“After five or 10 minutes of trying to figure out how to order a guy my age will give up and go around the corner and get a slice of pizza,” I quipped to my new friend Calvin. “And not come back,” I thought to myself.
Thankfully my urge to try the Burmese food from Myo Moe’s newly opened Mandalay Club outweighed my frustration with technology and the disconnect I experienced at Sunnyside Eats, a ghost kitchen/food hall that as best as I can tell opened earlier this fall. Part of the disconnect was due to the use of the word “Food Hall” on the outdoor signage. I’d expected to walk around a food hall. Instead I found myself in a room that looked somewhat like a cross between a taxi dispatch office and the set of Squid Game.
“Is Mandalay Club open today?” I didn’t see them on the tablet. “Oh yeah, they’re new. You have to order from Uber Eats,” the guy behind the dispatch window told me.
After installing Uber Eats and fiddling around with it for another five minutes only to realize that Mandalay Club was not on the platform Calvin came over. By this time I’d figured out Mandalay Club was on DoorDash. “It should be about 20 minutes,” Calvin informed me after checking on my order. That order consisted of wettar thoke ($14)—a cold melange of various parts of pig face, cucumbers chilies and veggies that I hadn’t enjoyed since Crazy Crab in Flushing shut down a few years ago—and anya lamb curry seit thar natt ($18), an intriguing sounding lamb neck dish.
While I waited, I amused myself by seeing how many photos I could take in the lobby despite the fact a sign expressly forbids any photography and video. (For the record it was two.) And then I remembered that my friend Kazuko Nagao of Oconomi had opened at Sunnyside Eats, so she came downstairs and helped me pass the time as I waited for my meal.
The meal itself was quite excellent. The pig head dish was a wonderful balance of crunchy bits of ear, squidgy nose, and creamy cheek meat with cucumber, green chili, red onion and other veggies. The lamb neck was amazing too. Moe told me she sources it from D’Artagnan and then cooks it for an hour and a half in a gingery masala along with yellow split peas.
All in all it made for a fine meal on a chilly evening. In fact I’m looking forward to part two tonight. That said, I’ll stick to frequenting real food courts instead of ghost ones, which leave me hungering for human interaction. Guess this very very late adopter will be ordering Oconomi as well as the rest of Moe’s menu via DoorDash.
Mandalay Club, 40-05 Skillman Ave., Long Island City
I’m not sure whether the catfish pad prik khing from iCook Thai Cook falls under what’s sometimes referred to as Thai Royal Cuisine. What I do know is I can’t resist a punny headline. Nor can I resist Boonnum “Nam” Thongngoen’s vibrant Thai cooking. So I was very happy to hear her Elmhurst restaurant, which shares a space with the hotpot restaurant iCook, reopened on Friday for outdoor dining.
Like a lot of things these days, P’Nam’s menu has adapted. The major change is the addition of a half dozen $15 set menu items that I call Thai happy meals, each served with soup and rice. That’s where I found catfish pad prik khing.
“I have order envy,” my dining companion said eying the translucent fried basil leaves and curlicue of green peppercorns adorning the ruddy catfish. It tastes even better than it looks, thanks to the curry paste that hums with the warmth of chili and ginger and the perfume of galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves. The fried catfish is lovely, and, like the paste itself, unabashedly spicy. So I was glad for the rice as well as a mellow bowl of kai pa lo, egg and tofu in a sweet five spice broth.
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that in addition to offering extra rice, the waiter encouraged me to finish my soup. Welcome back P’Nam and company!
Until very recently I’ve always thought Little House Cafe—with its yellow and red awning that reads “Bubble Tea. Bakery. Teriyaki Express. Asian Cuisine” —was just another of Elmhurst’s many bubble tea spots. Despite appearances Little House is actually a stealth Malaysian restaurant, with a very big secret, a jumbo curry chicken bun the size of my head.
I learned about it from a breathless Instagram post: “The first unique and delicious handmade ‘Jumbo Curry Chicken Bun’ in the United States- Only from us!!” The other day I stopped by hoping to try the jia li mian bao ji, as it’s known in Chinese. (more…)
A potage of poultry and potatoes sits atop a bed of hand-pulled noodles.
Dà pán jī—or “big tray of chicken” is a Henanese dish I’ve been meaning to try for some time. I’d forgotten all about dà pán jī until I started seeing it at the New World Mall Food Court, notably at the purple curvilinear stand Stew where it goes by the rather ungainly yet specific English name “chicken potato noodle.” For an additional four bucks one can procure beef, lamb, or fish potato noodle. As I snapped a photo of the Chinese language sign for the dish, which shows Stew’s chef giving a thumbs up and some characters that likely translate to “Best big tray of chicken in the free world,” my friend from the neighboring Stall No. 28 waved me over. (more…)
Disks of crunchy fried taro make for a nice starter.
My recent Thai fried chicken skin mitzvah has made curious about Sripraphai. Ever since the Woodside eatery hit the big time, I’ve avoided it like the plague. (Actually that’s not quite true, about once a month I check out the prepared foods and desserts near the front counter. That’s how I knew about the fried chicken skin.) I liked it better when it was barely one stark fluorescent-lit storefront wide and there was no wait for a table on a Friday night. So the other day I decided to have lunch there with a buddy. As we perused the encyclopedic menu, I told my pal how the old bill of fare used to be a loose-leaf binder complete with photos.
I was going to get a fiery jungle curry and a papaya salad like I used to back in the day. Instead I went with something a bit mellower. For a starter I had the fried shredded taro ($7.00), circular tangles of tuber with a peanut dipping sauce and sweet chili sauce. They were pleasantly crunchy and fun to eat. (more…)
A quick and easy way to get a Singapore curry la mian fix.
One of my favorite Southeast Asian dishes is kari laksa, a spicy and creamy soup enriched with coconut milk, popular in Singapore and Malaysia. I like to get it at the “night market” counter at Curry Leaves in Flushing. Sometimes I don’t want to get up at 6 a.m. for noodle soup, though. That’s why I’m glad that I picked up a package of Prima Taste Singapore Curry La Mian at Old Town Asia Market.
The la mian kit contained two brown packages “(A) Curry Paste” and “(B) Curry Premix.” The instructions said to add (A) to the water first. When I saw the vibrant orange paste, I knew was in for a treat. Even uncooked it had a distinctly funky aroma of curry, shrimp paste, and other SEA aromatics like ginger and lemon grass. Envelope B contained a white powder which I soon learned was dehydrated coconut milk. After some stirring and letting it come to a boil, I added the noodles. For the last few minutes of the boil I added some prepackaged tuna fish. (more…)