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
Ok, it’s Thursday, whatever, Sunday is a state of mind.
I have been ogling this pastel fat-striped ice cream cake for a few years (as well as M. Wells’ baked alaska) but rarely eat Italian-American food and always seem to have better things to do. It just so happened that I was a few blocks away from the Soho location on my honest-to-god real birthday (after randomly late-lunching at Balthazaar, which also wasn’t why I was in Soho, my first visit in my 19 years in NYC).
Two happy hour sparkling wines at the bar (after a handful of drinks already in my system–couldn’t say no to an 85-year-old buying me beer at Fanelli’s) and a slice of strawberry, pistachio, and chocolate cake with sprinkles was more than I could even hope for.
Then, the mid-30s guy with a neck tattoo sitting next to me who didn’t say a single word while he ate his meatless salad, got up to pay and added my cake to his bill. This gesture was very nice and very unexpected. If I had been sober, this generous move would be anxiety-inducing because I would fear that everyone in the restaurant would think I didn’t have any friends and it was pathetic for a grown woman to eat cake alone. Drunk me just said “thanks,” smiled, and enjoyed my cake.
(Though if I had one criticism, it was that the cake was frozen too hard, but I’m a weirdo who likes my ice cream slightly melted–dare I say medium-rare?–and concentrates on the runny parts at the rim of the bowl [never a cone] until and then you turn the scoop upside down and eat the melty bottom, tackling the softening core last.)
I’m not sure if Parm offers its full range of 12 cakes as was reported in 2015, as this location only had the classic and s’mores.
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
I was recently made aware of a French chain in Crown Heights called O’Tacos that, yes, serves tacos. Yet from the looks of these burrito-panini hybrids, I’m not sure the French know what a taco is.
There appears to be 50 locations of this restaurant, and the Brooklyn branch is the only one outside of France. This is more baffling to me than the bastardized taco. The website is only in French, which is very French. It’s easily discernible that fillings include chicken breast, ground beef, nuggets, tenders, merguez, and cordon bleu. I don’t see that they explain that french fries are sometimes stuffed in these tacos. There are are 12 less discernible sauces including Algerian, samurai, and giga.
I am curious about this taco, and might be blessed to live in the same city as the only foreign outpost, but not so curious that I’m eager to spend 1 hour, 9 minutes on two subways to try one.
Would make an exception to my no food-as-props/restaurant proposals ban for this:
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.
I did not eat at The Holy Crab because I already have a Chinese-run Cajun seafood restaurant on my block with a better name (Oceanic Boil), but am mentioning it it is an Indonesian chain serving Cajun seafood in Canada, and that’s all sorts of layers to dissect.
There also appears to be a knock-off in White Plains.