One of the things I heard most from my editors when I was putting together 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Misswas “Joe, there’s too much food on your list.” To which I mentally responded, “Don’t they know who they hired? I am the guy who ate Queens for chrissake!” Somehow I still managed to mention food and drink more than 40 times in the book. Herewith are seven of my favorites. To find out the others, you’ll have to score a copy. A great time to do so would be next Wednesday, February 21 when 111 Places in Queens Comes to Jackson Heights at Espresso 77. Ace photographer Clay Williams and I will even autograph your copy. Can’t make that? Come celebrate Chinese New Year at Leaf Cocktail Lounge with us on February 22nd.
1. Lhasa Fast Food I’d love to take credit for discovering this gem of a Tibetan restaurant tucked behind a Jackson Heights cell phone store, but I can’t. Momo maven Jeff Orlick turned me on to it years ago. There’s nothing fast about the momo making here though. The reward for your patience? Juicy steamed beef dumplings that are amazing as is the thentuk soup featuring hand-torn swatches of dough. It’s such a special place it merited its own chapter! 37-50 74th St, Queens, NY 11372, 646-256-3805
2. Falafel slice at Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar This marvelous Middle Eastern mashup can be had at Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar. It combines two great street foods New York City pizza and Israeli falafel. Topped with half a dozen falafel balls, I like to eat it with tahini and hot sauce. In case you are wondering, this novelty slice did not get its own chapter. It appears as a tip at the end of the chapter on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite. 72-72 Main St, Flushing, 718- 268-0791(more…)
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
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…)
As someone who’s constantly devouring the delicious diversity that is Queens it’s possible to become spoiled by choices, even jaded. Luckily for me leading food tours affords an opportunity to turn others on to the culinary delights of Queens. My passion for the borough and its food is rekindled by seeing it from somebody else’s perspective. Which is precisely what happened when I led ace travel blogger Jon Barr on a whirlwind food tour of Jackson aka Himalayan Heights last week.
“It smelled so good the second I stepped off that train and walked down the stairs,” Barr exclaimed as we strolled over to the aptly name Diversity Plaza for our first stop, some Indian chaat. No tour of the hidden gems of Jackson Heights is complete without a visit to Lhasa Fast Food where we feasted upon momo and cold skin sushi.
All told we visited four countries and two continents in under 10 minutes, plus I got to use my Telemundo announcer’s voice. Be sure to check out Jon’s Youtube channel here and click here for my info on my Queens food tours.
Slippery chewy cold noodles coated in a chili-spiked sauce have been a favorite since I slurped my first sesame-slicked strand. Here in Queens the cold noodle game gets way deeper than sesame noodles, Sichuan noodles, or even near ubiquitous cold skin noodles from Xi’an Famous Foods. That depth is best measured by something I like to call Tibetan style cold skin noodle sushi. I discovered it at Lhasa Fast Food, a Himalayan hot spot hidden behind a cell phone store. (more…)
Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Himalayan Heights Food Tour. Tucked away behind a cell phone store, it’s a veritable Shangrila of Tibetan cooking. Last year the hidden restaurant’s beef dumplings took home the coveted Golden Momo, the trophy awarded to the best momo in the annual Momo Crawl. Juicy and scented with Sichuan peppercorn and Chinese celery the little packages are made to order and well worth the wait. The other day I discovered a secret momo being served at this momo speakeasy: chu-tse momo.(more…)
Refreshing and much easier to eat than its blockier cousin.
Lhasa Fast Food is a favorite stop on my Jackson Heights food tours. My fellow travelers are always amazed to discover a family-run Tibetan eatery tucked behind a cell phone store. The momo are excellent, too. The other day I made a discovery of my own—laphing serpo ($6)—while leading a tour of what I like to call Himalayan Heights.
“Yellow laphing,” the cook said when I gestured to a mass of what looked to be dough behind the counter. Laphing, slippery blocky cold mung bean jelly noodles, bathed in black vinegar, garlic and chilies is quite common on Tibetan menus. This was my first encounter with the yellow variety, though. (more…)