“Is Bella Roza open?” my pal Rocky asked about two weeks ago about the Uzbek bakery/restaurant in Rego Park, where many restaurants have shut down due to COVID-19. “Pretty sure they are just closed for Passover,” I replied. Like me, Rocky’s a good—and single-minded eater—so a few days ago he messaged me that Bella Roza was open.
“Samsa, plov, and lagman,” he responded when asked what he was ordering. The samsa—meat pies filled with either beef or lamb—are cooked in a tiled tandoor that sits behind the counter. Time it just right, and you can score one fresh out of the furnace.
So the other morning I strolled over to Bella Roza to mimic my pal’s order. The bakery was most definitely open, but it’s now under new ownership and has a new name: Chaikhana Sem Sorok. Other than that things looked pretty much the same, rows of samsa were arrayed in the glass case, and a giant pot of plov sat on the stove. (more…)
Sunnyside’s Butcher Block sells Irish candy among many other things.
I hope everyone is managing to stay safe and sane amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to be of service, I present this roundup of markets from some of Queens many culinary cultures. Some of my favorites, notably Patel Bros. in Jackson Heights, as well as some of the Chinese markets in Flushing and Elmhurst have temporarily shuttered, but as of yesterday all of the following were open. That said you should call ahead to check their status. Please stay local if possible, and let me know how you’re doing–and what you’re eating–in the comments.
1. IRELAND Butcher Block, 43-46 41st St., Sunnyside, (718) 784-1078
In addition to a wide selection of Irish chocolate bars and crisps this Sunnyside shop sells prepared foods such as roast beef and sausage rolls as well as black pudding if you want to whip up an Irish breakfast at home. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
2. ISRAEL Carmel Grocery, 64-27 108th St, Forest Hills, NY 11375, (718) 897-9296
A local friend tells me that this market/coffee roaster was one of the first to sell Israeli foods in Forest Hills. I’m not sure about that, but I do love their homemade dips, especially the hummus, white bean dip, and tabouleh. Right now my fridge is stocked with all of them. There’s also all manner of Middle Eastern breads and goodies like halvah. As of now they are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and do not offer delivery.
3. JAPAN Sakura-Ya, 73-05 Austin St., Forest Hills, 718-268-7220
Hello Kitty chopsticks, Vermont Curry mix, furikake rice seasoning, okonomiyaki sauce and the slimy fermented soybean delicacy known as natto are just a few of the items to be found in this tiny market. Grilled mackerel, sashimi grade tuna and when it’s in season creamy steamed ankimo, or monkfish liver, can also be had. Come early if you want to grab one of their excellent bento boxes. Open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., delivery minimum $50.
4. THAILAND Thai Thai Grocery, 76-13 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 917-769-6168
Noi Sila is a fixture in the bustling Little Bangkok that runs along Woodside Avenue and Broadway in Elmhurst. Her shop stocks all sorts of ingredients, including curry pastes and other spices as well as kitchen equipment like sticky rice cookers and Thai style mortar and pestle. Hours for now are 1 p.m. to 7 p.m, although she is wisely limiting access to the shop. “I have to take care of the community,” Sila said. Delivery can also be arranged.
5. GREECE Titan Foods, 25-56 31st St., Astoria, 718-626-7771
For more than 30 years this colossus of a supermarket has been serving Astoria’s Greek community, offering everything from Ouzon (ouzo-flavored soda) and religious incense to fruity Greek olive oil and canned grape leaves. Just inside the door there’s an entire counter devoted to flaky cheese and spinach pies, including the spiral skopetiliki spanakopita. Feta is a mainstay of the kasseri counter, with more than a dozen types, including creamy Bulgarian, salty Arahova, and slightly funky goat feta. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
6. KOREA Han Yang Mart, 150-51 Northern Blvd, Flushing, N718-461-1911
If I Iived closer I’d do all my shopping, pandemic or not, here. The aisles are stocked with all manner of Korean ingredients—an entire case is devoted to kimchi and banchan—and there are kits to cook Korean barbecue and other dishes at home. Preppers take note they have canned silkworm and tuna fish. Last I checked they were still open 24 hours.
