By Suzanne Parker
Prepare to be dazzled by the spectacular view of Manhattan from almost any table in SHI, the new panâˆ’Asian spot on the Long Island City waterfront. If you’re looking for a dramatic setting for a romantic evening or a special occasion without breaking the bank, we can think of no better location. Their menu combines Chinese classics, a comprehensive selection of sushi and sashimi and a few Southeast Asian crowdâˆ’pleasers for good measure.
Beyond its almost medieval inner doors, SHI is a sleek, modern space, dominated by its fabulous view. Since not everybody can face the view, they have considerately lined the opposite wall with mirrors. They have an outdoor patio that will be a wonderful spot for cocktails in the warmer weather, and indeed their list of Asianâˆ’influenced cocktails is tempting.
We have to admit that the splendor of the view automatically lowered our expectations for the food. We thought this was going to be a place that tried to get by on its looks. We were in for a pleasant surprise. While the menu’s emphasis was on the popular and trendy elements of Asian cuisines, they were carefully rendered, not dumbed down.
A random sampling of the so called “Palate Pleasers” (appetizers) yielded tasty results. Two summer rolls bulged with shrimp and veggies. The Thai basil and other herbs lent the flavor of authenticity, as did the hoisinâ„peanut dipping sauce. Nice. Steamed shrimp dumplings were plump and fresh tasting.
Homestyle steamed bao (siao long bao) were a valiant attempt. This clever Shanghaiese invention should be a steamed dumpling filled with meat and soup. You’re supposed to hoist one onto a spoon with your chopsticks, after dipping it in sauce, take a little bite, and suck the soup out before devouring the solid matter.
Wanna know the secret of how the soup gets inside the dumpling? The soup is first mixed with lots of gelatin (traditionally agarâˆ’agar) and chilled. Then the solidified soup is chopped up and mixed with the meat filling. When the dumplings are steamed, the soup liquefies (or should) inside. The SHI version had the filling just right, but they weren’t soupy enough. Nice try.
Sushi lovers will be pleased here by their attention to quality. Their assorted sushi platter featured a nice selection of their most popular items and a choice of a salmon avocado or spicy tuna roll. Their special rolls encompass the usual flights of fancy and a few unique to SHI like the Gantry (named for the nearby park), comprising crunchy, spicy salmon topped with more salmon and avocado. We dove into their spider roll, an artful mÉlange of softâˆ’shell crab, avocado and tobiko (flying fish roe) wrapped in cucumber. Tasty eye candy.
Although it’s tempting to simply graze and drink here, let’s not forget about the mains. One interesting concept is their designâˆ’yourâˆ’own stir fry. It’s like ordering pizza. You start with a core ingredient of scallops, shrimp, chicken or beef, and then choose from a panoply of vegetables, sauces and nuts. They will also steam your ingredients with sauce on the side for the abstemious.
We enjoyed every guiltâˆ’inducing bite of our sakeâˆ’marinated sea bass. The lush fish was presented in a light white sauce with Shanghai cabbage on the side. The sauce was subtle enough not to obliterate the delicate sweetness of the fish, and the sake marinade did its job.
Like everything else on the menu, the desserts aim for the crowdâˆ’pleasers like molten chocolate cake. Chaiâˆ’flavored crÈme brulee fuses a little of South Asia into this perennial French fave.
The Bottom Line
SHI is an affordable place for a date, a celebration or just plain old hanging out. Many restaurants with gorgeous locations try to get by on that alone. We’re ecstatic to have found one where the food measures up to the view.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com.
47âˆ’20 Center Blvd.
Long Island City, NY 11109
347âˆ’242âˆ’2450 âˆ’ shilic.com
Price Range: Appetizers: $4âˆ’$14, Entrees: $9âˆ’$26
Setting: Sleek, modern, worldâˆ’class view
Hours: Dinner daily from 5 p.m.; takeout from 1 p.m.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Alcohol: Full bar
Parking: Discount parking in garage around the corner next to Duane Reade
Credit Cards: Yes
Noise Level: Acceptable