I’ve always known Alfonso Zhicay, the Ecuadorean culinary star behind Woodside’s Casa del Chef Bistro knew his way around ceviche, but it took a pandemic and a vegetarian ceviche of all things to fully convince me.
Like many chefs, Zhicay has pivoted during the pandemic, launching a new concept called PapaViche, a collaboration with fellow Ecuadorean Chef Humberto Guallpa of Freemans. I wanted to do only potatoes and then he said, ‘what about with ceviche?’” Zhicay said. “Potatoes and ceviche, why not let’s do it.”
Opening night at PapaViche.
When it comes to ceviche I tend to prefer the bracingly citric Peruvian version to the soupier and sweeter tomato-based Ecuadorean version, but Zhicay’s shrimp ceviche—listed on the menu as Alfonso’s Ceviche—knocked my socks off. The plump shrimp lounged in an orange liquor that was as bright as a gazpacho, but also had an incredible depth of flavor. “It’s a twist. It’s not exactly Ecuadorean ceviche,” Zhicay says noting that one of the secrets to its depth is roasted tomatoes that are added to a shrimp shell consomme. (more…)
Vibrant ceviche mixto, featuring shrimp and octopus, and the mighty bolon filled with pork, plantains, and mozzarella are just part of the evening’s menu.
Ask any old-school Queens food nerd, including yours truly, about Ecuadorean cuisine in the World’s Borough and the first thing that comes to mind will be the cluster of food trucks on Warren Street underneath the 7 train in Corona or perhaps the ladies who grill cuy—guinea pig—in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. About year ago though some very trusted Queens food nerds of a more recent vintage, like my pal Instagrammer @Wendalicious888 started to talk about a new place Rincón Melania on the border of Sunnyside and Long Island City.
“How good can it be? There are no Ecuadoreans over there,” I thought to myself. Good enough for a glowing review in The New York Times it turns out. Which is why I’m so glad that the next Queens Dinner Club will convene at Rincón Melania November 13th. Make sure you don’t miss out on this very special dinner by signing up for our mailing list here.
Ceviche de pescado—fish, typically corvina in Queens, cooked in lime juice—is such a staple of Peruvian cuisine that until just the other day I’d never tried Peruvian style octopus. Sure, I’ve had pulpo in the exquisite cokteles from La Esquina del Camaron Mexicano. Octopus is probably on the menu of every Peruvian place in Queens, but my eyes skate over it in favor of sexier seafood like jalea, that mountain of fried fish, shrimp, and calamari fortified by planks of fried yucca.
The other day pulpo al olivo jumped off the menu at El Anzuelo, spurring my friends and me to order it. Tender slices of octopus loll in a pool of mauve liquor flanked by some avocado slices and, of all things, five Keebler Zesta brand saltine crackers. (more…)
The best, and only, sea urchin I had in CDMX was a daily special at Contramar.
Earlier today I ran into some C+M readers while eating lunch at Warung Selasa, and I had to apologize for my recent lack of posting. You see folks, I was in Mexico City for a week celebrating my 50th birthday. I did my level best to eat every taco in town. There will come a time to speak of tacos, but now is the time to speak of the best two bites of seafood I had on my trip.
“D.F. is 1,500 miles from the sea,” a pal pointed out, when others recommended I book a table at Contramar, a white tablecloth seafood specialist in La Condesa. I did not let my friend’s commentary on D.F.’s geography deter me. Everybody suggested that I try the tuna tostadas, but when I found out that there was a Spanish language specials list, I promptly ignored that advice, and peppered several of the patient waitstaff with translation requests. And that’s how I wound up with a gorgeous plate of ceviche de erizo, or sea urchin ceviche from Ensenada. Served with chips, it was the best sea urchin I ate in Mexico City and not just because it was the only one I ate. (more…)
My new favorite summertime ceviche features quinoa and Peruvian potatoes.
Lately I’ve been having a streak of bad ceviche luck. Not the really bad kind that involves shivering, sweating, and praying for death, but rather the kind where the fish is either chewy or has clearly been cooked using heat and and then bathed with lime juice afterwards. So that’s why I decided to pay a visit to La Cevicheria, which never disappoints, plus it has the added bonus of being just steps away from the beach in Rockaway. (more…)
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of noodles— whether the fusilli with red sauce and chow fun that I cut my teeth on—or the tallarin verde of Peru and various culture’s takes on cold noodles that can be had in Queens. This edition of The Seven is devoted to my favorite Asian noodles in Queens, at least as of summer 2017.
