Happy Chinese New Year! If you are in Boston, there might not be a better way to celebrate than Empire Restaurant and Lounge.
Set on the increasingly concrete-congested Fan Pier, Empire is big, bold, and beautiful. Music pumps, lighting is low, and its black filigree fittings and Buddha statues say lady of the night meets hippie chic.
Empire’s pan-Asian culinary blueprint originates at sister Asian-themed restaurants Shrine, at MGM Grand at Foxwoods, and Red Lantern on the Back Bay/South End border. Here, it’s crafted by stoic chefs in full view in the central open-plan kitchen. Each dish is stylishly presented and accessorized to the max, including gorgeous desserts. Sushi is a real treat. Most of it voluptuous, but as much as Osetra caviar finishes a smoked salmon roll, more humbly, avocado ripe with flavorful oils is bound by nori to sticky rice.
There are Korean and Thai dishes, too, but a preponderance riffs on Chinese. Preternaturally white, steamed buns packed with braised shitake have pickled cucumbers that add piquancy to the mushrooms’ density. A scallion pancake with lobster meat has a crisp radicchio salad topped with a creamy coconut and lime dressing. Alaskan black cod with a sake soy glaze is a monochromatic marvel with a charcoal colored exterior wrapping tender white flesh. It sits on wilted bok choy in a delicate white miso sauce flecked with edamame. A fine dice of red pepper adds a flash of color and subtly zaps the dense flavors with bright fruitiness. It’s a genius touch on a menu that errs on the clever side of ostentation: Plenty, but not too much.
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Celebrations for the Chinese New Year and the Year of the (Female Water) Snake begin with February’s New Moon (Feb. 10). Foodies snub non-authentic ethnic food, but what’s authentic? Reputedly, Singapore street noodles were developed by Asian Indians in Hong Kong to attract Singapore workers. Empire’s is a satisfying winter warmer with shrimp, veggies, and char sui pork adding a barbecue flavor twist. Hot peppers give its peppery Madras curry spice a stratospheric boot in the rear.
Empire Asian Restaurant & Lounge
One Marina Park Drive, Boston