Articles by

Joe DiStefano

Newsstand
06/10/19 9:50pm

A refreshing bowl of Korean sea squirt at Murray Hill’s newest seafood spot.

Saturday was the one-year anniversary of Anthony Bourdains’ death. As is the case with many Saturdays lately, I had a food tour of downtown Flushing’s Chinatown scheduled. What I like to call America’s Greatest Chinatown remains my most popular culinary adventure. It’s a good thing I love the neighborhood and its food, although leading tours does present such challenges as navigating crowded streets and the occasional guest who arrives an hour late because they thought the tour was in Manhattan’s Chinatown. At the end of most tours I treat myself to a dessert, sometimes even a full meal.

After Saturday’s tour I was in need of something, but I wasn’t quite sure what, maybe dessert, maybe company, maybe an answer to why Bourdain and others are no longer around, so I took a long walk down Northern Boulevard.

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06/05/19 1:21pm

Lobster rolls have come to Jackson Heights, thanks to Farine!

I’m not typically a brunch guy, but I’ve been known to make exceptions. M. Wells for one with Hugue Dufour’s decadent creations like foie gras and oatmeal, and now Farine. I’ve been meaning to try the lobster roll from the brunch menu, but I’m averse to weekend crowds.

On Monday night I stopped by to introduce a friend to Michael Mignano, the man behind the hot new Jackson Heights eatery. I’d forgotten it was the last night of Ramadan and the last night of Farine’s Iftar dinners. Every table was filled with joyous Muslim families all tucking into spicy fried chicken sandwiches and fruit plates.

“We’re going to have it tomorrow as part of an EID brunch,” Mignano told me when I asked about the lobster roll, which I’d been seeing on the gram for weeks.

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05/30/19 1:02pm

Kin Khao’s Pretty Hot Wings.

I have been friends with Pim Techamuanvivit on Facebook for years, so I had a feeling that on a recent trip to visit family in the Bay Area I’d wind up at her one-star Michelin restaurant Kin Khao in San Francisco.

I had a rather sizable lunch at Cambodian spot Nyum Bai in Oakland, when fellow food nerd Yamini Eats, a recent S.F. transplant, told me I needed to have a second solo meal at her favorite Thai spot, Kin Khao.

“You should go,” she said spurring me on when I groused that they closed for lunch at 2 p.m. Soon enough though I was on the BART and even sent Chef Pim a note that I might be stopping in. Truth be told I was feeling the need for a long walk and the restaurant was a little too close to the BART to fit that in.

Nevertheless I bit the Thai birdseye chili and made my way over to the restaurant in the Parc 55 Hotel to find it still hopping at 1:30 p.m. Soon I was seated at a communal table perusing Kin Khao’s menu and eying the chicken wings in front of the couple next to me. “They’re really hot,” the dude said of the trio of meaty flappers that the menu dubbed “Pretty Hot Wings.” Moments after that Chef Pim herself stopped by to say hello. (more…)

05/27/19 8:42pm

Korean blood sausage soup at Tang.

The other day I was quoted in a Wall Street Journal piece on the staggering diversity of Asian fried chicken now available in New York City. Besides Korean, there’s now Filipino, Taiwanese, and Thai, to name just a few. The reporter and I talked about how most everybody loves fried chicken, but how their are other Asian dishes that aren’t as easily accepted by Western palates.

“Korean Fried chicken is an easier sell than Korean blood sausage,” I quipped. You don’t have to try too hard to sell me on soondae though. I like the Korean blood sausage shot through with dangmyeon or glass noodles plain with salt and red pepper as it’s served at many Korean takeout spots in Murray Hill. I also like it in the hearty pork bone soup soon dae gook, which I enjoyed for dinner last night at Tang.

Like fried chicken though, in Queens there’s a blood sausage for almost every culture: Argentine morcilla, Irish black pudding, and Tibetan gyuma are among my favorites. So here’s what I’d like to know what’s your favorite way to enjoy this delicacy?

05/14/19 12:14am

Fare from Tibet, Xinjiang, and Thailand make it the most diverse food court in New York City’s most diverse borough.

Like many of my fellow Queens food nerds I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of HK Food Court in Elmhurst. It’s been in the works for so long, that I didn’t think it was going to happen especially since the owner also operates a less than stellar food court in the basement of Hong Kong Supermarket in downtown Flushing.

Then last Saturday my buddy Ron and I poked our heads in to see almost all the booths set up. “Come back Monday,” a worker told us. So I came back. In fact I’ve been back four times so far. You might expect to find HK food, but the name refers to the fact that the culinary wonderland is built on the former site of Hong Kong Supermarket’s Elmhurst location.

The Chinese name “xiang gang mei chi cheng,” actually translates to “Hong Kong Gourmet Food Court.” Even thought it’s not even fully occupied I haven’t been this excited about a food court since I took Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Shopping Mall. “It’s one thing to have to go to Main and Roosie for something like this, but to have this around the way is amazing,” I overheard someone say to their tablemate. Indeed! Here’s a look at what I’ve eaten so far.

