01/01/18 9:39pm

The year that just drew to close was a year of personal challenges—coping with chemo via congee—and achievements—publishing a guidebook to Queens—all while eating my way through New York City’s most delicious and diverse borough. Herewith, are 17 from 2017. 

1. Most Super Soup Dumplings
I’ve been a fan of Helen You’s dumplings since long before she became the empress of Dumpling Galaxy. My favorite at Tianjin Dumpling house in Golden Mall remains the lamb and green squash. Yang rou xiao long bao, or lamb soup dumplings, are one of the off-menu stars at Dumpling Galaxy. The little packages bursting with unctuous lamb broth are so good that they have become a  staple of my Flushing Chinatown food tours. Dumpling Galaxy, 42-35 Main St., Flushing, 718-461-0808

2. Choicest Chang Fen
I cut my teeth on Cantonese steam rice rolls at Mei Lei Wah in Manhattan’s Chinatown, so this breakfast staple will always have a special place in my heart and stomach. About a year ago Joe’s Steam Rice Roll opened in downtown Flushing and I knew right away that it was somethings special. For one thing he’s grinding fresh rice as opposed to using rice flour like everybody else in New York City, which imparts a delicate flavor and texture. Turns out that Joe himself went to Guangzhou to learn his craft and brought the equipment back with him. My favorite is the shrimp and egg with green onion. Joe’s Steam Rice Roll, 136-21 Roosevelt Ave., #A1, Flushing

3. Duckiest Thai Arancini
OK fine, they’re not quite Italian rice balls, but the trio of crispy sticky rice balls served with Thailand Center Point’s larb duck with crispy rice ($13.95) do a great job of soaking up the piquant sauce. The shredded meat—mixed with roasted rice powder and shot through with herbs and just the right amount of chilies—is superb. Thailand’s Center Point, 63-19 39th Avenue, Woodside, 718-651-6888 (more…)

12/28/17 5:24pm

In the 20 plus years that I’ve been living in Queens the strip of Austin Street that runs through Forest Hills has never been known as a hotbed of authentic Asian cuisine. In the past few years though, that’s been gradually changing. First came Violet’s Bake Shoppe, which brought top-notch bánh mì to the area and then Pink Forest Cafe, a Chinese-run coffee shop with a sideline in jian bing. The latest entrant, Xin Taste Lan Zhou Hand Pull Noodle opened a few weeks ago, just as winter was beginning to sink its icy claws into New York City. (more…)

12/22/17 2:44pm

A rendang roll, with wasabi,ginger, and spicy mayo, natch.

Southeast Asian restaurants with sushi bars usually raise a red flag, and I tend to pass them by, with one notable exception, Awang Kitchen. Like many of my fellow Indonesian food nerds I’m unabashed in my enthusiasm for this restaurant that opened last spring, giddily eating my through bowl after bowl of various baksos and other Indonesian delicacies. Until just last week though I’ve avoided the chef-owner’s sushi bar, harboring a secret wish it would eventually evolve into a satay station. And them some rolls with a decidedly Indonesian accent began to show up on the specials board.

It began with beef rendang ($10). Tempe, peanuts, anchovies, and of course beef rendang, packed in seaweed with rice and cucumber a bit of peanut sauce and the requisite spicy mayo make up this cross-cultural creation. With the crunch of the dried fish and the candy coated peanuts known as sambal kacang, it’s tempting to dismiss the rendang roll as just nasi lemak in roll form, but it’s really an entirely new animal, a true Indonesian fusion dish. It’s served with the same green horseradish and pickled ginger you’ll find at many other sushi spots on Queens Boulevard, but it didn’t need either. Since the kitchen doesn’t make miso soup, I asked for a bowl of beefy, garlicky bakso broth.  (more…)

12/08/17 12:23am

Ma po tofu and homemade roasted fish are both standouts.

The entrance to Guan Fu— the latest in a recent string of higher end Sichuan openings in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown—is flanked by two formidable foo lions standing sentry outside a facade that calls to mind a temple or palace. Quite appropriate given that the black and gold plaque reads “Guan Fu Chuan Cai,” which translates to “Official Palace Szechuan Cuisine.”

I’ve been mighty curious about Guan Fu since it opened. My interest reached a fever pitch when Pete Wells bestowed three stars upon it this summer. So when the one of the owners reached out with a dinner invite I couldn’t say no. As I waited for my dining companion on a bench facing the entrance delicious aromas wafted towards me as the doors opened and closed.

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11/07/17 1:52pm

And the winner is (are) . . . these Nepali jhol momo.

