Stir fried young jackfruit is symphony of flavors.
“You have to try the Northern style food at Thai Diva,” my friend Chompoo who knows a thing or too about Thai cuisine told me via Facebook a few weeks ago. And then when the Sunnyside restaurant was favorably reviewed by Eater critic Robert Sietsema another pal said,” I’ll try it if it passes the ‘Joe DiStefano’ test.” Well I’m here to say that Thai Diva passed with flying colors.
My first visit to Thai Diva was with my friend Joel who is even more obsessed with Thai food than I am. When he told his Thai friends back home in Boston that he was visiting Queens to eat at Thai Diva, they immediately began suggesting dishes. One of their recommendations was tum kanoon ($11) a heap of stir-fried young jackfruit shot through with chilies and kaffir lime leaves. It came with some pork crackling and cucumbers. I’m familiar with Indonesian preparation of the fruit wherein it’s cooked with coconut milk and aromatics to a brisket like texture. Tum kanoon is somewhat less mellow with a good amount of chili heat balanced out by the aromatic lime. Cucumbers and sticky rice help temper the fire. (more…)
Now that the streets around Times Square are almost cleared of New Year’s Eve confetti and I’ve digested several plates of lucky New Year’s noodles it’s time to take a look back at 2015. It was a big year for me, including a profile in The Wall Street Journal.Queens continued to amaze with everything from octopus tacos and Thai noodles to Caribbean Chinese and the most unlikely French patisserie ever. In no particular order here are 15 of the best things I ate last year.
Tom yum haeng topped with fried pork sugar and chili.
1. Yummiest dry tom yum
The weekend noodle soup pop-up at Elmhurst’s Pata Paplean remained on point, but one of my favorites there wasn’t a soup at all. Tom yum haeng—dry tom yum noodles—consists of springy yellow noodles, fish balls and golden shards of fried pork all dressed with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, and cilantro. Mix it all up and dig into the best dry noodles in Thai Town.
2. Tastiest deep-fried seafood nostalgia
The cheery blue and white Bigelow’s Seafood has been around for more than 70 years. After driving by it for about that amount of time, I finally had the privilege of trying it this past spring. These wizards of the fryer turn out impeccable Ipswich clams, fried smelts, shrimp, and soft shell crabs all served in an atmosphere that time and cholesterol have forgotten. (more…)
As far as I know Robert Remler is the only person blogging about the bar scene in Queens. Sure, there are other blogs with cocktail content, but Robert’s beat is bars—and sometimes restaurants—hence the title, “Where to Drink in Queens.” He was kind enough to pen this lovely piece on The Alcove in Sunnyside, which sounds like a lovely place to ring in 2016.
Knock wood for a good 2016.
Not any wood, dude.
Knock your knuckles on the bar at The Alcove in Sunnyside. If you knock enough maybe prosperity finds you in Oh-Sweet Sixteen.
How The Alcove’s wooden bar top made it to Sunnyside is a story you can discuss New Year’s Eve. First, however, you need to discover The Alcove and hear the story told to you by the bar’s owner and operator.
Yellowtail tartare, so much more than the sum of its multicultural parts.
Four years ago when Danny Yi opened Salt & Fat it was pretty groundbreaking. After all, the only small plates Sunnyside had ever seen were the mezze from the local Turkish joint. Each meal began with a paper bag filled with bacon fat fried popcorn, a treat that evoked the restaurant’s name, and ended with a shot of probiotic Yakult yogurt drink, a beverage more commonly seen in Korean restaurants. It’s a touch that evokes Yi’s Korean heritage. In between there was an oxtail terrine that called to mind a meat brownie, shaved foie gras with bacon brittle, and a pork trotter transformed into a crispy panko breaded croquette crowned with a slow-cooked egg. (more…)
Hungry revelers waiting to get into last night’s Taste of Sunnyside.
Last night I had the privilege of attending the Taste of Sunnyside 2014, which was held underneath the 7 train. How fitting for such a diverse roster of eateries—Japanese, Romanian, Mexican, Italian, Peruvian, and gastropub to name just a few—to showcase their specialties underneath the International Express itself. Plus there were sweet tunes from New York City’s only all-female mariachis Mariachi Flor de Toloache, local subway jazz band Sunnyside Social Club and a cappella superstars Ten and Change. (more…)
Matt Gelfand and Tyson Ho prepared Eastern North Carolina BBQ.
