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Posts from the ‘Newborns’ Category

Newborn: Addictive Wine & Tapas

 

addictive interior

2017 is an exciting time to live in Jackson Heights. We’ve been waiting for years (not hyperbole) for projects teased in 2014 (and earlier if you’re counting Denny’s, which I am). Addictive Wine & Tapas is more of an expansion from the smaller wine bar next door, but many in the neighborhood have been awaiting its opening just like a new restaurant. 

The Jackson Heights Ladies Cotillion, a loosely defined social club consisting of me and four other relative newcomers (one man) to the neighborhood, convened at Addictive Wine & Tapas the day after the opening party. It’s rustic and woody with a fair amount of tables and at least 12 seats at the bar where if you look out the window past the Edison bulbs you might catch a glimpse of the familiar yellow Denny’s logo.

addictive trio

The menu is straightforward with all of the classics: gambas al ajillo, chorizo, pan con tomate (which was more bruschetta-like), pulpo, albondigas, most of which we ordered, but I didn’t see patatas bravas which I’d toss into that familiar bucket. Those kind of only matter if you’re dining with a vegetarian since that’s one of the only traditional tapas that don’t contain meat or seafood (though if you’re with a real sensitive type, they will get upset about the smoked paprika which they mistook for a bacon flavor). 

I’m not sure about the three quiches or three flavored hummuses though those were the only oddities that jumped out. That’s the fun of outer borough (by which I mean Queens, and maybe Staten Island or the Bronx) wine bar menus. (Though I immediately knew a recent menu I encountered in Brooklyn wasn’t put together by an American when I saw a section titled “Salads and Burritos” which contained roughly four salads and one chicken burrito with parmesan cheese. The owner turned out to be Turkish.) 
addictive facade

What I ate was solid and what I’d want from a neighborhood restaurant. Restaurants like these aren’t destinations–you can probably get chorizo and Albariño closer to home, though I was surprised skimming Yelp that more than one out-of-towners staying at LaGuardia area hotels had taken cars here (it’s only 1.5 miles).

P.S. Another bougie dream is also about to come true courtesy of the this restaurant’s owners: a cheese shop!

Addictive Wine & Tapas * 87-01 Northern Blvd., Jackson Heights, NY

 

New(ish) Born: Awang Kitchen

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Lately, one of my only criterion for trying a new restaurant, more specifically trying a new restaurant’s food, is if they deliver to my apartment because I’m becoming a shut-in. That’s kind of an exaggeration but not completely. Either way, I was excited to see Awang Kitchen appear on Seamless recently.

The bebek goreng sambel ijo, a fried duck leg (there was also a neck tossed in, intentionally or not, I don’t know) with sambal was a treat, crackly skin still intact. and unexpected heat from the green chiles. Plus a surprise hard-fried egg. The soupy curry, separately packed in a very Southeast Asian fashion, a tied plastic baggie, was confusing. I think it should’ve been eaten along with the duck and rice but it just had little carrots and beans floating around so was more like a sauce.

The goat sate was tender and I love those pillowy compressed rice cakes but it was slightly pricey considering it was the same price as the more substantial duck dish ($10.49). Stuffed, fried tofu rounded out my order, which I saved for the next day as a breakfast snack along with a few sticks of sate.

Awang Kitchen is one of those restaurants, common in this part of Queens, that tries its hand at many things like the Himalayan places that also serve a few Thai dishes and sushi. They even advertise “Asian fusion” as a part of their line-up, as well as sushi. I don’t know that I would venture that far, though I might try the pizza dip, a pepperoni, Parmesan, cream cheese, mozzarella concoction.

