Everyone talks about Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, the famed soup dumpling house in Flushing that many consider to serve the city's best.
But its next door neighbor Canton Gourmet, which looks so much like Nan Xiang you could think they were the same place, gets no love. That's a shame, as it has a specialty all its own that should send the hungry and curious racing to its doors.
The menu devotes a full page photo to the Famous Garlic Aromatic Crispy Chicken ($12), a wide platter of hacked-up bird that's worth a trip all its own. Wings, breasts, and legs are heavily salted and fried batterless until the skin shrivels like a dry fried string bean. It turns paper-thin and crackly, breaking into shards as you pick up pieces of meat tailor-chopped for gnawing on the bone.
On top comes a blitz of fried shallots and fresh scallions, and boy, are they as aromatic as promised. The chicken itself is moist and juicy, and it tastes resoundingly of chicken in the best of ways. (It also tastes a lot like salt, so keep that cup of tea at the ready.)
The menu also has a section of fried rice dishes priced surprisingly high, as much as $15 for an admittedly enormous bowl. These are the fried rice luxury models, particularly the Famous Golden Fried Rice ($11.95), which has a curious but surprisingly balanced ingredient list of XO sauce, golden raisins, shaved cured egg yolk, and scrambled egg white. XO sauce, a costly and precious crumbly mixture of dried scallop and shrimp, chili, garlic, and the like, adds nuggets of meaty-fishy funk and a kick of salt. The raisins bring some sweet and the cured egg adds a layer of richness to the barely greasy rice.
The quality shows, but so does the portioning. Order these dishes and you have most of what you need for a meal for three. All that's missing is some greens for balance.