Lamb ‘polo’ by way of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous region and Elmhurst.

Xinjiang House (No. 17) sits between one of the food court’s numerous Thai vendors and the sole Vietnamese outfit. It specializes in fare from China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. The Chinese name “Hui Wei Xinjiang” translates to “Xinjiang Muslim taste,” and the bill of fare features plenty of lamb. I tried a lovely Xinjiang lamb pilaf ($7.99), or polo as as the gent behind the counter called it. The fat grains of rice were shot through with fatty chunks of lamb, raisins, and barberries and just enough carrot for sweetness. Next time, I’m getting the spicy lamb feet ($15.99).

On the day I tried Xinjiang House I took a peek at Khao Ka Moo NYC, a Thai pork specialist to the left. A burnished pork shank redolent of five spice and other aromatics sat luxuriating in a steam table with eggs and greens. I was already full, but plotting my return.

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04/29/19 4:18pm

It’s that time of year again when more than 50 of Queens’ best restaurants, makers of sweet treats, and brewers of fine libations converge upon the New York Hall of Science for the annual Queens Taste. The gala tasting, which takes place Tuesday night, May 7 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., features an international roster of cuisine from all over the borough. Astoria and India will be represented by Kurry Qulture while Flushing and Taiwan will be take part as OK Canaan serves up that country’s treats. Old school confections will be provided by Jamaica’s very own Schmidt’s Candy and pub grub will be served up Neir’s Tavern of Woodhaven, a watering hole that dates back to the 1800s.

I’m honored to be a sponsor of this year’s event and want to give you dear reader the chance to win a pair of tickets. Here’s the deal: write a haiku in the comments about why you love food in Queens. The best one wins. Contest ends Monday, May 6 at noon.

04/22/19 9:51pm

While it’s tempting to think of samosa chaat as an Indian version of loaded nachos, it’s really its own thing as Sonny Solomon the man behind Astoria’s Kurry Qulture, told me over a cup of chai last week.

“It’s a very, very popular street food in North India, but now it’s all over India,” Solomon said. “People love it!” And it’s all over Queens too. At Raja Fast Food, always a stop on my Himalayan Heights food tour Vikh and his crew make a psychedelic supersized version consisting of several of the veggie turnovers showered with all manner of sauces and chutneys. (more…)

04/10/19 10:23pm

Farine’s fried chicken sandwich is top flight.

As food writer I’m often loathe to throw around superlatives even though I’ve been called upon by Grub Street to do so in recent months. All that said, I have no problem calling the spicy buttermilk chicken sandwich at the newish Farine Baking Company in Jackson Heights the best fried chicken between bread in Queens.

At $16 Chef Michael Mignano’s chicken sandwich is isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny. It’s insanely crunchy and juicy and packs a nice kick from a Sriracha honey glaze. It is a gloriously messy sandwich requiring removal of both wristwatch and rings. The secret behind this marvel is twofold: first the chicken thighs luxuriate in a mixture of buttermilk, fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic for two days. Then they’re fried twice first at 325 to seal in the juices and then at 375 to get a nice crust.

If this method sounds a lot like Korean fried chicken, that’s because Mignano borrowed the technique. “I’m not using a Korean chili paste, but I am borrowing the double fry technique and the breading mixture is very similar,” he said. For the record his favorite KFC can be had at the H Mart off Route 100 in Hartsdale.
Farine Baking Company, 74-24 37th Ave., Jackson Heights

04/08/19 9:33am

Mexican-born chef Fernando Gonzales of ERT will be cooking up cochinita pibil.

Without immigrants the United States and Queens, and myself, frankly would not be who we are today. That’s why I’m honored to show my support for the second Dining For Justice fundraiser for immigrant families at the border, which will be held at Sound River Studios in Long Island City. on April 14, 2019 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Chef Jonathan Forgash, co-founder of Queens Dinner Club, has assembled a roster of top-flight chefs, many of whom are immigrants themselves, for this gala tasting whose cuisine is as diverse as Queens itself. (more…)

04/03/19 9:26am

Behold, the mighty Tortas Chivas, CDMX’s answer to the NYC breakfast sandwich.

“They’re all pretty big,” I said to two recent guests on a World’s Fare Eating Along the 7 food tour. We were about an hour into our trek and had already enjoyed delicacies from Joe’s Steam Rice Roll and Soybean Chen and had just arrived at Tortas Neza, which specializes in comically huge Mexican sandwiches. I was doing my best to steer the two ladies toward a carnitas taco, but l knew they really wanted a sandwich.

The gargantuan 7-ingredient Tortas Puma named for the owner’s favorite Mexican soccer team was out of the question. So I scanned the roster of 20 creations, each named for a different team, and settled on the Chivas, which listed only three ingredients: huevo, quesillo, and chorizo.

As Galdino “Tortas” Neza prepared the sausage omelet on the plancha I told the guests it represented just one component of his biggest sandwich. “We can handle this one, it’ll be like a Mexican breakfast sandwich,” I said with a chuckle. (more…)