Awang Kitchen * 8405 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst, NY

Chains of Love: Denny’s Jackson Heights

Though it seemed like it appeared overnight, anyone following Queens chain news knew that this Denny’s has been promised for years. The first rumblings were in spring of 2013, a year and a half before I moved down the street. I assumed upon unpacking I would have Super Birds at my disposal 24 hours a day.

denny's facade

The most surprising thing about the new Jackson Heights’ Denny’s, nestled into the fresh, picture-window building also housing a Chipotle and Dunkin’ Donuts wasn’t that they don’t serve craft cocktails like NYC’s first Denny’s (they don’t serve alcohol at all) or that the host automatically sent my arriving party to the table where I was already seated (guess there’s a dearth of childless, middle-age white ladies in the neighborhood) or that it was nothing like the Denny’s in Japan. No, I was extremely tickled that the check was automatically divvied into three. I’m pretty sure I’ve never encountered that at a restaurant in NYC–or any other Denny’s.

denny's receipt

I did not take any photos of the interior. The restaurant is quite bright and large (the waiting area is the size of most cafes in the area) with lots of burgundy booths, diner seating, and totally nondescript décor. I kept getting distracted by blown-up photos on the wall depicting what looked like a Waffle House, but with Denny’s name on the signs.

The menu is heavy on Grand Slams, skillets, and burgers, as it always was. It’s also pretty trend-averse. There are no flatbreads or kale salads. Jalapeño bacon and salted caramel are about as daring as it gets.

denny's pot roast

Bacon cheddar tots were a new addition, and regular old fries could be upgraded to the little blobs, more fritter than tot, for $1.29, so that had to be done. They would probably be better if they cheese had melted rather than stayed shredded. I had no complaints about the level of American cheese oozing on my pot roast melt, though. With the addition of sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions, held together by toasted 7-grain bread, this was not a bad sandwich. There was an unplanned double pot roast order at my table.

denny's duo

I love leftovers (I always freak when dining with people who leave 25% of their food destined for the trash) so I brought them to work the next day. I reflexively hid my plastic bag from view on the subway, but remembered this was the 7 train, not the F where my Olive Garden remnants elicited scowls.

Denny’s * 8710 Northern Blvd., Jackson Heights, NY

Newborn: 969 NYC Coffee

Tuna, salmon, shrimp, and pork...you're covered.

Tuna, salmon, shrimp, and pork…you’re covered.

A mostly Japanese cafe (deli sandwiches are in the display case) with no seeming awareness of matcha’s trendiness (right up there with ube, one might say) or desire to convey its raison d’être with its name recently appeared off Roosevelt Avenue selling heart-shaped onigiri (only $2.50), tempura, miso soup, and green tea beverages. There is even outdoor seating, an anomaly in the neighborhood shared only by The Arepa Lady.

Ok,  Jackson Heights has never been known for its beauty.

Ok, Jackson Heights has never been known for its al fresco beauty.

The last thing I would expect around these parts is a cafe selling rice balls (take that back–dry-aged burgers or grain bowls would be less expected) and it may have to find its groove.

“Cafe con leche?” said one older woman to her friend as they noticed the new awning, deciding if they should go in. “Japonés?” They kept walking.

Being close to the 82nd Street subway station, I could see it working for a morning coffee or tea and a snack. I wouldn’t mind some sweets like daifuku or even a selection of Pocky and Japanese Kit Kats for beginners (green tea and sweet potato).

969 NYC Coffee * 37-61 80th St., Jackson Heights, NY

pauglina

Bonus newborn: Pauglina, a tasteful and luxurious shop like you’d find along the main strip in Hudson, NY, niche and not for townies, is a surprising entrant. Mostly store, there is a small cafe in the back with counter seating and stools, hence a mention here. They’re selling pastries from Lety’s, a nod to keeping it local. I didn’t try anything, but everyone–owners and customers–was friendly and excited for something new in the neighborhood, G word or not. (I’m not anti-gentrification in non-alienating doses, but don’t even get me started on the use of hipster to describe anything you don’t like, i.e. Facebook comments and message boards about anything new that’s not a 99-cent or mobile phone store. Only in Queens could  Latino couples, well-dressed middle-aged gay dads, and imported incense and artful floral arrangements [triple newborn: Tilde, a floral pop-up showcasing creative bouquets inside a decades-old floral store] be characterized as hipster.)

