Pa Do Hwae Jip, a Korean sushi house, sits in suburban Auburndale.
Sushi and sashimi are never a value proposition for me. I can’t afford to eat at Masa or Yasuda, but I tend to avoid budget and all you can eat sushi like the plague. That said I had the best Korean sashimi lunch the other day for a mere $13, a fraction of the price I usually pay for such a meal. It was at Pa Do Hwae Jip—Sea Wave Sushi House—in Auburndale.
A complimentary platter of sashimi including, sea squirt, and sea cucumber.
List most diners at Korean restaurants I’m fascinated by banchan, the array of complimentary dishes that accompany a meal, which sometimes land on the table before you’ve even cracked the menu. I am especially fascinated by the banchan at Pa Do. That’s because in addition to kimchi and various veggie items it includes a generous platter of sashimi, piled with slices of raw fish, and some marine life rarely seen outside of Korean sushi spots, sea squirt and sea cucumber. I am captivated by the orange flesh of the sea squirt, which tastes of the ocean, and leaves my mouth with the slightly anesthetized sensation of having eaten cloves. The chewy black blobs of sea cucumber do not captivate me in the least, but I always make sure to eat a few as my Korean dry cleaner Paulie Sunshine says, “they are good for men.” (more…)
Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.
At one of the many recent Southeast Asian lunar New Year festivals my good friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation spoke excitedly about a new spot in Flushing, “Mama Khao’s.” At least that’s what I thought he said, until he informed me that the new Malaysian joint is named Mamak House, after the mamak who as I just learned from Wikipedia are “Tamil Muslims of Malaysian nationality, whose forefathers mostly migrated from South India to the Malay Peninsula and various locations in Southeast Asia centuries ago.” As Dave explained that the joint was started by a gal who runs a mamak-style catering outfit I thought, “Boy my Singaporean friends are gonna be excited about this place.” Whenever I talk to them about Malaysian food in New York City, they always say something to the effect of, “It’s OK, but it’s not the same as back home. The Indian influence is missing.”
Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.
Last week Dave and I met at Mamak House for a late lunch. As I walked in I recalled that it used to be a Dongbei joint with table cooking in fact, several of the grill tables remain. The menu, is filled with mamak specialties, including an intriguing weekend only dish: nasi ulam utara, rice mixed with more than 10 types of herbs and roasted shrimp. The back of the bill of fare is adorned with pictures of spices from the aromatic to the fiery. The murtabak ($6.95) , savory envelopes filled with ground beef, were subtly flavored with clove and other spices. A sidecar of sharp pickled onions accompanied the mellow Malaysian beef blintzes. (more…)
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’s a food-obsessed coffee lover who chronicles New York City cafe culture via his website, Project Latte. Like me he is an old school Chowhound who truly lives (and travels) to eat. Peter 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 cataloging his efforts on Flickr and intermittently, on Tumblr. Catch him on Twitter @petekachu. Take it away Pete . . .
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…)
A Mexican cocktail of a different kind for Cinco de Mayo.
Sometimes I’m convinced that Cinco de Mayo was invented by Cervecería Modelo to promote Corona. That’s just one reason why I’m spending it in the Bronx eating Bengali food. For those of you who don’t have plans yet or don’t like drinking frozen margaritas and dining on rice, beans, and mystery meat covered in cheese I have a suggestion. Grab a few friends and take a nice walk in the spring sunshine on La Roosie, as the locals like to call the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that runs through Jackson Heights and Corona.
Start out with a Mexican style ceviche from La Esquina de Camaron Mexicano, Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. Watch as Pedro the ceviche mixologist fills a plastic cup with your choice of seafood: shrimp, octopus, or both. To the protein he adds a pour of a tomato-based concoction, olive oil, diced onions, avocado, salt, and hot sauce. Don’t forget to crumble some saltines over the top before digging in. If ceviche, or a “coktel,” as Pedro calls it, isn’t your thing head over to the nearby Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave. for a weekend special: barbacoa de chivo, slow roasted young goat available in a taco or a platter with consommé and rice and beans. Stop by Panaderia Coatzingo next door for a cinnamon and sugar dusted concha to munch on your walk.
