Yum Is Still The King
181-08 Union Turnpike, Fresh Meadowsk
Cuisine: Cantonese, Polynesian
Hours: 11:30 am to 11 pm, Mon-Thu, 11:30 am to midnight Fri & Sat; noon to 11 pm Sun
Credit Cards: All Major
It has been a couple of years since the death of "Uncle" Jimmy Eng, the legendary proprietor of King Yum Restaurant in Fresh Meadows. In the time that has passed, the restaurant - one of the only classic Cantonese-style left in the City - has undergone an internal transformation, coming to terms with its identity while leaving its classic exterior and décor untouched.
Today, King Yum's new culinary leader, Uncle Jimmy's son, Robin Eng, has introduced to the menu some of the dishes he perfected in his recent Culinary Institute of America training. Though they may not all be on the printed menu yet, we had a chance to sample some of the new dishes - and King Yum favorites - and walked away thoroughly satisfied.
Last Friday night we sat in a corner, peering out at the rest of the diners, as a sampling of appetizers were brought for our enjoyment. The night started with the classic Wonton Soup, filled with richly flavored broth, meaty wontons and fresh scallions; a short and simple bouche amuse (though certainly not the one-bite variety), the soup set the pace for things to come.
This was followed by Spicy Chicken Wings, panko-crusted calamari with a sweet and spicy sauce, classic Cantonese Spare Ribs and a new CIA-inspired dish - Pork Turnovers. The ribs and wings are just what you would imagine them to be. The calamari has a look of onion rings in size but the flavor of a Chinese-Italian fusion dish. And the turnovers, light and flaky, are actually pastry stuffed with a barbecue-style pork. Robin joked that they're not on the menu yet because he's the only chef in-house who knows how to make them. Time will change that.
Speaking of time, King Yum does not rush its customers - they're not looking to turn tables over; they want you to have a good time. Just ask our server, George, who encouraged us to slow down and enjoy. I think he also wanted us to stay for karaoke, which kicks off at 8 p.m. every Friday night (and at 7 p.m. Wednesdays).
As we took our time, it seems that the staff was not as laid back - hurriedly putting together a slew of dishes for our shared main courses, which were inspired and creative.
Wor Shu Beef, an enormous sirloin on the bone with a barbecued ginger sauce; General Tso's Chicken, light and spicy without too hard of a kick; Polynesian Duck, the breast of which is the best part, with that succulent layer of fat and crisp skin; and the non-menu item surprise that seems simple but is entirely uncomplicated and brilliant - the Chinese Sausage Fried Rice, melding the zesty flavor and chewy texture of the sausage with the user-friendly familiarity of your classic fried rice dishes.
Needless to say, there were leftovers - which didn't last 24 hours in our house. Each dish was a perfect execution of that Cantonese style with a flair for presentation and flavor combinations learned in culinary school.
In short, King Yum has emerged from its brief transition as strong a powerhouse as it has ever been, offering a mix of traditional and new cuisine that is sure to delight the most discerning palate.
– Brian M. Rafferty