Set inside a small, charming brick building, Meridian Kitchen serves Asian and Italian fusion cuisine under the guidance of its chef, Gary Lanza. Lanza was introduced to the kitchen at a young age, when he stood on milk crates to fry calamari at his family's Italian restaurant in Greenvale.
His talents create an eclectic spread of dishes that include elaborate sushi rolls, pastas, and pizzas. Small sushi-bar plates, such as a spicy blackened-tuna taco, can preface peppercorn-encrusted skirt steaks or burgers laden with double-crème brie and sautéed onions.
Inside the 40-seat dining room, conversations bubble beneath circular chandeliers inlaid with faux candles that cast romantic soft light upon tables and food. Tall palms sprout at either end of the sushi bar, where patrons perch on high stools while watching the chefs perform their magic, pulling fish out of hats. For those who can't stay, Meridian to Go next door serves up entrees, paninis, and salads to be eaten elsewhere.
The culinary artists at Xaga Sushi furl comestibles from a menu that gives diners glimpses of sashimi sea legs and flirtatious fusion winks. During roll call, guests give shout outs to a Pink Lady roll ($12) and her mix of spicy crab, eel, avocado, and tobiko, all wrapped in a pink soy paper. Caribbean rolls ($12) sparkle with a regal blend of eel, spicy crunch tuna, avocado, and a four-tiered crown of caviar ($12). Those who prefer their aquatic life cooked may scale Xaga's Snow Mountain rolls of tempura shrimp ($11), and others toss black pepper steak cubes ($15) across tables like a game of meat dice in the alley.
Ai's menus are replete with classic and creative plates. A selection of traditional rolls, such as tuna or salmon ($4 each), will fill the usual sushi strongholds, but for hardened appetite bunkers, call in the game-changing bombs of special rolls such as the rainbow (a California roll topped with assorted sashimi and rainbow caviar, $9.95). There are also hearty chef's specials, including mango passion shrimp (sautéed shrimp and mangos in a special Thai pepper sauce, $13.95), and dinner entrees, including teriyaki beef negimaki (thin-sliced beef and scallions in teriyaki or Asian garlic sauce, $12.95).
Recalling the fast-paced urban atmosphere of Tokyo with clubby fluorescent lighting and a flock of black lacquered lanterns, the fish finaglers at Tanko craft a globe-spanning menu of excitingly presented Asiana. After forging a DIY centerpiece from appetizers such as chicken satay and pork- or veggie-packed gyoza, diners choose between hot Asian fusion entrees or a custom pairing of regular and specialty sushi rolls.
The NY Soup Exchange brews a daily selection of soups from a constantly revolving selection of more than 100 soup recipes, along with salads, wraps, burgers, and smoothie offerings. Perch under the mural of mammoth fruits and vegetables visiting the stock exchange and enjoy a pint of hearty soup such as the Chesapeake crab bisque ($7) or the Moroccan zucchini and couscous ($5.52) paired with one of the Soup Exchange’s smoothies, available in more than 18 flavors. Try a Phat Tuesday (strawberries, mango, and pineapple juice; $5) or compliment the dawn with a Rise and Shine ($6.50) blended with caffeinated coffee, skim milk, and vanilla protein powder. Each serving of soup comes with freshly baked bread and a piece of fruit.
Chef Aron Li is picky about the fish that goes into his sushi, favoring the cuts of Scottish salmon and fresh tuna from local japanese markets. The skilled sushi chef folds lobster, Alaskan king crab, and caviar into a sweeping variety of both traditional and inventive rolls and tops them off with imaginative ingredients such as fresh mango and wasabi mayo. As Aron slices, chef Yu San captains the grills, where he sizzles up tender morsels of steak, chicken, and red snapper for the teriyaki and hibachi-style dinners lauded by reporters from Newsday. To craft his specialty black cod, the expert chef grills fresh cod and mixed vegetables in a savory miso sauce. Come lunchtime, he turns his attention to lighter dishes, adorning crispy mushroom salads in healthy dressing and tying hibachi steaks to helium balloons.
Guests perch at tabletops and in traditional Japanese booths in the sleek dining room and sip premium sake and fruity cocktails. Soft lights dangle from the ceiling, bathing the stone-tiled walls in a warm glow.