The newly opened Yun Café, situated beneath Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, Queens, serves excellent Burmese fare, including tea leaf salad (left), something of a culinary ambassador, and a less commonly known seafood salad.
They don’t call the open space above the Jackson Heights subway station Diversity Plaza for nothing folks. Upstairs there’s plenty of Tibetan, Indian, and Bangladeshi food to be had, in addition to the S & R Travel Agency, which predates the plaza itself, where one can book a passage to India. For a real gastronomic journey though, head down the subway stairs to Burma. Yes, Burma! Just past the Tibetan handicraft shop, the barbers and across from Jinme & Phuntsok of NYC, which sells lucky bamboo and candy, sits the newly opened Yun Café, surely New York City’s only Burmese restaurant located in a subway station. (more…)
One of my favorite things to do after leading a Chinatown food tour on a steamy summer’s day is to walk westward down Roosevelt Avenue and cool off by sampling frosty treats from various cultures. My first stop is the Dominican shaved ice at 98th Street and Roosevelt Avenue known as El Bohio. The bodega that the place takes it name from is long gone, but the frio frio man along with his gigantic block of crystal clear ice and his multihued syrups remain.
Now that summer is here in full sweltering force it’s time for a listicle that’s as chill as an icicle. Herein, seven of my favorite frozen treats ranging from traditional Thai and Mexican icees to some decidedly highfalutin ice cream and other treats. Feel free to chime in with your favorite frozen treat in the comments!
1. Baked Alaska, Spot Dessert Bar
There’s something about fancy pants ice cream that calls for skipping the cone. It’s as if there is a voice in my head saying, “This Tahitian vanilla bamboo charcoal swirl is for grownups. You can’t let it dribble down your chin, plus how will you possibly get a photo of it?” Which is why I’m glad that Spot Dessert Bar’s Baked Alaska comes in a cone. It’s not ice cream either, it’s sorbet, your choice of mango or raspberry. I opted for the latter. “Would you like to do a video?” the waiter asked as he brought over the meringue topped cone over to the table with a torch. Just beneath the browned meringue sat the tart refreshing sorbet. “I should really eat more ice cream cones,” I thought to myself as I munched happily away. Midway through came a surprise, fluffy bits of chiffon cake followed by more sorbet. I definitely should eat more ice cream cones, especially when they have cake inside. I’ll be back for the mango. Spot Dessert Bar, 39-16-39-98 Prince St., Flushing, 917- 285-2187
2. Tao tueng, Khao Nom I’m a big fan of shaved ice whether Dominican frio frio or Korean patbingsu, so when I saw that this Thai dessert specialist offered two kinds, I had to try them both. Tub tim krob, which features crunchy jewels of water chestnut coated in chewy jelly, in a sea of coconut milk syrup is strictly for the coconut fans, while tao tueng features longan fruit, barley, tapioca pearls, dates, and of all things potato. Somehow, it manages to make shaved ice seem healthy. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be glad that the brass bowl keeps it ice cold and even happier when the gal behind the counter offers a sidecar of extra shaved ice. I know I was. Khao Nom, 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, 929-208-0108(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
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
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…)
Nuts and dried fruit top this frosty Korean treat.
When summertime rolls around, my heart, mind, and stomach turn toward frosty treats. Here in Queens we’re lucky to have so many to choose from. There’s everything from old school institutions like Eddie’s Sweet Shop and The Lemon Ice King of Corona to new fangled creations like Snow Days, plus shaved ice creations from all over the globe, including Mexico,Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, and Korea.
Pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice typically consists of a small glacier of ice topped with red beans, fresh fruit, and condensed milk. Lately a newer version of the treat has appeared on the scene, a “well-being” variety that skips the red beans and condensed milk, favoring other ingredients like nuts and mochi. My favorite version of this pat bing soo subspecies can be had at Ye Dang, a shop on the further reaches of Queens’ vast K-tropolis.(more…)
The frio frio man’s new flavor tastes like a tropical vacation via Corona.
There’s no surer sign for this Queens kid that spring’s here and summer’s around the corner than the emergence of the frio frio man, a Dominican shaved ice vendor, in the window of El Bohio Grocery. Bottles of fruit flavored syrup—tamarindo, naranja, limon, coco, and frambuesa—line the counter along with a 75-pound block of ice. By the time I arrived on a sunny late afternoon last week the glacier had been whittled down to about 25 pounds by the shuss shuss shuss of his scraper. If Benfaremo is the Lemon Ice King of Corona then this gentleman is surely Corona’s El Rey del Frio Frio Dominicano. (more…)
In Manhattan som tom poo plara comes with a nutcracker.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
One of my favorite cuisines to eat in the dog days of summer is Thai. And one of my favorite dishes is som tom poo plara. There are many types of som tom, or Thai papaya salad. This one though, with its addition of salty preserved crab and pickled fish, is particularly bracing. The chili heat and fishy funk along with the cool crunchy papaya are most restorative on a sweltering day.
My favorite spot for som tom poo plara used to be Poodam’s in Astoria where Ratchanee “Poodam” Sumpatboon made a bangup version. Multiple napkins where involved as I’d pick up the blue crab and suck out the salty flesh dredging balls of sticky rice through the liquor at the bottom of the plate. (more…)
With all the time I spend in Flushing it’s hard to believe that it’s taken me this long to patronize Paris Baguette. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that it was the Korean bakery’s Cronut knockoff that finally lured me across the threshold.
“You can’t take pictures here,” said a beret wearing young man dressed in a striped shirt more commonly seen on French mimes. “Discover the dessert that’s taking over Manhattan,” read a sign above the croissant-doughnut hybrids. “Decadent and yummy,” it continued. I don’t often succumb to the lures of food faddery, but Cronut curiosity got the best of me. There is no way in hell I am waiting on line at 5 a.m. outside of Dominique Ansel for any pastry, no matter how hyperbolically delicious. So I considered getting one of Paris Baguette’s Croissant Donuts ($3.50) to be the next best thing. It was indeed “decadent and yummy,” topped with lemon zest and filled with a vanilla cream. (more…)
Shaved ice is a refreshing summertime favorite for this hot-blooded Italian-American. Latino versions of the treat skew toward minimalism, just some flavored syrup and perhaps a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. In Asia it’s a more elaborate affair, often featuring red beans, boba, pudding, and fruits. The most elaborate one I’ve encountered is the nam khaeng sai ($5), at Tea Cup Café.(more…)
Despite the name the newly opened Hot Spot specializes in shaved ice.
PLEASE NOTE THIS RESTAURANT IS CLOSED
Come summertime one of my favorite ways to chill out is shaved ice, whether of the Dominican or Taiwanese variety. So I was pleased when Hot Spot, a new Taiwanese shaved iced stand opened on Main Street a few days ago. It’s affiliated with the late Ice Fire Land, hence the name. Situated in front of an apothecary, it’s the only grab-and-go shaved stand in Flushing’s Chinatown. (more…)