Newsstand
08/21/14 10:42am
CHARCUTERIE

A selection of Czechoslovakian and German charcuterie at Chef Dave’s.

Spicy Italian dry sausage with a slight fermented funk, mortadella, liverwurst, blood sausage. These are some of my favorite forms of charcuterie. Recently I added a few more to the list. I don’t know their names, but I do know they’re from the Czech Republic. My pal chef Dave smuggled them back after a European vacation. My favorite was a skinny pork sausage flavored with paprika and a spice we couldn’t quite put our finger on. Then, it hit me. Caraway! Germany was also represented in the form of schwartenmagen, a rustic tinned liverwurst of sorts. So here’s what I’d like to know. What’s your favorite form of charcuterie? Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.

08/19/14 9:04am
Harmony1

It’s the Icy Hot of Korean instant noodles.

I’m a big fan of naeng myun, the Korean cold noodles that I like to call edible air conditioning. Thus far the summer hasn’t been hot enough to truly enjoy a bowl of the cool, slippery arrowroot noodles. That’s why I’m glad I discovered Harmony, a new chipotle flavored noodle from Nongshim that can be eaten either hot or cold.

Nongshim’s graphic for Harmony makes the point with a blue and red bowl leaping with flames. They’re not far off in describing the heat. The first package I made I ate cold, shocking the noodles under running water, then stirring in the chipotle paste, and lastly putting it in the freezer for five minutes. The noodles were springy and spicy enough to make my nose run. (more…)

08/18/14 12:35pm
PAETSOUP

How now kanom chin nam-ngiao?

Whenever I lead tours of Queens’ second Chinatown Elmhurst, I point out the hood’s huge Southeast Asian—Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese—presence. Lately, it’s been undergoing a Thai renaissance with newer spots like Pata Paplean, Eim Khao Man Gai, and Khao Kang joining the old guard of Ayada, Chao Thai, and Ploy Thai. Scarcely a month old Paet Rio is the newest kid on the Little Bangkok block.

Chef owner Nicky Phimpoy ran Wondee Siam in Hell’s Kitchen for some 20 years before coming to the borough that boasts the most authentic Thai food in NewYork City. Paet Rio is named for her home province, located in eastern Thailand. There’s plenty of curries, yums, and larbs on the menu. What made me sit up and take notice was the roster of 14 specialty noodle dishes, particularly something called kanom chin nam-ngiao  ($10.98). (more…)

08/13/14 11:44am
labne

Wafa’s labne and zaytoon, my idea of health food.

“Why don’t you weigh 300 pounds?” It’s a question get asked all too often. “I mean with all the good stuff you eat,” the non-food-writer person continues in amazement after seeing me take down an entire order of 15 lamb dumplings and then bewail the fact that I have a dinner meeting in two hours at some temple of meat or another. The number is always 300 pounds—roughly twice my current body weight—never 275, 350, or 412. Depending on who’s asking I’ll either make a crack about ingesting tapeworms purchased on Roosevelt Avenue, roll my eyes, or both. (more…)

08/12/14 10:50am
BETONYLAMB2

Betony’s roasted lamb with eggplant is worth the splurge.

I was recently asked by Bon Appetit what restaurant I’d save up to splurge on. At the time I didn’t really have an answer. Then a week later I had the good pleasure of being treated to dinner at Betony. Even though I often eat at restaurants of decidedly less lofty stature, I appreciate a three-star New York Times eatery as much as the next guy. Betony is now my pick for that splurge restaurant.

Everything we had, including the fried pickles ($12), no mere bread and butter chips, but rather wax beans in airy tempura, and foie gras bonbons ($19) was top notch. Served with a couple of lines of coarsely ground black pepper the decadent bonbons rolled in cashew are an haute riff on butter crunch toffee. It was my main course, though that really blew me away. As a card carrying carnivore I was torn between the grilled short rib ($40) and the roasted lamb ($44). I went for the lamb. Paired with eggplant it’s the kind of dish that might be called lamb two ways elsewhere. Nomenclature aside, it was simply amazing. So amazing that I had to find out exactly why. (more…)

08/11/14 11:38am
BASI

Ba si from a hawker stand, a Flushing Chinatown first.

“Everybody thinks it’s fried chicken,” the girl behind the counter said with a laugh, when I pointed at the rows of clamshell containers filled with golden brown morsels and said ba si. Coated with a sticky glaze and studded with sesame seeds one could see why it might get mistaken for a hyper-regional take on General Tso’s.

