In the last five years that I’ve lived alone, my interest in cooking has gone way down. Not into it after work, and not even into it as a Sunday project. Even when I force myself to make something Sunday night that sounds great (most recently, a Korean short rib stew) by two consecutive dinners and a lunch I’m sick of it. It’s only on the verge of moving that I’ve become ok with this. I’m not going to feel bad for relying on the completely reasonably priced restaurants in my neighborhood.
Which brings me to Copacabana, kind of like a low-rent churrascaria, which is very cost effective if you’re into meat trying to go light on carbs (I can’t give up bread!). I couldn’t justify buying ribs, pork belly, and prime rib just for a few slices. On some nights the self-serve buffet is just ok (I’m sad when there is no chicharron) but on my recent visit it was great and had everything freshly replenished. There’s also a guy who cuts slices of around eight skewers of meat on a rotisserie. Most cuts are closer to well done than rare (and I’m sure you could ask for slices closer to the middle) but aren’t dry and flavorless at all.
There is green salad and toppings plus fried yuca (carby, whatever), plantains, beans, rice, and also multiple Brazilian dishes that I don’t know the names of like one with shrimp, mushrooms in a pinkish cream sauce, a black-eyed pea thing with ham and hard-boiled eggs that is almost like fried rice and I could eat a whole bowl of, and slightly odd cold dishes, one which looks like julienned beets from afar but is actually vinegary ham.
Anyway, you can be strategic and less dense items. If I’m correct, the meat is $9.99/lb and buffet and meat is $6.99/lb. The above takeout container’s contents cost around $12 (there’s more in there than it appears) and that was dinner and lunch the next day, which isn’t ridiculously cheap but totally reasonable considering I might spend $12 on a midtown sandwich when I go to the office.
Copacabana Brazilian Grill * 80-26 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, NY
Just around the corner from Khao Kang, in a similar rough wood style that all the new Elmhurst Thai restaurants seem to have adopted, is a newish cafe serving mostly Thai sweets. I don’t think the two businesses are related. (Ok, they are.)
Coconut pudding was a special so I tried an order of two (and I ate most of one before I took a photo). A salty layer of coconut cream hides a pale green gel flavored and colored with pandan. I also bought emerald sticky rice in a banana leaf, just because I love green and pandan might be my favorite natural scent in the world. They also have a short list of savories like curry puffs, salads, and noodles. I didn’t see any khanom bueang a.k.a. Thai tacos (crepes often with a marshmallow-like meringue which can be dressed up sweet or savory) though I think they do those as well.
The to-go packaging is cute, with a strong brand identity and a banana leaf laid inside the cardboard box. Tables inside have little place-markers that instead of names read cheeky words like “badass” or “sexy.” It’s something different, at least.
Khao Nom * 76-20 Woodside Av., Elmhurst, NY
I don’t know why I have never written about Khao Kang. I guess for the simple reason that I never write about anything here anymore. As 2017 starts coming to a close, I can finally admit to myself and the world that I am going to move early next year. I’m manifesting shit as I speak. My amazing Queens food days are numbered (#queens4lyfe became #queens4now) so I might go hard and devote a day to Queens eats for a month.
Khao Kang is maybe five blocks too far to run out for lunch when I work at home (Google Maps says it’s a 13 minute walk each way) but I’m going to try and remember it more. The concept is simple: you are given a big scoop of rice and can choose two ($8.50) or three dishes ($9) from 10 or presented behind glass to be ladled on the side.
It’s the closest thing to street and market vendors in Thailand with vats of earth-toned curries to choose from. But instead of tiny plastic chairs on the sidewalk, it’s more rough wood and dangling lights like a modern Bangkok restaurant.
Choices change daily, as I discovered on my last visit and they didn’t have the sweet crispy pork nuggets that I love. There are descriptions taped on the glass but I just go by what jumps out. On this trip I got a mild, almost Chinese tasting (I can’t pin down why I say that) shrimp and squid curry, yellow with turmeric, a fiery breaded fish and eggplant curry, as well as a dry curry with bamboo shoots and pork (there was a meatless version before). F.Y.I. hot is hot. I have a fairly high threshold for heat and some of these curries–I never know which ones, but always anything with bamboo shoots–are forceful.
Khao Kang * 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, NY
In my nearly 20 years in NYC I’ve developed an embarrassing jaded side where I’m surprised and delighted by nothing, so I love reminders that I haven’t seen it all, not by any measure.
I used to work in the Financial District and yet somehow Fish Market near the Seaport never made it onto my radar. (And god, I still miss Little Lad’s.) Maybe it was the generic name, or that it seems like the place where you’d have to eat fish and chips, or the dive bar vibe from the sidewalk (though that would probably appeal to me since grit is scarce around those parts).
I was just drunk enough on a balmy weeknight to become intrigued by Yelp reviews (yes, Yelp is a horror but it is good for facts or descriptions of atmosphere) that detailed shots of Jameson and photos of what looked to be Chinese food. Ok. There is a prominent bar, well, the entire place looks like a bar, with a bunch of TV screens and a few arcade games.
The bathroom door looks like it been used as a punching bag.
Many plates of lobster, an item I didn’t even see on the menu and if I did I would hesitate to order it, were being placed in front of diners. (Apparently, it’s a Monday-Wednesday special: 1.5 pounds for $16.) Dishes include non-descriptive things like yummy noodles and hinted things like pescatore bowl. I opted for the pork belly pot (as opposed to the pork belly meal for $4 less), some sort of wings that I don’t even remember, and crispy rice with shrimp, which is fried rice with the crust scattered on top, socarrat-style.
