Shabu-shabu, or DIY beef and veggie soup, is only available on weeknights. Photos By Andre Baranowski
Manhattan’s Chinatown comes to Westchester where you would least expect it: among low-quality takeout and pizza places along Central Avenue in Hartsdale. Chinese food, often misinterpreted at local takeout joints as greasy egg rolls and soggy shrimp lo mein, is reimagined at Fantasy Cuisine.
Homemade dumplings are the restaurant’s claim to fame, and they live up to the hype. Steamed soup dumplings filled with pork, ginger, and a savory broth hit all of the comfort food notes, while fried dumplings are hot and crispy but never overly greasy.
Standard Chinese takeout dishes are fresher than average, but be sure to try out different parts of the menu instead of sticking with your usual sesame chicken. Classic Szechuan entrées are ranked from non-spicy to very spicy and delineated by “style” (scallion style, salt ’n’ pepper style, etc.). So it’s the kind of place you can and should be adventurous with your food choices without fearing judgment for not knowing the proper way to eat a soup dumpling. (Dumpling etiquette tip: Don’t roughly handle or poke the dumpling. You’ll risk tearing the skin and spilling out the juice before it gets to your mouth.)
Reservations are only taken for parties of six or more, so you can either wait for a table (and “10 minutes” definitely means closer to 30 minutes) or pick up some takeout. Try to look past the hurried and sometimes forgetful waitstaff; you should go here for the food, not the service. Although you’re almost certainly guaranteed a wait, Fantasy Cuisine is calm and relaxing compared to the streets of Chinatown.
The restaurant has a bright, airy vibe; one main dining room is separated into two sections with decorative partitions that let in light and sound from both sides. Booths in the front of the restaurant appear to be the best option, but the tables are awkwardly small and don’t provide enough room for all of the different plates you will inevitably order. Sit in the back of the restaurant where the tables are roomy and out of the path of the busy front door area.
Fantasy Cuisine’s interior is bright and modern.
Skip the crowds and stress of Canal Street in Manhattan, and get your fill of authentic Chinese food in the bustling atmosphere of Fantasy Cuisine.
WHAT TO ORDER: soup dumplings, fried dumplings, house special buns, Thai-style curry puffs, kung pao (chicken, fish, or shrimp), red-soup-style stir-fried fish, sesame chicken, stir-fried noodles, green tea ice cream
20 N Central Ave, Hartsdale
(914) 358-9046; www.fantasycuisine.com