Farewell meal at Plant Love House: mackerel with shrimp paste fried rice and dessert.
Apart from how to successfully navigate a cavernous dim sum hall one of the most important things I learned about Chinatown from my father is something I like to call Vito’s Law: Chinatown is always changing. With apologies to AristotIe, the corollary is “Chinatown and nature alike abhor a vacuum.” This law holds true for the Chinatown of Elmhurst, Queens, which these days skews more Southeast Asian. All of which brings me to the subject of today’s post, the demise of Plant Love House, a gem of a Thai restaurant that closed shop last month so the owners could focus their efforts on Look Brooklyn, a sister restaurant in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, which opened late last year. Personally I was devastated by the loss of Plant Love House as were many of my readers and social media followers. Some requested a lament while others talked of being “heartbroken,” and still others were more strident, “So we lose out!? F**k Brooklyn.”
Half the fun of Plant Love House’s pad thai is mixing the ingredients together.
“You ordered pad thai!!??” one of the chef’s daughters at Plant Love House exclaimed last night. “That’s not like you,” she countered when asked why she reacted with such shock. She’s rights, it’s not like me at all. I can probably count the number of times I’ve ordered the dish. The last time was over two years ago at Andy Ricker’s now shuttered Pok Pok Phat Thai. I like to think of it as the sweet and sour pork of Thai cuisine. It’s a “real dish” in Thai cuisine—just as sweet and sour pork is in China’s Dongbei region—that’s been Americanized.
I’ve eaten my way through most of the items, including the lovely noodle soups, on the menu at this family run joint in Elmhurst’s Thai Town, and have enjoyed most everything I tried from the specials board. So when I saw pad thai listed as a special I had a hunch it would be pretty good. (more…)
A variety of tastes and textures orbit shrimp past fried rice.
The old school Thai noodle soups and newfangled desserts at Plant Love House are so good that’s it’s all too easy to ignore the rest of the menu at this family-run joint in Elmhurst. I know this because it’s taken me months to finally get into the rice plates, which are home cooking of the highest order as prepared by matriarch Manadsanan Sutipayakul.
Khow klup kapi or shrimp paste rice consists of a mound of rice topped with stewed sweet pork. Orbiting the rice and pork are slivered mango, pork sausage, chopped long beans, red onions, chilies, ribbons of omelet, and cucumbers. Mixing the whole lot together results in a universe of Thai flavors—salty, spicy, fishy, sweet, and herbaceous—in every bite. (more…)
“Wow, you like hot oil,” more than one waiter at the Chinese joint in Levittown would say to my father when he requested a small dish of the stuff. “Hot oil make you live a long time.” Earlier this week Time published an article citing a link between eating fiery food and longevity, based on a study of about 500,000 Chinese.
Lu Qi, the author of the study writes “It appears that increasing your intake moderately, just to 1-2 or 3-5 times a week, shows very similar protective effect,” he says. “Just increase moderately. That’s maybe enough.” Based on that statement I might just live forever. With further ado, please enjoy this list of C+M’s favorite spicy foods in Queens.
1. Kuai tiao Summer, Plant Love House
I may no longer order my food Thai spicy. , but the bowl of Kuai tiao that goes by the name Summer ($12.95) at Plant Love House, remains the most incendiary Thai noodle soup I have ever slurped. “Summer. The heat is real. Dare you to try,” reads a menu insert with a picture of this blazingly hot take on tom yum. A gigantic prawn lolls in the red broth along with a hard-boiled egg, bacon, and a home-made sweet pork patty. The latter is a good counterpoint to the spicy broth which has an undertone of lime, chili, and garlic. There’s a nice smokiness from the bacon, but above all there’s the unmistakable flamethrower heat that comes from plenty of red chilies. Plant Love House, 86-08 Whitney Ave., Elmhurst, 718-565-2010
2. Sandheko wai wai, Dhaulaghiri Kitchen
Whenever I try to characterize Nepali food, I find myself saying, “It’s like Indian food but spicier and different.” Sandheko Wai Wai ($3.50), a Nepalese chaat made from crushed ramen noodles fits both descriptors. The noodles are mixed with onions, raw garlic, tomatoes, red pepper, and plenty of green chilies, among other things. Crunchy and spicy it will have you mopping your brow. Dhaulagiri Kitchen, 37-38 72nd St., Jackson Heights(more…)
Dig it. Plant Love’s signature ice cream comes served in a flower pot.
There was time when what most excited me about Thai food was incendiary spice levels. I still love a good spicy Thai dish, but what gets me going these days are noodles and Thai desserts. Yes, there are Thai places in New York City where the pinnacle of dessert is fried ice cream. Thankfully Elmhurst’s Little Bangkok is not such a place. In fact it’s home to two of my favorite places for Thai dessert, Plant Love House and the aptly named Sugar Club. (more…)
Sure to be this summer’s spiciest bowl of kuai tiao.
Long before I ever slurped the kuai tiao that have taken Queens by storm in places like Pye Boat Noodle,Pata Paplean, and Plant Love House I took great pride in ordering my food Thai spicy. Whether larb, curry, or som tum the resulting chili pepper overkill from uttering those two words invariably left my lips burning and nose running. These days I rarely ever utter the words “Thai spicy.” The bowl of noodles that goes by the name Summer ($12.95) currently being served at Plant Love House is far more incendiary than any dish I ever consumed during my Thai spicy days. (more…)
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.
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.
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.
Zuppardi’s glorious fresh shucked Little Neck clam pie.
3. Best pizza Some friendsand 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…)