2008-03-12 / Restaurant of the Week

London Lennie's

63-88 Woodhaven Boulevard Rego Park, NY
By Teresa Barile

63-88 Woodhaven Boulevard Rego Park, NY • 718.894.8084

Since 1959, London Lennie's on Woodhaven Blvd. has been a beacon for the finest fish, seafood, steak and more. Run by the Barnes family, London Lennie's promises a singular dining experience which combines exquisite seafood, exemplary service and elegant, yet comfortable ambience.

What started as a few fish and chips shops in London over six decades ago, has evolved into one of New York's premier seafood restaurants, boasting a fabulous raw bar, sushi and all the classic seafood dishes that are part of the London Lennie's history, including fish and chips! The decor harks back to an earlier time with classy wooden banquettes topped by frosted glass, shiny tile walls and soft lighting, all of which lets you know that this is not just an ordinary restaurant. Just at the entrance, a large refrigerated case boasts enormous fish caught that day and lobsters the size of compact cars. London Lennie's employs its own seafood buyer who hits the market in the wee hours for the best fish available. Ease up to the raw bar where hundreds of oysters and clams await you, nestled on a bed of ice. Select among juicy oysters from Massachusetts, Maine, Long Island, Washington state and Canada, and three types of clams. Enjoy their briny fresh taste along with an icy cold beer or signature cocktail, such as a French martini with Chambord, an Orangtini, Lemon drop or frozen margarita. London Lennie's is proud to be the 2007 recipient of Wine Enthusiast's "Award of Distinction" for being one of America's best wine-driven restaurants. Indeed, some 100 vintages available here range in price from $20 to $225 and cover several continents. The expert staff can help you if you have any questions.

Appetizers include jumbo shrimp cocktail, so large that they require a fork and a knife to eat ($12). Tender steamed shrimp and crab dumplings are perfect for sharing with the accompanying mango and avocado, and the big bowl of Maine steamers pleases any seafood lover. Soak up the savory juices with the loaf of warm crusty bread brought to your table by the incredible wait staff. Santiago and Rita treated us like kings as they brought a steaming cup of New England style clam chowder, replete with sweet clams, and a sampling of the freshest sushi I've ever eaten. Executive chef Jeffrey Baruch updated the menu with sushi and sashimi made from the highest quality fish purchased each day. The spicy tuna and avocado maki are so fresh, the tuna just melts on contact with your tongue. "Hand rolls" are cleverly wrapped cones of "nori" or seaweed that are filled with your choice of the best salmon, tuna, eel, yellowtail or lobster that money can buy. These hand rolls are so beautiful, you just might want to photograph them before you devour them. Sushi and sashimi can be ordered as a main course, or shared as a starter as we did. For a memorable gastronomic experience, order the chilled mixed shellfish tower for 2-3 people, or the castle, prepared for 4-6 diners. Either one provides a dazzling array of icy cold shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels and king crab legs with wedges of lemon and spicy seafood sauce for dipping. I guarantee you won't forget this dish.

The list of entrées is so broad and so tempting, several visits are required to fully experience all that London Lennie's has to offer. The classic menu includes fresh scrod and scallops from Massachusetts, organic Irish salmon, swordfish steak and the classic broiled seafood platter with fluke, scrod, shrimp and scallops. The same dish can be ordered fried and all of these classic entrées come with your choice of potato, rice or fresh vegetable of the day. Newer items include eye-dazzling jumbo shrimp stuffed with sweet crabmeat. Arranged in a circle, these tender stuffed shrimp surround a ring of green and yellow squash in a delicate beurre blanc ($24). Pan-seared wild striped bass was a generous fillet of tender, flaky fish with a slightly crispy crust, served with flavorful orzo and spinach sauté. Monk fish, also called the "poor man's lobster," is prepared as one would prepare "osso buco" with a port wine reduction served over buttered noodles and roasted vegetables ($23).

Landlubbers will be thrilled here as well, with choices such as grilled veal porterhouse with creamy mashed potatoes and asparagus, and an 18-ounce grilled rib-eye, cooked to order with crunchy onion rings. Grilled filet mignon is available in an 8-ounce or 12-ounce cut, or you can wrap your hands around the 10-ounce burger for lunch or dinner. London Lennie's offers an economical Prix-fixe dinner menu served Monday through Friday from 4:00 to 5:30pm where starters, entrées and desserts are included for $19, $20 or $22 per person.

Whatever you do, save room for some incredibly delicious, house made desserts. Words cannot express the chocolaty goodness of the chocolate mud cake. Layers of rich chocolate mousse are surrounded by chocolate ganache and more for a decadent treat. Banana cream pie will bring you back to an earlier time and the blueberry hazelnut tart is simply sublime. An after dinner cordial and/or coffee is a must to end this perfect repast.

Then, now, and always, London Lennie's provides a singular seafood dining experience in the heart of Queens. Visit seven days a week for lunch or dinner and enjoy the finest in fish, seafood, steak and more.


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