Restaurant Review: Green Symphony (2 Stars)
Kosher vegetarian chinese? Go Figure
Kosher vegetarian chinese? Go Figure
“Vegetarian!” my eight-year-old son shrieks. “That means no General Tso’s chicken, so count me out!” He slumps in his seat. Frankly, my initial reaction wasn’t altogether different, if a bit less dramatic. We were on our way to Green Symphony, a kosher-certified vegetarian Chinese restaurant, and the mood in this carnivore-doting family’s car was, to put it generously, apprehensive. We pick up my mother-in-law in Scarsdale. “Vegetarian?” she demurs. “Well, at least it’ll be good for my diet.” Remy, the eight-year-old, slumps further. The only happy one is the two-year-old. He’ll eat anything.
We pull off 287 into the Kohl’s shopping center, and there’s the name, in lime-green letters, over a storefront. Inside, it’s crowded. I’m somewhat heartened. A sign explains the night’s specials, whimsical names like Mango Madness and Wheel of Dharma, containing lots of vegetables, obviously, but also unexpected things like jicama, seaweed and mango. I’m vastly heartened. Of course, soy vege chicken, marinated soy protein and alfalfa sprouts are also mentioned, so I’m still on the fence.
The five of us are led through a spare white room minimally adorned with prints and plants to a rear table, but it’s beneath a frigid a/c vent, and we ask to be moved. We’re graciously brought to a front table that’s being reset and given a booster seat, a pot of fragrant jasmine tea, a bowl of zesty pickled cabbage and drink menus. Remy, still sullen, suddenly perks up. “Hey, fresh-squeezed watermelon juice,” he pipes. There are several other fruit juices as well ($2.95) and four fruit iced teas ($2.95). I opt for the cranberry variety; my husband, the passion fruit. They arrive tall and lushly flavored, crowned with graceful rind-carved garnishes: lyres, birds and flowers. I sip happily and peruse the menu. It could be any standard Chinese restaurant’s but for the word “vege” preceding every mention of chicken, duck, beef or prawn. And for the separate category of Bean Curd Entrées. We opt to skip those, and order the Vege Hot & Sour ($1.85), Vege Won Ton ($1.75) and Vege Shark Fin ($6.95 for two) soups, Fried Vege Dumplings ($5.25), Barbecue Vege Ribs ($5.25) and a special, Rice La-Tai ($5.95), for appetizers. Entrées are tougher; the night’s four specials and 17 daily Gourmet Specials boast enticing vegetable combinations, tropical fruit and chef’s special sauces. We choose two of the night’s specials and one from the Gourmet section, Orange Sensation ($10.95) that our zealous waiter recommends. With typical eight-year-old inscrutability, Remy eschews the Vege General Tso’s Chicken for the Vege Chicken with Broccoli ($8.95).
Soon soup’s on: steaming bowls of murky broth jammed with shredded vegetables and herbs. The Hot & Sour is flush with cilantro, but neither hot nor sour; the Won Ton’s dumpling tastes wheaty. My Shark Fin broth is viscous but nicely tangy, with lots of meaty soybean “pork” strips to chomp on. Hot soup, tepid start.
But then the appetizers arrive and everyone’s groping, any residual vegetarian malaise forgotten in the crimson glaze of “ribs” and the crisp, golden fried dumplings. Tearing into a meaty wheat gluten “rib” spread with its accompanying Hoisin sauce, I can almost summon rich, smoky pork. And we have to practically snatch the dumplings out of both kids’ mouths; they’re delicious, their interiors reminiscent of the coveted egg-roll fillings of my youth. But the vote for best dish splits along generational lines, the over-eight faction unanimously electing the Rice La-Tai special. A steamed blintz-like rice fettuccine wrapped around marinated soybean, bamboo shoots and mushrooms, it sings in a shower of crushed honey-roasted peanuts and sweet, spicy sesame sauce. I’m eyeing the last piece but defer to age; my mother-in-law grabs it, and it’s gone.
I’m over it as fast as our entrées descend: white platters festooned with stop-light bright vegetables and faux meat chunks glazed in sauce. The kids’ eyes are like platters themselves, watching the Sizzling Delight ($14.95) hiss in its iron pan, a smoldering eruption of carrots, portobellos, asparagus, soy vege chicken and gingko beans, with jicama for crunch and pineapple for tang. I don’t detect basil, though, in its brown basil sauce, and the carrots are lava-rock hard. The fiesta of vivid bell peppers and golden deep-fried soybean “chicken” in my Mango Madness ($13.95) mambos right up to the standing hollowed-out halves of the fruit itself, with tangy orange-hued sauce and sweet mango slices in perfect tropical synch. The vegetables are fresh and crisp, though the soybean chunks taste overly mealy.
Our waiter’s suggestion proves as exacting as his service; the Orange Sensation ($10.95) is, if not sensational, certainly delectable. The crunch of breaded and fried chunks of meaty wheat gluten, the brightness of fresh vegetables, the jolt of orange peel all cloaked in a sweet brown sauce determine it the majority’s favorite. If not for the sauce’s excessive sweetness, it may very well have been sensational. Remy breaks ranks, however, proclaiming his “Chicken” and
Broccoli the rightful claimant to the sensation suffix. It earns a perfect 10 on his finger scale, and I admit the tender soybean “chicken” tastes remarkably—I have to say it—fowl.
Adroit Chinese-restaurant devotees, the kids soon screech for ice cream, and it arrives in all its carob and vanilla tofu glory ($2.95). A platter of orange wedges and two-tone fortune cookies are set down and immediately dismantled. I slurp an icy rainbow sherbet ($1.95), but quickly usurp Remy’s creamy, rich vanilla ice cream, as heady and concentrated as the bean itself. Now that’s sensational.
427 Boston Post Rd., Port Chester
Sun. to Thurs. 11:30 am-10 pm
Fri. and Sat. 11:30 am-11 pm