“After five or 10 minutes of trying to figure out how to order a guy my age will give up and go around the corner and get a slice of pizza,” I quipped to my new friend Calvin. “And not come back,” I thought to myself.
Thankfully my urge to try the Burmese food from Myo Moe’s newly opened Mandalay Club outweighed my frustration with technology and the disconnect I experienced at Sunnyside Eats, a ghost kitchen/food hall that as best as I can tell opened earlier this fall. Part of the disconnect was due to the use of the word “Food Hall” on the outdoor signage. I’d expected to walk around a food hall. Instead I found myself in a room that looked somewhat like a cross between a taxi dispatch office and the set of Squid Game.
“Is Mandalay Club open today?” I didn’t see them on the tablet. “Oh yeah, they’re new. You have to order from Uber Eats,” the guy behind the dispatch window told me.
After installing Uber Eats and fiddling around with it for another five minutes only to realize that Mandalay Club was not on the platform Calvin came over. By this time I’d figured out Mandalay Club was on DoorDash. “It should be about 20 minutes,” Calvin informed me after checking on my order. That order consisted of wettar thoke ($14)—a cold melange of various parts of pig face, cucumbers chilies and veggies that I hadn’t enjoyed since Crazy Crab in Flushing shut down a few years ago—and anya lamb curry seit thar natt ($18), an intriguing sounding lamb neck dish.
While I waited, I amused myself by seeing how many photos I could take in the lobby despite the fact a sign expressly forbids any photography and video. (For the record it was two.) And then I remembered that my friend Kazuko Nagao of Oconomi had opened at Sunnyside Eats, so she came downstairs and helped me pass the time as I waited for my meal.
The meal itself was quite excellent. The pig head dish was a wonderful balance of crunchy bits of ear, squidgy nose, and creamy cheek meat with cucumber, green chili, red onion and other veggies. The lamb neck was amazing too. Moe told me she sources it from D’Artagnan and then cooks it for an hour and a half in a gingery masala along with yellow split peas.
All in all it made for a fine meal on a chilly evening. In fact I’m looking forward to part two tonight. That said, I’ll stick to frequenting real food courts instead of ghost ones, which leave me hungering for human interaction. Guess this very very late adopter will be ordering Oconomi as well as the rest of Moe’s menu via DoorDash.
Mandalay Club, 40-05 Skillman Ave., Long Island City
“Hugue literally said that you inspired the sandwich,” Sarah Obraitis told me via text. The creation in question? A foie gras sandwich that recently landed on the menu at their restaurant M. Wells in Long Island City. While I’m flattered by Chef Hugue Dufour’s comment, I take it with a grain or two of fleur du sel. As for the sandwich, I went to try it last weekend and wasn’t quite sure what to expect other than decadence. I did have a hazy memory of a photo of an orb of fattened duck liver that looked like it had been dispatched with an ice cream scoop.
The $24 sandwich consists of a generous ball of creamy foie perched atop a bun slathered with homemade membrillo, aka quince paste. Call it what you will, its tart sweetness is a great counterpoint to the rich, creamy foie gras. For a moment I considered smushing the orb down and eating the whole lot like an actual sandwich, but decided against that for two reasons: 1) it would be really messy and 2) I wanted to prolong my gustatory bliss for as long as possible. So I spread a good deal of it on the top bun and fell to.
A few words about that bun, it is a challah bread dough that’s been treated like a croissant and has a bit of smoked eel in it. The whole experience took me back to the first time I ever tried foie gras at the River Cafe 20 years ago. The smoked eel in the bread was a mere whisper, but it did call to mind a smoked eel croissant that Chef Dufour dreamed up for a Queens Dinner Club Brunch. So I guess I am in some sense the inspiration for this sandwich.
I enjoyed my main course of monkfish well enough, but that sandwich was a tough act to follow. Next time, I’m getting two. I wonder if the kitchen would put it on a baguette. Do I dare to dream of a foie gras banh mi? After all stranger and tastier things have happened at M. Wells and hopefully will continue to do so now that restaurants are back open at 35% and the end of the pandemic is in sight.
