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Ancient Ginger (St. James NY)
||556 North Country Road,|
St. James, NY 11780
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Fall Volume: 2005 Issue: 12(4) page: 24
Soft-looking decor and fake bamboo awaits at the entrance, these and a small grinding wheel spewing water as it turns. Step inside from a non-distinct strip mall called The Shoppes at Green Hills, to a relaxed modern eatery called Ancient Ginger. Its walls have dried flowers and stems of this rhizome and other twig-like items. They are framed on both long walls. They fascinate and may not all be ginger, but matters not. Be impressed with their lovely rosewood piece of furniture at the rear. On it is a Chinese gong on one side, and a gorgeous lantern on top. Inside it, a red carry-out container sports a bulb within. In Chinese characters, it says 'double happiness' and, eating here when the number one chef is on duty is just that, pure double happiness.
Menu choices are considerable, the item itself on thick board, six-sided, and as lovely as the decor. Selecting is no easy task. Begin with the Signature Dishes first; then peruse the rest. Both have interesting items and if you need, there is a Health and Diet section.
Tom Chau, the owner, stops by all tables to see if he can help. He puts down sleek silver-colored chopsticks on a small wooden rest, but only if you request them. He does it for us, does he recognize us? Must be, because on our first visit, he returns with Lettuce Soong, an item not on the menu. It comes Peking-duck-style as it is served with hoisin sauce on the side. We taste then tuck in only the minced chicken mixture. The undiluted hoisin sauce is too sweet. We eat these lettuce packages as finger food and hope they make it to the menu for all to enjoy. On a subsequent visit, do note others enjoying them.
Ancient Ginger has thirty signature dishes. Four are very special, and unusual. They are Green Prawn, Red Prawn, Black Prawn, and White Prawn. Each is described on the menu but that does not do them justice. On a series of visits we try them all, our preferences are in alphabetic order. The green ones are particularly fascinating, cleverly cut, piquant, and colored with spinach juice. The chef, Tom’s uncle, has considerable talent from a long stint at Mr. Chow’s in New York City.
Near the Stony Brook University campus, and reviewed by Newsday, a sophisticated Long Island magazine called Distinction, and in a local newspaper, if you go on week-ends, learn it has been discovered. Come on the chef's day off and you figure out that item has been discovered, too.
This restaurant caters to individual diners, seniors, and those who want to try a plethora of different dishes. Almost every regular item, appetizers excluded, come in small and large portions. That idea needs duplication in every Chinese restaurant all over the world; it is particularly thoughtful for seniors and singles.
This Ancient Ginger does delightful things with seafood dishes. The dozen signature specials were special indeed. Virtually every customer is treated as a special guest, and almost all of them get complementary pineapple and lychee fruit with their fortune cookie.