“Is Bella Roza open?” my pal Rocky asked about two weeks ago about the Uzbek bakery/restaurant in Rego Park, where many restaurants have shut down due to COVID-19. “Pretty sure they are just closed for Passover,” I replied. Like me, Rocky’s a good—and single-minded eater—so a few days ago he messaged me that Bella Roza was open.
“Samsa, plov, and lagman,” he responded when asked what he was ordering. The samsa—meat pies filled with either beef or lamb—are cooked in a tiled tandoor that sits behind the counter. Time it just right, and you can score one fresh out of the furnace.
So the other morning I strolled over to Bella Roza to mimic my pal’s order. The bakery was most definitely open, but it’s now under new ownership and has a new name: Chaikhana Sem Sorok. Other than that things looked pretty much the same, rows of samsa were arrayed in the glass case, and a giant pot of plov sat on the stove. (more…)
As a white dude who’s made a career eating through the many Southeast Asian eateries of Elmhurst, Queens, I lack the same perspective on the food as those born in Thailand, or in this case Indonesia, and sometimes stay away from what I mistakenly perceive to be boring homestyle dishes. When I saw a picture of “Thai scrambled eggs” on the Instagram feed of my friend Nigel “Moon Man” Sielegar, who hails from Indonesia, I knew I’d be heading to Teacup Cafe soon to try this classic Thai comfort food. Sielegar and I are so likeminded or likestomached that our respective Instagram posts often spur one of us to try a meal—Southeast Asian or otherwise—that the other has posted. (more…)
When I was a kid the old man would return from Chinatown laden with hong bao, lucky red shopping bags. Usually these were filled with dried mushrooms, superior soy sauce and other ingredients. There treats were for me and him—lo mai gai, packets of sticky rice—and treats of a sort for my Mom, notably congee.(more…)
“I don’t even come here for knishes any more,” a gentleman I shared a table with at Knish Nosh said to me yesterday. “I come for her cooking,” he said of Chef Ana Vasilescu, who makes killer perogies among other specialties. I had come for a bowl of matzo ball soup.
“Better than my mother’s,” my new friend remarked of the classic Jewish restorative. “Mine too,” I thought, remembering that I don’t have a Jewish mother. Then I noticed two golden brown patties next to his soup. “Are those latke?” I asked. (more…)
The Central Asian cousin of Taiwanese beef noodle soup.
Rego Park is home to so many kosher Uzbeki kebab joints that local friends and I joke that they’re all more or less the same restaurant, just with different specialties, and/or slightly surlier service. The latest entrant into the neighborhood’s crowded field of more than a dozen restaurants is a rather opulent looking establishment (think flocked Louis XIV wallpaper and chandeliers) called U Yuri Fergana. (more…)
Mamu’s roat det has an incredible depth of flavor.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
There’s been such a renaissance of Thai cuisine in Queens that it’s sometimes hard to keep track of the players. Which is why I’m very glad my friend Connie asked me to lunch at Mamu Thai. I’ve been meanng to try the Astoria eatery, which got its start as a noodle truck for at least six months. We ate enough for a small army of Thai truckers that humid afternoon, but there are two dishes that stood out:one, a beguiling beef noodle soup, and the other a not-so-simple off-menu omelet. (more…)
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been hearing about the Automat, Horn and Hardart’s, much tastier precursor to today’s fast-food chains. I’m quite sure I would have loved putting a nickel or a dime in the slot and opening the door to reveal a piece of pie, or a Swiss cheese sandwich, or a slab of meat loaf and gravy. The other night I was excited to learn that there used to be an Automat in Flushing, Queens. I am perhaps even more excited for a new film by my friend Lisa Hurwitz called The Automat. It chronicles the chain’s rise and fall. Enjoy the trailer. Don’t blame me if it makes you want to sport a fedora and grab a grilled cheese from behind a wall of magic little doors.
I have a confession to make. Until this past Mardi Gras, I’d never eaten chicken and waffles. Oh yeah, and, every now and then I get a jones for White Castle. And I used to work there. I guess that’s three confessions. It’s been at least a year since I paid a visit to my local White Castle, but when I saw a poster for the new chicken and waffle sandwich, I knew I’d be stopping by soon. Had I not eaten a rather large Sri Lankan lunch, I would have tried this exercise in comfort food excess immediately. “Imported from Belgium,” the copy promised presumably referring to the waffles, not the chicken. Today I decided to try out the slider king’s entry into the comfort food mashup market. (more…)
The combination of the bone chilling dampness and a lingering cold have been conspiring to turn C+M into a soup blog. Last week I found myself at Bella Roza, a Rego Park pizzeria turned samsa and Uzbek bread bakery. “Do you have soup?” I asked the grandmotherly woman behind the counter who looked at me quizzically. “Lagman?” I said reaching into the fevered recesses of my brain to recall that I once heard that they serve the hand-pulled beef noodle soup. “Ah yes,” she said with a glimmer of recognition in her eye. I took a seat and dipped some crusts of bread into Bella Roza’s excellent hot sauce as I waited for my soup. (more…)
These thick-skinned beauties are perfect on a winter’s day.
At the end of the day momos are just beef dumplings and I will never ever get as excited about them as folks from the Himalayan diaspora do. There are now more than a dozen restaurants and four food trucks in Jackson Heights that serve them. Momos are to Tibetans and Nepalese as hamburgers are to Americans—a national dish that evokes gatherings with family and friends. “What’s the big deal about a hamburger?” I imagine a Tibetan saying. “It’s just two pieces of bread with ground beef in between.” But enough momo musing. I’m here to tell you I’ve discovered a momo that is the very essence of winter comfort food: the kothe momo. (more…)