M. Wells, Steakhouse, 43-15 Crescent St, Long Island City, NY 11101
It’s early days in 2020, but I’m confident to go on record that the Kashmiri lamb ribs that Chef Chintan Pandya just put on the menu at Adda Indian Canteen in Long Island City are the best lamb dish I’ve eaten this year. I am of course partial to the musky meatiness of lamb ribs, and still bemoan the loss of Peng Shun’s cumin-encrusted Muslim lamb chop.
There’s something about the combination of cumin, chili, and musky lamb that’s just perfect and Pandya’s lamb ribs are no exception. The two meaty specimens—available for $23 only at dinner—are stained red from a spice blend that includes cumin; red chili powder; and amchur, or dried mango powder. The combination of crunchy spice crusted mantle and tender meat is mindblowing. I gladly ate them as is, but the mint chutney did provide a nice cooling counterpoint.
“It is a very simple process to cook it’s just time consuming,” Pandya modestly says of his new creation. Part of that time is a leisurely simmer in a secret elixir for six or seven hours. Pandya says the inspiration for the dish is a Kashmiri classic called tabak maaz, where the lamb is first cooked in milk and then browned in butter.
“I don’t call it tabak maaz, I call it Kashmiri lamb ribs,” Pandya says because his cooking method is different. No matter, I call it delicious.
Adda Indian Canteen, 31-31 Thomson Ave., Long Island City, 718-433-3888
Vibrant ceviche mixto, featuring shrimp and octopus, and the mighty bolon filled with pork, plantains, and mozzarella are just part of the evening’s menu.
Ask any old-school Queens food nerd, including yours truly, about Ecuadorean cuisine in the World’s Borough and the first thing that comes to mind will be the cluster of food trucks on Warren Street underneath the 7 train in Corona or perhaps the ladies who grill cuy—guinea pig—in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. About year ago though some very trusted Queens food nerds of a more recent vintage, like my pal Instagrammer @Wendalicious888 started to talk about a new place Rincón Melania on the border of Sunnyside and Long Island City.
“How good can it be? There are no Ecuadoreans over there,” I thought to myself. Good enough for a glowing review in The New York Times it turns out. Which is why I’m so glad that the next Queens Dinner Club will convene at Rincón Melania November 13th. Make sure you don’t miss out on this very special dinner by signing up for our mailing list here.
Case of the Mondays answers the question ‘What if the Take 5 Bar were a pie’?
For a food writer who doesn’t specialize in sweets, I I’ve been on a bit of a sugar kick lately. I blame a certain highfalutin candy bar from Michael Mignano. My latest indulgence was a slice of heaven called Case of the Mondays from Daly Pie.
Meghan Daly’s shop is located in the faraway land of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, but luckily for me it has had a popup in Long Island City for the past few months. I passed by a week or so ago to check out the goods, from the traditional like butter milk coconut and apple crisp to the newfangled like salty lime and the aforementioned Case of the Mondays, which consists of peanut butter custard sandwiched between a pretzel crust, a layer of Nutella and chocolate ganache. In lieu of whipped cream, there are potato chips. (more…)
The fig and rosemary latte from Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters.
I’d just wrapped up a rather epic food tour of the entire 7 line in Long Island City. Before parting ways with one of my guests we had a brief chat about overpriced coffee in L.I.C. and how he never patronizes the local cafes. After we parted ways I proceeded to one of the aforementioned cafes, Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters for an espresso.
When it come to highfalutin java I’m an espresso man, or if I’m feeling kind of fancy a cortado. I hardly ever get lattes, and certainly never flavored ones. But when I saw the sign on the counter for a $5 seasonal fig and rosemary latte, I couldn’t resist. If I’m going to overpay for a coffee, it might as well be a fancy one.
Thankfully both the rosemary syrup and fig preserves were on the light side, but it was definitely a sweet drink. In any case I’m sure it was way better than the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte. So here’s what I like to know friends, what’s your favorite fall beverage? Let me know in the comments below.
Bellwether’s patty melt is lovely, but it’s more of a cheeseburger.
