A Fan Ti is a bit hard to figure out. I referenced a Robert Sietsema review from 2005 before going, but this mislead me a bit into thinking this was pure northern Chinese cuisine. When we saw the awning and sat down inside, it appeared we were actually in a Korean restaurant, as the posters and signage were almost exclusively in Korean. Actually, neither is incorrect, as I figured out after speaking with the owners.
They are from Changbai, a region in northeast China that is an autonomous Korean county that borders North Korea and has many immigrants. Obviously there would be a lot of both cultures involved in the food.
A mini-BBQ sat in the center of the room, but the menu is loaded with seemingly northern Chinese lamb dishes. The staff speaks both Mandarin and Korean to its different customers. Regardless of where and why, our group was pleasantly surprised with the results and especially pleased with a few unique dishes we tried.
At first we were given a small, four-dish assortment of banchan, the traditional Korean dishes that are brought out at the beginning of the meal. It did not take long before the first delicious dish arrived as well, the black mushroom salad house style ($12.99, below). We started dipping the mushrooms into the bowl of liquid, but were soon told to use the small bowls to create our own concoctions. The soup was cold and involved strong tastes of sesame oil and pepper, was very tangy, and with the mushrooms and cucumbers created a very refreshing dish, even if the temperatures outside were below freezing.
We couldn't resist the skewers being BBQ'd in the center of the restaurant, tasty and spicy lamb kebabs ($0.99 each, below). They are not quite as good as the Xinjiang cart you can find on the corner of Main Street and 41st Avenue, but one each was another perfect appetizer.
The braised lamb chop ($17.99, above) was our most expensive, and probably most delicious selection. Once we had each apportioned enough pieces of lamb to satisfy, I wanted to dunk everything else on the table in the rich brown broth. The lamb pieces were tender enough to fall of their bones by gravity, and the stew was definitely appropriate for cold climates.
It was impossible not to want the steamed lamb dumplings ($12.99, below) despite the fact that we knew the other dishes would already be sufficient. We asked for a smaller portion (the only size is 20), but unfortunately that was not happening.
To our amazement and wide eyes, another dish (below) was brought to us free of charge and included the same black mushrooms with an assortment of other vegetables. It was not fully consumed, but very much appreciated to counter our lamb-heavy table assortment.
It is not hard to find excellent food in Flushing, but A Fan Ti will definitely take a special place in my mind and of course involve many return trips.