Nanking offers unique blend

Andrew Benjamin

Indian, Thai and Chinese restaurants are common throughout Long Island, but New Hyde Park’s Nanking is that rare restaurant offering all three cuisines on its menu.

Located at 2056 Hillside Ave., the restaurant promotes an Asian fusion cuisine, including Indian, Thai and Chinese delicacies for customers who favor one of the three cuisines or prefer to combine dishes from all of them.

In some cases, the dishes cross the lines of those cuisines, in the Asian fusion mode the restaurant promotes.

The restaurant takes its name from the former capital of China. In 1842, after Nanking was captured by the British, a new gastronomic phenomenon took shape as restaurants began catering to foreign pallets. The food was modified to appeal to non-Chinese diners and induce them to keep coming back.

So Asian fusion, born in the 19th century, was reborn in the New York metropolitan area in the 21st century in a new Nanking that opened at its present location in 2005.

Spicy tom yam, a traditional Thai soup, and manchow, a garlic-flavored chicken soup, coexist on the menu, which lacks the traditional beef and pork dishes diners might expect. But what Nanking lacks in the traditional, it makes up for in the unexpected, such as jumbo shrimp marinated with chilies and garlic and a dish called Vegetable Manchurian made of fried balls of mashed vegetables in a sauce of parsley, onion, chilies and garlic.

The atmosphere in the restaurant helps to set a distinctive tone, with traditional Asian music softly playing as a relaxing accompaniment to the diverse cuisine. Long bamboo sticks separate the bar from the main dining room, which also features a central display of red lanterns hang from the ceiling. Hammered copper tabletops, plush red chairs and a dark hardwood floor convey an opulent impression.

A separate room for private parties is dominated by a giant gold Buddha at one end of the room.

After Nanking opened six years ago, the restaurant quickly developed a base of regular customers from Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn and Queens. So owner Arun Walder has opened branches in Queens, New Jersey, and Manhattan in the intervening years.

“We have a good name in the market. People like the food, the ambience. But we’re still making efforts to make it better,” said manager Harkesh Yadav.

Yadav said the restaurant chefs are adept at preparing the food, and it’s the quality of that food preparation, along with the diversity, that Yadav said keeps people coming back for more.

“We have the people to make the food,” Yadav said.

Yadav said the restaurant’s tri-color theme of red, gold, and black helps to make the atmosphere appealing as well.

“Especially in the evening time, we have low lights and candles on the table. It looks really good,” he said.

Advertising and word-of-mouth draw customers come from as far away as 25 or 30 miles for the food at Nanking, according to Yadav. But there is a strong possibility that many of those customers may not need to travel as far for the same cuisine in the foreseeable future.

“We plan to open more outlets in Long Island,” Yadev said. “We definitely want to open more branches in the future.”

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Andrew Benjamin

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