Sometimes I wish my dear departed friend and meat maven Josh Ozersky was still with us. Partly so I could take him to dodgy Chinese restaurants, but mostly so I could ask him questions about burger lore, like the one in the headline.
I came to the patty melt late in life. I didn’t try one until my late forties. And I suppose that the one I tried, which I believe was at Tower Diner, formed my impression of what a proper patty melt should be. It was composed of a medium rare patty swaddled between two crisp pieces of rye bread along with melted Swiss and caramelized onions.
It was more of of a grilled cheese than a hamburger, and I have it on good authority that that’s how it should be. Most of all it was a messy sandwich oozing an amalgam of beef drippings and fat from the Swiss, what Ozersky would have lovely called “greeze.” (more…)
Now that summer is here in full sweltering force it’s time for a listicle that’s as chill as an icicle. Herein, seven of my favorite frozen treats ranging from traditional Thai and Mexican icees to some decidedly highfalutin ice cream and other treats. Feel free to chime in with your favorite frozen treat in the comments!
1. Baked Alaska, Spot Dessert Bar
There’s something about fancy pants ice cream that calls for skipping the cone. It’s as if there is a voice in my head saying, “This Tahitian vanilla bamboo charcoal swirl is for grownups. You can’t let it dribble down your chin, plus how will you possibly get a photo of it?” Which is why I’m glad that Spot Dessert Bar’s Baked Alaska comes in a cone. It’s not ice cream either, it’s sorbet, your choice of mango or raspberry. I opted for the latter. “Would you like to do a video?” the waiter asked as he brought over the meringue topped cone over to the table with a torch. Just beneath the browned meringue sat the tart refreshing sorbet. “I should really eat more ice cream cones,” I thought to myself as I munched happily away. Midway through came a surprise, fluffy bits of chiffon cake followed by more sorbet. I definitely should eat more ice cream cones, especially when they have cake inside. I’ll be back for the mango. Spot Dessert Bar, 39-16-39-98 Prince St., Flushing, 917- 285-2187
2. Tao tueng, Khao Nom I’m a big fan of shaved ice whether Dominican frio frio or Korean patbingsu, so when I saw that this Thai dessert specialist offered two kinds, I had to try them both. Tub tim krob, which features crunchy jewels of water chestnut coated in chewy jelly, in a sea of coconut milk syrup is strictly for the coconut fans, while tao tueng features longan fruit, barley, tapioca pearls, dates, and of all things potato. Somehow, it manages to make shaved ice seem healthy. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be glad that the brass bowl keeps it ice cold and even happier when the gal behind the counter offers a sidecar of extra shaved ice. I know I was. Khao Nom, 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 929-208-0108(more…)
Among all meats, lamb particularly the fatty ribs, might just be my very favorite. In my Rego Park stamping grounds, I’m especially keen on Uzbek style lamb rib kebabs, but as many of you know my favorite lamb ribs of all were the Muslim Lamb Chop as served by the now defunct Peng Shun Spicy Pot.
The other week my hopes were raised when my buddy Stanford and I saw a dish on the menu of Alley 41 listed as cumin roasted lamb chops. “Can you ask the waiter if it’s fried fresh?” I queried of my pal whose Chinese is way better than mine. Eventually after a phone call to his father, the question was put to the waiter in a sufficiently delicate fashion. It’s a question of crucial importance too, because the restaurant that brought the dish to Flushing, Fu Run, chooses to fry the whole thing beforehand and then reheat it, an unconscionable disservice to both the diners and the lamb itself.
Catch of the day: gooseneck barnacles at M. Wells Steakhouse.
I’m a big fan of raw seafood and indulge in oysters, clams, and other more far-flung marine fare as often as my wallet and constitution permit. I’ve savored Korean meongge in Murray Hill—briny, orange fleshed sea squirt—and sweet live razor clams on the streets of Arthur Avenue, but one thing I never tried until last night was barnacles.
Whenever I treat myself to M. Wells Steakhouse, I sit at the bar facing the oyster shucking station. So I immediately noticed the chalkboard trumpeting barnacles in all caps. (more…)