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5 de Mayo

There's been restaurant trauma lately around the question, "How late are you
open?" I always want to know since that's a huge issue of mine. But no one
at 5 de Mayo spoke English. On the phone "How late are you open?" received a
hesitant "Monday" as a response. (Oddly, the same question at a Chinese
restaurant the following night was answered, "Two years.") Despite the
language barrier, the tacos were fine, as well as the queso fundido, which
I'd never tried. It's Mexican fondue, basically, and don't order with just
two people unless you have a serious dairy appetite.

5 de Mayo* 703 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY



It's taken me a while to write about my 30th birthday dinner because with
more important (i.e. expensive) meals, it seems like you should take more
care in the description. Unfortunately, I've been scatterbrained lately.

We went for the seven-course tasting menu, which was impressive, but to
be honest I can't remember the exact detail of each dish. One, because I was
tipsy and two, because it's hard to recall just from waiter description, I
need to see words on a menu. Generically, we had a mini salmon creme fraiche
pastry before the meal started, first: a chilled pea soup, second:
Machengo-filled squash blossom, third: foie gras soup dumpling, fourth:
mackerel, which annoyingly I can't remember much about, fifth: lacquered
squab with foie gras (my favorite), sixth: cheese plate with a possibly
illegal fresh blue cheese from Ireland, seventh: two desserts, one a lemon,
blueberry gelatin thing and a panna cotta, which I ate, enjoyed and can't
remember even though the table next to us asked about it and at the time I
described it to them.

I'm just relieved that I finally got to eat at a restaurant I wanted for
a special occasion. Hints were dropped about Annisa for last year's birthday
but they weren't picked up on. I got Peter Luger, which is funny because
Annisa is totally the anti-Luger. Small portions, modern, feminine. All
things I'm not really about, but I can't eat manly meals all the time.

The only thing I wasn't sure about was the clientele. The middle-aged
French couple seated next to us, kept shooting the most disgusted looks for
no good reason. We hadn't even ordered anything yet, so clearly it wasn't in
responses to poor food choice, they just didn't like the sight of us. It was
really freaky. I'd occasionally scowl back, and almost said something
confrontational, but they left shortly after we sat down. The other thing I
observed is that with the exception of the older Frenchies, the other
parties were all made up of casual twenty-somethings eating what seemed for
them run-of-the-mill Thursday night dinners. I thought the whole boomtown
bubble had burst. You could just tell that for all these 26-year-old doctors
and MBA's (I know because they were talking about their jobs) this was
nothing special, rather something to do. I don't know, it almost bothers me
more than being scrutinized by nasty foreigners.

Annisa * 13 Barrow
St., New York, NY

Nha Trang Centre


I like this place because if you're taking the M from Queens, it's kitty
corner from that odd Canal St. exit that puts you out on Centre St. No
transferring trains, no treks through town, just a 30 min. straight shot
from Ridgewood. Convenience and good Vietnamese food. They've got the
typical subtle variations of pho and all sorts of stuff with beansprouts and
basil. But the last time I was there right before a job interview, I
branched out and had this pork chop thing (have to re-look up the name) that
was amazing and at $5.25 didn't put a dent in even an unemployed gal's
pocket. I also slammed a Tsingtao to calm any pre-interview jitters and
worried for a moment that I was delving into Uncle Ned (Tom Hank's one shot
"Family Ties" character) territory. The dish came with two barbecued pork
chops on rice with some sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and carrots, and a piece
of this "egg cake" which was like scrambled egg with something black like
beans inside. I felt pretty invigorated, albeit stuffed, upon leaving. And
no, I didn't get that job. Keep your eye out for the waiter who goes,
"Yummy, yummy" and then mumbles something under his breath when he brings
your food.

I'm tackling my eating alone phobia and trying a different Chinatown
place every Tues. night before my writing class. I thought I'd already
battled this affliction when I'd reluctantly eat lunch alone while working
at the library in Portland. I was a total spazz about it in the mid '90s,
and unfortunately the new millennium hasn't improved me much. I'm convinced
this Fred Durst guy was staring at me the entire meal, not a glare, but
every time I'd look up our eyes would meet, and not in a wanted way. Then a
skinny young girl sat down facing me and also kept catching my line of
vision. Such paranoia. I find it hard to chew when you feel eyes are on you.
Anyway, the #1 pho was tasty, filling and cheap and that's what counts.

