To say Elmhurst’s newest Tibetan eatery is easier to find than its predecessor would be a vast understatement. After all Sang Jien Ben’s first restaurant, Lhasa Fast Food, lies down a cramped hallway behind a cell phone store, while the new one is in plain sight just behind Elmurst Hospital.
It opened in August with a menu featuring the beef momos—juicy dumplings that are as ubiquitous in Tibet as they are in Himalayan Heights—and thentuk, a hearty soup with hand-torn swatches of dough that made the first spot a draw for everyone from homesick Tibetans and local foodies to Eater and Anthony Bourdain. A beaming Dalai Lama presides over the room. Enshrined on altar below it a photo of Chef Ben and Bourdain. (more…)
One of the things I heard most from my editors when I was putting together 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Misswas “Joe, there’s too much food on your list.” To which I mentally responded, “Don’t they know who they hired? I am the guy who ate Queens for chrissake!” Somehow I still managed to mention food and drink more than 40 times in the book. Herewith are seven of my favorites. To find out the others, you’ll have to score a copy. A great time to do so would be next Wednesday, February 21 when 111 Places in Queens Comes to Jackson Heights at Espresso 77. Ace photographer Clay Williams and I will even autograph your copy. Can’t make that? Come celebrate Chinese New Year at Leaf Cocktail Lounge with us on February 22nd.
1. Lhasa Fast Food I’d love to take credit for discovering this gem of a Tibetan restaurant tucked behind a Jackson Heights cell phone store, but I can’t. Momo maven Jeff Orlick turned me on to it years ago. There’s nothing fast about the momo making here though. The reward for your patience? Juicy steamed beef dumplings that are amazing as is the thentuk soup featuring hand-torn swatches of dough. It’s such a special place it merited its own chapter! 37-50 74th St, Queens, NY 11372, 646-256-3805
2. Falafel slice at Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar This marvelous Middle Eastern mashup can be had at Benjy’s Kosher Pizza Dairy Restaurant & Sushi Bar. It combines two great street foods New York City pizza and Israeli falafel. Topped with half a dozen falafel balls, I like to eat it with tahini and hot sauce. In case you are wondering, this novelty slice did not get its own chapter. It appears as a tip at the end of the chapter on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite. 72-72 Main St, Flushing, 718- 268-0791(more…)
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan of noodles— whether the fusilli with red sauce and chow fun that I cut my teeth on—or the tallarin verde of Peru and various culture’s takes on cold noodles that can be had in Queens. This edition of The Seven is devoted to my favorite Asian noodles in Queens, at least as of summer 2017.
1. Tom thuk, Lhasa Fast Food
Anthony Bourdain recently paid a visit to this Jackson Heights momo shop tucked away behind a cell phone store. While the big man tried the hand-torn noodle soup known as thenthuk he did not get to experience its colder, spicier cousin tomthuk. Listed in the menu’s Noodle Zone as beef cold noodle ($6) there’s no forewarning of the twin heat engines of chili and mustard oil. The tangle of chewy noodles interspersed with shredded carrots, cabbages, and bits of ground beef packs enough heat to melt snowy Mount Kailash which looms above the counter. Lhasa Fast Food, 37-50 74th Street, Jackson Heights
2. Yum Dek Sen, Dek Sen
There are many Thai noodle dishes, from funky bowls of blood-enriched soup to those that resemble pork ragu, but Dek Sen is the first restaurant where I’ve seen noodles used in a yum, Thailand’s spicy savory version of the more prosaic Western salad. Yum Dek Sen ($11.95) takes Mama instant noodles and mixes them with squid, shrimp, minced pork, and two types of fish balls. Served warm the whole lot is dressed in a chili lime sauce. You might be tempted to order it spicy, but medium is more than adequate. Dek Sen, 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst, 718-205-5181(more…)
The name of this newish Tibetan spot in the heart of Elmhurst’s Little Bangkok pays tribute to a cool mung bean jelly that’s more commonly known as laphing in Tibet. One of the best things on the 15-item menu, however is the spicy dumpling ($5.99). The chef-owner can call them dumplings, but I prefer to think of them as mini momos. (more…)
With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was. It was a big year for me and for food in Queens, including a feature in Asahi Shimbun and the discovery of the durian pizza. In no particular order here are 16 of the best things I ate last year.
