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Truc Mai

*Truc Mai has become a Malayisan place, Blacan something-or-another.

I think I need to explore Truc Mai more. I only had basics like spring rolls (they had some crazy sounding version that involved "hash" and both soft and crispy skins) and grilled lemongrass pork on rice vermicelli. I'm fanatic about banh mi and Vietnamese snacks and desserts, but I'm not up to speed on entrees. I did enjoy the overheard conversation between the husky teenage waiter and a loud middle-aged woman with a heavy Brooklyn accent and a weed problem (I've got one too–weed problem that is, not a Brooklyn accent). He suggested she get a goat to eat all the crap in the yard and then when that's all done turn the goat into gyro (pronounced ji-ro, of course) meat. Why didn't I think of that?

Truc Mai * 6102 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, NY


This is rapidly becoming the new Cowgirl Hall of Fame. A place with so-so food that's good for groups, I guess. A few months ago we held a party for a coworker here. More recently it was a Memorial Day meet-up location. I think it's because people dig margaritas and large plates of reasonably priced food. I just don't know. But in mixed company it's never flattering to come across as a difficult food snob. I have countless other ways of alienating people so I'll just keep my opinions on festive food to myself.

Mary Ann's * 86 Second Ave., New York, NY

La Portena

Friday afternoon I had no idea, all the organ meats I'd be eating Friday
night. But Friday afternoons are like that. The evening was all about la
parilla, the mammoth mixed grill at La Portena. They have that oddball
Argentinean-Italian thing happening that makes me realize how little I know
about South American history. So, we had antipasti pre-meat. The meat
included regular sausage, blood sausage, tripe, sweetbreads, shell steak,
and tongue. Enough to easily feed three. No starches, no sides (except
chimichurri, of course). It was total Atkin's paradise…too bad I'm doing
Weight Watchers now.
The family sitting across from us, who were splitting la parilla three ways,
had me mesmerized for no good reason. I was oddly attracted to the Mexican
teen I assume was out with his younger brother and dad. He had this
androgynous, handsome, soft face and Sun-in orange streaked bangs a la me in
1984. He seemed so gentle, and upstanding (that could have something to do
with the fact he wasn't speaking English), so unlike all the bratty teens I
usually see around. He still had that immigrant-y politeness to him. He
hadn't gone bad yet. God bless him, out on a Friday night with his family
eating organ meats. I couldn't stop staring. Thankfully, the walls are
covered in mirrors. Perfect for ogling. (5/23/03)

La Portena * 7425 37th Ave., Jackson Heights, NY


Enoteca Pizzeria whatever. I'd been wary of the place. The reviews weren't
so hot (something about crust like a cracker) and the crowds allegedly
monumental. Maybe it was the gloomy weather, or maybe it was the 4pm
in-between mealtime arrival, but on Mother's Day, the celebrity pizza and
wine bar was nearly empty. We had lemony, spicy fried chickpeas, and I had
to have the lardo pizza. The toppings were sparse, with just the right
flavor of rosemary, nutmeg and wonderful pork fat. If you got a good bite
that was drenched with olive oil and also contained a bit of lardo, it
created this great slick, salty sensation in your mouth and throat like when
you get a big mouthful of movie theater popcorn from the top where all the
fake butter has pooled. What a great fatty feeling.

Otto* 1 Fifth Ave., New
York, NY


It's funny because Amarin was the first restaurant I ate at when I moved to
NYC (almost exactly) five years ago. It's all a blur, I didn't know what I
was doing, and barely knew the girls I was staying with. It was hot, humid,
I was overdressed (not formal, too many layers) and nervous, the cab got
lost on the way to the apt. and the driver called everyone "Poppy" so I
figured that must be a Brooklyn thing though I've only heard it maybe once
or twice since, and think it's actually spelled Papi. We ordered
take out and two of us got a chicken thing that came as a whole chicken leg.
I was fine with that but the other person was upset that there was skin on
it. I sensed trouble from the get go. What possible friendship could be
forged with someone who's scared of chicken skin? I only stayed with them
for about a month, but they must've liked Amarin because we went in person a
second time (I later discovered that's very Williamsburg, like people only
know a handful of places and only frequent those places in this peculiar
provincial way). This time the skin-shunner ordered the $9.95 fish entre,
which I thought was pretty ostentatious. She'd just started a new, fancy
internet job at and was making what I thought at the time was
big bucks (amusingly, I've yet to make that much). It's hard to remember a
time when $9.95 seemed outrageous for dinner, but that's the beauty of
pointless remembrances.

Anyway, I hadn't been back since '98. In fact, I didn't even know where
it was other than in Greenpoint on a main street. It's weird because I
frequent Williamsburg and have friends in Greenpoint, but like a good
visitor I never go over, past McCarren Park. It was only recently when James
was driving around Greenpoint, scoping the neighborhood for a potential move
that I re-discovered Amarin. The food's nothing to write home about, but
it's likeable, nonetheless. They employ oddball touches like serving mashed
potatoes, and putting carrots, zucchini, and bean sprouts where I don't
think they belong, but it's OK by me. I felt comforted like I'd come full
circle, back to where I'd started my NYC food journey. Everybody likes
closure, right? I would've ordered the skin-covered chicken, but now I'm
watching my weight like a true pathetic New Yorker. Jeez, at least I'm
eating carbs. Five years makes a world of difference, no?

Amarin * 617 Manhattan Ave., Brooklyn, NY



Minado is clearly the Japanese version of East
. And if you're familiar with East Buffet, I barely need
elaborate. It's an over-the-top, horn-of-plenty feeding frenzy. The dcor is
definitely more restrained than it's similar Chinese all-you-can-eat, but
being in a Long Island strip mall, you could hardly call it tasteful. It's
not someplace I'd normally frequent, but it's near the Hicksville Ikea and a
person can only take so much meatballs and lingonberry after a hard day's

Of course, there's a sushi bar with all sorts of varieties including one
baffler with pink rice. There are also standards such as teriyaki, wakame,
and edamame. But like any good "ethnic" buffet, there must be American
banquet pleasers a la lobster thermador, and pasta. Being a lover of tiny
not-quite-sweet-enough Asian desserts, I was happy with the rows of light
layered sponge cakes flavored with mocha and green tea.

Load up, but don't waste (throwing out uneaten sushi will net you a 20%
surcharge) and don't overstay the 1.5 hour limit. Ha, we always end up past
the two-hour mark without even realizing it. It's not a matter of being
piggish, it's just that normal, i.e. myself, people eat at a reasonable pace
(you may be aware of my "shovel time" grade school lunch trauma). Everyone
around us came and went, new crops filled the tables while we held our slow
and steady ground. And slow and steady wins the race, right?

Minado* 219 Glen Cove Rd.,
Carle Place, NY