10/27/17 1:12am

Surely Lhasa Fast Food’s “cold skin sushi” deserves Michelin recognition.

Earlier this week Michelin released its 2018 Bib Gourmand honorees,  which “denotes establishments where diners can enjoy a great meal for a good value.” I’m glad the crew of inspectors from the little red book is focusing more attention on the so-called outer boroughs and happy to see they added my dear friend Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy to the list, but the Queens roster is still lacking. What’s more, Brooklyn and Manhattan are broken out into subareas (Upper East Side, Williamsburg, etc.) while the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens lack such distinction. If any from Guide Michelin is reading this, do look me up I’d be glad to consult with you on neighborhood geography for a modest fee. (For the record I live in the one called Rego Park.)

“I can name five more Southeast Asian restaurants that should be on that list,” read a quote from me in The Wall Street Journal’s piece on the Bib Gourmands. I can, but I won’t. Instead here’s a list of seven places of varying cuisines that should have made the Michelin cut.

1. Lhasa Fast food
Everybody who’s into food knows about this spot, which Jeff Orlick hipped me to years ago. Call it a momo speakeasy if you must, but really what Lhasa Fast Food is is a window into another culture and cuisine that just happens to be tucked away behind a cellphone store. I like the spicy yellow liang fen done up to look like sushi and of course the momos, including the classic beef and the rarely seen chu tse, or chive version. . 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights

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07/31/17 12:11pm

Hongeo sahm-hop looks innocent enough.

“Oooh they have Korean-style fermented skate,” my friend Chef Sung Kim said as she perused the menu at Jeunju in Mokja Golmok or Eater’s Alley, which surrounds the Murray Hill LIRR station. “I’ve never had it,” she said of the delicacy hongeo-hoe.

I’d been eating at the homestyle Korean restaurant ever since my pal John Choe  turned me on to it and thought it was high time to turn my posse of food loving friends on to Chef Eunhae Bae’s wonderful takes on samgyetang, the Korean ginseng chicken soup that’s renowned as a tonic during the dog days of summer, and gamjatang, a hearty pork spine stew. Fermented fish was the furthest thing from my mind that summer evening, but not being a group to shy away from culinary challenges we took Sung’s lead and ordered the hongeo-hoe. After all, how bad could it be? (more…)

12/30/16 11:41pm

With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. It was a big year for me and for food in Queens, including a feature in Asahi Shimbun and the discovery of the durian pizza. In no particular order here are 16 of the best things I ate last year.

MRCRISPY

1. Best Grilled Cheese
Mr. Crispy, a grilled cheese sandwich served at Astoria Bier & Cheese answers the question, “How good can a grilled cheese be?” with a resounding “very, very good.”  The sandwich of cave aged gruyere, ham and honey mustard is coated in  mantle of white crispy cheese. This coating extends outward into a golden lacy corolla, a veritable halo of crispy cheese. It’s crunchy, sharp, and eminently craveable. I’ve haven’t been this excited about fried cheese since Joe Bastianich’s ill-fated Frico Bar. Astoria Bier & Cheese, 34-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-545-5588

 

whitspie

2.  Most Fabulous F***in’ Clam Pizza
The salciccia e vongole pizza at Whit’s End is the best clam pie I’ve had outside of Zuppardi’s. Housemade sausage seasoned with clove, star, anise, juniper, and allspice join the Littleneck clams along with pepperoncini and shaved garlic. The combination of the fior di latte mozzarella and  Parmigianno Regianno round things out quite nicely. Whit’s End, Riis Park Beach Bazaar

 

HakkaHotChicken

3. Hottest Off-menu Indian-Chinese Chicken
Nashville may have cayenne-infused hot chicken, but here in Queens we have something I like to call hakka hot chicken. Peter Lo, Queens’ godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine and founder of Tangra Masala, whipped up a batch for me a while back. The hacked up bits of fried bird sauced in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298

 

4. Best Breakfast Sandwich
I count myself a big fan of the classic bacon egg and cheese, but my favorite breakfast sandwich of 2017 contains no swine whatsoever. The breakfast sandwich at Roast n Co combines organic eggs, tomato jam, and Cabot white cheddar on a brioche make for one of the best egg sandwiches ever. Since Roast n co is run by Tunisians you have the option of asking for a sidecar of harissa, a lovely concoction of chili peppers, olive oil, and paprika. It’s an option you should exercise. Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000

The action at Majang Dong takes place out back.

5. Most Secret Korean BBQ Garden
Korean barbecue always brings to mind happy memories of backyard barbecues. At Flushing’s Majang Dong the Korean BBQ that takes place in an actual backyard. Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ,  and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. Pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers, but one of the best meats is grilled pork intestines. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins. Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629 (more…)

12/21/16 4:41am
thaicongee

Sugar Club added Thai style congee to the menu just in time for winter.

Like much of New York City, Queens is now in winter’s icy grip. Unlike most of the rest the city though we have two Chinatowns and the most robust K-town in New York City, which is all a very long way of saying that there are many many options when it comes to Asian soups. Here are our seven of our favorites.

1.  Thai Congee, Sugar Club
“Thai people like the pork one,” the kid behind the counter responded when asked which variety of Thai congee was better. Earlier this week Sugar Club started selling the rice porridge, known as jok in Thailand, just in time for winter. The shop’s version ($6.50) of the ubiquitous Asian breakfast porridge features an egg stirred in, mushrooms, and a tangle of noodles. As for the pork it turns out to be lovely little meatballs. Doctored up with chili flakes and salty Golden Mountain sauce this combination porridge/noodle soup its a great way to ward off winter’s arctic chill. Sugar Club, 81-18 Broadway, Elmhurst, 718-565-9018

beijinglamb

This lamb spine’s mighty fine.

