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

 

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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
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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

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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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12/14/16 10:12am
fattybeef

Bracing sourness and chilies are a perfect foil for fatty beef.

Most non-Chinese speaking Flushing fans know the Henanese outfit Su Xiang Yuan by its English name, Nutritious Lamb Noodle Soup. And that milky white broth teeming with tender bits of lamb, chewy hand-pulled wheat noodles and other goodies is the star of the show.

Su Xiang Yuan got its start in the Golden Mall but has another location in New World Mall with a deeper menu offering such dishes as da pan ji, or big tray of chicken, and suan tang fei niu, fat beef slices in sour stock. I broke with lamb noodle tradition to try the fatty beef dish yesterday, and I’m glad I did. Normally I doctor up the lamb noodle soup with chili paste and vinegar. Given that it was already a sour soup and the sight of a few chilies I decided to enjoy it as is.

Glass noodles and ribbons of tofu skin lurked beneath the surface of fatty ribbons of beef, crunchy sour cabbage, and pickled peppers. The bracing sour broth and chilies were a perfect foil to the ribbons of fatty beef. This dish also came with a bowl of white rice. I alternated between eating it on its own and putting slices of beef on top. I’ll definitely be back for another bowl or two of this stuff.

It bears pointing out that there is no English name for the New World Mall location, you can easily spot it though. It’s the one in the back right corner playing a loop of Anthony Bourdain eating their soup.

Su Xiang Yuan, No.28, New World Mall Food Court, Flushing

10/19/16 1:51pm
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Purple sweet potato cold skin noodles.

I haven’t  been this excited about cold skin noodles—aka liáng pi—since I first tried them at Xi’an Famous Foods, back when family patriarch David Shi went by the moniker Liáng Pí and his sales pitch was a hawker’s chant, “My name is Liáng Pí, try my famous cold skin noodles, you want to try a Chinese hamburger.” These days the mini-chain deserves the appellation “famous” and has even spawned imposters, notably Elmhurst’s Chinger, a pormanteau of Chinese Burger, that sounds like a racial epithet.

Thankfully Lǎo Luòyáng is no imposter but rather a practitioner of the liang pi art that brings some color and history to the game. On a first visit I tried the purple sweet potato cold noodle ($6.50), zǐshǔ liáng pí. The sweet potato lent a slight tinge to the slippery wheat noodles and squidgy blocks of gluten, but added little flavor. No matter though as the sauce was astonishing, hitting many points of the flavor matrix, chili, garlic, vinegar, but above all a beguiling blend of tahini and aromatics like cloves. It was so good I slurped some up with a straw.  (more…)

04/24/15 12:28am
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Peng Shun’s Mongolian roast lamb ribs are astounding.

“Wow I think you renewed my faith in this dish,” a dining companion said the other day. He was talking about Muslim lamb chop a delicacy that rose to ascendancy on cumin-scented wave of glory at Fu Ran neé Fu Run about five years ago. Sadly Fu Ran’s version ain’t what it used to be. On my last few visits it was precooked, rendering what should be gloriously juicy, fatty lamb flesh rather dry and tight.

Muslim lamb chop also called lamb in Xinjiang style is a specialty of Flushing’s Dongbei restaraunts. The version that rocked our world’s can’t be had at a restaurant though. It’s served in a much more humble setting, New York Food Court. (more…)

03/23/15 9:56am
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Cheng Du Bo Bo Ji’s fried chicken is a ma la head’s fever dream.

“Are sure you can handle it,” the kid behind the counter at the newest stall in Flushing’s New World Mall Food Court said skeptically. “Yes, yes ma la,” I replied, indicating that I was down with the classic Sichuan numb-hot flavor that combines fiery chili heat with the floral and tingly Sichuan peppercorn. The dish in question was listed on the menu as Chong Qing Spicy Chicken ($10.99), but he referred to it as house spicy fried chicken. (more…)

02/24/15 3:18pm
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The stars of Shandong dumpling making have a new home.

After years of being on the chopping block, Flushing Mall finally closed its doors late last month. I can’t say I’ll miss the odd collection of retailers, but the main food court was always a favorite food tour stop, particularly for Diverse Dim Sum’s excellent xiao long bao. And then there were the Shandong Dumpling Ladies located on the already sleepy mall’s even sleepier side. (more…)

12/31/14 4:41pm

As 2014 draws to a close rather than offer up a roster of resolutions—less chips more gym, save money, etc.—C+M presents a list of 14 of our favorite things, a highlight reel of the year that was. Let the mostly Queens-focused cavalcade of offal, mashups, secret eats, and overall deliciousness begin.

RUGELSSAINT

The rugelssaint at Andre’s Hungarian.

1. Sweetest mashup
Part pain au chocolat, part rugelach, all decadence the chocolate croissant—aka rugelssaint—at Andre’s Hungarian Bakery was my go-to guilty breakfast this year.

BANGANSOUP1A

Ban Ga Ne’s got your large format goat feast needs covered.

2. Best goat meat bonanza
Not only was the three-course black goat meat feast at Ban Ga Ne one of the best Korean meals I’ve had in a long time, it was some of the best goat I’ve ever had. Plus as the proprietor pointed out, it’s um, invigorating.

NHZUPP2

Zuppardi’s glorious fresh shucked Little Neck clam pie.

3. Best pizza
Some friends and I made a pizza pilgrimage to New Haven this fall. Everything we tried was good, but the real revelation came when we dug into the fresh clam pie at Zuppardi’s Apizza. Fragrant with Little Necks and oregano atop a crackling thin crust, it was simply astounding. (more…)

12/02/14 4:56pm
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At the new Deli Manjoo Korean sweets are selling like hot cakes.

“Is there a Korean donut place like that one in Eater,” my doughnut obsessed pal asked via text message the other day. “Not sure,” I responded, but there are at least two places that sell piping hot Korean sweets. Deli Manjoo, the newest, opened in the bustling J-Mart supermarket a few days ago and is doing a brisk business. (more…)

07/22/14 12:57pm
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Is that chicken crackling atop my rice rolls? Why yes, yes it is.

I can trace both a passion for Chinese food and a tendency toward dietary excess to my old man, who was of the more is more school of cooking and eating. Oh Craig Claiborne’s recipe calls for a teaspoon of preserved black beans? I’ll put three it’ll be better, right? Wrong! Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, a calorific, cholesterol-laden little number I call hung jiang chang fen ji pi, or mixed sauce rice rolls with crispy chicken skin. (more…)