By the time we left, I had managed to be served four shots of Jameson in a little plastic cup. Yes, one of the owners makes rounds with the bottle, filling up your glass as needed.
Fish Market Restaurant * 111 South St., New York, NY
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.
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.)
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
I don’t go out as much as I used to, though I was recently reminded of the disgusting charms of being tipsy and sweaty, wandering around the East Village in 98% humidity. I’d already shared a plate of omurice and croquettes at Bar Moga and still wasn’t opposed to snacking a little more before heading home.
Izakaya is tucked into that Sixth Street strip that used to be wall-to-wall cheap Bangladeshi-run Indian restaurants. Like the name states, it serves drinking food, casual and homey, tip inclusive. I know tongue isn’t for everyone, but it should be. These slices were slightly rare, hyper-beefy with a pleasant chew (though my dining companion gnawed on hers for a long time then put the remains on her plate, which I didn’t comment on at the time) and just a hint of sweet char from the grill.
P.S. I ordered delivery last night and added an extra lengua taco so I could eat it for lunch today. Here’s to tongue in all forms!
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
Tsurutontan rode in on the wave of imports late last year that included Ichiran, Tim Ho Wan, and the promised Inkinari Steak that didn’t get off the ground until 2017. (I’m so mad they are going to add chairs in the US.) I meant to check one out when I was in Tokyo but put it off until my last night and I couldn’t get it together for the 9pm last order (I kind of appreciate the anal-ness of publishing last calls for food in Japan) but was dying for udon and couldn’t deal with the 10 person line outside of Shin Udon. I did end up getting a bowl of cold udon, which was maybe weird in December but it was on offer, at a restaurant up a flight of stairs with no English name. I finally was tough enough after two weeks to handle an all-Japanese language menu.
Tsurutontan, off Union Square, is no noodle hole-in-the-wall, with prices that are more akin to Ipuddo and beyond. Also, without the wait and counter seating. I liked the row-facing-row with a partition separating the sides for solo diners. Plus, the Japanese thing where you can order regular or large amount of noodles for the same price, thick and thin.
I chose thin for my summer special of cold dashi broth with uni. The broth was light but the sea urchin added creaminess, and a slight bitterness, plus shredded shiso that gave the dish more bite and held it just back from being too rich. This doesn’t look like a big portion (regular noodle fyi) but it was oddly filling. I let the little batter nuggets turn to sog and scooped them out with the giant metal spoon at the end, then slurped all of the remaining sesame-studded cloudy broth like fishy cereal milk.
Tsurutontan * 21 E. 16th St., New York, NY
Ok, I guess pasta is really good. Who knew? I rarely seek out Italian or Italian-American food beyond pizza, and especially not pasta because it just seems heavy and boring. The last high-end Italian restaurant I went to was Marea when I took out my then boyfriend for his birthday a million years ago (ok, six) and the now CEO of my company was sitting nearby and sent over a bottle of champagne because the company was then still small and people liked me. Of course, the octopus bone marrow fusilli was amazing.
Anyway, I had three hours to kill late Friday afternoon so I was day-drinking and ultimately needed to be on Fifth Avenue near the Flatiron. Otto is great for solo dining, the food is reasonably priced, and the bartenders/servers are always gracious. My intent to order pizza turned to pasta as the simple bucatini with black pepper and guanciale was beckoning. The server offered to make it with tomato sauce i.e. All’Amatriciana as I suppose that’s more popular? But the main reason why I don’t eat Italian food is because I don’t like all the tomato sauce (yes, I realize that’s more of an American thing). Is this a safe space to admit I really don’t like pesto either? Basil is one the most overrated herbs.
It was so good as is, very al dente, just the right portion to serve as late lunch/early dinner, rich from the cured meat and just oily enough that it didn’t need sauce. It looks like nothing but tasted like everything, made nicer with a quartino of Orvieto Classico.
No one cares about every single thing you eat. Even I’ve lost interest in keeping up with or documenting every meal in NYC. That’s kind of what Instagram is for now. I’m just going to pick the one thing at the end of every week (I refuse to believe Sunday starts the week) and say a few words.
I counted 18 different pieces of sushi (plus an amuse) served by Oona Tempest (formerly of Tanoshi) at her showcase pop-up, Sushi by Bae, which seems like a lot but photos don’t lie. That would make this a very good value $100 omakase to my mind (though I’m not sure that volume is standard or because I was with a regular). Sometimes boo-hoo-ing on social media works since I was essentially thread-jacking someone else’s Instagram post to voice that I had been burned by this venue’s rigid seats for 2 or 4 only policy (which apparently has been lifted) and it turned out this person had booked a reservation for 4 and one guest had to bow out, leaving a spot for me, a near-stranger.
I already want to go back. My attempt at quickly typing each description in Evernote before too many seconds pass and it seems rude to not pop the piece in my mouth as you’re supposed to immediately tends to result in garbled notes. This is what I ended up with:
Shima aj (aji)
Golden eyevampper licorice sea salt. (snapper)
Chu tor (chutoro)
Shari (shari is the rice–don’t know what I meant to say)
Miso cured but refuse (no idea what “but refuse” meant)
Nodoguti black throat sea bass (nodoguro)
RBI ebi with koji (RBI?)
Santa Barbara roe
Santa Barbara uni