Kai Burgers & Dumplings in Great Neck scores points with an eclectic menu

I was skeptical, I admit. Late last year someone started raving about a place that served great burgers and dumplings. It was called Kai Burgers & Dumplings. Well, I thought, dots for clarity.

Here’s the thing, though. The dumplings I recently tried at Kai were some of the best I’ve had on Long Island. I went with the “hometown classics”, filled with pork, shrimp and chives and seared. What the menu didn’t tell me was that the dumplings came with what is known (in dumpling-obsessed circles) as a skirt: as the dumplings cook on the griddle, the cook pours a thin batter around them that fries into a crispy lace “skirt” that keeps the dumplings in formation.

And I’m here to tell you that the mashed burger, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, sautéed onions and pink mayo was also a winner.

Dumplings and burgers are just the tip of this iceberg of incongruity. The restaurant takes over for Mi Casa Es Tu Casa, a Colombian restaurant that has moved around the corner to the larger, more upscale quarters of what used to be Element Seafood. Mi Casa’s rustic tile flooring remains, but Kai has outfitted the space like a neighborhood pub, with plaques and mirrors advertising brands such as Heineken, Finlandia vodka and Drambuie liqueur. There are a few wooden booths and along the far wall is a full bar.

The restaurant launched with a menu of burgers, skillet dumplings, “keto” salads and three prime steaks: rib eye, skirt and tenderloin – the only items priced over $20. A special menu, however, added soup dumplings, onion rings, seaweed salad, chicken noodle soup, spaghetti, teriyaki chicken, and fried rice.

And now, my friend tells me, there’s an amazing new cheesesteak.

Kai Burgers & Dumplings, 7 S. Middleneck Rd., Great Neck; 516-304-5398

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