1. Tom thuk, Lhasa Fast Food
Anthony Bourdain recently paid a visit to this Jackson Heights momo shop tucked away behind a cell phone store. While the big man tried the hand-torn noodle soup known as thenthuk he did not get to experience its colder, spicier cousin tomthuk. Listed in the menu’s Noodle Zone as beef cold noodle ($6) there’s no forewarning of the twin heat engines of chili and mustard oil. The tangle of chewy noodles interspersed with shredded carrots, cabbages, and bits of ground beef packs enough heat to melt snowy Mount Kailash which looms above the counter. Lhasa Fast Food, 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
2. Yum Dek Sen, Dek Sen
There are many Thai noodle dishes, from funky bowls of blood-enriched soup to those that resemble pork ragu, but Dek Sen is the first restaurant where I’ve seen noodles used in a yum, Thailand’s spicy savory version of the more prosaic Western salad. Yum Dek Sen ($11.95) takes Mama instant noodles and mixes them with squid, shrimp, minced pork, and two types of fish balls. Served warm the whole lot is dressed in a chili lime sauce. You might be tempted to order it spicy, but medium is more than adequate. Dek Sen, 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, 718-205-5181(more…)
La Cevicheria’s got the best mixto in Rockaway Beach.
Few things are more refreshing and delicious on a hot summer day than a good Peruvian ceviche. Fresh fish marinated/cooked with plenty of lime served showered with red onions and with the traditional accompaniments of camote (sweet potato), cancha (toasted corn kernels), and mote (hominy corn) makes for a fine summer meal. Until last week my go-to was ceviche pescado, with ceviche mixto a distant second. Thanks to Rockaway Beach’s La Cevichería, I have a newfound respect—and craving—for ceviche mixto. (more…)
A seafood feast in the back of a Jackson Heights deli.
La Esquina Del Camaron Mexicano is one of my favorite places to eat in the summertime. It’s run out of a deli and trafficks in Mexican style shrimp and seafood cocktails made with a mysterious and delicious tomato elixir. Recently the proprietor Pedro expanded his operations to seven days a week and added a counter and small kitchen. He also added some new menu items. (more…)
Chez Wong’s ceviche took top honors at the Chowzter Awards in London.
Last November I had the privilege of taking Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of Chowzter, and Richard Vines, Bloomberg’s U.K. food critic, on a whirlwind food tour of Queens. The goal of the tour was to showcase the best Queens had to offer. We only made it to about ten of the stops out of the 16 I’d planned, but we had a blast doing it, hitting such Flushing favorites as Taipei Hong’s secret fried chicken and Soybean Flower Chen along the way.
Finding the best food item in Queens is a daunting nigh impossible task. After all it’s a vast diverse borough, and really what’s best for me—balut, tripe to name a few—might not be best for you. Leaving aside the issue of subjectivity, one thing’s for sure, I don’t ever like to eat anythings subpar. Seeking out the best is also the mission of the Chowzter app and web site. It aims to showcase the top places to eat local food in more than 70 travel destinations around the world from Lima to Singapore and points in between. I am honored to be the Chief Chowzter for Queens, which is how I found myself at the second annual Chowzter Awards in London this past weekend. (more…)
As 2013 draws to a close rather than offer up a list of resolutions—less chips more gym, save money, etc.—C+M offers a list of 20 of our favorite posts, a highlight reel of the year that was. Let the mostly Queens-focused cavalcade of offal, sandwiches, mashups, secret eats and deliciousness begin.
Crazy Crab’s Yunnan special sliced pork salad.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
1. Best use of Pig Face Crazy Crab’s Yunnanese pig face salad is a spicy sour, salty, and unabashedly funky showcase for swatches of cool, slightly chewy pig skin.
2. Best Fizzy Water for Gluttons
Apart from being the preferred beverage of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin the selling point of Borjomi, a Georgian sparkling mineral water, is that it “Gets rid of unnecessaries,” or as expressed in more forthright language elsewhere on the company web site, “Borjomi also improves functioning of intestines and supports slag excretion.”
3. Flushing’s Cheapest Veggie Burger The $1.25 cài bĭng at Super Snack, a counter just outside Golden Shopping Mall is packed with crunchy piquant mustard greens and is as fine a snack as any.