Nha Trang Centre * 148 Centre St. New York, NY

Cornbread Cafe

When you're craving fried chicken, you should just order fried chicken. I
opted for the pecan chicken, imagining this sweet, crispy, fried, nutty
thing akin to an Asian honeyed prawn dish, but it was just a baked
(broiled?) breast of chicken with a crushed pecan crust. Not bad, but not
what I was expecting. The collard greens were some of the best I've tasted,
sweet, sour and smoky all at once. The namesake cornbread wasn't bad either.
I'm just starting to slowly eat my way through Park Slope with trepidation.
It's like if I dine on Seventh Ave. too much I'll end up pregnant with a an
SUV or something.

CornbreadCafe * 434
Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Jackson Diner

This is one of those "they used to be good" places. But I wouldn't know that
first hand, as this was my first experience and I must confess
little-to-average knowledge of Indian cuisine. I'm not fussy about it, don't
know the nuances between regional styles and can't detect if Bangladeshis
are manning the kitchens, creating an inauthentic version. So, it was fine.
We tried typical fare like a mixed tandoori grill and lamb vindaloo. The
chutneys were much fresher and spicy than I was used to, the garlic naan was
top notch and the coconut-crusted chicken cutlets with mango chutney were a
nice break from pakoras and samosas. (7/6/02)

Due to off timing, I never seem to be able to take advantage of lunch
buffets. I'm sure that's for the best. But we got our act together this
Saturday and opted for the biggie, Jackson Diner, though there are probably
better choices. Crowded doesn't necessarily equal quality. And yes, it was
packed. There was a line just to get plates and start in.

This buffet had a little flair due to the cooked on demand dosa station, but
a majority of the set up was steam table style. Another table was filled
with condiments, little round chickpea fritters and a giant bowl of what
looked like square fried wontons. Choices included tandoori chicken, basmati
rice, naan, chicken curry, goat curry, a shrimp curry (yes, I'm using curry
generically–I'm unsure of the nuances) with whole hard boiled eggs (I'm
still not down with the Asian fascination with hard boiled eggs). There were
also vegetable dishes like palak paneer, a mixed curry, daal, and something
I'd never seen before, kadi pakora, which was the only dish that made me
kind of think.

The pale yellow color, sour and slightly sharp flavor and mystery main
ingredient reminded me of jackfruit curry I became enamored with a New Asha. As it turns
out the base is yogurt sauce and the pakora is well, a pakora, but chopped
up and mixed in. I had no idea. Kadi pakora is akin to samosa chat, which
is another confusing crisp/smooth mix that's way beyond fritters and dip,
but too thick to be a soup. I tend not to think of curries as yogurt based
because I have a S.E. Asian culinary bias (and a yogurt bias on top of that.
I often buy some little containers for lunch and they end up going bad in
the refrigerator because I never eat them), but that's really what this dish

What a crazy thing. I'm trying to think of an equivalent, it's not like
dumplings in soup because those are doughy and this is crispy fried. It's
more like Chinese crullers going with congee, but both of those components
are kind of bland and these are contrary. Maybe the smooth/crunch contrast
is the appeal of kadi pakora. Or maybe I just like anything fried and fatty,
which I imagine this must be. (11/5/05)

Jackson Diner * 37-47 74th St., Jackson Heights, NewYork

Rajbhog Sweets

I absolutely love this stuff, but I don't know what any of it is called (at
least yet). Asian goodies totally rock, and I'm just beginning to delve into
Indian sweets like kulfi, burfi and other words that sound like bodily
functions. The colors draw me in, though the tastes I can't always place.
Rose water, cardamom, pistachio, coconut. Most are riffs on a basic building
block like halvah, sort of how Viet-Thai type desserts all seem to involve
coconut milk and rice with subtle variations. Further research must be done.
The gift-style boxes are a nice, old-fashioned candy counter touch.

Rajbhog Sweets * Jackson
Heights, New York

Nuevo Mexico II

I didn't even know there was a new branch. It was so brand new that they
were still drilling and hammering and hadn't received a liquor license yet.
The carnitas sopes was pretty darn good, despite the hubbub. At first it was
exciting to have a new closer location, but the more I thought I about the
more apparent it became that I live in an in-between no man's land. The Park
Slope location is 19 blocks north and the Sunset Park one is about 15 blocks
south. I feel like a neglected middle child sometimes.

TacosNuevo Mexico II * 4410 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY