09/18/14 10:35am

smooklerJoshua Smookler the man behind Pete Wells’ favorite ramen has been a busy man of late. In between the birth of his daughter and the run-up to Mu Ramen,which is set to open mid to late October, he was kind enough answer Seven Questions.

Will you be unveiling any new ramen?
Yes, we will have four types of ramen that will be seasonal. Three of the ramens will always be on the menu; Mu Ramen, Spicy Miso, and the Tonkotsu 2.0. I have not decided which four we will open with but we will always have five ramens on the menu and one rotating on a weekly basis.

What types of ramen could they be? It could be anything from Tsukemen, Foie, Duck, Pata Negra, Parmesan, Seafood, Shoyu, Yuzu, Paitan, Kimchi…basically these ramens I have mentioned I have already made.

They are all very delicious, but I want to keep it fresh. So we will see which are popular and which are not. It really depends on the guests, how I feel, and what inspires me. (more…)

06/30/14 10:13am

An arepa de choclo in all its cheesy, gooey glory.

One of the coolest things about Roosevelt Avenue during the World Cup is the team spirit and national pride that pervades the street. The air crackles with energy, particularly after a win. And on Saturday, Colombia won, and they won big. It was the first time that the national team made it this far, and folks in the street were partying like it too, dancing and waving flags until late into the night.  Saturday also marked a monumental win for Colombian street food. The family of The Arepa Lady, the patron saint of Colombian street food in Jackson Heights, opened the doors to their restaurant.

I like to think that this street food dream team’s opening helped buoy team spirit back home. I know it buoyed my spirits. Ever since I heard several months ago that there was going to be an Arepa Lady restaurant, I’ve been watching the space with eager anticipation.


06/11/14 9:27am

Photo: Kelli Anderson/Russ & Daughters

I’ve always been a big fan of Russ & Daughters the antediluvian appetizing shop that is one of the last vestiges of New York City’s Jewish Lower East Side. So I was particularly excited when the Russ & Daughters Cafe opened. I haven’t had a chance to fress there yet. My good friend Noah Arenstein beat me to the schmaltz and was kind enough to file this dispatch. Take it away Noah . . .

Entering the new Russ & Daughters Cafe, I can’t help but feel a dizzy gratification by the fact that one of the most anticipated openings of 2014 in New York City is a full-service restaurant from a 100-year-old purveyor of the type of smoked fish most easily associated with my grandparents’ generation. (more…)

06/02/14 10:08am

Pye Boat Noodle has been open for about three weeks.

With the exception of Poodam’s a wonderful Isaan spot that closed a while back, Astoria’s never been known as a hotbed of Thai cuisine and culture. That distinction belongs to Woodside, land of Sripraphai and Zabb Elee, as well as several markets, even a Thai temple. Pye Boat Noodle a three-week old eatery that opened on a stretch of Broadway better known for old school butchers and falafel than Southeast Asian noodles looks like it’s going to put Astoria on the map for Thai food though. (more…)

03/24/14 9:35am

Eim Khao Mun Kai is the latest addition to Elmhurst’s Thai scene.

The first thing I noticed about Eim Khao Mun Kai was the chorus line of bald chickens hanging from what looked to be a street food set-up. The second thing was the aroma. The perfume of gingery rice and chicken stock was incredibly comforting. Eim serves one thing and one thing only: Thai style chicken and rice or khao mun kai, known elsewhere in Southeast Asia as Hainanese chicken and rice. In fact it’s listed on Eim’s menu as Hainanese chicken and rice. After walking by the month-old shop twice while on the way to a bowl of cold busting soup at Pata Paplean, I finally gave Eim a try. (more…)

03/12/14 12:01pm

Photo: Sarah Drew

Like many a fresser I’ve always thought of the newly reopened Sarge’s as something of a third-string player in the delicatessen game. I’m glad to see an old school Jewish deli reopening instead of closing for good, but I’m not as excited about Sarge’s as some like my pal Noah Arenstein who has been kind enough to share his thought about this underdog of delis in this guest post. Take it away Noah . . .

Sarge’s in Murray Hill has long been overlooked in favor of more famous deli standards like Katz’s, Carnegie and even the Second Avenue Deli, but for me, it’s as deep a New York deli experience as I’ve ever experienced. Of course, at first glance, 24/7 delivery anywhere in Manhattan impressed me as much as anything, but soon the food won me over as well. (more…)

08/20/13 12:28pm

The Himalayan culinary diaspora has moved southward to Elmhurst.