Sweet and cold, El Bohio’s shaved ice is a harbinger of even warmer days.
As you continue down La Roosie with shafts of light dancing on the street from the elevated train you’ll soon enter Little Ecuador. Its epicenter is Warren Street and Roosevelt Avenue, right by the Junction Boulevard stop on the 7. The corner and Warren Street are lined with food trucks and carts offering a staggering amount of pork, both roasted and fried. The ladies who run the cart called La Esquina del Sabor—the corner of flavor—will gladly offer up a sample of fritada, toothsome fried pork. Ten bucks buys a plate of pork with potatoes, fat starchy kernels of mote corn, and crunchy toasted maiz cancha. Need to cool off? Hit up El Bohio, 98-17 Roosevelt Ave, Corona, for an old school Dominican shaved ice. My go-to is the fresa or raspberry ice ($3.50 for a large cup) with leche condensada. If you’re still in need of refreshment there’s a Dominican dude who hangs out around 104th St. selling fresh tropical fruits and drinks. These include ginormous young coconuts ($5) that he will gladly hack open with his trusty machete. (more…)
Young and old mingle over noodles at the Thingyan celebration.
It’s Southeast Asian Lunar New Year season in Queens kids. It seems like it was just Songkran, or Thai New Year. Yesterday it was Myanmar’s turn, so my buddy Jonathan and I attended the Thingyan festival in the cafeteria of a public school in Woodside. We stocked up on $1 food tickets; most items were between $4 and $7. Even in the most diverse borough in the universe Burmese food is a rarity, so you can be sure that we ate our fill. The festival was sponsored by Dhamman Ranti Vihara, a local Burmese Buddhist temple.
A potage of curried chicken and torn roti with spicy slaw.
Kyat thar palatar was a great way to kick off a day of eating. Think of the bowl of torn roti and chicken curry as Burmese chicken and dumplings. The bits of bread soaked up the curry quite nicely, while a slaw of cucumber, cabbage, mint, and green chili lent some brightness to the bowl. (more…)
Sweet and cold, El Bohio’s shaved ice is a harbinger of even warmer days.
Forget that groundhog. The real indicator of the arrival of warm weather is the ice cream man. Or in Corona, the shaved ice man, specifically the dude who sets up in the window in front of El Bohio Grocery. The other day after eating enough Thai food for an army I took a long walk up Roosevelt Avenue and was delighted to see that El Bohio’s shaved ice—or frio frio as Dominicans like to call it—was in full effect. (more…)
Songkran, or Thai New Year, is one of the most popular festivals in Queens.
The ornate gilded roof of Wat Buddha Thai Thavorn Vanaram rises majestically above squat brick apartment buildings. The temple, its grounds, and the shrine room with its Emerald Buddha is so spectacular that I always include it in my tours of what I like to call SEA Elmhurst. Even more amazing though is the temple’s annual Songkran—or Thai New Year—festival featuring music, kick boxing, a beauty pageant, and an immense Thai buffet that draws an equally immense crowd.
Preparing to serve the hungry Songkran horde.
In years past “before the Internet,” as a friend likes to say, the crowds were manageable. These days the line snakes around the corner. Yesterday I arrived at around 10:45 to find a huge crowd waiting to feast. Long tables laden with larb, currys, grilled fish, and many, many other dishes were arrayed in front of the temple.
A heaping Songkran helping, including larb, fried fish, duck, and stewed pork.
Apart from larb I don’t the names of any of the dishes I tried because they weren’t labeled and the crowding made it next to impossible to engage the servers. I do know that everything I ate was excellent, singing with the flavors of Thailand: fish sauce, chili,lime juice, and kaffir lime leaves to name a few. (more…)
Young and old alike came out for the opening of Alchemy, Texas, BBQ.