Last night Edible Queens celebrated its relaunch with Summerbeat in Sunnyside Gardens Park. The event’s theme “Eat meat, drink beer,” echoed that of the magazine’s summer issue, which includes some great articles about local butchers and brewers as well as my new column, At the Table. It was a very special evening on many levels. For one thing summer has always meant cookouts. Over the years the cookouts in my life have grown in scale from backyard grilling to the smoking of hogs, but the aroma of roasting meat in summer remains as welcome to me as the sight of the first fireflies of July. (more…)
The Skillman Avenue BBQ Crawl Saturday June 8, 3:00 p.m. till late The Skillman Project hosts its annual crawl of the participating bars and restaurants of Skillman Avenue. The theme this time is Summer BBQ. Sign up at The Brogue (49-10 Skillman Ave.) between 3:00-5:00 p.m. To register and receive a wristband you must have ID and a $5 donation.
Big Apple Barbecue Block Party Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9, 11:00-6:00
No doubt the good folks at The Skillman Project are referring to grilling when they say BBQ. This weekend the annual celebration of the smoky arts descends upon Madison Square Park offering tons of succulent hardwood smoked ‘cue. (more…)
Ligaya Mishan of the Times weighs in on Salt & Fat in Sunnyside whose pork belly buns are capable of “evoking not so much a Big Mac as your best childhood memory of it.” Mishan’s takeaway: “. . . not every dish is hellbent on living up to the restaurant’s name.”
Over at The Atlantic Michael Moss writes about a food that is hell-bent on the use of salt, fat, and sugar: the potato chip. Apart from an incisive analysis of why chips are so addictive, or craveable as snack industry gurus like to say there’s this revelation: ”chip companies spend a lot of effort creating a perfectly noisy, crunchy chip.”
The Village Voice offers a hit list of the city’s 10 best French fries, including Mile End’s wonderful looking smoked-meat poutine fries. Sadly the only entry for Queens is Huajio fried potatoes at Little Pepper.While the Sichuan-accented fries are quite good, surely Joju’s ultracrunchy bizarre banh mi fries deserve a spot.
And Tejal Rao makes me incredibly hungry for the pristine flavors and jewel-box presentation of Japanese vegan cusine as served at Kajitsu in Midtown.
O.G. ethnic food enthusiast Robert Sietsema files a dispatch headlined, “Shanghai Newcomer Full House Brings Back Soup Dumplings.” I’m sure the xiao long bao at this Bowery spot are quite good, but here in Queens soup dumplings never left.
Over at Esquire’s Eat Like a Man John Mariani writes about his bromance with the Bronx hood, Belmont where one can score fresh mozzarella that’s still warm and slurp clams on the sidewalk. Sign me up, John.
Max Falkowitz endures the wrath of a surly paesan working the counter at Little Italy’s Parisi Bakery and orders a dreadnought of a sandwich: a potato and egg on an 18-inch loaf of lard bread. Now why didn’t I think of that.
Outside it was gray, inside Mediterranean sunshine on a plate.
I have a confession. The variety of delicious things to eat in Elmhurst, Flushing and Jackson Heights—dumplings,dosa, and Sichuan happy meals—is so amazing that I often overlook whole neighborhoods and whole cuisines. The Turkish scene in Sunnyside is a prime example of this gastronomic myopia. (Notice how I opted not to coin the word gastropia.)
The other night I was out to dinner with Max Falkowitz, the editor of Serious Eats New York—in Flushing natch—and he told me I should try the menemen, at Grill 43. “Menemen?” I asked between bites of crunchy Sichuan fish. “It’s like the Turkish version of shakshuka,” he said. “It’s really good.” I’ve never really dug the Israeli scramble that is shaksuka, but whenever someone whose taste I trust enthuses about a dish I know I’m in for a treat. And so it was with Grill 43’s menemen ($5.95).
The plate of fluffy scrambled eggs mixed with tomatoes and red peppers is as simple as it is delicious. An orange-hued liquid, the very essence of red peppers, sits at the bottom of the plate. Sopping it up with slightly salty wedges of homemade Turkish bread was the perfect antidote to what was an otherwise gray afternoon. As I was leaving the guy behind the counter said that some people like their menemen with cheese. Next time I’m going to ask him to make a Turkish egg and cheese sandwich.