7. RUSSIA & FORMER SOVIET UNION NetCost Market, 97-10 Queens Blvd., 718-459-4400
The façade of the only Queens location of this sprawling supermarket chain depicts a globe in a shopping cart, but the shelves are mostly devoted to imports from Russia and the former Soviet Union, like caviar and Slivochniy Sort, an 82.5-percent butterfat sweet cream butter from Ukraine. The bakery counter abuts a seafood station with a staggering selection of smoked fish — from whole Norwegian semga, better known in the States as steelhead trout, to cold-smoked buffalo fish and hot-smoked paddlefish — and several types of salmon caviar. Hours are 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. for seniors with a closing time of 7:30 p.m.
Surely Lhasa Fast Food’s “cold skin sushi” deserves Michelin recognition.
Earlier this week Michelin released its 2018 Bib Gourmand honorees, which “denotes establishments where diners can enjoy a great meal for a good value.” I’m glad the crew of inspectors from the little red book is focusing more attention on the so-called outer boroughs and happy to see they added my dear friend Helen You’s Dumpling Galaxy to the list, but the Queens roster is still lacking. What’s more, Brooklyn and Manhattan are broken out into subareas (Upper East Side, Williamsburg, etc.) while the Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens lack such distinction. If any from Guide Michelin is reading this, do look me up I’d be glad to consult with you on neighborhood geography for a modest fee. (For the record I live in the one called Rego Park.)
“I can name five more Southeast Asian restaurants that should be on that list,” read a quote from me in The Wall Street Journal’s piece on the Bib Gourmands. I can, but I won’t. Instead here’s a list of seven places of varying cuisines that should have made the Michelin cut.
1. Lhasa Fast food Everybody who’s into food knows about this spot, which Jeff Orlick hipped me to years ago. Call it a momo speakeasy if you must, but really what Lhasa Fast Food is is a window into another culture and cuisine that just happens to be tucked away behind a cellphone store. I like the spicy yellow liang fen done up to look like sushi and of course the momos, including the classic beef and the rarely seen chu tse, or chive version. . 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
Why not have a large-format Dongbei lamb feast for Easter?
The New York Times recently had an article about lamb overtaking ham on the Easter table. Here in Queens I don’t wait until that springtime holiday to eat lamb. Just in case you don’t yet have Easter plans, please enjoy this selection of Chinese, Indian, and Uzbek lamb delicacies. If I left your favorite out please let me know in the comments.
1. Roast Lamb Leg, Desired Taste International
There are many, many places in downtown Flushing’s Chinatown to get juicy lamb skewers seasoned with cumin and red pepper, but there’s none quite like Desired Taste International. That’s because it’s star skewer—kao yang tui—is an entire leg of lamb. Salt, cumin, and sesame form a delicious crunchy crust that encases succulent purplish-red flesh. Ask for some cumin and ground red pepper to use as a dip for an extra burst of flavor. Desired Taste International, 35-20 Farrington St., Flushing, 718-888-9622
2. Lamb Chops, Kurry Qulture
“My lamb chops are getting very famous,” says Kurry Qulture’s Sonny Solomon. “A Greek guy came in and ordered 50 for Easter, he loved it so much.” Marinated in yogurt, black pepper, garam masala, coriander, and cumin the Astoria restaurant’s chops are indeed delicious. Tandoor-cooked, they’re the tenderest, most flavorful Indian lamb in Astoria—and all of Queens. (Photo: @restaurantfairy) Kurry Qulture, 36-05 30th Avenue, Astoria, 718-674-1212(more…)
Few things are as decadent as the adjaruli khachapuri served at Marani, a glatt kosher Georgian restaurant that’s a mere five-minute walk from C+M headquarters. The eye-shaped bread is filled with a lake of molten cheese and egg. Stir it up and dig in. “Khachapuri not pizza,” read the restaurant’s square takeout boxes. Despite the pizza comparison, you won’t find any sausage versions in Marani’s basement khachapuri parlor. That’s because it’s a strictly dairy kitchen. (more…)
Almost every culture has a meat pie be it Cornish pasty, Jamaican beef patty, Tibetan shapaley, or Uzbek samsa. In my stamping grounds of Rego Park, there are many places from bakeries to restaurants to get the piping hot Uzbek meat pies typically filled with beef or my favorite lamb.
Cheburechnaya may be named for the its namesake chebureki, floppy pies filled with meat or veggies, but the real star of the menu’s “dough products” section is the “samcy with ribs” ($2.25). The rib in question is a fatty lamb rib, the bone jutting out of one corner of the flaky triangular patty.
