Fare from Tibet, Xinjiang, and Thailand make it the most diverse food court in New York City’s most diverse borough.
Like many of my fellow Queens food nerds I’ve been eagerly awaiting the opening of HK Food Court in Elmhurst. It’s been in the works for so long, that I didn’t think it was going to happen especially since the owner also operates a less than stellar food court in the basement of Hong Kong Supermarket in downtown Flushing.
Then last Saturday my buddy Ron and I poked our heads in to see almost all the booths set up. “Come back Monday,” a worker told us. So I came back. In fact I’ve been back four times so far. You might expect to find HK food, but the name refers to the fact that the culinary wonderland is built on the former site of Hong Kong Supermarket’s Elmhurst location.
The Chinese name “xiang gang mei chi cheng,” actually translates to “Hong Kong Gourmet Food Court.” Even thought it’s not even fully occupied I haven’t been this excited about a food court since I took Fuchsia Dunlop to Golden Shopping Mall. “It’s one thing to have to go to Main and Roosie for something like this, but to have this around the way is amazing,” I overheard someone say to their tablemate. Indeed! Here’s a look at what I’ve eaten so far.
Lamb ‘polo’ by way of China’s Xinjiang Autonomous region and Elmhurst.
Xinjiang House (No. 17) sits between one of the food court’s numerous Thai vendors and the sole Vietnamese outfit. It specializes in fare from China’s Xinjiang autonomous region. The Chinese name “Hui Wei Xinjiang” translates to “Xinjiang Muslim taste,” and the bill of fare features plenty of lamb. I tried a lovely Xinjiang lamb pilaf ($7.99), or polo as as the gent behind the counter called it. The fat grains of rice were shot through with fatty chunks of lamb, raisins, and barberries and just enough carrot for sweetness. Next time, I’m getting the spicy lamb feet ($15.99).
On the day I tried Xinjiang House I took a peek at Khao Ka Moo NYC, a Thai pork specialist to the left. A burnished pork shank redolent of five spice and other aromatics sat luxuriating in a steam table with eggs and greens. I was already full, but plotting my return.
There are many, many treats at the Heights’ new bakery but this chocolate bar steals the show.
Acclaimed pastry chef Michael Mignano’s Farine Baking Company opened about a week and a half ago in Jackson Heights, a neighborhood better known for such multicolored Indian sweets as jalebi and chum chum than French treats like brioche and kouign amann. I stopped by last weekend to ogle the Viennoiserie and other goodies, but the place was a madhouse, so I returned on a weekday when things were a bit more chill and was lucky enough to meet the man himself.
“Try this, the 2017 Iron Chef champ said as he handed me an ingot-sized chocolate bar. “This is our Mignano bar. It’s layers of cashew and macadamia nut caramel, dark chocolate, crispy nougat, and graham cracker crust, all covered in dark chocolate with black Hawaiian sea salt,” the bar’s namesake told me as I bit into it and held on to the counter to avoid fainting from sheer bliss. (more…)
Mohinga as served by the newly revamped Asian Bowl, the sole Burmese restaurant in Queens.
I suspect I’m not alone as a food writer in having guilty pleasures I never write about. One of my favorites is the Singapore mei fun from Asian Bowl, a takeout pan-Asian spot next to an Uzbek kebab parlor, around the corner from my house. I’m well aware that there is little or nothing Singaporean about the tangle of yellow noodles, shrimp, pork, and egg, but that doesn’t stop me from eating it at least once a week.
The other night I stopped in to get my mei fun on. The place seemed different, for one thing the lights were turned up high and there were new tables. “Are you open I asked?” of a guy who I’d never seen working the counter. “Yes, but we’re under new management,” he said after taking my order. “We are going to start serving Burmese food and sushi too.”
“If you make mohinga I’ll come every day,” I responded. “How do you know mohinga,” he said quickly grabbed my hand and kissing it in a fit of pure joy because I namechecked the fish noodle soup from his homeland. (more…)
Kanom jeen ngaew features pork blood, pork ribs, and ground pork.
