Halfmoon Parkway (Route 9), Halfmoon, 383-8581. Serving daily
11-10, dim sum Sat-Sun 10-3. AE, MC, V.
price range: $7.25 (many noodle dishes) to $18 (Tsing
a subtle way of signifying that you’re pleased by the service
in a Chinese restaurant: Strike the table with two middle
fingers. Like so many traditions, it dates to antiquity—in
this case, the incognito journey of an emperor who preserved
his anonymity by inventing this alternative to a bowing ritual.
this in my last Tai-Pan review, in 1998, when service during
a busy dim sum brunch was exemplary. And my fortunes haven’t
taken me back until this recent visit, proving my promise
to my daughter that this is one of the most handsome restaurants
in the area, alongside Troy’s Plum Blossom which, not coincidentally,
is also owned by Steve Chan, who designed both places.
case of Tai-Pan, which opened in 1991, he recreated a Zen
temple. The high-ceilinged building has a comforting airiness,
with spacious passageways from level to level and room to
party dominated one of the rooms during our recent weeknight
visit; a couple of deuces and a party of three also were scattered
throughout. We were seated in the room farthest from the entrance,
on one wall of which hangs a weatherbeaten fragment of an
a little lonely in there, not at all what we’d experienced
in years past. What was soon apparent was that we were caught
in the slow-night server conundrum, which asks the question:
How much staff is needed to work the floor?
case, the answer seemed to be one. One woman who carted (literally,
on a rolling wagon) the courses and cleared the tables, with
occasional help from someone otherwise in the kitchen. She
was certainly pleasant when we saw her, but those appearances
the menu has slimmed down over the years, what remains is
still a fantastic variety, with enough of the traditional
Chinese restaurant fare to please the nervous. Mongolian steak
flambé ($15), for instance, is like any popular sizzle platter
(an Indian dish of Tandoor-cooked meats; a Mexican-inspired
fajita array) in that it emerges with residual heat
crackle and is set alight with the aid of 150-proof rum. It’s
another example of how a not-so-tender cut of beef can be
marinated and fired into something even tastier than its more
range from the expected, like spring rolls (two for $3.75,
veggie or meat-filled) and steamed dumplings (also veggie
or meat, $5.55 for six) to fried squid with Thai chili sauce
($5.55) and a steamed dim sum sampler ($6 for six pieces).
sum” translates loosely as “little heart,” meaning “little
things that come from the heart.” These food morsels, typically
wrapped and steamed, date back a millennium; some of the teahouses
in southern China offer upwards of 2,000 different dim sum
we sampled were two apiece of three different combos of steamed
ingredients, handsomely served in a bamboo basket with a pungent
dipping sauce alongside.
of soups to choose from (each under $4) including none of
the usual suspects. If you want hot and sour, you get a Thai
version with shrimp that proved to be one of the finer variations
on this theme, with dramatic flavors and a rich, full-flavored
figures into many dishes, such as the chicken (or vegetable)
coconut soup; you’ll also find a lentil soup with mustard
oil, a Vietnamese pho bowl with lemongrass and a Thai curry
bowl, which I sampled, that combined rice noodles, chicken
chunks and vegetables.
has become a skewer fiend, and will glom onto any kebab that’s
passing; there’s a page of such items on the Tai-Pan menu.
I’m very interested to taste the deep-fried beef-and-cheese
kebabs ($6), and seared miso scallops ($7) sound toothsome,
but I contented myself with sneaking a taste of Lily’s Korean-style
barbecued beef ($6), with its slightly sweet, darkly vinegary
of chef’s specialties include Cantonese seafood ($16) in a
black-bean-tomato sauce, grilled salmon with udon noodles
($15), a combo of General Tso’s chicken and sautéed shrimp
called Dragon and Phoenix ($15) and the exotic-sounding grilled
chicken wrapped in banana leaf with Balinese spices ($15),
which I ordered but which proved to be unavailable due to
a missing ingredient.
settled for Indonesian chicken rendang ($13), in which coconut
milk complements sweet potatoes and bell pepper slices along
with the titular meat—very sweet, quite filling and refreshing.
the noodle dishes (each is $7.25) are pad Thai, a classic;
lo mein and chow fun; and even grilled eel over rice, its
inclusion possibly acknowledging the animal’s noodlesome characteristic.
Any of these items includes the addition of chicken, beef,
shrimp or pork. Don’t confuse these with noodle soup: As we
discovered upon ordering the udon noodles with napa cabbage
and mushrooms, seasoned with mirin sauce and black pepper,
it’s a stock-free stir-fry that’s nevertheless delicious.
for the extreme length of time it took to get our food—and
the somewhat chilly loneliness of the big back room—we had
a very satisfying meal. Because the food is so good, so unusual,
and so economical, I’m going to hope that it was just the
time of the week (or time of the year) that caused our discomfort,
and try this place again soon.