I wish I had known I was going to be in Floral Park earlier in the day so I could’ve tried Keralan food for lunch. In fact, I wish I had known quite a few things before heading to the Queens/Long Island border early Saturday evening. One being that the movie theater I was looking for that was still playing Swedish teen vampire movie, Let the Right One In, (don't tell me Robert Pattinson is hotter than this kid with zero pigmentation and a pageboy) was housed in the lower arcade of a retirement community. Two, that Let the Right One In had been replaced with He’s Just Not That Into You.
Sure, there was a theater 30-minutes away in the East Village also showing the film but I was intrigued by what Northshore Towers Twin Cinemas far into the outerborough fringes could possibly be like. I was relishing the prospect of an empty house in a weirdo location and as the black-and-white checked finish flag appeared on the GPS device when I all I could see were three ‘60s era co-op towers looming in the middle of a field adjacent to the Grand Central Parkway, I became more intrigued.
While the Northshore Towers website paints the property as luxury residences, all I saw were walkers, canes and oxygen tanks. In the basement of the Beaumont building, you’ll find a gussied up diner filled with middle aged children dining with their parents, a grocery store for tenants only and a cinema with a hard ass security guard.
We were told we had to wait behind the velvet rope because the previous movie hadn’t let out yet. We were the only expectant patrons so I had time to scrutinize the Xeroxed movie schedule taped up on the glassed enclosure and was alarmed to see that Let the Right One In had been whited out and He’s Just Not That Into You had been scrawled on top in block letters. Argh. My plan was too good to be true. After asking the humorless gatekeeper which movie was actually playing, she went downstairs fetched the manager, a younger brunette version of the Crypt Keeper (god bless your soul, Geocities), who had no idea what we were talking about.
He was all, “Er, I just play what they send me.” It was finally determined that he had no idea what Let the Right One In was and that it was never sent. I have absolutely no idea how it ended up on Moviefone in the first place (the schedule on the theater’s website is currently for the week of March 6-12 so no clue there). A white haired couple had appeared by this point and after noting the painful romantic comedy, slowly shuffled away.
The only thing I could think of that would soften my disappointment was finally being able to pay a visit to old-school Americanized Cantonese King Yum in nearby Fresh Meadows. How would it stack up compared to Staten Island’s Jade Island, the only other restaurant of this ilk that I’m aware of?
The dining room was appropriately bambooed, thatched and set off with wooden tiki carvings. A karaoke cabana was set up against one wall. Tall burgundy vinyl menus with fantastical rum-based cocktails on the front page seemed like a good sign.
But all in all the food was as I’d expected it to be: merely average. James thought the space was dreary and that little things like the duck sauce to the spicy mustard tasted off or watered down.
The cuisine isn’t meant to be mind-blowing, which is why I focused on the pupu platter for two and only ordered one entrée, General Tso Chicken. Lo mein would’ve been appropriate but I didn’t want to go overboard.
Nostalgia doesn’t come with a twentieth century price tag. The prices were a little higher than I’d expected. Sure, you can do the column A column B combos, and maybe most diners do (the Queensy crowd didn’t strike me big spenders) but a la carte dishes were well into the teens and the pupu platter was $20.
I chose a zombie to go with my sterno-warmed treats. Maybe I haven’t been giving fruity drinks a fair shake because this wasn’t half-bad.
It could be an east coast west coast thing but I never had wontons with sweet orange duck sauce growing up. I don’t really get their appeal though I do like the crunch they add to hot and sour soup. The sauces of my youth were candy apple red sweet and sour and ketchup in a little circular dish that also contained a small dab of hot mustard. My first ever job was bussing tables at a restaurant a few blocks from my high school called Hunan Garden and I’d spent the first 15 minutes of my shift pouring sticky still warm sweet and sour sauce from a tea kettle into little plastic to go containers. Hot mustard was doled out sparingly, only to the half-way mark.
The pupu platter contained thick beef wedges on skewers and spare ribs, both dangerously sinewy and wanting to occupy the open space in the back of my lower right jaw where my wisdom tooth lived three days prior. Puffy hyper-battered fantail shrimp (they always remind me of fat miniature seals) were a must. The shrimp toast was oozing oil yet I still found the crispy mousse topped triangles irresistible. The foil wrapped chicken was odd. I think it was flavored with a shitload of curry powder, kind of bitter and yellow-tinged with a hint of crushed coriander. I heard a girl at an adjacent table refer to these as Thai chicken. Maybe the curry powder makes it so? Definitely not my favorite.
The general tso wasn’t breaded and crispy as anticipated. I know there’s a real version of this dish that’s not battered, I’ve made it myself, but when I go to a restaurant of this ilk I expect crispy nuggets. There's no denying the silver dome is classy, though.
Once the fruity cocktail floodgates had opened I felt no shame in ordering a pina colada. I’m not sure if it was my vicodin (this meal ended up being a huge mistake considering I was supposed to eating soft food only) or if they actually went heavy on the rum, but I started warming to King Yum after the second drink. I still prefer Jade Island. Even though it’s in the middle of a strip mall the kitschy establishment feels more like a hideaway.
There was no rectifying our thwarted Swedish teenage vampire flick. The least offensive movie playing after 9:30pm in the immediate vicinity was The Reader in Kew Gardens. I was at least hoping for some hot cougar action (ok, I actually take issue with anyone getting that label, but especially anyone under 40) but was faced with a bit more nazi schmaltz than I would’ve liked. Bizarrely, the couple in front of us left within the first 30 minutes, before the film even went south.
King Yum * 181-08 Union Turnpike, Fresh Meadows, NY