In the days before air flight a journey from Indonesia to Tibet required a boat ride across the Bay of Bengal and a trek through Burma, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, all told a distance of some 3,000 miles. In Queens—where time and space bend in strange, delicious ways—the two countries lie just down the street from one another. Or at least they do now that Himalaya Kitchen opened its doors a few days ago.

I first noticed Himalaya Kitchen the other day on a stretch of Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst better known for serving Indonesian fried chicken than Tibetan dumplings. I was leading a trek of my own, a food tour of Southeast Asian Elmhurst and Himalayan Heights. We’d already eaten plenty, plus the plan was to have those dumplings, or momo, at one of my favorite secret spots in Himalayan Heights. So I made a mental note to return to the new spot, which represents the southernmost Tibetan eatery in Queens. (more…)

07/26/13 10:25am


 The coverage of the imminent arrival of Los Angeles-based Umami Burger in New York City has been making me incredibly hungry. I’ve yet to try one, but as a kid who ate Accent out of the jar, I’m all about that fifth taste. Umami Burger opens in the West Village (432 6th Ave.) on Monday. CEO Adam Fleischman  took some time out of his busy schedule to answer Seven Questions.

What inspired you to create Umami Burger?
I wanted to approach burger making from a scientific way to make things more delicious. (more…)

05/14/13 9:48am
The newly opened Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.

Mamak House sits above the now defunct Hong Kong Noodle Shop.

At one of the many recent Southeast Asian lunar New Year festivals  my good friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation spoke excitedly about a new spot in Flushing, “Mama Khao’s.”  At least that’s what I thought he said, until he informed me that the new Malaysian joint is named Mamak House, after the mamak who as I just learned from Wikipedia are “Tamil Muslims of Malaysian nationality, whose forefathers mostly migrated from South India to the Malay Peninsula and various locations in Southeast Asia centuries ago.” As Dave explained that the joint was started by a gal who runs a mamak-style catering outfit I thought, “Boy my Singaporean friends are gonna be excited about this place.” Whenever I talk to them about Malaysian food in New York City, they always say something to the effect of, “It’s OK, but it’s not the same as back home. The Indian influence is missing.”

Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.

Murtabak, savory little packages of ground beef served with pickled onions.

Last week Dave and I met at Mamak House for a late lunch. As I walked in I recalled that it used to be a Dongbei joint with table cooking in fact, several of the grill tables remain. The menu, is filled with mamak specialties, including an intriguing weekend only dish: nasi ulam utara, rice mixed with more than 10 types of herbs and roasted shrimp. The back of the bill of fare is adorned with pictures of spices from the aromatic to the fiery. The murtabak ($6.95) , savory envelopes filled with ground beef, were subtly flavored with clove and other spices. A sidecar of sharp pickled onions accompanied the mellow Malaysian beef blintzes. (more…)

04/08/13 10:44am
Surely Zhū Dà Jiě's Lao Cheng Du deserves a slot on Eater's Queens Heatmap.

Surely Zhū Dà Jiě’s Lao Cheng Du deserves a slot on Eater’s Queens Heatmap.

Over the weekend Eater released its Queens Heatmap, a roster of a dozen of-the-moment restaurants, including the recently opened Alchemy, Texas, BBQ as well as C+M favorites M. Wells Dinette, Biang!, and  Chao Thai Too. The list highlights “recent arrivals . . . that the critics, bloggers, and restaurant obsessives are buzzing about right now.” For what it’s worth I don’t consider myself a critic but I’ll proudly fly the blogger and restaurant obsessive flags. I am pleased to say that there’s only one spot on the list that I haven’t been to, Casa Enrique.

In the past Eater has taken some, well, heat for its Queens Heatmap. As for this time around it looks pretty good. That said, I question the inclusion of Corner Bistro as buzzworthy. And I’d like to have seen Zhū Dà Jiě’s  Láo Chéng Dū, on a list of a hot new restaurants. So here’s what I’m curious to know. What do you think of the latest incarnation of Eater’s Queen’s Heatmap? What’s missing? What’s doesn’t deserve to have made the cut? Tell me in the comments or hit me on the Twitter, @JoeDiStefano.