Every month or two, a new restaurant opens in Great Neck, the majority of which are Asian inspired; from sushi bars to ramen shops to seafood markets, Great Neck has become a food hub for people looking to try a cuisine that isn’t commonly seen on Long Island. Following this trend is a Taiwanese restaurant—the first of its kind in Nassau County—called Be Your Chef. Although the name is a bit misleading since customers are not responsible for cooking their own food like at a hot-pot restaurant, this eatery offers traditional Shanghainese and Taiwanese cuisine featuring ingredients and recipes never before seen in Great Neck, making for a unique and delicious dining experience.
Taking over the space where a series of Japanese restaurants, such as Watami and Naru, previously operated, Be Your Chef’s decor matches its menu: innovative and creative. Cute teacups, black soup spoons and little flower pots cover each brown wooden table, vibrant red and orange chairs face the window underneath an intricate white light fixture, small banners cover the restaurant’s white walls and specials are written in chalk on the black wall behind the counter.
Given that the owners recently immigrated to the United States, the language barrier is rather intense; the staff knew the menu well, but struggled to communicate the drink order, how much the bill was, etc. However, this did not take away from the overall dining experience.
Taiwan is known for its fresh seafood, hand-pulled noodles and night markets, which serve quick, delicious dim sum and small entrées. Be Your Chef’s menu combines all of these highlight dishes, creating some that are rarely found elsewhere.
The appetizer menu consists of favorites like steamed pork soup dumplings, pan fried pork buns, crispy salted chicken and red bean–paste cake ($4.50 to $9). A handful of cold appetizers are offered as well, such as chicken marinated in wine, marinated gluten and, for adventurous diners, jellyfish marinated in vinegar ($5.50 to $10).
Be Your Chef has a large selection of seafood entrées, like scallop with snow pea leaves, shrimp with basil and cuttlefish ($16.50 to $27), as well as an impressive array of signature dishes, including pork meatballs in brown sauce, roasted duck and pork ribs ($15 to $25). In addition to the large selection of meat entrées ($13.50 to $19), a small vegetarian selection is available, featuring dishes like Mapo tofu, eggplant in garlic sauce and white gourd ($12 to $16.50). For those hoping to try hand-pulled noodles, a few noodle soups with options like savory beef noodle soup and shredded pork with pickled cabbage soup ($10-$10.50) are offered. Lunch specials are available every day and consist of standout dishes from the typical menu with rice and choice of soup ($8.50 to $10).
I selected the breaded salt and pepper pork chop lunch special, which was served with a large side of freshly steamed rice and egg drop soup. The pork chop was pounded much thinner than at other Taiwanese restaurants, but the flavor was amazing. The simple salt and pepper worked very well with the strong shallot taste, and the crispy pork was tender and surprisingly juicy. This was one of the best renditions of the dish I have ever tried—and it was definitely worth $9.
Although this eatery is still tying up loose ends since opening its doors just one month ago, the attention to detail and the quality of the ingredients suggests that Be Your Chef will soon be one of the standout restaurants in Great Neck.