“This is either going to absolutely great or a friggin train wreck,” my buddy declared while perusing the menu at Crescent Grill. The confit frog leg ($12) with an oddball combination of cheffy ingredients and techniques including braised Vidalia onion and balsamic gelee the is the type of dish some food writers call critic bait.
“This is the prettiest train wreck I’ve ever seen,” I thought when I saw the cup of bibb lettuce cradling frog leg confit ringed by Vidalia onion. It tasted even better, like late spring by the fishing hole,with the frog taking nicely to the confit balanced by the sweetness of the onions and the sweetly acidic pop of the balsamic gelee.
Spanish red prawn paella as served at Lot 10 in Hong Kong.
These days the old social media channels teem with food photos, good, bad, and ugly. I like to think that mine are good. One Instagrammer who never fails to make hungry is little_meg_siu_meg, a well-travelled and well-fed Hong kong Kong resident. This photo she snapped of grilled prawn paella at On Lot 10 in Hong Kong left me speechless. Her description of the aroma of roasted shells makes me want to eat this right now. To submit your delicious finds to Photo Friday simply tag your Instagram photos with #CMSHUNGRY.
Every time I step into the Grand Central Oyster Bar I feel like I’m in an old movie. The vaulted tile ceilings and décor speak of a time when rail travel was still grand,when gents wore fedoras cocked just so, and when oysters were decidedly more plentiful and cheaper. I’m not a commuter, but I like to think of it as a haven from the teeming crowds on the terminal’s upper level. A haven where I always order the same thing: a dozen mixed oysters, preferably East Coast ones, the brinier the better. (more…)
The real K-town in New York City is in Queens, stretching for about five miles from Northern Boulevard and Union Street in Flushing all the way out to Manhasset . This vast K-tropolis is lined with dozens of BBQ restaurants, kimbap joints, large Korean supermarkets, fried chicken spots, a store that sells Korean stone beds, and even a Korean-run Third Wave espresso bar. There are so many places it would take an entire lifetime to document them all. So it is with some trepidation that I announce a new feature on C+M: K-tropolis.Today, a look at 1962 Tofu a Korean soft tofu chain that opened its first U.S. branch over the summer. (more…)
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…)
Clockwise from top: crab, crispy pata, ukoy, longanisa, and tuna belly.
Americans traditionally mark Labor Day weekend with one last summer backyard barbecue with friends and loved ones. I too celebrated with friends, in traditional Queens fashion. That is to say by embracing the traditions of another culture, specifically Filipino. On Saturday my friends Kaori and Stella joined me for a traditional salu-salo sa bilao fiesta at Papa’s Kitchen in Woodside. Salu-salo bilao loosely translates to a gathering over a bilao,or banana leaf-lined basket overflowing with goodies. It’s an informal affair where all the food is eaten with one’s hands.
Chef Miguel prepared quite a spread. One tray held crab; crispy pata, a whole foreleg of pig fried to a shattering crunchiness; the shrimp and veggie fritters known as ukoy;longganisang hamonado, a lovely sweet pork sausage;tuna belly; and Papa’s signature spicy dynamite spring rolls. Everything was quite tasty,but we all agreed the salty, fatty tuna belly was spectacular. Stella, who is Filipina, schooled me in the proper way to eat with my hands. On the few occasions when I’ve eaten South Asian food with my hands I’ve felt self conscious most likely because the food is usually very saucy. At Papa’s I felt especially relaxed, and not just because we had the place to ourselves. (more…)
The flavors are so bright I can forgive the Western style greens.
Burmese and Yunnanese food are a rarity in New York City, even in the wonderland of ethnic cuisine called Queens. The best places to enjoy Burmese cooking—a complex sometimes fiery cuisine that combines elements of Indian and Thai—is at the handful of charity food festivals held in late spring throughout Queens. It was at one of these that I found out Crazy Crab 888, a sort of stealth Burmese restaurant was opening in Flushing. It’s so named because the owners have billed it as a seafood and beer joint with all manner of maritime offerings: shrimp, clams, black mussels, blue crabs, king crab, and lobster to name just a few. This is probably a smart business move on their part, though I find it disappointing. The seafood’s on the back of the trifold paper menu, but the heart is given over to Burmese, Thai, and Yunnanese specialties. These include the Yunnan sliced pork special salad ($16.99), which I tried on a recent visit. (more…)
Last winter I took Andrew Zimmern on a tour around the world from Tibet to Liberia with intermediate stops in Ecuador, Nepa, and Pakistan all, without ever leavings Queens. I had a blast and the crew were super-cool to work with. There was only one thing Andrew didn’t like, butter tea. “It’s good during winter,” I said as I sipped a cup. I believe his response was something like, “Nope, this is never good.”