Elmhurst’s Little Bangkok is so robust that it can support everything from boat noodle popups to dessert cafes. The latest entrant is Lamoon, the hood’s sole specialist in Chiang Mai cuisine, from Chef Arada Moonroj who learned to shop at local markets and pick lemongrass and kaffir lime from her mother and grandmother back home in Northern Thailand. A profound dislike for the use of MSG in New York City’s Thai restaurants led her to teach herself how to cook by watching Youtube videos.
After cooking for friends she decided to open Lamoon, which is both a play on her last name and a Thai word that is perhaps best translated as subtle, or better yet, soigné. It took over the old Ploy Thai space about two weeks ago and features a decor that combines a feminine sensibility with Thai street art. (more…)
In the 20 plus years that I’ve been living in Queens the strip of Austin Street that runs through Forest Hills has never been known as a hotbed of authentic Asian cuisine. In the past few years though, that’s been gradually changing. First came Violet’s Bake Shoppe, which brought top-notch bánh mì to the area and then Pink Forest Cafe, a Chinese-run coffee shop with a sideline in jian bing. The latest entrant, Xin Taste Lan Zhou Hand Pull Noodle opened a few weeks ago, just as winter was beginning to sink its icy claws into New York City. (more…)
Speck, truffle, and ricotta team up for this gourmet pie.
Lately I’ve been getting in touch with my Italian heritage through food, which is how I wound up at Levante, Long Island City’s newest pizzeria last night. Actually, that’s not exactly true my barber Kirk Riley told me about it while I was in the chair yesterday evening. “Gonna go wherever the wind takes you?” he quipped when I told him I had no plans for the night.
And that’s how I wound up standing on Jackson Avenue perusing the menu of this Napoletana newcomer, which opened late last month, and is named for the East Wind. After mulling over the roster of more than a dozen pies, I settled on the LIC ($21), topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, speck, fresh ricotta, and truffle pate. (more…)
“I guess Queens is still the only place to go,” read a lament about the state of Thai food in Brooklyn. To put a finer point on, it Elmhurst, is the place to go. And, to narrow it down even further, Hug Esan, is the place, at least so it’s been for the past 11 days for me and a rather large chunk of the local Thai community.
I’d been watching the space—carved out of the first floor of an apartment building—for months. The name might sound like a character from a Thai version of Starsky and Hutch, but Hug means “love” in Thailand’s Esan dialect. (more…)
From Guangzhou to Flushing, steamed rice roll with egg.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Jane sent me a video of Guangzhou rice rolls being made. “I wish we had these here,” she wrote via Facebook message.
Within a day or two she sent me another message, apparently these rolled rice noodles had to come Flushing thanks to an outfit called Joe’s Steam Rice Roll. So we decided to check it out.
The joint’s Chinese name, “Shi Mo Chang Feng Wang,” as Jane was so kind to inform me translates to “Stone Milled Rice Roll King.” Sure enough right in the window was a stone mill used to grind rice into a slurry and the king himself, whose name it turns out is actually Joe. (more…)
When leading food tours of downtown Flushing, I often boast that it is America’s best Chinatown. I’m also fond of pointing out Queens has two Chinatowns: the bustling hub that radiates outward from Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue and a little sister in Elmhurst. Until now there’s been little interchange between the two. All that changed with the opening of Happy Stony Noodle a couple of weeks ago.
“OMG where is that,” more than one friend asked when I sent a photo of Elmhurst’s oddest named and newest Taiwanese eatery. My pals’ surprise can be traced to the fact that Happy Stony isn’t new at all. It’s a reboot of Happy Beef Noodle (Kuai Le Niu Rou Mian) a much-loved spot on Prince Street that closed years ago. (more…)
Spectacular Sichuan street food can be had at No. 25.
“It’s the same thing as New World Mall Food Court,” a local restaurant owner said of downtown Flushing’s latest entrant in the Queens Chinatown food court game. Indeed the first thing one sees when entering the month-old New York Food Court is Tokyo Express, a fake Japanese chicken teriyaki joint that looks suspiciously like the one in New World Mall. And, yes just like at New World Mall Food Court, there’s yet another branch of Lanzhou Hand Pull Noodles as well as several spicy stir fry by the pound places, including the ridiculously named Incredibowl. Nonetheless I’ve been able to ferret out some good stuff. Let’s start with Szechuan Taste, No. 25, which lies just beyond the jivey Japanese. (more…)