06/13/16 12:40pm
wasabikitkat

The pride of Japan, now in candy form!

I consider myself lucky to procure the occasional green tea Kit Kat. It’s a Japanese variety of Nestle’s popular candy bar. And in that country Kit Kat are really, really popular. There are scores and scores of oddball flavors: cherry, blueberry cheesecake, brandy and orange, red bean and matcha shaved ice, maple, sports drink, and wasabi.

My good friend William shared some of that last flavor with me the other day. He brought back a box of minis from a recent trip to Japan. The package bears the familiar red-and-white logo and the slogan “Have a break, have a Kit Kat.” There all similarity ends, for one thing there’s the word “wasabi,” and a whole bunch of Japanese on the inside of the box, which extols wasabia japonica’s white flowers and talks about how it was first cultivated 400 years ago.

So how does it taste? Crunchy and creamy with just the slightest hint of wasabi. Wondering why Kit Kat are so popular in Japan?  The candy’s name sounds like “kitto katsu,” an expression associated with good luck. I consider myself lucky to have tried the wasabi ones, and look forward to eventually getting to Japan to try others.

10/12/15 10:09am

resoboxramenButter makes everything better, including miso ramen.

“Oh, wow you guys have food now!?” I said to Takashi Ikezawa owner of Resobox a Japanese cafe, gallery, and cultural center in Long Island City, as I glanced at the ramen roster. I was glad to see Resobox, which offers classes in everything from flower arranging and Samurai sword to manga drawing for kids, finally serving ramen, itself an integral part of Japanese culture. I grabbed my coffee and made a mental note to return for some ramen. (more…)

08/07/15 11:52am
Keizo Shimamoto's Ramen Shack, one of my Smorgasburg Queens favorites.

Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack, one of my Smorgasburg Queens favorites.

Curating Smorgasburg Queens with its melting pot of international vendors ranging from The Arepa Lady and Celebes Bakar Indonesian Grill to luxe offerings like the lobster rolls from Brine by Danny Brown has been a real hoot. What’s even more fun for me though is eating there.

One Saturday I went full on Andrew Zimmern: balut from Papa’s Kitchen for starters, papaya salad with black crab from Qi, Snowy Durian from my friends at KULU Desserts. While I’m partial to the hallacas—sweet and savory Ecuadorean tamales—from Son Foods, my favorite eating experience at Smorgasburg Queens has to be Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Shack.

To step behind the curtain and take a seat at Keizo’s counter is to enter another world, somewhat more serene than the rest of the market, but no less delicious. Both of the hot soups I have tried have been most excellent, but my top pick might be the seafood broth based cold noodles. So, tell me, what’s your favorite thing to eat at Smorgasburg Queens?

Smorgasburg Queens, 43-29 Crescent St., Long Island City

04/07/15 10:11am
UNITORO

Uni and toro, together at last!

The Madison Square Park area has never been known for izakaya, the Japanese gastropubs that are haunts of salarymen, sake drinkers, and adventurous eaters alike. Izakaya NoMad is out to change all that as I learned during a press dinner recently. With  a whimsical dining room featuring a Godzilla mural, it  offers an accessible alternative that sits somewhere between the rarefied air of a Sakagura and St. Marks’ grease bespattered yakitori joints. (more…)

01/30/15 10:22am

Up until last night I’d little or no idea which teams were competing in Super Bowl XLIX. I had a vague sense some outift from New England was involved. As C+M readers are no doubt aware football is far less important to me than food, especially the amazing array of crunchy, sweet, salty snacks from all over the world to be found in Queens. I like conventional junk food—chips, pretzels, and cheezy poofs—as much as the next glutton, but why stop there? So as a public service to sports fans everywhere I devote this edition of The Seven to Super Bowl snacks that showcase some of the best—and strangest junk food—Queens has to offer.

KannikoDisp

Crunchy Japanese crabs are a great drinking snack!