 

Newborn: Sac’s Place

sacs-facade

So, Jackson Heights finally got good pizza. Not a Motorino or even a Milktooth. No brussels sprouts or negronis–are you insane? Believe me, I’m good with grandma slices, garlic knots, and meatball heroes, the sort of classics you take for granted in many New York neighborhoods. This is Sac’s, a new branch of a popular Astoria Italian restaurant that recently opened a block from my apartment, which is to say in the Latino section of Jackson Heights sitting among two of the best Uruguayan bakeries. The world needs empanadas and calzones, though. 

sacs-counter

It feels more like a takeout counter operation, though there are eight tables configured in twos and fours, and more substantial entree specials, like the lasagna (cheese or meat) and wild mushroom ravioli announced out front on one of my visits.

sacs-slices

So far, I’ve tried a few slices, a pepperoni roll that was nearly hefty as a calzone, and a whole pie. The “mama,” simple with full moons of fresh mozzarella and basil atop what read as a zippy sauce, chunky with San Marzano tomatoes, and tart. (I say “read as” because lately tomatoes, even roasted grape tomatoes which barely qualify as tomatoes, taste acidic to me and I’m not sure if that’s accurate or something I’ve done to my palate with new prescription drugs.) and a white slice, creamier and milder, obviously, which I liked well enough to order as a whole pie with sweet Italian sausage (ground up and blobby not firm and sliced, a surprise) another time.

Unsurprisingly, the Jackson Heights doesn’t have a coal oven that lends that trademark char to the thin crust. Here, it’s a little floppier. No complaints. Ok, just one–with Sac’s now on the scene, I can no longer justify ordering Hawaiian pizzas in the neighborhood. It would be a shame.

Sac’s Place * 86-14 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY

Newborn: Oceanic Boil

If there’s anything Jackson Heights residents might agree on, it would be that we don’t need any more chicken restaurants or sports bars or sports bars run by chicken restaurants that end up changing their name so people don’t wonder why there are two Pollos Mario on the same block. It’s a sad state of affairs when a new, nondescript teriyaki takeout joint rouses interest because at least it’s something different.

Oceanic Boil is quite possibly the best name ever for a new restaurant. #jacksonheights #newborn

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Oceanic Boil is different. It kind of wins just on name alone. Poetic yet direct, if you get the restaurant’s M.O. It’s been a long time coming–I was kind of shocked to see it had been 76 weeks since I first got wind of it (only 1.5 months into this apartment, I was still easily excited). What might not be apparent at first glance is that what’s being served is New Orleans-style shellfish, boiled in Old Bay and custom levels of cayenne heat. Plain and simple peel-and-eat bar food minus the bar. Tables are wrapped in brown kraft paper, plastic gloves provided by default, paper plates handed out if asked for. 

oceanic boil crawfish & shrimp

This is the crawfish and shrimp combo that comes with corn and potatoes. Diners can choose between thick garlic butter and lemon pepper sauces for dipping. Traditionalists won’t need any at all.

oceanic boil menu

Wisely–not everyone will want to work for their meal–there are also fried seafood baskets (I was given a light crab cake to sample) and extras like lobster rolls and clams casino. And possibly a first for the neighborhood, there will also be a raw bar selection (oysters haven’t been sourced yet). This is still a soft open. 

oceanic boil interior

The overall feeling is vaguely Asian (maybe I’m just reacting to the good luck bamboo trees since the red and green color palette, forged metal seats, and prancing stags gracing the entryway don’t signal any particular heritage) and that’s because it kind of is; the owner is Chinese, the gentleman who appeared to be running things was Indonesian. There are Japanese beers and sake (as well as wine, both plum and Coppola). Oceanic Boil falls between Crazy Crab (r.i.p.) and Claw Daddy’s on the NYC boiled seafood spectrum (the menu is very similar to The Boil’s in actuality) which I hope can resonate considering this is the epicenter of Colombian Jackson Heights. 

