Chef Bruce has been gone about four years now. I still have a jar of cayenne he gave me two years before he died. It’s as potent as the memory of the first time I dug into a gigantic bowl of graveyard shift curry laksa at Curry Leaves with him. The chef turned taxi driver introduced me to what I like to joke is downtown Flushing’s longest running popup, since an entirely different crew runs the late night noodle operation. We’d often text each other in the wee hours with the simple query: “Curry Leaves?”
He introduced me to many places in Queens including the soul food specialist Rockaway Fish House/RCL Enterprises in Jamaica. Despite the name and the excellent reputation for fried fish, we ordered from the well-stocked steam table. I don’t remember what he had, but I do recall my plate: pig ears in gravy with collards and macaroni and cheese.
Today I returned with another chef friend, Jonathan Forgash. This time around I got the fried fish, in the form of what RCL modestly calls a sandwich. It’s actually a small platter of gorgeously fried whiting fillets served open face atop two slices of squishy bread that straddle the line between white and whole wheat. After sluicing it with hot sauce and tartar sauce, I picked up the whole lot up with both hands and took a mighty chomp of one the best fried fish sandwiches I’ve ever had in Queens.
“Tartar sauce should be one of the mother sauces,” Chef Jonathan remarked between happy bites. “Aren’t you going to finish yours?,” I asked when we were both about three-quarters of the way through. “You know it’s never the same reheated,” I said as I polished mine off.
In case you’re wondering we both also ordered off the steam table. I got some excellent jerk spare ribs with mac and collards and Chef Jonathan had short ribs. Chef Bruce would have been proud.
Rockaway Fish House/RCL Enterprises, 141-22 Rockaway Blvd., Jamaica, 718-529-3576