Okay, enough with the griping about the dearth of Asian restaurants in this town. Without a significant Asian migration, it's unlikely we'll get a cheap Vietnamese noodle shop on every corner, enough Korean barbecue to really make a choice, a taste of southern Indian Tamil cooking, or spicy Malaysian curries. But we do have 163rd Street in North Miami Beach, which at least gives us a decent sampling of ye old standard, Chinese. For example there's Macau, which serves fresh and authentic Cantonese, and there's Empire Szechuan of New York, which serves a reminder of what good Chinese -- American style -- should be. The menu looks like the ones I used to find stuffed under the door of my New York brownstone every evening. The green-and-white accordion-style flyer even includes a coupon for a free sesame chicken with any take-out or delivery order! Other coupons on the menu offer two to ten dollars off any eat-in dinner bill, depending on the number in your party. The encyclopedic menu isn't exactly a one-from-column-A, two-from-column-B affair, but it's close.
Complete dinners are offered from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., priced from $8.95 to $10.95, and include sizzling beef with scallops, General Tsao's chicken, crispy beef or chicken in orange sauce, Hunan-style shrimp, salmon or beef teriyaki, and sizzling tofu with sesame. All come with soup, rice, and an egg roll. Early-bird specials such as (what else?) chicken chow mein, sweet and sour pork or chicken, moo goo gai pan, pork lo mein, lemon chicken, and beef with broccoli, all for $6.95 to $8.95, come with the same accompaniments. But the best deals are at lunch, between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., when more than 33 complete meals are served, starting at $4.75. None costs more than $8.
Empire Szechuan of New York
3427 NE 163rd St, North Miami Beach; 305-949-3318.
Open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
There are also oh-so-welcome, not-so-traditional choices. Calorie counters will appreciate the section titled Empire's Lite Revolution Diet, which offers a half-dozen selections, allegedly with as few as 325 calories. Choose from prawns with snow peas, broccoli, and bean sprouts in a spicy sauce; chicken with water chestnuts, broccoli, and orange flavor; tofu with snow peas and green beans; lemon-flavor chicken; or scallops with broccoli and bean sprouts in garlic sauce. Another corner of the menu, called the Special Diet, features a dozen dishes that claim to be free of fat, sugar, cornstarch, and MSG. And there are plenty of options for vegetarians, including dried sautéed string beans, broccoli with garlic sauce, sautéed bamboo shoots with mushrooms, and several tofu selections. The vegetable dumplings are made with a spinach dough that is heavy but tasty, especially with a dash of hot oil and dipping sauce.
In case you don't yet feel as though you're back in Manhattan yet, take a look outside: Just next door a new Italian place is opening, called Giuliani's.