perch notwithstanding, New Yorkers do not have to go to great lengths to enjoy superior delights of the South Seas. Abalone priced by the catty (a unit of weight used in Asia that is equivalent to seventeen ounces); trepang aka sea cucumber, a marine animal closely related to the starfish and sea urchin; and swiftlets' nests in many varieties, are all available at any time at Full Ho. Other items can be ordered in advance, such as exceptionally rich clear Sharkfin Bone Soup and yet other equally delicious specialities that take hours to steam.
Opened in late 1997, Full Ho is owned by an extremely well-kempt and friendly man with a can-do attitude. He knows the ropes and has an insider's edge on shopping, being that he owns a fish store, a butcher shop, a supermarket, and an herb emporium. He also knew that Flushing would make a great home for Full Ho's chef, who was wooed from Hong Kong's Tsien Tong Low restaurant, where he was voted one of the top ten chefs in Hong Kong three years running.
The Chinese name Full Ho means rich and powerful, and connotes a place where big spenders can go for everything and anything to eat. Originally called Full House Seafood Restaurant, the last three letters of the house bit the dust when it was discovered that a competitor on nearby Roosevelt Avenue was already using the gambler-friendly name.
The exterior wavy ocean theme continues on the interior, and aside from hokum flower arrangements, the sparkling clean dining room has a whimsical and delightfully understated marine theme.
A starter of Pan Fried Oyster's Cake ($12.95) was eggy and elegant, almost French tasting with perfectly cooked oysters in a light oil. Chef's Special Wok Fried Lobster ($19.95) is an updated version of Lobster Cantonese, the succulent crustacean touched with coarsely chunked pork, maybe eight black beans, and just enough coriander and scallion. A black-bean sauced Sea Bass nearly jumped from the tank to wok to table. The thin, rich sauce caressed the scrumptiously delicate fishmeat--fortunately the under-heated tofu was easily pushed aside.
Our waitress had suggested the vegetable of the day and we said OK without even knowing what it was. When a glass platter of greens arrived, I recognized what I had long assumed was a thick-leafed variety of spinach with a deep purple heart. I was corrected and learned that its proper name was amaranth, from the Latin Amaranthus meaning 'everlasting imaginary flowers reputed never to fade.' Hmmm, was I in a restaurant, or was I having another dream about Chinese food? Fortunately, a second definition of Amaranth was more helpful, indicating that it is also a very real genus of plants with some sixty brightly-colored and heavily-flowered species that preserve their color when dried and are a symbol of immortality in many cultures. Amaranths include vicious weeds, Cockscomb, Joseph's Coat, Prince's Feather, the famous Tumbleweed, and the most poetically-named species, Love-Lies-Blessing.
A trip to the local health food store revealed that at least one species of Amaranth is cultivated as a high-yield, high-protein grain. Amaranth grain was a staple in the diet of the Aztecs and Incas, and is experiencing new found popularity as a healthy stuffing for squash or as a toasted sprinkle for salads. Full Ho, however, sticks to the reddish-purple and green amaranth leaf, combined with conpoy (expensive dried scallops), salted duck and thousand-year-old eggs; and, they tell me that it is best served blanched, and that it is high in vitamin E and iron and considered excellent for digestion. Full Ho's treatment was clean-tasting and delicious, the single fanciest vegetable dish this critic has ever seen.
Grapes so big and fat that they were sliced in half and plated with orange slices and honeydew melon, and a hot soup of Sweet Tapioca with Taro Root provided a tantalizing free finale; these fruits and the soup varies each evening according to the season and the whim of the chef.
Any food-lover would look forward to returning to Full Ho frequently to try intriguing cross-cultural items such as Golden Raison with Dried Meat Fried Rice ($7.95) and Butter Fried Lobster ($19.95). Their endless variety of expensive classic recipes includes Yellow Chives with Dried Scallops Soup (12.50); Poached Chicken and Brassica (a genus of cruciferous plants containing the cabbage and its many varieties) in Superior Stock ($11.95); and superb Whole Chi Pan Abalone, seasonally priced and ordered in advance.
Full Ho offers dim sum (tea lunch) with a complete gueridon of dim sum items, and if you prove your mettle by enjoying dishes typically Chinese and/or those of acquired taste, the staff won't hesitate to recommend off-the-menu specialities such as Tung Ho, fresh chrysanthemum leaves with heated soy and black vinegar simply poured on top, or Shark's Fin Dumpling Soup, or any of dozens of other simple and complex culinary creations.
Regardless of whether your language is Chinese, Latin, or English, Full Ho Seafood Restaurant's menu is laden with royal, creative, and delicious fare. Don't let your dreams of Chinese food lie bleeding like Amaranth, dear readers. Grab some cash or your credit card, round up some adventurous dining partners, and head for Flushing's 40th Road today.
Harley Spiller maintains the world's largest collection of Chinese menus. He and his buddies have created a new eating snesation called 'Extreme Dining' whereby they up the ante by gorging on menu highlights at three different restaurants within two hours. Ant takers? He also thanks P.V. Alec, Kin Tsui, and Tzu Chi fior their invaluable guidance and everlasting friendship.