Oceanic Boil * 84-20 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY

Newborn: Pokéworks

I managed to completely avoid poké while in Los Angeles, a city practically synonymous with the 2015 iteration, and assumed I was in the clear as long as I stayed on my side of the country. But within a matter of months, no less than three restaurants featuring cubes of raw fish dressed and gussied-up in bowls appeared nearly as far as one can get in the continental United States from Hawaii.

pokeworks interior

I don’t dislike poké. I just had better things to do in LA. In fact, it’s kind of a perfect office-day lunch: light with lots of satisfying texture and flavor. Except that I didn’t realize quite how popular Pokéworks was. I’m not sure if the new aspiring chainlet always has a line 30 deep at 2pm (enough to warrant a passing-out of samples and menus to soothe the eager) or if my inadvertently showing-up the same day The New York Times wrote about poké had any bearing on the line apocalypse that out-snaked Chick-fil-A’s corner queue a few doors down.

pokeworks line

Originally, I mistook this as a poké bouncer–until I realize he was there to keep fish freaks from blocking the entrance to the gentleman’s club.

pokeworks poke

Pokéworks offers eight signature styles, including a vegetarian and chicken version, but after waiting 25 minutes, menu in hand, then eyes on the assembly line, it almost feels irresponsible to not attempt a custom order even though that might be the optimal way to assess what a restaurant is all about. Every option (it’s a six-step process) has already been computed mentally by this point. I felt like confident when I went for a brown rice base, a two-protein combo of ahi tuna and salmon, edamame and hijiki as mix-ins, classic salt (Hawaiian salt and sesame oil) flavor, masago-only topping (seaweed and salad and crab salad were tempting), plus garlic chips for crunch.

So many components might threaten to overwhelm the whole point of this purist dish, and I didn’t need all that rice, but the firm chunks of tuna and salmon still shone through, a bright counterpoint for a blustery winter afternoon in NYC.

Pokéworks * 63 W. 37th Ave., New York, NY

Newborn: Emoji Burger

 

emoji burger da wink

Yes, so there is a new burger joint in Jackson Heights. And yes, the patty is a Pat LaFrieda blend of some sort. Aaand, if you were to believe neighborhood chatter, we now have our very own Shake Shack (or maybe even Minetta Tavern, or Spotted Pig…joke).

emoji burger interior

Um, what we have so far is a  perfectly fine fast food burger in a fast food setting. And in neither the Shake Shack nor In-n-Out mold, which is ok since Queens does get its first standalone Shake Shack tomorrow. (Or styled after Umami for that matter–despite the mildly similar name, I actually believe this story about the name coming to the owner after praying, and I would be surprised if Umami had name recognition with more than 10% of anyone in Jackson Heights.)

emoji burger cross section

I intended to get the most basic burger, which still contains so-called emoji aioli, on my first visit even though I really wanted the “Thums Up” with ham and pineapple, yet still ended up with bacon and a sesame seed bun (non-sesame buns are Martin’s potato rolls) otherwise known as “Da Wink.” I just wanted to taste the beef, which was difficult. There is this push-pull where there is almost too much going on, bu t at the same time nothing melds. Like all the components stayed separate when the cheeseburger needs to ooze and reanimate into a delicious whole. By the way, medium is standard, and you can ask for medium-rare (I did and I wasn’t ignored) though the it doesn’t make a huge difference with this thinner style of patty.

emoji burger facade

I also had small fries, freshly cut, and plain if that needs specifying because loaded fries are really a thing around here. If I ever get burnt out on “panda fries,” I’ll be set with Emoji’s choice of Emo, Cheese, Pio, or O’Le, all with various cheeses, meats, alliums, and sauces.

Emoji Burger * 80-07 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY 

Newborn: Arby’s Manhattan

arby's quad

Manhattan chains aren’t like their outer borough brethren. For one, they don’t get flashy microsites and bus tours of Katz’s and Ottomanelli & Sons promoting the same roast beef the rest of the country consumes to little fanfare.

They also fit into their natural surroundings pretty well even if they don’t last. Who even recalls the Manhattan Mall Arby’s? The new iteration that opened last week is next to Port Authority, sharing the same corridor as Manhattan’s only White Castle and the McDonald’s long-formed so wonderfully earlier this year.

