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…)
Find Thai arancini and duck at this Woodside spot.
Thailand’s Center Point, an adorable restaurant run by Aom “Annie” Phinphatthakul and her family is one of my favorite places to enjoy Thai cuisine. Phinphatthakul possesses a mastery of flavor and a stunning visual sensibility. The dishes here are, “Pride on a plate,” as a friend pointed out yesterday at lunch.
“Where’ve you been everything OK?, Chef Annie asked as it had been a year-and-a-half since I’d eaten at her Woodside restaurant. Based on yesterday’s meal, that’s far too long to stay away from her cooking. Everything we ate yesterday was delicious, but the real standout for me was larb duck with crispy rice ($13.95). (more…)
Duck charcuterie by way of Chengdu and downtown Flushing.
As a keen watcher and eater of all that goes on in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown, I’ve seen a many a hawker stall come and go. This seems especially true of Sichuan outfits. Thankfully there’s one constant in this shifting ma la sea: Cheng Du Tian Fu or Chengdu Heaven, as it’s often so aptly rendered in English. (more…)
The bánh mì, a study in textures—cool pickled veggies, crunchy bread, and caramelized pork—and flavors—savory roast meats and charcuterie, and perhaps pate; hot peppers; and Asian mayo—is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches. So much so that a lifetime ago when I was a line cook at Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village, I took it upon myself to add it to the menu while the chef was on vacation. We had charcuterie, pickles, pork, fish sauce, and chilies in house, so I figured why not run it as a special. Chef was not pleased with my addition of what I called the Banh-Jimmy to his menu. (more…)
Crescent Grill’s duka spice duck features a puck of pistachio crusted offal.
With so many restaurants and cuisines in Queens to try, it’s sometimes hard to keep track. Take Crescent Grill for example. It had over a year since I dined at the farm to table restaurant in Long Island City. So a few weeks ago I returned for a quiet late night dinner with a friend. I seem to recall lots of cheflike touches—the use of gelees and whatnot—from my last visit. This time around there were no gelees or foams just straightforward confident cooking as evidenced in my entree, the Duka spiced duck ($30). (more…)
Yellowtail tartare, so much more than the sum of its multicultural parts.
Four years ago when Danny Yi opened Salt & Fat it was pretty groundbreaking. After all, the only small plates Sunnyside had ever seen were the mezze from the local Turkish joint. Each meal began with a paper bag filled with bacon fat fried popcorn, a treat that evoked the restaurant’s name, and ended with a shot of probiotic Yakult yogurt drink, a beverage more commonly seen in Korean restaurants. It’s a touch that evokes Yi’s Korean heritage. In between there was an oxtail terrine that called to mind a meat brownie, shaved foie gras with bacon brittle, and a pork trotter transformed into a crispy panko breaded croquette crowned with a slow-cooked egg. (more…)
Sotto 13’s pork pie pizza topped with head cheese.
Last November I had the privilege of being taught how to make turducken by Ed Cotton, the executive chef of Sotto 13. “Come back some time; I’d love to feed you,” he told me after our lesson and frankenbird photo shoot. A couple of weeks ago I finally took him up on that offer.
The meal began with that week’s special pizza, pork pie. Provolone cheese, caramelized onions, and cabbage are topped with pork shank meat. Once the pie comes out of the oven it’s blnaketed with housemade coppa di testa and lashed with mustard vinaigrette. It’s like a subtler, more sophisticated version of an Italian combo sandwich. Cotton changes out the pizzas regularly and recent iterations have included beef carpaccio with creamy kale, wild mushrooms and fontina and this week’s special: spicy lamb sausage pizza with n’duja, ricotta, and mint. (more…)
“What happened to the duck?” my mother would say when the platter with meat and skin—mostly skin—and the accompanying pancakes was brought out. “It must have flown by.”
Moments before the entire carcass had been wheeled through the dining room on a trolley with great ceremony. This included striking a gong. Sometimes I like to think that the gong was my father’s idea, but I know it was the restaurant’s way of saying that the dish, even with its apparent bait and switch, was something special to be served with fanfare.
At the suburban Chinese restaurant in Levittown we frequented during my boyhood the delicacy had to be ordered several days in advance. As an adult I’ve had few stellar experiences with Peking duck. Much as I love the $1 “Peking duck” bun window in Flushing, the fowl secret is that, tasty as it is, it’s not really Peking duck. I am happy to report though that the Peking duck dinner I had recently at Decoy, the newish offshoot of Eddie Schoenfeld and Joe Ng’s wildly popular Redfarm, was spectacular. (more…)
London’s Borough Market predates the age of foodies by a good 163 years. I visited the bustling food paradise which offers everything from fresh produce and truffles to traditional English sausage rolls and Spanish charcuterie as part of the whirlwind weekend that was the 2014 Chowzter Awards. When I arrived there with my international food blogger posse—Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, Catherine Ling of Camemberu, and Stanislaus Hans Danial Subianto of Eats and Treats—the crowds were pretty thin. Within about an hour they’d reached Times Square New Year’s Eve proportions as every permutation of foodies and tourists milled around taking snapshots. I of course qualified as both. Here’s a look at what we ate. (more…)
On a wintry night Filipino balut double as hand warmers.
By the time we got to the balut man on the corner of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue we’d trekked across two continents and eaten through four countries all without ever leaving the shadow of the 7 train. “No holds barred means balut,” I tweeted to my pal Elyse Pasquale, aka Foodie International, the impetus for this impromptu Queens food tour, several hours earlier. I am not sure of the balut vendor’s hours so I was quite glad he was there. I hate to disappoint a lady, especially when fertilized Filipino duck eggs are involved. (more…)