For any serious foodie, there is no better way to enjoy a splendid Indian summer afternoon than feasting on fresh, succulent seafood while overlooking an expanse of sparkling, sunlit water. This foodie did just that recently at the fabulous Aqua House at Jamaica Bay in Broad Channel.
Newly opened, Aqua House bills itself as a “Hibachi Asian Fusion Restaurant,” but it’s so much more. From the waterfalls and lighthouse that adorn its entryway to the soothing feeling of its spacious interior and the stunning views awaiting you on the outdoor dining deck, Aqua House offers a unique, upscale dining experience without the outrageous prices one would expect with all of these amenities.
And I haven’t even begun to describe the food, which is — in a word — exquisite.
I’ll start with their delicious soups. The Tokyo Noodle Soup is a terrific mixture of chicken, mushroom, celery and carrot over cellophane noodles, and my husband went crazy over the Lemongrass Hot & Sour Soup which was filled with generous portions of shrimp, scallops, and cellophane noodles in a broth that had just the right amount of spice.
Ah, the spice. The food at Aqua House hits all the right notes, but the note it has absolutely mastered is that of spice. It can be just a slight hint of heat — such as the tiny bits of jalapeno added to the crunchy eel avocado roll wrapped in a stunning yellow bean skin that is just perfection — or the distinct wasabi mayo and chili sauce that sends their Sakura Shrimp dish over-the-top. (It’s a favorite of the regulars.) Even the chicken mixture in their pan-fried gyozas has the right touch of pungent wasabi.
Even if you are not a fan of spice, there is plenty here to satisfy. For starters, opt for the deep fried soft shell crab with tempura sauce, which is summer on a plate. The shrimp and crab spring rolls in rice paper are enhanced with just the right amount of cucumber and seaweed. The house kani salad, a coleslaw-like mixture of thinly shredded sweet daikon, carrots, and red peppers is lightly dressed with a refreshing cream sauce, dotted throughout with tiny, crunchy orange fish roe.
Between courses we enjoyed views of the beautiful bay, the planes landing in the distance at JFK, and the Cross Bay Bridge. The owner and creator of this incredible menu, Johnny Chen, stopped by to chat and share his enthusiasm about his new neighborhood. Besides its stunning location, Chen is taken by the “very nice people in the neighborhood,” who have made him feel welcome since his doors opened a couple of months ago. His pride in his creations is evident, and he happily described the ingredients in all of them for us.
Our main courses were as superb as our starters. The Hibachi Filet Mignon – sake marinated slices of beef tenderloin that were briefly steamed, wrapped around shitake mushrooms and bell peppers and covered with just the right amount of sake-based sauce with sesame seeds — is served with perfectly steamed broccoli and is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
My husband and I agreed that our favorite was the incomparable Hibachi Sea Bass: a tower of thick, luscious slices of lightly broiled fish cloaked in a bean-based mayo and honey sauce that sat atop lightly steamed slices of zucchini and bell peppers. Steamed snow peas, cauliflower and sautéed shitakes completed this masterpiece.
I must warn you: When you visit Aqua House, pace yourself. The food was so good I had no room left for dessert, which was a shame because the Banana Tempura had my name all over it. (Perhaps I should start with that next time.)
Although the outside deck will close during the winter, rest assured there is a great view of the bay from every table in the nautical-themed interior. Sit alongside the hibachis and watch the skilled — and playful — chefs at work, or chose a private table instead. There are several situated above glass-covered holes in the floor that allow you a view of the sand and water below as the tide rolls in. Catch a glimpse of a crab scurrying across the sand, or watch the schools of tiny fish as they swim in and out of view.
Just off of the dining room, the full-service bar is extensive and inviting, with two flat screen TV’s and ample table seating. Choose from the wide-ranging sake and wine menu, or enjoy specialty cocktails such as the Lychee Gingertini (ginger vodka, lychee ginger puree and juice), or the Geisha (Malibu rum, Stoli, vanilla, pineapple juice and grenadine).
Stop in summer or winter: Aqua House will treat you to the best of the sea all year long.
Aqua House Hibachi Asian Fusion Restaurant is located at 22-27 Van Brundt Road in Broad Channel. Telephone (718) 318-2888. On the web at aquahousehibachi.com.