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Posts from the ‘Sunnyside’ Category

Shovel Time: Tito Rad’s

threeshovelMuch like the real world, the food world can be a confusing place. A quick skim through Twitter (well, my Twitter feed) will often mention the same subject framed multiple ways, interpreting ingredients or dishes as a new trend or old hat depending on the source. And this really only stands out to me when the disparity involves a pet interest of mine, like, say, Filipino food (I’ve always been a champion of this chronic underdog cuisine and swore it was going to blow up in NYC around 2012 when Maharlika, Talde, and Pig & Khao were fresh on the scene) which intersects with my blue/purple food mania, and then I get antsy. 

titoradsIn the same few weeks, I attended a Queens Dinner Club event at Tito Rad’s (awesome name and logo) where ube ice cream seemed like a novelty for people who love trying new food enough to come from all parts of NYC and beyond to Sunnyside  on a weeknight and Mic, one of countless millennial-focused sites that seems no different from any other site, posted an article titled LOL “Everything you need to know about ube — the purple yam that’s more than a hipster trend.” (In the past few months, other headlines, blessedly hipster-free, read like: “What You Need to Know About Ube, the Filipino Ingredient Invading the Dessert World,” “Is Ube Filipino America’s Breakout Food?” “Why ube is our new yam.” )

So, is the Filipino purple yam hot shit Instagram-bait or an exotic tuber that you’ve never heard of?

Tell me it doesn’t matter. It’s ok. I was going to “Barely Blog” this but now I’ve gone on too long to lump Tito Rad’s in with anyone else.

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Eaten, Barely Blogged: French Schmaltz, Thai Soup, Mexican Sandwiches

sauvage quad

Sauvage is one of those curiosities where you remember looks more than taste even if your photos don’t convey it. And by you, it’s quite possible I mean just me. Light and airy. Windows open to the street. (My first thought was just because everyone speaks French and Spanish on Bedford Avenue, doesn’t mean we’re in Europe. Some of us enjoy A/C.) Where high-waisted jeans in pale washes and Keds look pretty. (Or maybe that’s just how everyone under 30 looks now–the young women working at Pye Boat Noodle, below, had a similar aesthetic plus straw hats encircled by a fat black ribbon). Service was gracious (even though I was given a time-limit on my table for arriving early but reservation-less). How could this pretty (and those coasters) crushed ice cocktail topped with purple petals not be delicious? Ok, with Macvin du Jura, Aveze gentian, and pear, it was, and hard spirit-free refreshing. This delicate quality was also present in the food to lesser effect. Sunchokes with green garlic, sunflower sprouts, and ‘nduja vinaigrette managed to make something with an oily, spicy component neither luscious nor hot and more like the crunchy tubers they were. Pike with so-called mountain vegetables (morels, asparagus, mystery green), and sour beer sabayon was chosen because it was described as the heartier of the two seafood dishes (oh, there was also a fish special that our server seemed very disappointed we didn’t go for), a word I would use more for the pot au feu chicken with skin schmaltz toast, despite chicken fat on bread translating as, yes, delicate. Maybe I’m just losing interest in full meals. I would totally return for cocktails and snacks at the bar if anyone suggested it (though I’m not sure they would).

cemitas el tigre tinga

Cemitas el Tigre I’m kind of jealous that Sunnyside and Woodside gets modern restaurants like Dawa’s and this former Smorgasburg sanwichery now with seats, subway tiles, wood arranged into chevron patterns, and a bar with bottles of Negro Modelo and gose on tap. Jackson Heights never changes no matter how much people who don’t live here seem to think it’s gentrifying. Rent and co-op prices continue creeping-up, and it’s still impenetrably pollo a la brasa, momos, and sports bars. What’s the difference between a Mexican cemita and one meant for a broader clientele? About $1, papalo, and a seeded roll. The thing is, I didn’t really miss that traditional herb’s almost menthol obtrusiveness on this chicken tinga sandwich, hollowed-out roll stuffed with avocado, saucey chipotles, and Oaxacan string cheese. I’m half-ashamed to admit that I pulled 60% of the herb off the last cemita I had a few months ago from El Rico Tinto Bakery. (This might all be moot because Cemitas El Tigre’s menu claims to use papalo and sesame seed rolls. Maybe sometimes they do?)

pye boat noodles

Pye Boat Noodle Ok, it might seem lame to bemoan the loss of nam tok soup a.k.a. boat noodles when there’s a restaurant with the dish in its name a few neighborhoods over. I’m not intrepid as I used to be. Luckily, I had an afternoon to take advantage of the quiet backyard and happy hour beer special in that murky zone between lunch and dinner. (I’ll have to double-check and see if I was charged lunch or dinner prices on the soup–there’s a dollar difference.) A condiment caddy is always a good sign, the cracklings were a nice touch, and the soup itself was rich, complex, just a little livery, yet still buoyant enough for the steamy weather. Astoria, which I’m slowly getting to know, is a small town because the same loud millennial who was making fun of his 40something aunt for getting breast implants the first time I went to Mar’s, also showed up here and I recognized his attention-getting voice before even looking up from my bowl of noodles. Eerily, while typing this District Saigon liked a bunch of my Instagram photos (maybe you should follow me–I’m friendly) which reminded me that’s where I had intended to go this particular afternoon, but it’s one of those closed between lunch and dinner places.

olive garden spaghetti pie

Olive Garden You might think you want pasta formed into a pie (and there are plenty of reputable examples online that I’m not going to link to) but you probably don’t need Olive Garden’s new spaghetti novelty, either Alfredo’d-up with chicken or with tomato sauce and meatballs. No one needs that level of pasta density, unless we’re discussing kugel. Then again, the ramen burger was a runaway hit. I wouldn’t eat that either.