1. Kanikko
Like many Japanese drinking snacks kanikko combines salty, fishy and sweet flavors along with crunchiness. The difference is that kanikko are actually teeny weeny crabs coated in sesame seeds. Find them at most Japanese grocery stores. Family Mart, 29-15, Broadway, Astoria, (718) 956-7925; Sakura Ya, 73-05 Austin St, Forest Hills, 718-268-7220

THAITARO

Festive tangles of Thai taro.

2. Thai taro crunch
Not only are these tangles of fried taro sweet and crunchy, they’re fun to look at. Noi Sila owner of Thai Thai Grocery imports them from her homeland along with all sorts of other ingredients and goodies. While you’re there pick up some awesome Thai beef jerky to gnaw on while watching the game. Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168 (more…)

01/21/15 9:09am
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Even though at first glance it looks like a cookie cutter clone of New World Mall, there are many good things to be had at Flushing’s newest food hall, New York Food Court. On a recent multistop tour of Queens’ Chinatown I turned a posse of avid foodies on to the awesome Sichuan cold noodles and the offal extravaganza that is fu qi fei pian. And they, in turn, turned me on to the crispy pancake, or as the sign renders it, “Th Crispy Pancake,” one of the craziest Chinese sandwiches I have ever had. (more…)
01/06/15 11:47am
MOKBAR

Esther Choi’s kimchi ramen is a bowl of fiery porky goodness.

On this first real day of winter with snow falling and the remnants of a head cold I wish I was in Chelsea Market. Actually, scratch that I wish was in Mok Bar, to hell with the rest of the market and its hordes of gastrotourists. A bowl of Esther Choi’s kimchi ramen ($13) would do this body good right about now.

At times like these spicy soups are a go-to, and Choi’s doesn’t disappoint. Not only is the fiery broth packed with kimchi and springy noodles, it has a double dose of pork thanks to smoky bacon and a nice chunk of meat. (more…)

11/11/14 10:12am
ANDYCART1

Andy Yang’s crispy fish with chili will set you back $1.25.

Ever since Zhu Da Jie—Flushing’s Queen of Sichuan cookery—set up a cart in Elmhurst on the corner of Broadway and Whitney last spring I’ve been begging her to make dan dan mian. After all the savory, spicy noodles have their roots in the street food of Chengdu. That hasn’t happened yet, but I was pleased to see that one of her classic dishes, spicy fried fish, has been revived after a fashion. And by a cart that had the nerve to open up right next door to her lump charcoal fueled operation.    (more…)

09/18/14 10:35am

smooklerJoshua Smookler the man behind Pete Wells’ favorite ramen has been a busy man of late. In between the birth of his daughter and the run-up to Mu Ramen,which is set to open mid to late October, he was kind enough answer Seven Questions.

Will you be unveiling any new ramen?
Yes, we will have four types of ramen that will be seasonal. Three of the ramens will always be on the menu; Mu Ramen, Spicy Miso, and the Tonkotsu 2.0. I have not decided which four we will open with but we will always have five ramens on the menu and one rotating on a weekly basis.

What types of ramen could they be? It could be anything from Tsukemen, Foie, Duck, Pata Negra, Parmesan, Seafood, Shoyu, Yuzu, Paitan, Kimchi…basically these ramens I have mentioned I have already made.

They are all very delicious, but I want to keep it fresh. So we will see which are popular and which are not. It really depends on the guests, how I feel, and what inspires me. (more…)

09/12/14 12:58pm
koji2

An extra spicy bowl of Koji Hagihara’s tonkotsu chashu ramen.

Last year when I tasted Koji Hagihara’s tonkotsu chashu ramen at LIC Flea & Food I liked it so much I told him I hoped he’d bring it to Queens year round. Hagihara is the chef at Hakata Tonton, a West Village eatery specializing in Japanese dishes made from pig’s feet. His tonkotsu ramen is nowhere to be found on Hakata Tonton’s menu.  I am glad to report that he has started serving the fortifying noodle soup at the Flea every Saturday. (more…)