02/10/14 10:05am

Uni and ikura, together at last.

When it comes to salmon Bricktown Bagels is probably better known for belly lox than salmon roe. That’s not the case come nighttime when the Long Island City bagelry morphs into Mu Ramen. While the soup’s the star at Joshua Smookler’s pop-up ramen-ya, many of the “treats,” listed on the menu are well deserving of the name. Chief among these is the U & I ($15), a rice bowl which features uni and ikura, or salmon roe. (more…)

12/02/13 9:58am

Bagelry by day, ramen-ya by night.

I live to discover the delicious in unexpected corners of Queens, whether it’s a Tibetan restaurant in the back of a cell phone store or a Malaysian joint in Flushing with a graveyard shift specializing in kari laksa. So when I heard about Mu Ramen, Joshua Smookler’s nighttime popup inside of a Long Island City bagel store, I was especially intrigued.


The scene inside Mu Ramen on Saturday night.

So I set out for Bricktown Bagel & Café on a night that was indeed quite brick. Joining me on the frigid Saturday after Thanksgiving was my pal William who knows a thing or two about Japanese food. The first thing that surprised me was that Mu’s chef, Joshua Smookler, was Asian. What’s not so surprising about the Korean-American chef with the decidedly non-Korean name is that he has a monomaniacal fascination with ramen. (more…)

10/11/13 11:15am

Koji Hagihara’s tonkotsu ramen was quite lovely.

Last weekend LIC Flea & Food turned into a little Japan of sorts with dancers in maid outfits, calligraphy, and, above all, food, ranging from okonomiayiki and yakisoba to experimental sushi and ramen. The fishless experimental sushi featuring a spicy chicken teriyaki was not to my taste, but the more traditional tonkotsu ramen was amazing. Koji Hagihara, the chef at Hakata Tonton, a West Village eatery specializing in dishes made from pig’s feet prepared a batch of tonkotsu ramen, a dish that’s nowhere to be found on Hakata Tonton’s menu. The cloudy broth was rich with pork flavor thanks to bones that had been simmered for hours on end. Topped with pickled bamboo shoots; green onions; a wobbly slab of fatty pork belly; and sprinklings of sesame seeds and crushed red pepper, it’s one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve ever had in Queens. Kojisan, if you’re reading this, won’t  you please bring your ramen to our borough? Or at least to my house? With fall in full effect, I could use a bowl right about now.

10/03/13 10:20am

JAPANESEFLEAA Weekend of Japanese Culture at LIC Flea & Food
Saturday, October 5, Sunday October 6, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
5-25 46th Avenue, Long Island City

Those who missed the Hokkaido Gourmet Food Fair at Mitsuwa might want to check LIC Flea and Food this weekend as it turns Japanese thanks to Kazuko Nagao of Oconomi. Foods will include okonomiyaki and yakisoba from Oconomi, tonkotsu ramen from Chef Koji of Hakata Ton Ton, onigiri from Maid Café, and experimental Sushi by Chef Sonny.

Butcher Paper Dinner: Rooftop Crab Boil
Sunday October 6, 3:00 p.m., $80
Brooklyn Grange, 37-18 Northern Blvd., Long Island City
Edible Queens and the Brooklyn Grange are holding their inaugural Butcher Paper Dinner this Sunday afternoon. And they’ll need plenty of that brown paper to line the table because the series of dinners kicks off with a crab oil by none other than Will Horowitz, the chef behind the Cajun-Southeast Asian joint, Ducks Eatery. The menu includes fresh oysters,mountains of blue crab, plenty of farm fresh veggies, as well as beer from Queens Brewery and wine from Bedell Cellars. Tunes will be spun throughout the afternoon and evening by celebrated DJ and saxophonist Neal Sugarman, co-owner of funk/soul label Daptone Records and resident of neighboring Sunnyside.


09/27/13 2:04pm

The line for genuine Sapporo style Ramen from Ramen Ezo Fukuro.

It’s been about a decade since I visited Mitsuwa, the sprawling Japanese supermarket located just across the river in New Jersey. I remember being intrigued but not terribly impressed by the megamart’s food court. So when my friend Kaori—who is my go-to gal when it comes to Japanese food—told me about Mitusuwa’s Hokkaido Gourmet Food Fair, being held this weekend I decided to check it out. Yesterday was the festival’s first day. So after pregaming with an early Filipino breakfast, I was soon on my way to Port Authority’s Gate 51 to the board the complimentary shuttle to the mystical land of Edgewater, N.J.

The first thing I noticed when I entered was the line for Ramen Ezo Fukuro. It stretched to the exit door beneath a banner proclaiming, “We are open this weekend only! Miso ramen from Sapporo, Japan. The chefs flew in from Japan just for this weekend! That’s how special this is!” (more…)

08/05/13 10:11am
Ramen noodles get the chaat treatment.

Ramen noodles get the chaat treatment.