Since I am fortunate to live very close to Himalayan (aka Jackson) Heights I tend to avoid the dumpling extravaganza that is the Momo Crawl. Now its sixth year the festival that Jeff Orlick started featured more than 20 restaurants serving the beloved dumplings of the Himalayan diaspora. Rather than participate in the crawl, I pay my respects to the winner the day after. This year’s winner took home a groovy yak leather wrestling belt that Orlick designed with local artisan Lhemi Sherpa. It features a gleaming momo and a rock from Mount Everest. And the winner is . . .

11/06/17 5:57pm

Yum woon sen, aka magic noodles.

It takes a lot to get me to eat Thai food outside of Elmhurst, after all Queens’ second smaller Chinatown is the best place in New York City for Southeast Asian fare. And takes even more for me to trek to Brooklyn for Thai food, but I’d been curious about Chef Hong Thaimee’s new spot in Williamsburg, Thaimee at McCarren since it opened back in September. So when my pal Matt Bruck invited me in for a tasting I hurried over there.

Four subways later I found myself chatting with Chef Hong and staring down a plate of yum woon sen, or magic noodle salad. Chef Hong says the magic comes from the fact the vermicelli—dyed an eerie shade of blue thanks to butterfly pea flower—changes to purple when lime juice is mixed in tableside. I disagree. The magic is in the brightly balanced flavors: palm sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, chili, and garlic. (more…)

10/27/17 11:41am

Coffee and blue cheese, together at last!

One of things I love most about my work with Queens Dinner Club, is the opportunity to explore cuisine and culture. Next Saturday, November 4, we turn our attention to Germany, well sort of, as we present Octoberfeast, a celebration of the best craft beer, cheese, and charcuterie that Queens has to offer curated by our good friends at Astoria Bier & Cheese. You can score tickets to this exclusive tasting, which features six degustation stations, here.

The evening’s charcuterie will come from Astoria’s very own Old World Romanian butcher, Muncan Food Corp. I’m especially excited about the tasting station that pairs Muncan’s dried lamb, a deboned leg of lamb that’s cured for 3 weeks, cold smoked for 48 hours, and then aged to perfection with Erborinato SanCarlone Caffe, a cave-aged extra special Italian blue with coffee grounds in the rind aged for over three months. To drink with this creamy and sharp with the strong coffee notes? Big Alice’s Date Night, Bro?, a stout made with coffee and doughnuts.

We’ll see you next Saturday!

10/09/17 1:32pm

Old-school Thai noodles with prawns.

Elmhurst’s Little Bangkok is the gift that keeps on giving. Khao Nom is the latest entrant in the nexus of deliciousness that radiates outward from the junction of Woodside Avenue and Broadway. When I say latest I mean very latest, as in they opened last Thursday. Food critics normally stay away from a place for several weeks before spilling ink, thankfully as a food writer I have no such constraints.
When I first heard about Khao Nom—whose name means dessert—I was told that its mainstay would be old-fashioned Thai dessert. So when I visited on opening day I was surprised to find a six-item menu of savories, including something called chan noodle ($11). It’s a generous tangle of chewy flat rice noodles known as sen chan, flavored with chili and tamarind and surmounted by two huge prawns. It comes with a back story too. My pal Joel, a go-to source for all things related to Thai food culture tells me it’s a forerunner of pad thai that dates back to the time when Siam became Thailand and there was a rice shortage. Prime minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram encouraged the eating of noodles and set up a contest. The story goes that the winner of the contest was sen chan (chan noodles) named after the town Chantaburi. (more…)

09/15/17 10:00am

Katakat, a favorite of Andrew Zimmern, is just one of many dishes that will be served.

Everybody knows Queens has great Indian food, but what you may not know is that we also have awesome Bangladeshi and Burmese food. These countries all border the Bay of Bengal, thus the inspiration for this month’s Queens Dinner Club feast—Destination: The Bay of Bengal. No need for a boat though, just join us at the swanky Bamboo Lounge at Kaufman Astoria Studios on Wednesday Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for this one-of-a-kind feast are $45 and may be purchased here.

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08/26/17 1:21pm

It has been a very auspicious summer for Šri Mahã Vallabha Ganapati Devasthãnam, or the Ganesh Temple of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, as it’s more commonly known. For one thing the temple on the outskirts of downtown Flushing celebrated its 40th birthday on July 4. And Sri Ganesh Chaturthi Nava-Dina Mahotsavam, a nine-day celebration of the elephant-headed deva’s birthday concludes this Sunday with a parade known as the Grand Ratha Yatra.

The festivities kick off at the temple at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow. Come a bit early and check out the arcade that has been decorated with images of Lord Ganesh and his favorite sweet ladoo, in such flavors as sesame, peanut, and dried fruit. (more…)