2. Lamb Hot Pot, Beijing First Lamb Shabu
I’m no fan of Chinese style hotpot, but the stuff they’re making at Beijing First Lamb Shabu, (Lao Cheng Yi Guo in Chinese) is truly special, mainly because the specialty of the house isn’t traditional hotpot, but rather a rich lamb stew. Upon entering the Flushing branch of this Beijing chain I was floored by pervasive aroma of gamy lamb and five spice.  Like many hot pot joints there’s a ballot-like menu with all sorts of add-ins and soup bases. The difference here is that all of the soup bases feature a combination of mutton ribs and spine in a rich heady broth. Lao Cheng Yi Guo thoughtfully provides gloves so you can pick up the vertebrae and get at the ridiculously tender bits of meat that cling  to the lamb spine.  Someone once told me that eating lamb spine is a fertility tonic for men. I’m not sure about tha,t but Lao Cheng Yi Guo certainly put a smile on my face and warmed me up. Lao Cheng Yi Guo, 136-55 37th Ave., Flushing

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12/12/16 10:10am
soondoogook

Pork and blood sausage make for a hearty soup.

In the past six months I’ve  come to appreciate Korean seollongtang, a milky mellow ox bone soup. It’s nourishing and comforting and easy on my digestive system, which has been a bit fragile lately. One can only slurp so much of the same soup before boredom sets in though. So I’ve tried other versions of the long-simmered bone broth soup with various add-ins including chunks of oxtail and medicinal herbs, but none has proved as satisfying as the minimalist seollontang.

The other day I was dining at Tang with Chef Dave of NY Epicurean Events, and he was trying to get me to order soon dae gook ($14), a seollontang spin featuring pork and the Korean pork blood sausage, soon dae. “That looks good,” he said as I proceeded to tell him most variations of the dish I’d tried fell flat. But the promise of offal convinced me to try it. (more…)

09/26/16 11:23pm
seoltang1

Seollontang at Flushing’s Gahwa.

For the longest time Korean and many other cuisines were all about fire for me. Creamy curds of tofu in bubbling angry bowl of red soondubu was my go-to lunch order at K-Town’s Seoul Garden.

Lately I’ve been embracing the mellower side of Korean cuisine; and there’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of seollongtang, a long-simmered ox bone soup. I’ve been told that’s it’s good to eat when feeling sick. Recently I’ve had the good fortune to be sick enough begun to appreciate just how good.

A month ago I found myself in Tang out on Northern Boulevard. Dehydrated and spent after having a chemotherapy port in my chest checked out I slumped into a seat and gasped, “Seollontang.” (more…)

09/14/16 1:25pm
Ejen's Korean noodles are just one of many dishes that will be served at the Mid-Autumn Asian Feastival.

Savor Ejen’s Korean noodles at the Mid-Autumn Asian Feastival.

Queens has long been home to New York City’s real Chinatown. In addition to tons of top-notch regional Chinese food the borough boasts some of the best Asian food in New York City. That’s why C+M is proud to partner with LIC Flea & Food for the first-ever Mid-Autumn Asian Feastival being held all this weekend from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Join us to experience the flavors of Korea, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand at this very special festival. There’s only one place this weekend to enjoy Indian dosa, Taiwanese fried chicken, Korean noodles, Indonesian satay, and Japanese ramen and that’s the Feastival! (more…)

06/29/16 12:47am
GAMJA2

Getting to the meat of the matter at Murray Hill’s Jeonju.

The K-town in Manhattan with its abbreviated strip of Korean restaurants along West 32 Street pales in comparison to the vast K-tropolis that runs east along Northern Boulevard for hundreds of blocks. Ground zero for this Korean culinary wonderland is Mokja Golmok or Eater’s Alley, which surrounds the Murray Hill LIRR station. I’ve eaten at many of the places that ring the rail depot, Ma Po Korean BBQ for savory short rib kalbi and Nolbu Food for the Korean take on sushi known as kimbap and the blood sausage soondae.

One place I’ve never tried until very recently is Jeonju Korean Restaurant. I’ve passed it for years, so when a friend raved to me about the 17-year old restaurant’s gamjatang, or spicy pork spine stew I happily agreed to meet him there for a bowl. (more…)

06/20/16 12:51pm
patningsoo

Nuts and dried fruit top this frosty Korean treat.

When summertime rolls around, my heart, mind, and stomach turn toward frosty treats. Here in Queens we’re lucky to have so many to choose from. There’s everything from old school institutions like Eddie’s Sweet Shop and The Lemon Ice King of Corona to new fangled creations like Snow Days, plus shaved ice creations from all over the globe, including Mexico,Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, and Korea.

Pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice typically consists of a small glacier of ice topped with red beans, fresh fruit, and condensed milk. Lately a newer version of the treat has appeared on the scene, a “well-being” variety that skips the red beans and condensed milk, favoring other ingredients like nuts and mochi. My favorite version of this pat bing soo subspecies can be had at Ye Dang, a shop on the further reaches of Queens’ vast K-tropolis. (more…)

06/07/16 11:44am
Because nothing says Korean food like Canadian ham.

Because nothing says Korean food like Canadian ham.

Back when I first moved to Queens there was a pizzeria in downtown Flushing called T.J.’s that sold a Korean-influenced slice. Apart from a generous serving of tangy, peppery kimchi it was a classic New York City slice. And T.J.’s itself was a classic New York City pizza parlor.

A few weeks ago some friends and I tried out Pizza Maru, in the vast K-tropolis of Northern Boulevard. If T.J.’s was a classic New York joint then Pizza Maru is classic Korean fast-casual spot. It’s Pizza Hut as envisioned by Korean businessmen, complete with four types of stuffed crusts and more than a dozen pies, including honey gorgonzola and Chicago style. (more…)