Mi Bolivia

Mi_bolivia_aji_lenguaIt's hard to define an entire cuisine after a single meal. So, I won't. (But I will give an overview of Latin American cuisine  that's scarce in NYC.) Bolivian food is kind of meat and potatoes and thoroughly hearty. Must be the Andean air. Many of the dishes come with regular potatoes and chuños (a tiny freeze dried tuber) as well as hominy and rice. Lots of starch and chewiness. I had aji de lengua, tongue in a lightly spiced brown sauce. They also have a peanut soup, sopa de mani, that I've heard about but didn't try. Weekends are soupy at a lot of these places with changing menus of the day during the week.

Mi_bolivia_saltenas Salteñas are a heftier empanada with a stewier filling of either chicken or beef. They're served with a green salsa that our waitress pointed out wasn't called salsa. Instead of the Spanish word they use yagua. At least that's what she wrote down for me, but after some sleuthing it seems like llajwa is the more commonly used term. Either way, it's nice with a salteña. There is one other Bolivian restaurant in NYC named Nostalgias (love the added S, like how McGriddles is singular) and I'd definitely be willing to give it a try.

Mi Bolivia * 44-10 48th Ave., Sunnyside, Queens

Tangra Masala

It appears that this Indian-Chinese thing is getting big. At least big enough to spawn a garish sprawling second location for Tangra Masala. I believe that the mirrors, columns, shelves of tchotchkes (Indian and Middle American—baby figurines in the bathroom?) and bonnet (yes, bonnet—theres a random straw hat with flowers hanging on the wall) only add to the experience. And the experience is still a little haphazard. Thankfully, I'd had a few drinks before dinner or else I mightve been miffed by the super slow service (a very large party of Indian folks at the long table next to us were still waiting for their food when we left and they were already seated when we came in). Everyone was pleasant, and everything eventually came, they just didnt seem prepared for the Saturday night rush.

We shared lollypop chicken and shrimp fritters for appetizers. The non meat eater had paneer-filled spring rolls. The sweet vinegary green chile dip that came with the fried items wouldve made anything taste good, but the stood on their own. Manchurian chicken and salt and pepper shrimp were my choices. I cant speak to tofu Manchurian, which wasnt my pick, or the pad thai beef (uh, neither Indian nor Chinese) which most definitely wasnt my doing. I hardly ever dine out with friends so I didnt want to make a stink over weirdo ordering, especially since one is a vegetarian and the other shuns spice for fear of bowel trauma (and you wonder why I rarely dine in their company?)
Tangra Masala * 39-23 Queens Blvd., Sunnyside, NYAzteca * ? Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY



* Well, that was short-lived. Apparently, the staff kept saying Mina had gone back to Bangladesh when really she was setting up shop at Angon in the E. Village. Mina is now shuttered due to months of rent non-payment and who knows what else. (8/20/04)

I threw up in my hat minutes after eating here, though I don't know that it was Mina's fault since I did have a pounding headache prior to entering the restaurant. But it's hard not to let the aftermath taint the dining experience. And what an experience it was. I'd heard how idiosyncratic a place this was, small staff, small kitchen, every dish different every time ordered, long waits for food, forgetful service, etc. The sort of quirks that tend to plague places revered by people in the know food-wise. I could deal. At least I thought so, but after almost an hour with no food and everyone around us antsy because they were also empty-tabled, I started to get nervous. And my stomach was starting to hurt, out of hunger I figured. And everything I tried ordering: a fish dopiaza, then a goat curry, not to mention anything made with eggplant, they were out of. I'm so easygoing when it comes to dining, particularly at the lower end of the price spectrum, I'm not going to bust anyone's balls over $6.95. But all the events would've driven a diner with average expectations bonkers. I honestly couldn't tell you what we ended up eating because by that point I was feeling very ill. There was some meat, some somosas and some rice. It's a blur. All I know is that by the time we made it the block to the car I felt sicker than I have ever felt in my life, no exaggerating. I've never been that sweaty, nauseous and consumed by severe head pain (and I'm used to migraines). This wasn't a migraine, it felt like a tumor was trying to free itself from my brain. So, yes, we made it all through back streets twisting from Woodside to Carroll Gardens (we had the darndest time finding the BQE) and made it to the industrial borderlands of Columbia St. before I lost my dinner (and probably my lunch). The amusing part (thought not at the time) was how earlier that week James told me he didn't like this particular winter hat, and I was like fuck that, I'm going to wear it more now just to spite you. But full of Indian-spiced spinach, there was no way that wooly barf bag was going back on my head. This wretched retching went on all night long. I was totally poisoned. But like I said, it couldn't have been from Mina because I was already starting to fade when we initially sat down. So, I don't want to write Mina off, but it might take me a little convincing for a return visit.

Mina * 48-11 43rd Ave., Sunnyside, NY