Before there was Virgil’s Real Barbecue, before Blue Smoke, before Hill Country, before the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, and before New York City’s current love affair with Texas ’cue there was Robert Pearson. The British hairdresser caught the barbecue bug while working in Texas. He returned to New York City to open Pearson’s Texas Barbcue first in Long Island City, and then in the back of Legends Bar in Jackson Heights. I never got to taste Brit’s ’cue. And I’ve never been terribly impressed by successor outfit The Ranger Texas, Barbecue. Last night the smoky arts made a triumphant return to Legends with the opening of Alchemy, Texas, BBQ. The pitmaster behind this Texas barbecue homecoming is Josh Bowen of John Brown Smokehouse. Bowen knows a thing or two about ‘cue in general, and Texas ‘cue too having logged some time at Hill Country.
Josh Bowen seems to be in awe of his brisket.
Much as I love the barbecue at Bowen’s original spot, it’s never been all that smoky. That’s because the each of the smokers at John Brown is just slightly larger than a dorm fridge. The behemoth that sits in the back of Alchemy is roughly one-third the size of a shipping container. Bowen is firing it with a mixture of pecan and oak. All the meats that emerge from it—brisket ($22/lb.), prime rib ($26/lb.), beef ribs ($11/lb.), spare ribs ($10/lb.), chicken ($9/lb.), and goat ribs ($10/lb.) —are possessed of a deep smoke flavor and a truly impressive smoke ring. (more…)
The ladies behind the counter will load up your bowl with goodies.
I’m often asked, “Have you traveled in Asia?” My typical response: “No, just Queens.” It’s possible to eat foods from Thailand’s northeastern Issan region,Tibet, and China’s Dongbei region all without ever leaving the borough. One thing you can’t find in Queens though is a proper night market. The closest thing is the late night (4 a.m. to 11 a.m.) soup and noodle counter at Malaysian spot Curry Leaves in Flushing.
Walk up to the counter and one of the ladies will ask what type of broth you want. I always get kari laksa, a fiery coconut-enriched broth. The next question is what type of noodle; I always get yellow, presumably wheat, noodles. Now comes the fun part, choosing from the dozen or so items to add to your bowl. These include fried tofu, several types of fish cake, long green hot peppers stuffed with fish paste, fried wontons, char siu, shrimp, veggies, and bitter melon. No matter how many items you add it’s unlikely that the bowl will run over ten bucks. It makes for a hearty late-night snack, or breakfast.
The best time to eat there is half an hour or so before dawn. Watch the sun rise from the bottom of a soup bowl figuratively speaking. After an iced coffee and pandan gelatin to calm the kari fire, walk out into the early morning light and check out the live fish delivery trucks as they make their rounds on Main Street.
The Gastronauts chow down on a meal of many parts, including beef penis.
Last month on the two days before Valentine’s Day I had the dubious pleasure of co-hosting a very special Chinese New Year’s dinner with the Gastronauts. Curtiss Calleo, one of the masterminds behind the club for adventurous eaters and I endured not one but two days of juvenile humor along the lines of, “Please limit yourselves to five inches per serving.” I suppose we deserved it. After all we created a menu whose dishes included lamb testicles and quick fried beef genitals, i.e. beef pizzle. I’m pretty sure that my affable Henanese uncle, Steven Zhou, was pretty amazed that we were able to gather a gang of hard-drinking weirdos to buy out his restaurant with such a menu for two consecutive nights.
From center: headcheese, chicken hearts, tofu, beef tendon, pickles, and tripe.
The festivities kicked off with a platter of cold dishes. Headcheese, chicken hearts, tofu skin, beef tendon, quick pickle, and beef tripe were all artfully laid out in concentric rings. “These are the best chicken hearts I’ve ever had,” one of my tablemates exclaimed. I’d have to agree, the peppery five-spiced hearts were quite nice. Next came the lamb testicles which had been artfully cross-hatched. They had plenty of cumin and heat, though they were a tad rubbery. At least they were not too gamy. (more…)