There’s one dish we pretty much had the same visceral reaction to and that’s the pepper crab and shrimp combo ($20) at Maima’s Liberian Bistro. The scene of us eating it didn’t make the Queens episode of Bizarre Foods America, which aired last night. I am especially proud of my tour de force reaction to this dish’s blistering heat level at 1:00.
“My lips, my fingers, my tongue, my gums are kind of on fire,” Zimmern said. “This is the hottest thing I’ve eaten all week. You don’t want to bring people here who are afraid to eat. I can tell you that.” Amen to that brother.
Soft shell crab amid a sea of pickles and greenery.
Now that I’ve made my first visit of the year to Rockaway Beach I can’t seem to get enough. As eager as I am for the waves I’ve even more stoked to support the neighborhood’s vendors and restaurants. That’s why this week’s Sandwich Wednesday is devoted to a dynamic duo of seafood sandwiches that can be found on the boardwalk.
First up, the soft shell crab po boy ($9) from Motorboat and the Big Banana. My favorite way to eat soft shell crabs is salt baked as they are prepared at Great N.Y. Noodletown in Manhattan’s Chinatown, but when I saw the soft shell crab po boy on Motorboat’s menu I was game to try it. And I am glad I did. A meaty specimen rises like a dorsal fin from waves of pickled onions and a sea of greenery. It’s a crunchy, messy, and thoroughly satisfying sandwich. With a bag of Zapp’s potato chips ($2), it’s as fine a pre-tanning lunch as any. (more…)
A Mexican cocktail of a different kind for Cinco de Mayo.
Sometimes I’m convinced that Cinco de Mayo was invented by Cervecería Modelo to promote Corona. That’s just one reason why I’m spending it in the Bronx eating Bengali food. For those of you who don’t have plans yet or don’t like drinking frozen margaritas and dining on rice, beans, and mystery meat covered in cheese I have a suggestion. Grab a few friends and take a nice walk in the spring sunshine on La Roosie, as the locals like to call the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue that runs through Jackson Heights and Corona.
Start out with a Mexican style ceviche from La Esquina de Camaron Mexicano, Roosevelt Ave. and 80th St. Watch as Pedro the ceviche mixologist fills a plastic cup with your choice of seafood: shrimp, octopus, or both. To the protein he adds a pour of a tomato-based concoction, olive oil, diced onions, avocado, salt, and hot sauce. Don’t forget to crumble some saltines over the top before digging in. If ceviche, or a “coktel,” as Pedro calls it, isn’t your thing head over to the nearby Taqueria Coatzingo, 76-05 Roosevelt Ave. for a weekend special: barbacoa de chivo, slow roasted young goat available in a taco or a platter with consommé and rice and beans. Stop by Panaderia Coatzingo next door for a cinnamon and sugar dusted concha to munch on your walk.
Sweet and cold, El Bohio’s shaved ice is a harbinger of even warmer days.
As you continue down La Roosie with shafts of light dancing on the street from the elevated train you’ll soon enter Little Ecuador. Its epicenter is Warren Street and Roosevelt Avenue, right by the Junction Boulevard stop on the 7. The corner and Warren Street are lined with food trucks and carts offering a staggering amount of pork, both roasted and fried. The ladies who run the cart called La Esquina del Sabor—the corner of flavor—will gladly offer up a sample of fritada, toothsome fried pork. Ten bucks buys a plate of pork with potatoes, fat starchy kernels of mote corn, and crunchy toasted maiz cancha. Need to cool off? Hit up El Bohio, 98-17 Roosevelt Ave, Corona, for an old school Dominican shaved ice. My go-to is the fresa or raspberry ice ($3.50 for a large cup) with leche condensada. If you’re still in need of refreshment there’s a Dominican dude who hangs out around 104th St. selling fresh tropical fruits and drinks. These include ginormous young coconuts ($5) that he will gladly hack open with his trusty machete. (more…)