By Tien-Shun Lee
The line for crispy-skinned roast suckling pig and barbecued meats at East Manor Restaurant in Flushing snaked through the take-out area into the main dining hall on Chinese New Year’s Eve, with local residents waiting patiently for the succulent, slow-roasted treats.
“In one day, we sell over 40 whole roast pigs, 150 pounds of roast pork and 250 chickens, and for New Year’s our business doubles,” said Joe Wu, a manager of the large, 860-seat Hong Kong-style restaurant and catering hall at 46-45 Kissena Blvd. “That line’s been like that all day.”
Opened in December 2001, East Manor is one of six large dim sum parlors owned by the Cheng family, including East Buffet at 42-01 Main St. in Flushing, East Buffet on Long Island and three other restaurants in Staten Island, Boston and Connecticut.
In addition, the Chengs, who are originally from Hong Kong, are planning on opening a seventh dim sum parlor within two months on Queens Boulevard, near the Pan American building in Elmhurst.
Each of the Chengs’ restaurants serves dim sum — Chinese appetizers that are ordered from carts pushed around the dining hall by dim sum women — in addition to main courses for dinner and lunch.
The barbecued meats, in particular the roast pigs, are a specialty at East Manor that few restaurants in the area have the proper equipment to make, Wu said. Pigs, ducks and chickens are slathered in sauce and hung vertically inside a large, boiler-like roaster inside the restaurant’s barbecue room.
The crispness of the roast pigs’ skin comes from roasting the animals four times with cooling periods in between, Wu said. The roasted pigs’ skin stays crispy for five hours after coming out of the cooker — an impressive quality by Chinese standards, the manager added.
“The ovens are gas ovens, ordered specially from China,” Wu said. “Most other restaurants have electric ovens that don’t give the meat the same fragrance.”
Behind the scenes at East Manor are 20 chefs who exclusively make dim sum and 21 cooks who exclusively barbecue meat, Wu said.
All dim sum and main courses are not made until a customer places an order, so they are served as fresh as possible, Wu said.
These days, vegetarian dim sum is trendy with customers, the manager said. Specialty vegetarian dim sum served in the restaurant include steamed rice noodle with king oyster mushrooms, bean curd skin rolls with vegetables and Chinese ham with jelly fish.
“We focus on very high-quality Cantonese-style cooking,” said Betty Cheng of Flushing who runs East Manor with the help of siblings and in-laws in her family. “There’s many people involved in running the restaurants in terms of family members. Some of them have received very high training from Chinese culinary arts.”
In the royally decorated main dining hall, customers can watch their food being prepared at a dim sum bar illuminated under red cone lamps. They can also serve themselves hot-pot foods, including beef stews, tripe and bean curd from a buffet hot-pot table to the side of the restaurant.
All chefs are taught by master chef Fan Yuen, a native of China who trained in Hong Kong for 28 years, rising to become head chef at a five-star Hong Kong hotel before moving to New York City in 1993.
“I like to be a chef. The more I do it, the more my heart goes into it,” Yuen said. “I treat this like my home. The success of this restaurant comes by working together. All my energy goes into the business. The idea is if others can’t do it, we can.”
Aside from dim sum and barbecued meats, other restaurant specialties include Japanese-style barbecued ribs, shark fin’s soup, abalone, shrimp with walnut, pan-fried flounder and sautéed beef, Wu said.
The restaurant employs 35 waiters and 21 dim sum pushers, Wu said.
On Monday nights, a dance floor is opened up so patrons can dance cha cha, samba and salsa, which is very popular with Chinese people, Wu said.
On other nights, especially during weekends, the restaurant is often booked with private parties, especially for weddings, Wu said. The restaurant has a 40-seat back room for private parties, in addition to areas of the large dining room that can be sectioned off. All seating is arranged around 10-seat, round tables in traditional dim sum parlor style.
The restaurant is open from 9:30 a.m. to midnight every day. Reservations for parties can be made by calling 718-888-8998, and take-out can be ordered by calling 718-888-8951.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at email@example.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.