Since Yelp exists, there’s really no point in making an exhaustive list of coffee and tea shops. However, there’s still room for a curated list, so I’m going to present my favorite Flushing spots for coffee, food, working, and hanging out. Unlike some other parts of Queens, the eastern end is still limited in terms of Third Wave coffee shops, but this is changing gradually.
Although Flushing’s eastern border is officially Parsons Boulevard, for the purposes of this article I will use the moniker as it often is, as a shorthand for Greater Flushing, encompassing Murray Hill, Auburndale, and Bayside, and will append Douglaston/Little Neck, the New York City neighborhood that abuts Long Island.
However, I’m primarily interested in the somewhat insular, heavily Korean neighborhood that runs along Northern Boulevard from Main Street to the border of Long Island (and beyond), because this is where most of the cafes are situated. The only exception is a recent Chinese-owned entrant, Presso Coffee, located in the attractive new One Fulton Square development in downtown Flushing. (more…)
A potage of poultry and potatoes sits atop a bed of hand-pulled noodles.
Dà pán jī—or “big tray of chicken” is a Henanese dish I’ve been meaning to try for some time. I’d forgotten all about dà pán jī until I started seeing it at the New World Mall Food Court, notably at the purple curvilinear stand Stew where it goes by the rather ungainly yet specific English name “chicken potato noodle.” For an additional four bucks one can procure beef, lamb, or fish potato noodle. As I snapped a photo of the Chinese language sign for the dish, which shows Stew’s chef giving a thumbs up and some characters that likely translate to “Best big tray of chicken in the free world,” my friend from the neighboring Stall No. 28 waved me over. (more…)
Malaysian mooncake with pandan filling and a salted egg center.
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of taking tea at Yumcha Yoga in Flushing. It’s a monthly ritual (yumcha means to drink tea in Cantonese) over at the newish yoga school established by the creators of Dim Sum Warriors. This month’s theme? Mooncakes, the dense, sweet Chinese treats eaten to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival. Theresa Wong of Fang Gourmet Tea paired the cakes with a lovely aged pu-er tea. Afterwards she told me that she’s not really a big fan of mooncakes. So with the moon hanging heavy in the sky and the festival falling this Thursday here’s what I’d like to know. Do you dig mooncakes? Or do you liken them to hockeypucks? And if you do like them what’s your favorite? Mixed nut, Malaysian pandan flavored, the platter sized discus that is Fujianese mooncake,or some other variety? For the record my favorites are the Malaysian ones.
For many years, my go-to spot for South Indian cuisine was Dosa Hutt the restaurant next to the Ganesh Temple in Flushing. After a walk through the park I’d reward myself with a crisp, buttery dosa ,a crepe of sorts made from fermented rice and lentils. Lately I’ve been hitting the Temple Canteen more than the Hutt, as it dovetails nicely with my food tours. The other day though I popped into Dosa Hutt and I’m glad I did. For I discovered the awesome snack that is fried iddly ($4.50). (more…)
I have been hitting the cold noodles at Cheng Du Tian Fu pretty hard lately. So last weekend when I stopped by for an early dinner after leading a Flushing food tour—yes, I often eat a meal after conducting a Chinatown food crawl—I wanted something different. As I scanned the pictorial menu the proprietress suggested chuān beǐ liáng fěn, a slippery bowl of blocky mung bean noodles. I shook my head and then my eye fell on something I’ve been meaning to try for some time, the house special salad ($3.50).
The cool tangle of seaweed, julienned carrots, and chewy noodles showered in cilantro is quite special indeed. Dressed with roasted chili oil, black vinegar, and a healthy dose of garlic it offers a wealth of textures and flavors. Sweet, salty, and possessed of a spice level that will leave your palate humming it’s the Japanese seaweed salad’s sexier Sichuan cousin. Oddly enough the Chinese name liáng bàn sān sù—or “cold salad three vegetables” —doesn’t quite translate to “house special salad.” Go figure.
Cheng Du Tian Fu, No. 31, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St., Flushing
As I’ve written before Northern Boulevard is New York City’s real Koreatown, vast and overwhelming with tons of restaurants. I can barely keep track of them, which is why I’m glad my pal Peter Cucè hipped me to Geo Si Gi, and agreed to do this guest post. I’ve been meaning to try it for years. Until I dined there with him and some friends I never realized the image on the sign was a caveman; I always thought it was a fish. Peter Cucè is a food-obsessed coffee lover who intermittently chronicles New York City cafe culture via a variety of internet outlets. He has eaten his way through nearly every cuisine available locally and beyond and is now systematically working his way through regional Chinese and Korean food in Flushing and Sunset Park and cataloging his efforts via Instagram. You can also catch Peter on Twitter @petekachu. Take it away Peter . . .
Geo Si Gi’s sign features a cartoon caveman chasing a wild boar.