In Brooklyn, they take over Gage & Tollner before disappearing. In Middle Village, they flatten Niederstein’s and quietly persevere. (Unrelated to Arby’s, the latest old-school Queens German restaurant to die and transition is Chalet Alpina into Peruvian La Coya. I was curious about the Pisco bar when I walked by last week to see if anything was going on in the former Sizzler–nope, and I nearly shed a tear–but there wasn’t a soul inside.)

arby's lunch

So how is the food? Do you need me to tell you? It’s Arby’s; you get it or you don’t. I went rogue, which for me meant non-Beef ‘n Cheddar. At the last minute, I went premium and chose what I thought was the A.1. Special Reserve Steak Sandwich instead. I had my reasons. (Ok, I’ll tell you one. It was to impress a guy on social media who I’m already friends with. He never acknowledged it, but I’m pretty sure he noticed that I was eating the sandwich he posted on my timeline two months ago. Yep.)

But now that I’m looking at the menu what I ate was definitely not that limited edition sandwich because A.1 branding is nowhere to be seen, and also someone clearly fucked up because by deduction, the only sandwich involving bacon and crispy onions is the Smokehouse Brisket and that’s also supposed to include smoked Gouda and this contained no cheese whatsoever, when really it needed more creamy salt and fat, and now I’m angry at Arby’s, day 2 in operation (on my visit) or not.

Ok, I just calmed down. One unique feature of the Manhattan Arby’s is breakfast. (It’s no Taco Bell, however.) In fact, there are four whole categories devoted to the not-that-important-meal-of-the-day: sliders, flatbreads, biscuits, and premium biscuits, served with coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company, which honestly I can’t tell if it’s a pseudo or legit beanery or what. I never eat fast food breakfast, but I may just pick up a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit tomorrow if I can make it by 10:30am since it’s the eve of Christmas Eve and I don’t really have to go to the office.

Arby’s * 611 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 

Newborn: Sushi Inoue

Despite its less than savory reputation, it’s because of Tinder that I was able to enjoy a preview of the delights (that would still be delightful full price) being prepared at Sushi Inoue, a restaurant with 14-seat sushi counter that opened this weekend on the ground floor of a newish condo building in Harlem. This is less neighborhood takeout sushi than an understated showcase for hyper-fresh seafood flown from Japan and prepared by Chef Shinichi Inoue, formerly of Michelin-starred Sushi Azabu (and app-introduced friend of a friend).

A la carte sushi and omakase (three levels ranging from $80 to $120) are both available. What follows is a sampling of what you might expect as part of the chef’s choice.

sushi inoue one

Amuses like a cherry tomato in gelee, tender nuggets of tako wasabi, and a jumbo pacific clam, large enough to be sliced into three bites and spiked with black pepper.

sushi inoue two

There’s something about being instructed “Don’t touch the head” that only makes you want to prod it more. Ten minutes on, the shrimp’s spindly legs and antennae were still moving with only the slightest provocation. While the sashimi was pristine, the squares of tomago stood out, sweet, with the texture of a burnished sponge cake rather than custardy. The chawanmushi topped with corn and two rounds of okra was smoky, from what, I’m not sure. Any morbid temptation to rip into the translucent flesh hidden in prawn’s shell was worth suppressing for its re-purposing as messy finger food in an intense mushroomy miso broth.

sushi inoue three

The sushi, compact and incorporating barely sweetened rice dabbed with wasabi, was the highlight despite my inability to recall every nuance  (many pours of  sweetish Junmai Daiginjo, “Dreams Come True” followed by Dassai Beyond, apparently good enough to serve Obama, didn’t help my memory). Four days later, and I can still taste the uni, creamy, almost like seawater emulsified with happiness. Probably because I ate two. My favorite, though, was the pink chevron-patterned nodoguro, sea bass barely seared and garnished with the tiniest dollop of yuzu kosho, a spicy paste of pickled green chiles and yuzu peel. Eel, octopus, scallops, otoro, what looked like mackerel but was actually shad, were all lovely too. Oh, and matcha cheesecake, accompanied by a round of “Happy Birthday” sung by the staff, just an hour before my day kicked in officially.

Sushi Inoue * 381 Lenox Ave., New York, NY