The golden brown samcy comes to the table piping hot, so best to bite a hole in the side and bask in the vapors of lamb fat and spices. Then pour in a bit of the piquant tomato sauce and indulge in the best Uzbek lamb Wellington around.
Cheburechnaya, 92-09 63rd Dr., Rego Park, 718-897-9080
Marani’s dairy kitchen churns out the Georgian cheese bread known as khachapuri.
As far as this food writer is concerned Marani, a kosher Georgian restaurant in Rego Park, is one of the most unique spots around. For one thing it has both a meat kitchen and a dairy kitchen. The downstairs dairy kitchen with a selection of decadent Georgian cheese pies known as khachapuri is a point of fascination for me. Upstairs find kebabs, stews, and many other Georgian specialties, including khinkali, giant soup dumplings filled with beef and lamb. My friends Chef Jonathan Forgash and Gabe Gross of Queens Dinner Club, were equally impressed with Marani that’s why we’ve decide to have our next dinner there on Weds., June 22 at 7 p.m. Marani’s owner Ana Epremashvili was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer Seven Questions.
So tell me about the restaurant. When did it open? What made you guys decide to open it? We opened the restaurant in 2013, we serve authentic Georgian cuisine with a kosher twist and influences. We are the only establishment to have both meat and dairy under one roof in New York City. We did not think it would be an authentic representation of Georgian cuisine without the dairy, so we were happy to get approval once all the separate kitchen requirements were met.
We try to keep the kitchen modern and exciting with reinventing of the traditional dishes, as well as sticking to authentic recipes. We felt there was a void of authentic ethnic cuisines in the kosher world, when you are kosher it is common to have Japanese sushi, steak and Israeli food all in one restaurant and none of it is authentic or any good. Only lately there have been restaurants that stick to their roots, and we are happy to be a part of that trend.
Khinkali filled with beef and lamb.
The family style menu for the upcoming Queens Dinner Club is pretty exciting—khinkali dumplings, lula kebabs, beef stew, herring and more—tell me what inspired it?
We are excited to showcase the diversity of our menu and introduce people to our flavors. We also find it important for people to understand what it means for a restaurant to be kosher and what is involved in washing greens and specific ways of butchering, once people find out what it really means, they feel more comfortable patronizing kosher establishments. (more…)
Living in Queens, arguably the most diverse food destination in the world has made me conversant, if not expert, in global cuisines ranging from Thai and Indonesian to Mexican and Peruvian, to name a very few.
Even though I’m an intrepid explorer of Chinese hawker stands, Central American street food carts, and West Indian roti spots there’s one place that still baffles me, NetCost Market, or as I like to call it “Nyet Cost.” The gigantic Russian supermarket, which offers everything from caviar and charcuterie to fermented mare’s milk and kvass is around the corner from my house, yet I hardly ever shop there. (more…)
The Arch Electric dwarfs Ben’s overstuffed pastrami sandwich.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
“Does anybody ever order these?” I asked the waitress at my local deli as I pointed to the list of novelty sandwiches with names like Dr. Ruth Westheimer (brisket of beef, turkey, lettuce, tomato, and Russian dressing) and the New York Newsday (salami, tongue, corned beef, and cole slaw). “Sure, all the time,” she said. By local deli I refer not to a bodega trafficking in bacon and cheese sandwiches but Ben’s Best, a bona fide Jewish deli with a 70-year history lovingly maintained by Jay Parker and his crew.
“Okay, I’ll have the Arch Electric,” I said ordering a $20.95 behemoth consisting of Chinese mustard, rolled beef, corned beef, sweet red pepper, cole slaw, and Russian dressing (Tums available on request).” In my 15 years of eating at Ben’s Best my go to order has been a pastrami on rye, so I was curious to switch it up a bit with this sandwich named for an L.I.C. based electrical contractor. Corned beef and rolled beef were a definite change of deli pace, Chinese hot mustard not so much, though I can’t say I’d ever had it in a Jewish deli. (more…)
“I don’t even come here for knishes any more,” a gentleman I shared a table with at Knish Nosh said to me yesterday. “I come for her cooking,” he said of Chef Ana Vasilescu, who makes killer perogies among other specialties. I had come for a bowl of matzo ball soup.
“Better than my mother’s,” my new friend remarked of the classic Jewish restorative. “Mine too,” I thought, remembering that I don’t have a Jewish mother. Then I noticed two golden brown patties next to his soup. “Are those latke?” I asked. (more…)