Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Staten Island’ Category

Jade Island

Jade_island_facade I’m still not sure how I ended up at a Staten Island tiki bar on Saturday night. Woodside Filipino goodies were on the afternoon agenda. Early evening was devoted to braving gruesome Jersey Gardens crowds in an attempt to track down a parka that doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing a sleeping bag. And then, naturally, the pinnacle of an exciting Saturday evening would be semi-suburban grocery shopping. There’s nothing like a deserted Richmond Ave. Waldbaum’s for 10pm entertainment, Times-invented hipster influx be damned.

It wasn’t until after picking up total un-necessities like frozen waffles, a caramel apple kit and fish sticks, that Jade Island crossed my consciousness. I’d been wanting to try this strip mall Polynesian near the Costco for a while, and it’s not like I’m frequently in the borough.

Jade_island_pupu_platterI’m no stranger to American-Chinese food; my first ever job was bussing tables for $3.35 an hour at Hunan Garden in Gresham, Oregon. We did serve a pu pu platter but compared to Jade Island, Hunan Garden was practically sophisticated (though at the time, I thought moo shoo pork was supremely exotic). Jade Island is beyond retro; egg foo young, chop suey and chow mein commingle with kitsch like Hawaii “4” O and yam yam steak.

Jade_island_chow_meinOrdering the pu pu platter was a given, but I had a heck of a time trying to come up with something non-mushy and bland to supplement the finger food. I eventually gave in and tried the chow mein, which was presented in one of those metal domed, pedestal serving platters. Fancy.

Two surprises: no hamburger and no crab rangoon. Rangoons are my favorite lowbrow fake Chinese snack ever. I survived on rumaki (with chicken breast, not traditional chicken liver), shrimp toast, bbq short ribs, fried shrimp and beef skewers, dipped in sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard.

Jade_island_booths_2The only other occupied table, whose inhabitants I couldn’t see because of the faux bamboo and thatching, were hell bent on making sure that their food wasn’t spicy, (like that could even happen). The funniest part was their waiter—all of them wear Hawaiian shirts and are hammy to the extreme— brought their food and jokingly said, “spicy just like you asked for.” Sorry, my sense of humor is broad. We started wondering if their thick accents were an act and if they might turn all gruff and guido-y as soon as patrons were out of ear shot.

Jade_island_cocktailAfter one round of sweet, fruity drinks with names like the headhunter, we went even further astray. I couldn’t ignore the list of $4.75 oldies. Forget all that artisanal tonic water and basil-infused vodka nonsense—bring on the grenadine and crème de menthe. By the looks of the lounge crew, it was fairly clear that beer was the drink of choice, but we risked ridicule and with straight faces asked for a grasshopper and pink squirrel. My pink cocktail was a no go, they didn’t have the ingredients (crème de noyaux, I’m guessing) so my fallback whiskey sour sufficed. The grasshopper was bizarrely sky blue, though it did taste harshly of mint. I was baffled since blue usually equals curacao and there wasn’t a hint of orange flavor. Jade_island_grasshopperIf anything, there was a touch of almond. I was too worried to test the bartender’s mettle after that; scotch and soda made up the final round.

At least my fortune was accurate: “You are going to have some new clothes.” I did end up finding a winter coat that only minimally resembles a sleeping bag.

These, plus a few extra photos that wouldn't fit can be viewed on Flickr.

Jade Island * 2845 Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY

New Asha Cafe

It's always weird when you decide to try a new-to-you cuisine and restaurant in a neighborhood you rarely frequent, and then days later the New York Times runs a review of the same place. Actually, they wrote up New Sunshine, which seemed like the more formal sit down Staten Island Sri Lankan, while I opted at the last minute for the hole in the wall contender New Asha. But I easily couldve gone to either.

I've been meaning to try one of these restaurants for what feels like eons, and even had an acquaintance that used to live nearby. But I'd only do the S.I. trek evenings when he threw parties and these arent late night establishments. On this occasion we were forced into S.I. during Fourth of July weekend to patronize the only NYC Petsmart. Supposedly they carry this smart litter box for diabetic cats (they pee insane amounts and now our two other normal insulin producing cats wont use the boxes and are totally messing the house up). Despite being the most suburban borough, S.I. is still futilely and impossibly NYC, so accordingly they didnt have the litter box in stock or have any knowledge of its existence. Fine, at least I could get my Sri Lankan initiation.

All I knew was that it must be similar to Indian (most likely southern Indian) food with perhaps some tropical influences. This is true; there is overt use of cinnamon, clove, coconut milk and pandan which leans kind of Indonesian/Malaysian. The food is spicy, but definitely not hot. As a condiment, they provide a carrot pickle interspersed with birds eye chilis, but even that was more pungent than incendiary. But then there are items that completely unique like hoppers, which are little crepe baskets made from rice flour. A sunny side up egg lay in the bottom of each hopper on display behind glass, shelved over the steam table. I'm honestly not sure if youre supposed to put food inside and treat the pancake like a bowl, or break pieces off like a papadum.

We opted for rice topped with sides of the cooks choosing. I'm not used to putting myself in others hands, but its enlightening to see how they plate. Vegetables dominated, but we were also given separate small dishes of chicken and mutton curry, which were boney and oily, but not disconcertingly so. For starters we had "lentil cookies" and curried vegetable pastries, kind of like samosas, but rectangular. We were given generous portions of a dal-like lentil puree, soft-cooked sweetish green beans and a creamy pale yellow curry that I couldnt figure out, but really loved. At first I thought the main ingredient was potato, but the texture was too fibrous. Then I thought it might a root like yucca. But after asking, it turned out to be jackfruit, which I've had in Indonesian curry before, but it wasn't like this. Perhaps its the difference between canned and fresh?

Jackfruit one of those mysteries where you cant find it in NYC (like mangosteen, which I know is illegal, and kaffir lime leaves, rambutans and galangal, which are not) but is freely available in Canada. It's not like their climate is more conducive to tropical produce, it must have something to do with import regulations.

New Asha isnt big on atmosphere, there are four tables for dining in the front of what is essentially a to go operation, but its not creepy like eating inside a Chinese take out joint. And you could get Sri Lankan beer at the adjoining grocery store if you wanted to spruce up your meal.

New Asha Cafe * 322 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, NY



This wasn't my first Friendly's excursion, that would've been my maiden
voyage into Staten Island with the specific goal of trying Friendly's (it
was mildly traumatizing, lots of dirty, misbehaved kids and older, hefty
adults in wheelchairs). I've since tried one in Connecticut, one in New
Jersey (I never know the specific cities) and one in Saratoga Springs. I
know Friendly's is nothing special, but it played a pivotal role in my
mental well being when I first moved to NYC. I was poor, friendless, jobless
(huh…five years later and not much has changed) and would sit in the
sweltering heat on the ratty left-behind mattress on the floor and watch my
little TV. I'd see all these ads for Friendly's with candy sundaes and it
just seemed so suburban and safe. I'd never heard of Friendly's so I wasn't
identifying with it specifically, just the genre, and became hell bent on
finding one. But as it turned out the only location in all of NYC is at the
Staten Island Mall, which I didn't have the luxury of visiting until two
years later when I was privy to a car. Now that I have a boyfriend with a
shiny automobile, Friendly's can be mine any time I'd like. But jeez, one
wouldn't want to become spoiled and jaded. I play it conservatively with my
Friendly's excursions.

Friendly's* somewhere about
45 min. NW of Philadelphia