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Ming Far Eastern Cuisine (Edison NJ)
||1655-185 Oak Tree Road,|
Edison, NJ 05820
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2004 Issue: 11(4) page: 20 and 32
Like the town it is in, this restaurant lights up its customers. They eat their food in elegantly appointed surroundings. The design, done by Christine Heyward, delights. Enjoy it and the creativity of Chef Michael Chu, who cooks and carves delightfully. What a match!
Edison, a town of about one hundred thousand, is located in Middlesex County, less than an hour from the George Washington Bridge. If your map has Raritan Township throw it out because that was pre-1954 after which the county had a name change. Get a new one and use it to head, as we did, to a street touted for its large concentration of places South Asian.
Ming can be found on the lower level of the Oak Tree Shopping Center. Anchored upstairs is a huge Stop and Shop supermarket. Drive around and down the hill. Keep going until a red Asian-style protruding awning catches the eye. That means passing Movie City, a comic book store, and more. Should you drive too fast, the end is an Indian restaurant called Moghul. It is larger than Ming; both owned by Mr. Sahsha and Mrs. Sneh Mehtani, and both supervised by their general manager, Danashekar Subbiah.
A review done in the New Jersey Monthly in August 2003, features Ming on the cover and eight enticing ethnic restaurants they considered 'a world apart.' Their headline says: Think Globally, Eat Locally. If we lived less than three hours away, Ming might qualify as our global Chinese-Indian village. If it did, we would probably get out of town on week-ends. Getting in can require a long vigil. Therefore, make reservations, be aware that Ming has no liquor license, is closed on Mondays, has easy wheelchair access, takes all major credit cards, and tacks on a fifteen percent gratuity for parties of four and more.
On entering Ming go right, the left side is a plain banquet/special party room. In the main dining area on the right, staff are in black silk vests sporting rows and rows of Chinese writing. They speak to the formality and sophistication of Ming. Tables are set with lots of white dishes and white chopstick rests. Small white bowls are set on saucers for tea. They are typical of some northern and western regions of China, but here they come without covers.
Everything is pristine in this ninety-eight seat luxury eatery, also lavishly appointed and gorgeously painted place. One wall has two Qing Dynasty robes. They look so real the urge is to touch the emperorís silk. Every detail speaks of professional touches including a secluded alcove. In it are two large tables set with beautiful patterned China. Both are glass-topped so diners can watch gorgeous goldfish swimming beneath. Learned later these are for special guests; would that we were recognized upon entry and had been ushered there.
Once seated, a heavy menu comes, a classic ancient painting gracing its cover. It is the same one for lunch or dinner. Inside are delicious sounding slightly pricy appetizers, soups, main courses and desserts. Maybe they are not costly in this town whose median household income is almost seventy thousand dollars. Maybe they are, looking at a different statistic that says per capita income is a mite more than thirty thousand.
These are ever so many dishes to select from, each clearly explained below its name. The website and magazines say Ming serves dishes from China, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. We found most of them Chinese with Indian flavor, the rest simply Chinese. Only a small handful came from these other countries. After ordering, a complimentary carved Chinese pumpkin arrives filled with classily cut cucumbers and carrots. They are marinated in a vinegar, basil, salt, sugar, vinegar, and hot pepper solution. How yummy!
Should you ask what is special here, the response is: A delightful menu, a very talented self-taught chef, and a place to dine that delights. What is not, no lunch specials and no lunch menu. Why go? To enjoy Chef Chuís expertise. His experiences include working at very prestigious hotels in many countries. That shows here as he prepares beautiful foods in a beautiful setting.
At lunch, getting a table is easy; and at one of them the service was ordinary until they knew who we were. Then it improved quickly and matched the fine food. Take a good look at every dish before devouring, each one comes with carved flowers or carved fish. And the food looks as good as it tastes.
Drums of Heaven, an appetizer portion of half dozen one-bone fried chicken wings, it under a chili pepper herbal sauce. Crispy Lotus Stem with Honey and Crushed Chili sounds fiery and its color is, but sweet placates heat. Almost every appetizer is fried in one or another part of its preparation. Many main dishes and desserts are, too. That may be why all are so tasty.
Do not skip soup. The Spicy Coriander wins our vote, the menu says it is Malaysian. Bet it is Hakka mixed with Manchurian; know it is a winning delicious dish. Skip the salads and jump into the main courses. They go well with Bamboo Rice that the menu says is Thai served on a bamboo leaf, and with exotic natural flavor. The flavor is coconut milk, the rice is served in a bamboo container and not on a leaf, and the rice is exceptionally soft and sticky, as it is meant to be.
Eggplant with Paneer in Spicy Hoisin sauce is made classically Chinese. It is their signature and most ordered dish. Every table one lunch had ordered it. The eggplant slices are filled with Indian cottage cheese, the Paneer; they are batter coated and fried, then sauced brown with not much hoisin. Though the sauce barely touched its name, it was super, spicy, and not to be missed.
Chicken Manchurian are hand-minced meat-ball-looking dumplings deep-fried then cooked in a spicy Manchurian sauce. The menu has three lobster dishes, and two graced other tables. One in a black pepper sauce the menu said was from the Ming dynasty, the other in chili and honey. The latter looked as sweet as the lotus appetizer. Chili duck is a chefís special and cooked Hakka style. Crispy Duck in BBQ Sauce comes boneless and appears to be another winner. Folks at two tables devoured theirs.
Desserts are the least Chinese items on their menu. This Ming stocks many flavors of ice cream, lychee, mango and more. Their Date Pancake is served with vanilla and is a simple date paste in a triangle-folded then fried egg roll skin. Toffee banana is in a caramelized sugar coating, then deep fried, dipped in ice water, and served with a mild chocolate sauce. It had the best ever exterior, hard and crackling, its interior was warm and wonderful. The chefís timing, from melting the sugar to chilling it in ice water is perfect, the dessert is spectacular.
On week-ends, the menu includes a page of specials. They and many dishes reflect Chef Chuís Calcutta heritage, Chinese parentage, and world-wide experience cooking in fine Chinese restaurants and hotels. Add to that his and managementís caring about customer satisfaction and that makes this three-year old restaurant a wonderful destination.
So do think globally as you enjoy Chinese food from the diaspora. Ming is a good local or long distance destination. Head there for creative fine-tasting food. Enjoy it with their fine jasmine or green tea. And dream. Would that all Chinese restauranteurs used its ambiance as a model; they are to be emulated.