Authentic Chinese restaurant Ivory Kitchen opens in Port Washington

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The first thing to appreciate about Port Washington’s newest Asian restaurant, Ivory Kitchen, is that it doesn’t serve sushi. The center of town is overserved with sushi — there are six purveyors within two blocks of the Long Island Rail Road station — and Ivory Kitchen’s immediate predecessor was, wait for it, the short-lived Samku Sushi.

The second thing to appreciate about Ivory Kitchen is that it offers a singular and refined take on Chinese food.

Chef Jeff Li, who owns the tiny restaurant with his wife, Cissie Xi, is a veteran of authentic Chinese restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Chinatown. A native of Yunnan province who immigrated to the United States when he was 15, he aims to marry real Chinese cooking with an understanding of his non-Chinese customers’ tastes. Crowd-pleasers such as soup dumplings, scallion pancakes, beef chow fun and fried rice share the succinct menu with less-familiar preparations like smoked duck breast and mapo tofu. The menu also features braised whole fish in hot bean sauce, stir-fried lamb and a dish that has become a new favorite of mine: sauteed lotus root with black beans and green chili.

From Yunnan province, Li has brought Yunnan beef noodle in soup and Yunnan rice cake, a name that undersells the savory stir-fry of rice-cake coins, pea shoots, spinach, Yunnan pickled cabbage, cubed ham, shredded pork and red chilies.

There are also a handful of Japanese dishes such as eel rice bowl and mentaiko pasta (spaghetti in a creamy sauce of spicy pollock roe).

Li shops every morning in Flushing and he will often make a special if he is inspired by a seasonal vegetable. One lunch’s special was a stir-fry of celtuce, a variety of lettuce that is cultivated for its long steam as well as its tender leaves.

The house special hot chicken rice bowl at Ivory Kitchen...

The house special hot chicken rice bowl at Ivory Kitchen in Port Washington. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Prices are gentle, with most main dishes well under $20. At lunch, you can enjoy one of six rice bowls with either a soda or two spring rolls.

The restaurant, decorated in soothing shades of ivory and beige, seats about 20 people.

Ivory Kitchen is at 87 Main St., Port Washington; 631-604-7800, ivorykitchen.uorder.io

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