Geo Si Gi is one of around 10 restaurants along a strip of Northern Boulevard in a neighborhood sometimes called Murray Hill but also referred to as East Flushing or just plain old Flushing. Collectively these restaurants are the northern beachhead of Murray Hill’s Mokja Golmak or Eater’s Alley, Korean vernacular for an area that has a lot of restaurants with different specialties.
The specialty of the house is pork bone casserole.
I’ve been gradually working my way through these establishments and finally convened a party to visit Geo Si Gi, whose specialty is gamjatang, a pork bone casserole offered in five variations including dried cabbage, kimchi, curry, and seafood. Unless you go at lunchtime, gamjatang requires a group, because as is often the case at Korean restaurants, the casserole dishes are huge and built for sharing, starting at $29.95 for the most basic version for two people and topping out at $57.95 for the seafood gamjatang for four. (more…)
“Oh, it’s so good that I friggin dream about it,” my pal enthused to me about the Muslim lamb chop ($21.95) at Fu Run. “Yeah right, I thought to myself,” filing his rave about this Dongbei joint’s lamb dish away in the back of my mind. And then one day I finally broke down and tried it. It is spectacular in many, many ways. For one thing it is not a lamb chop but rather a whole rack, butchered in what I guess would be called country style.
Imagine a mad chef-scientist turning his attention to American Chinese pork spare ribs. Naturally he’d replace lamb with pork since it’s so much tastier. Then he’d braise it, roll it in spices, and deep fry it. The crunchy spice-studded exterior encases red-tinged meat and bits of snow-white fat, all packed with wonderful lamb flavor. An order of tiger vegetables ($5.95), a cool tangle of cilantro and hot peppers shot through with teeny salty shrimp, is a welcome foil to all that rich meat.
An old school slice in the midst of New York City’s most dynamic Chinatown.
Unlike Manhattan Chinatown, which borders Little Italy, downtown Flushing has little or no Italian food. There is precisely one Italian restaurant, Lucia Pizza. It sits across from New World Mall, and has been there since well before that mall was a Caldor. Its opening also predates New York current pizza Napoletana craze.
The draw here is unreconstructed old-school New York City pizza, by the pie,or more often the slice. Hand over $2.25, grab a perch at the counter and dig into a taste of days gone by. The Sicilian slice is pretty good too. I once asked the counterman here why he didn’t have kimchi pizza, like T.J.’s a spot that has since closed. He looked at me like I was nuts.
Mix in the sauce and dig into the best Sichuan cold noodles ever.
Cheng Du Tian Fu, or Chengdu Heavenly Plenty Snacks, is one of the first stalls I ever visited in the regional Chinese wonderland that is the Golden Shopping Mall. Back in 2007 there was hardly any English signage in the entire place and I was relying upon a rosetta stone of sorts from a Chowhound post. These days the menu is in English and there are dozens of items—beef jerky, fu qi fei pian, dan dan mian and more—shown in the mouthwatering photos that adorn the wall at the bottom of the stairs.
This Sichuan specialist has become a favorite of the Mission Chinese crew. Despite the vast selection I’ve gotten the same thing every time for the last 10 or more visits: cold noodles Chengdu style ($3.50). A palate-awakening sauce consisting of crushed chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, what looks to be MSG, black vinegar, and a prodigious amount of fine garlic paste tops the tangle of thin al dente noodles. Mixing the sauce to coat the noodles take a bit of effort. It’s worth it for the results, though. The bowl of noodles ping pongs between refreshing,fiery, palate-tingling, and pungent.
Cheng Du Tian Fu, No. 31, Golden Shopping Mall, 41-28 Main St., Flushing
Apparently Old Master Fu Zi liked his pork belly and his chilies.
Last night I had dinner in Flushing with two fellow food writers at a newish Sichuan restaurant that shall remain nameless for the purposes of this dispatch. Almost everything we ordered was stunning save for one item. As luck would have it, it was the one dish that I, Queens’ foremost Caucasian expert on Asian food insisted on ordering. I expected a pork belly creation like the one pictured above. To be sure what came to the table was pork belly in a steamer, but all resemblance ended there. For one thing it looked like a washed up version of mofongo and tasted rather like an English school lunch sitting atop bland mashed peas. The entire lot had been steamed into flavorless submission.
What I’d expected was something like a dish I’d had at Hunan House a while back: xiang shan ma la fu zi rou, or “Hunan house Old Master Fuzi meat dish.” It consists of pork belly and rice powder steamed for so long that the rice powder has melded with the pork fat, and vice versa. Each slice of the fanned out pork belly is rich and unctuous and can just barely retain its form. It’s tasty, but superfatty, which is where those pickled chilies come in. It’s the type of thing that’s best eaten with rice and shared with more than one person.
As for the nameless Sichuan restaurant, all I can say is not every dish can be a winner. It was just such a shock to see such a weirdly lackluster dish emerge from an otherwise accomplished kitchen. And it was of course a slight slow to my ego. I suppose such occupational hazards are part and parcel of being The Guy Who Ate Queens.