Ba si—fried apple, taro, or sweet potato glazed in syrup—is something I’d never seen at a hawker stand. At Flushing’s many Dongbei restaraunts it comes to the table still hot with a bowl of cool water. Dip a chunk into the water and the glaze hardens, forming strings of spun sugar. Think of it as Manchurian molecular gastronomy. (more…)

08/07/14 10:55am
NOODLETOWN

Great N.Y. Noodletown’s shrimp dumpling soup is a classic.

The other night I attended a panel discussion “Historic Preservation, Meet Restaurant Preservation,” where food writer and longstanding Greenwich Village resident Mimi Sheraton and Robert Sietsema, senior restaurant critic at Eater, discussed restaurant preservation in New York City. Rapacious landlords and the idea of forming a body to help restaurants as well creating a list of places that should be preserved, and just who determines who to include on said list were all discussed. When it was over the question of where to eat weighed mightily on my mind. Katz’s came up in the discussion several times, and I briefly considered it, but I ruled it out as too heavy.

Then I started to think along the lines of restaurants and Manhattan neighborhoods that I feel should be preserved. And I headed down to Chinatown. Fish Corner Market’s long gone. Mei Lei Wah ain’t as pretty or tasty as she used to be. Yet Wo Hop, whose sweet and sour pork my dear old Mom reproduced at home, and Great N.Y. Noodletown still abide. I opted for the latter. It’s survived a couple of name changes. The menu and the room remain the same. And they’ve still got one of my favorite dishes, shrimp dumpling soup. It’s a generous bowl of thin-skinned beauties packed with shrimp and mushrooms. I like to liven things up with a few spoons of the citrusy house hot sauce.

Time and tradition seem to have done a good job of preserving stalwarts like Katz’s and my Chinatown haunts, but who knows if scrappier underdog eateries will survive.  So here’s what I’d like to know what New York City restaurants, dishes, or neighborhood’s are on your preservation list?  Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter.

08/05/14 10:44am
KHAOKANG1

Khao Kang has the best Thai steam table grub around.

Thais and non-Thais, foodies, chefs, and local shop owners alike have been encouraging me to try Khao Kang for months. The steam table joint opened this winter on a stretch of Woodside Avenue I like to call Little Bangkok. It took me half a year to finally try it, but I am ever so glad I did.

At first glance it looks like a Chinese rice-and-three spot, but it’s actually far superior. It recalls the good old days of Sripraphai, before the restaurant skyrocketed to popularity, taking up two storefronts. Selections change daily according to the chef’s whim, but they are always fragrant, delicious, and often quite hot. There are a few regulars like a wonderful stewed pork belly and something I like to call the Thai surf and turf, which is available only on weekends. (more…)

08/04/14 10:12am
Decoy1

Decoy’s duck comes with shots of duck consommé.

“What happened to the duck?” my mother would say when the platter with meat and skin—mostly skin—and the accompanying pancakes was brought out. “It must have flown by.”

Moments before the entire carcass had been wheeled through the dining room on a trolley with great ceremony. This included striking a gong. Sometimes I like to think that the gong was my father’s idea, but I know it was the restaurant’s way of saying that the dish, even with its apparent bait and switch, was something special to be served with fanfare.

At the suburban Chinese restaurant in Levittown we frequented during my boyhood the delicacy had to be ordered several days in advance. As an adult I’ve had few stellar experiences with Peking duck.  Much as I love the $1 “Peking duck” bun window in Flushing, the fowl secret is that, tasty as it is, it’s not really Peking duck. I am happy to report though that the Peking duck dinner I had recently at Decoy, the newish offshoot of Eddie Schoenfeld and Joe Ng’s wildly popular Redfarm, was spectacular. (more…)

07/30/14 11:12am
VASTEDDA

A vastedda sans ricotta at Ferdinando’s Focacceria.

I’ve been hearing about the 110-year-old Ferdinando’s Focacceria for at least 20 years. Last week I finally made it to the Carroll Gardens temple of Sicilian soul food. There I met Francesco Buffa who convinced me to order a vastedda the old-fashioned way, that is to say without the dollop of ricotta, which he insisted is not how way the calf spleen sandwich is served back home. “You really get the flavor of the meat,” he said. (more…)