Great Neck is beginning to feel like Long Island’s Little Asia, with three new Asian eateries opening within the past three months and two more on their way. With a large number of Japanese, Chinese and Thai restaurants entering the food scene, new establishments need to offer something that no other eatery does, whether it be an original menu, unique decor or one-of-a-kind service. Saaho Village, located at 69 Middle Neck Rd., satisfies all three of these characteristics.
Saaho Village, which opened on Monday, May 8, offers traditional Cantonese fare with a modern twist in a clean, bright dining room. Owner Spencer Chan created Saaho Village in order to recreate an old Cantonese recipe, Saaho rice noodles originating from the Qing Dynasty, with seasonal ingredients in a modern setting.
“We’ve invested countless hours in perfecting this time-honored noodle-making craft, using organic rice grains, the freshest-quality seasonal ingredients and infusing other styles of Chinese cuisine to evoke tradition while exploring possibilities in creating something very new and exciting,” Chan explains on the Saaho Village website.
The restaurant is rather small with about seven or eight tables and counter seating at a small bar. From comfortable metal chairs to freshly painted red walls to traditional Chinese artwork detailing the noodle-making process adorning the walls, the restaurant is spotless and painstakingly decorated. Service is fantastic, although there may be a slight language barrier; the plentiful staff was quick to take our order and oftentimes asked how the meal was going.
The menu combines traditional Cantonese noodle recipes with modern Asian-fusion options, developed based upon the availability of organic fresh produce. Saaho Village offers small plates like Arctic clam salad and chicken wings in a lemongrass and fermented wine sauce to start, as well as freshly steamed dim sum like barbecue eel dumplings and foie gras dumplings.
For entrées, most of the menu features handmade Ho Fun noodles using traditional preparation methods until the “texture is silky smooth with just the right firmness and a tenacity to the bite.” The noodles are served either in a thin form with salmon, seafood, organic chicken or black truffle, or as noodle rolls, which are flat noodles wrapped in a cylinder shape topped with a choice of vegetable, fish or roast duck. The noodles also play a role in a handful of “tile” entrées, where the noodles are cut into squares and line the outside of the protein, to be used as utensils to pick up filet mignon cubes, shrimp or chicken and eaten as a wrap. There are also a few vegetable dishes as well as fried rice options.
Prices range from $7 to $13 for small plates and dim sum, from $14 to $23 for the traditional Ho Fun, $18 to $20 for the Ho Fun tiles, $13 to $17 for Cheong Fun (noodle rolls), $20 to $24 for chef’s recommendations such as cumin lamb belly and $6 to $7 for desserts.
On a recent visit, my party tried the black truffle dumplings ($8 for three), which were packed with Asian vegetables. The taste was rather sweet with a perfect balance of black truffle oil and each individual vegetable, all wrapped in a paper-thin dumpling wrapper.
The roast duck Cheong Fun ($16) was unbelievably delicious, served in a five-spice duck jus with a hint of orange. The duck was extremely tender and the duck skin added a nice crunch to the dish. The noodle rolls were fantastic, soft and light, along with the delicious jus with chopped up cucumber.
The black pepper filet mignon tiles with quinoa ($20) was the highlight of the meal. The filet mignon was perfectly medium rare, seasoned in a not-overpowering black pepper sauce, served with Ho Fun sheets made with organic quinoa which had a slightly stickier texture than the Ho Fun made with organic rice.
Although sticking to its traditional roots, Saaho Village aims to present the mastered art of noodle making in a way that no other restaurant has done. By emphasizing high-quality produce, the staff shows that it not only cares about people’s enjoyment of their food, but also understand that food is about experimentation, placing proteins and vegetables together in a way that highlights each aspect of the dish while creating one cohesive plate.