Restaurant Review: Matsulin

My husband and I decided to celebrate the Chinese New Year a little early with a dinner at Matsulin in Hampton Bays. Our friend Maria Scotto raves about their sushi. That’s not really our thing, but we’ve long meant to check out Matsulin’s other offerings, which they promote as “delectable, authentic Asian cuisine from Malaysia, China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.” We arrived to dine on Matsulin’s 8th anniversary of opening on the corner of Montauk Highway and Springville Road.

Wow! Did we go to the right place. CROSS THE CANAL IF NECESSARY – There IS top notch Asian food on the East End! The brother and sister team who own this elegant eatery are Chinese but their grandparents relocated the family to Malaysia. Our host Kay Lim went to college in Australia and worked in Chinese restaurants there so he could eat well.

Following age-old tradition Matsulin is offering a special Chinese New Year Menu Tuesday, January 24 through February 6. On January 29, the 7th day of Chinese New Year, they host a special brunch buffet – this is the traditional birthday celebration for all Chinese people. What a party!

We thought we’d stick to the Chinese offerings but we strayed…deliciously.

Kay suggested heated sake to start, which our server Ivan delivered in tiny earthenware cups and a matching carafe.

We started with the Qi Cai Yu Sheng, this tossed salad featuring raw fish symbolizes a prosperous year and it is only available for Chinese New Year. Fine strips of fresh beet, cabbage, scallion, carrot and taro with seafood and crispy noodles all sprinkled with five spice powder and pepper from red and gold paper packets and topped with chopped peanuts makes a gorgeous dish. Husband and I exclaimed in unison over our first bite, “Mmm, Mmm, Wow! That’s amazing.”

We tore through many other delights, to wit: tender and sweetly flavorful Chicken Satay (so good you’ll lick the stick); Spicy Spinach Japanese style on a bed of beet strips, great texture, just the right hit of chili; such light Fried Calamari, a bit chewy in a good way; a Chinese dumpling of shrimp and watercress, light but flavorful (I switched from chopsticks to fork to get into some serious shoveling at this point.); a Tuna Sushi of white tuna and brightly colored tuna wrapped around fresh, tender asparagus – so crisp yet so deeply savory (This must be what our friend Maria was raving about.); Sushi of shrimp tempura inside, snow crab on top – a savory perfection of both flavor and texture (Kay suggested a cool bottle of sake to accompany the sushi, served in bamboo cups with thin spikes of cucumber – so refreshing – as Kay says, “It’s smooth. It gets you after.”)

We continued with Vegetarian Spare Ribs, flavored with five spice powder, created from house-made tofu in chopped vegetables and pine nuts over brown rice – the light smokiness seduced me but I managed to hold back – and enjoyed much of the dish for lunch the next day – I didn’t bother to heat it, it was SO GOOD.; the Japanese sea bass with green beans was lusciously tender, complemented by baby bok choy and pink peppercorns; the Chinese Garlic Chicken was bright red, tender, moist and salty – crispy skin and al dente bok choy keep it interesting texturally; Malaysian Curry Chicken served with a neat stack of fries – I adored it, Husband wished it to be spicier.

For once neither of us had any room for dessert. We crossed the street and went to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. We did not buy popcorn or candy.

You can view Matsulin’s extensive menu online at www.matsulin.com.

Matsulin, 131 West Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays. 631-728-8838. 

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