1. Best Grilled Cheese Mr. Crispy, a grilled cheese sandwich served at Astoria Bier & Cheese answers the question, “How good can a grilled cheese be?” with a resounding “very, very good.” The sandwich of cave aged gruyere, ham and honey mustard is coated in mantle of white crispy cheese. This coating extends outward into a golden lacy corolla, a veritable halo of crispy cheese. It’s crunchy, sharp, and eminently craveable. I’ve haven’t been this excited about fried cheese since Joe Bastianich’s ill-fated Frico Bar. Astoria Bier & Cheese, 34-14 Broadway, Astoria, 718-545-5588
2. Most Fabulous F***in’ Clam Pizza
The salciccia e vongole pizza at Whit’s End is the best clam pie I’ve had outside of Zuppardi’s. Housemade sausage seasoned with clove, star, anise, juniper, and allspice join the Littleneck clams along with pepperoncini and shaved garlic. The combination of the fior di latte mozzarella and Parmigianno Regianno round things out quite nicely. Whit’s End, Riis Park Beach Bazaar
3. Hottest Off-menu Indian-Chinese Chicken
Nashville may have cayenne-infused hot chicken, but here in Queens we have something I like to call hakka hot chicken. Peter Lo, Queens’ godfather of Indian-Chinese cuisine and founder of Tangra Masala, whipped up a batch for me a while back. The hacked up bits of fried bird sauced in a glaze that marries the flavors of chili, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic call to mind Dominican style chicharron de pollo with an Indian-Chinese twist. Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, 718-803-2298
4. Best Breakfast Sandwich I count myself a big fan of the classic bacon egg and cheese, but my favorite breakfast sandwich of 2017 contains no swine whatsoever. The breakfast sandwich at Roast n Co combines organic eggs, tomato jam, and Cabot white cheddar on a brioche make for one of the best egg sandwiches ever. Since Roast n co is run by Tunisians you have the option of asking for a sidecar of harissa, a lovely concoction of chili peppers, olive oil, and paprika. It’s an option you should exercise. Roast n Co, 100-12 Queens Blvd. Forest Hills, 718-263-6000
5. Most Secret Korean BBQ Garden
Korean barbecue always brings to mind happy memories of backyard barbecues. At Flushing’s Majang Dong the Korean BBQ that takes place in an actual backyard. Chef Yu and his family run what some might call a Korean BBQ speakeasy. Sure there’s a storefront and inside you’ll find a restaurant, but the real action takes place out back in the shack and garden. Say you’re there for BBQ, and Mrs. Yu will walk you out the back door into a Korean BBQ wonderland. Pork kalbi and pork belly are both lovely, and there’s eel and octopus for seafood lovers, but one of the best meats is grilled pork intestines. With a crunchy exterior and chewy interior, the fatty rings eat like an offal lover’s version of pork cracklins. Majang Dong, 41-71 Bowne St., Flushing, 718-460-2629(more…)
As someone who’s constantly devouring the delicious diversity that is Queens it’s possible to become spoiled by choices, even jaded. Luckily for me leading food tours affords an opportunity to turn others on to the culinary delights of Queens. My passion for the borough and its food is rekindled by seeing it from somebody else’s perspective. Which is precisely what happened when I led ace travel blogger Jon Barr on a whirlwind food tour of Jackson aka Himalayan Heights last week.
“It smelled so good the second I stepped off that train and walked down the stairs,” Barr exclaimed as we strolled over to the aptly name Diversity Plaza for our first stop, some Indian chaat. No tour of the hidden gems of Jackson Heights is complete without a visit to Lhasa Fast Food where we feasted upon momo and cold skin sushi.
All told we visited four countries and two continents in under 10 minutes, plus I got to use my Telemundo announcer’s voice. Be sure to check out Jon’s Youtube channel here and click here for my info on my Queens food tours.
Fried beef momo, just one of many delicacies that will be offered.
With winter just around the corner, my pals and I from Queens Dinner Club have chosen a most seasonally appropriate cuisine: the hearty, spicy flavors of Tibet. And there’s no better place to enjoy them Chef Chime Tendha’s Phayul. In fact I personally love Phayul—which means fatherland in Tibetan—so much that I made sure they appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern. To score a ticket for this tasty trek please click here.(more…)
There’s a reason they call the British breakfast classic a full English. The army of breakfast meats—bangers, bacon, sausage, and blood pudding—and eggs supplemented by mushrooms, tomatoes, and fried bread is a joy to eat and behold. The best full English this Italian-American boy ever had was at an Italian-run cafe called E. Pellicci in London’s Bethnal Green. It’s been in the Pellicci family since 1900 when Elide and Primo Pellicci opened shop. And so has the recipe for Penne Pellicci—a plate of pasta and pesto—that the waiter Tony drizzled with olive oil when I visited a few years ago. It was a fine carb supplement to an already prodigious feed. (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…)
C-momo come with onions and peppers, just like Tex-Mex fajitas.
I’ve often thought of the sizzle platter—a cast iron oval set in a wooden block—as a gimmick. Designed to make diners ooh and aah with its sputtering and hissing, it’s akin to fried ice cream or the show put on by a teppanyaki grill man. I can count the number of times I’ve ordered sizzling fajitas, precisely once. But when I heard of the sizzling C-momo at Spicy Tibet I couldn’t resist. Whether fried or chive-filled I have a weakness for the dumplings that are the hamburgers of the Himalayas. (more…)