Where it all began over eight years ago. Two friends going out for dinner in Huntington, NY, and asking each other, “What is the best Chinese restaurant in town?”. The popular consensus was Albert’s Mandarin Gourmet at 269 New York Avenue, Huntington NY 11743. Legend has it that they were less than impressed. Feeling dissatisfied, that hunger for great Chinese food lingered in their bellies and in their minds, gnawing at them. There has to be something better. There has to be! But, where?
Their tale was told to anyone who would listen, but they did not understand. And the question lingered on. Waiting to be answered. Waiting, like their dinner on that fateful night, for the missing ingredient(s) needed to solve this, the greatest of all, mysteries.
A tale as old as time, aging like fine wine. Glasses poured nearly as fast as they were drained at The Inn Between, Five friends gathered for a Happy Hour. Or two. Then three. Drinking on an empty stomach can make one plummet unless offset by food. Out the window, across the road, was our Star of Bethlehem, beckoning thee to come to their Temple. And it was a Golden Temple. Really. That was the name of the Chinese restaurant we saw across the street. This is no fairy tale. No matter how tipsy we may have been, our vision was clear and we made our Pilgrimmage across the vast Jericho (have you noticed all the biblical references? One day, it will be known around the world, and for ages to come, as the “Gospel According to Mee Magnum”. Or not) to the Golden Temple Chinese restaurant.
Still fueled by alcohol and now turbocharged by Chinese food, conversation flowed, like the wine they kept pouring into our glasses, until there was complete silence, as Rob retold the Saga of Chinese food in Huntington, and their disappointment, which only added tumult flaming the fires of imagination, a voice calling from on High, it became our duty. Our mission. Our charge. It became our QUEST to find the very best Chinese restaurant on Long Island! Five Jews, like the points on a Pentagram. Individually they are mortals. But together, they are THE CHINESE QUEST!
Meanwhile, back in present-day Long Island, the coronavirus showing no signs of letting up, but now some are finding solace by putting their faith in their arms from the Vaccine Gods to protect us, three friends came together and met for drinks at Pancho Villa’s in downtown Huntington, NY. Rob and I, who have now come to be known as Mee Tsu Yan, and Mee Magnum, drank to celebrate being out in the real world again. This time with protection. Moderna. (Available in double doses at locations around the state and on Amazon.com. Surgeon General’s Warning: Moderna does not effectively prevent the transmission of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases, but, according to lab studies, does a damn good job at protecting you from contracting, and lessening the effects of, coronavirus.)
A few hours later, joined by Paul (you know him as Mee V. Stoogas) and again starting to feel the effects of Margaritas and Mexican Beer, we knew we had to eat. I was told that there’s a good Chinese restaurant just a block away. So, like an asshole, err, a good friend, I said “sure”. Then I saw it. I stopped dead in my tracks. Flashbacks. Warning! Warning! Will Robinson, something does NOT compute. Years ago, told that this place was NG, why are we facing Ground ZERO? Albert’s Gourmet Mandarin. I was told it got so much better. New ownership. C’mon. I must say that I was curious. And my curiosity nearly killed me.
I must say, when we walked in the restaurant had a very fresh and contemporary look about it. Impressed with the cleanliness and cordiality of the wait staff we settled into a nice table and ordered more beer and a Mai Tai.
Tradition, and where would be without Traditions? Tradition said we had to order Spare Ribs for starters. A big order. Not a little order of spare ribs. Nope, we had to get the BIG order of spare ribs. Out came a big giant platter of spare ribs. More ribs than I have ever seen served on one platter. And darned if they didn’t look like the good old-fashioned spare ribs we remember growing up. The kind that just makes you salivate (sorry) in anticipation. Ribs, beautiful tasty looking, ribs. Ahhhh…
Ugh, dry. Very dry. Not enough salivation could save these. It was an epic struggle. Never in the vaunted history of The Chinese Quest was ever a rib leftover. Never. But there it stood. And stayed. On the plate. Could this have been the rib that Adam gave Eve? Nah, Adam I heard was a nice dude, and he’d never try to score favors by giving Eve a dry rib. Or, did he? And does that explain why women… [ED: Cut! That story is outside the scope of The Chinese Quest. However, if you would like to hear our theories on the subject, you can take us out, and treat us to some fine steaks and grog, and we would be happy to regale you with the truth. The truth according to The Chinese Quest. Soon to be made Gospel, by them, and coming to a theater near you (if ever they reopen. In the meantime, enjoy this movie).
We needed refills. Quickly. And, more food!
Moo Shu Chicken – Given all the respect due a Peking Duck, the Moo Shu was prepared tableside and served up to us with much fanfare. The dish was as you would expect it to be. Might have needed a wee bit more hoisin sauce. If it was any indication, four pancakes were prepared, for the three of us. There was no fighting over the fourth one. But, I was convinced to take it home to my Mini Mee. And to my surprise, he polished it off with a thumbs up.
Lo Mein Noodles with Shrimp – Standard take-out fare here. But, we all enjoyed it and the food in the dish magically disappeared. The shrimp was above average. At some restaurants, particularly take-out Chinese restaurants the shrimp can be a little dry and somewhat gamey. These shrimp were not those shrimp.
And there you have it. We entered into our Chernobyl, Ground Zero, waiting eight years, but we did it. I got to experience it. And, I survived!
Now you know the rest of the Story.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)