Wai Wai Noodles have always been something of a mystery. The counter at Dhaulagiri Kitchen is lined with little packages of the instant Nepalese ramen. I always thought they were used for soup. Then a friend told me about sandheko Wai Wai ($3.50). “It’s like an instant Nepali chaat,” she said. There are many ways to repurpose instant ramen, including what I like to call spaghetto carbonara, which involves an egg, plenty of Kraft parmesan, and black pepper. Chaat is not the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to ramen recipes, but it’s one of the tastiest ramen creations I’ve ever had. (more…)

05/10/13 12:55pm

Uncle John’s hot links are revelatory.

Fellow Queens fresser Jeff Orlick offers his take on Smorgasburg, complete with a ginormous Flickr set. He marvels at Crazy Legs’ turkey drumstick schtick and counts himself a fan of Porchetta.

Over at the Voice my main man, Robert Sietsema makes me hungry for the 17-item Cypriot mega-mezze spread and some awesome looking octopus at Astoria’s Kopiaste.

Writing for the Times Peter Kaminsky, who’s perhaps best known to this carnivore for his book “Pig Perfect,” tells a mouthwatering tale of a beefier nature, an Argentine “Secuencia de la Vaca.”

Meat maven Nick Solares pens an ode to Osteria Morini’s 120-day-aged ribeye, which has “a profoundly funky, Gorgonzola cheese like tang thanks to the long aging, and a correspondingly buttery, tender texture.”

My favorite culinary Vikings over at First We Feast take a look at U.S. chefs’ ramen creations, including some that”stretch the definition of ramen a little too far.” Delicious as it sounds I’d put the Pozolemen from Chi-town’s at Oiistar in that category.

Sandwich Surprise ponders whether lettuce wraps can be considered sandwiches, and answers with a delicious-sounding yes: bulgogi lettuce wraps with kimchi chips and fried rice. Best of all, as always there is a recipe.

Looking for a more ambitious, and historical recipe to try? Stop by The Morgan  Library and Museum to check out a 15-century cooking scroll written in Middle English.

04/30/13 12:00pm
Yuji Ramen was still pretty sedate before the arrival of the hungry,hungry hipsters.

Yuji was still pretty sedate before the arrival of the hungry, hungry hipsters.

If there’s anything I hate more than foodies it’s hipsters. So the often overcrowded, overpriced  hipster/foodie paradise that is Smorgasburg has never been too high on my list. When it comes to crowds and food I’ll take a Southeast Asian Lunar New Year buffet over the scrum that befalls East River Park every Saturday. This Saturday was my second time at Smorgasburg. The first was last summer to eat foie gras poutine  made by Hugue Dufour. This time around I was on a mission to supply some chicken cracklin’ to a pal with a new booth at the market. With my mission accomplished and the market not yet too crowded I decided to treat myself to a bowl of noodles from Yuji Ramen.

Yuji’s uni ramen is briny and decadent.

Yuji’s uni ramen is briny and decadent.

For a moment I considered the bacon, egg, and cheese noodles ($10), but I was kind of full after sampling my pal’s wares. So I opted for the somewhat lighter sounding uni miso ($10). The ramen dude congratulated me on my choice pointing out that the Maine uni he uses would soon be going out of season. The creamy sea urchin melted atop the warm, chewy noodles coating them with a rich, briny sauce. It was far richer than I thought it would be, though the blood orange zest and shiso managed to cut the richness somewhat. It could have used just a bit of the citrusy Japanese hot paste yuzu kocho.

For dessert I had a half dozen oysters ($16) from Brooklyn Oyster Party. The super briny bivalves served as an effective palate cleanser, and reawakened my appetite. Since I was already at Smorgasburg I thought I might as well get my feed on. Check back tomorrow for a Smorgasburg Sandwich Wednesday, plus the details of my secret chicken crackling mission.

Smorgasburg, East River State Park, at Norh 7th St., Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

02/01/13 12:20pm

Welcome to Ask C+M, a weekly column where I’ll answer readers questions regarding food in Queens and beyond. Have a question you’d like to ask? E-mail jdistefanony68c(at) yahoo.com. Our first question comes from Alex.

First of all, I love your blog, so many amazing options. I tried a few places you wrote about in the last week and they’ve been incredible. I recently moved to Astoria from California and I’m trying to find some interesting food in Astoria and Jackson Heights. I’ve done a fair amount of exploring and found some great things but I’m curious as to what your top recommendations in those two areas are, preferably things that are maybe off the beaten path. Alex


A school of perfectly fried fish from Astoria Seafood.

A school of perfectly fried fish from Astoria Seafood.

Hi Alex,
So glad that youlike the blog and that you have been exploring the culinary paradise that is Queens. In Astoria I like Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (37-18 34th Ave.) for Bosnian food, including bureks and pljeskavica, a comically huge Bosnia burger, Down on Ditmars there’s Hinomaru (33-18 Ditmars Blvd.), a great Japanese ramen joint. The signature “NewYork style” ramen  has a rich porky broth and features a fireball, an orb of ground pork mixed with several types of hot peppers. Astoria Seafood (Astoria Seafood, 37-10 33rd St.) is an excellent fish market/restaurant located away from most of the other Greek spots. (more…)