It was a chilly the night we arrived at T.S. Ma, and we were comforted when a waiter quickly brought us a pot of green tea – a good sign for the meal to come.
We were intrigued by the background story of this Chinese restaurant. The founder, Thomas Ma, is a classically trained French chef whose career changed after he read a food critic’s claim that Chinese food is “unhealthy.” Me returned to his roots and opened his first location in Upper Montclair, vowing to prove that classic Chinese cuisine is based on healthy, unprocessed ingredients.
T.S. Ma’s menu items are focused on fresh vegetables and the best cuts of meat, and most sauves are made in-house from scratch. The restaurant has received much acclaim for its vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Based on his success in Essex County, Ma recently opened his second location in Wyckoff.
Among the many traditional appetizers, we gravitated directly to Steamed Pork Mini Dumplings. Six of these delicate beauties arrived piping hot in a steamer basket. Advice for the uninitiated: Use small tongs to grasp the doughy knot on top of the dumpling, gingerly wiffle it a bit, and carefully place it into a spoon. Bite off the knot to release the steam, and slurp up the luscious broth. Sprinkle the dumplings with some gingery sauce, if desired, and pop it into your mouth. Smile, then repeat.
A stellar house entree is Crispy Shrimp with Honey Walnuts, which arrived at the table looking like the best-dressed guest. The Jumbo Shrimp were lightly fried, then tossed and drizzled with a honey-citrus mayonnaise and circled with florets of steamed broccoli. The combination of shrimp and mayonnaise seemed unlikely, but I found it irresistible.
We are big fans of Chinese Orange Chicken, and were intrigued by T.S. Ma’s alternative Tangerine Chicken. It was apparent with the first bite that this version was a delectable combination of heat and sweet. The chicken was slightly friend until golden, gorgeously glossed with the citrus flavor of tangerines (sweeter relatives of Chinese mandarin oranges), and scattered with red hot peppers for a bit of zip. I was delighted that the glaze was applied with a light hand, keeping the chicken morsels crisp. On the other hand, I would have liked some more sauve in the Beef Mai Fun. Tender pieces of beef were tossed with fine rice noodles and slivers of fresh carrot; it was a generous portion, but it needed more zing. We mixed in a spoonful of the excellent house-made hot mustard. It added a great flavor note, and tasted even better the next day for my “leftover lunch.”
The restaurant’s decor is minimalist modern, with red hanging lights that evoke a modern take on Chinese lanterns. The dining room is large, but can get crowded, especially on weekend nights when it’s a good idea to have reservations.
Originally published in 201 Magazine February 2018 | Written By Joyce Venezia Suss | Photographed By Kevin R. Wexler