It is hard for me to convince hubby to try a new Chinese place because it seems like we are often disappointed—so many of them seem so similarly mediocre. But we were intrigued by some recommendations I have had for Tiger Lily, so we decided to give it a try. And while many of the menu items are fairly standard American/Chinese fare, they also offer several options highlighting other Asian cuisines such as Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese influenced dishes.
The first thing you notice is that, although from the outside, it looks like your basic strip mall restaurant, on the inside it is more modern and warm (lots of dark color inside making it feel like it could be a place you might not mind having dinner as well). The next thing I noticed was how friendly the staff was, at first to us, and then to everyone who came in. And for a restaurant that has only been open a few weeks, there appears to be a crowd of lunchtime regulars that are greeted like old friends.
Hubby was intrigued by one of the specials listed for the day, a seafood pancake. As we looked over the lunch menus, he asked our server about it and she explained that it was their special batter topped with eggs mixed with various seafood and scallions and served with soy vinaigrette on the side. He quickly ordered it as we decided what to get for our main dishes. The seafood pancake was interesting and quite tasty. I have had crunchy green onion pancakes in Chinese restaurants before, but this one was more almost like a frittata. It had a thin pancake type crust, with the eggs and other ingredients on top. The bites with the shrimp were our favorite, the shrimp being tender and flavorful. I had one bite that was a little too fishy for me, but other than that, this dish really grew on me and I probably ended up liking this one the best of everything we had. It is certainly large enough to share, and it was probably a bit much along with a lunch (which come with a spring roll and salad), but we were just in the mood to try something new.
The salad that is served with each lunch entrée is just a chopped iceberg salad with a fairly spicy ginger dressing very lightly drizzled on top. There was no dressing at all on the bottom of the salad, so I just ate a few bites off the top. I was pleasantly surprised by the spiciness of the dressing and was hopeful that the dishes we had would be well seasoned as well.
For my lunch entrée, I had the Tiger Lily beef, which was designated as one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. I thought the quality of the ingredients in every dish we had was very high. The beef in this dish very tender and had clearly been marinated for quite awhile. I found the “sweet soy sauce” a little too sweet and had to add some regular soy sauce to balance it a bit. I had wished I had ordered one of the day’s other specials which was Bulgogi and was similar meat but described as spicy. I think with the quality of meat and a different sauce, it could have been quite good. The broccoli surrounding the beef was way too underdone to be enjoyable (not being a huge fan of raw broccoli). The lunches come with either fried or steamed rice (I got steamed) and I really enjoyed the rice. It was just the right amount of sticky that I enjoy. The little spring roll that came along with was a little underdone inside and thus, a bit gummy. I did appreciate the fact that they brought you bottles of the housemade sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard for use on the spring rolls. Because I am not a fan of sweet and sour sauce, I liked not having to see a dish of it go to waste.
Hubby had the Szechuan Chicken which was designated as one of the spicy items on the menu. This entrée was disappointing. It was white meat chicken with a lot of onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms that were stir fried in a “Szechuan chili sauce.” Again, the ingredients were high quality, but there was hardly any flavor to it and by no means would I call it anything close to spicy. We added soy sauce just to give it some flavor and that is not a sign of a good dish to me.
There are a lot of things to like about Tiger Lily as far as the atmosphere and the quality and freshness of ingredients being used. Unfortunately, the finished dishes were not one of the things sticking out to me in this regard. This is a place that I will probably try again however, if for no other reason than to see if all these glowing reviews I keep hearing and reading can be substantiated. But next time I will certainly order differently and try more of the “spicy” items.
Tiger Lily Restaurant
1146 West 86th Street