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Taco Triumverate

I’ve eaten my fair share of tacos, though sadly never on their home turf…until now (well, the week before last). Hours after landing, we hit up El Tizoncito and later in the week we found El Califa and El Farolito (if anyone ever looks for these two, Calle Altata doesn’t seem to be on any maps—look for Alfonso Reyes, the perpendicular street, instead) across the street from each other in a Geno’s/Pat’s fashion. I didn’t sense any rivalry though I like to imagine one exists.

Each eatery had distinctive characteristics and specialties, which I’ll compare below. I couldn’t help but notice descriptions from mainstream media and guidebooks using phrases like “bare bones” or “taco stand” to describe these places. That would only be the case if the writer never saw an actual street stall or fonda which would be nearly impossible since they fill the city. This trio is fast food in nature (at least two are chains—I’m not sure about El Califa) but there are menus and table service.

El Tizoncito
362 Calle Campeche
Mexico City, Mexico
El Califa
22 Calle Altata
Mexico City, Mexico
El Farolito
19 Calle Altata
Mexico City, Mexico
Specialty: al pastor (gyro-style spit-roasted pork cooked and served with pineapple). They claim to have invented it. Specialty: something called a Gaona with a registered trademark symbol. I wasn’t sure what this was so I shied away from it. I’m pretty certain that it’s a carne asada type taco, though I can’t deduce how it differs from the bistec. Specialty: al carbón (charcoal grilled) which quickly becomes apparent when choking gusts of smoke wind through the room and make you tear up.

Despite being a chain, the Condesa location was the original. El Tizoncito has the least amount of seating (and the exposed outdoor seating really gave our “no, gracias” skills a work out, thanks to a hurdy-gurdy man, wooden chair salesman, small girl handing out those give me money cards, Indian guy trying to get back to India, flower pushers and silver jewelry hawker) but they do have a sushi bar type counter where diners can watch their food being prepped. I give them extra points for offering free samples and having a cartoon mascot pork blob with a pineapple hat that I think is named Tiz.

El Califa is vaguely upscale compared to the other two. They’re pricier, a little purist and have subtle décor. I ordered a bistec and a costilla but ended up with two of the grilled beef tacos. There was nothing wrong with this place but it lacked garish oomph.

I kind of liked El Farolito the best because they had the largest amount of seating and menu items (I know, most agree that specialization is key but I possess a Cheesecake Factory mentality) plus a torta joint on the other side and a juice counter. It felt sort of like a diner. Like El Tizoncito, this Condesa location is also the original. We found one the very next day at the Santa Fe mall but it wasn’t the same.

Chips and beans were a nice touch. The pale, creamy green sauce on the far left looked like guacamole but was the hottest thing on the tray. We were concerned by the lone plastic spoon because there was no way to not cross-contaminate each offering.
These were fancy because the came in earth tones and had individual mini wooden spoons.
I thought the green salsa in the foreground would be insane like the one at El Tinzoncito but it was tamer.
Perhaps we seemed clueless because while perusing the menu we were brought samples of the pastor, their specialty. Free food is always a plus.
Bistec tacos. Simple and to the point with high quality meat. Al carbón style.
Costilla (pork rib) taco with chopped bits. Double corn tortilla approach.
Now I am clueless because I couldn't tell you exactly what this is (it's not on their online menu). The mish mash included tacos, grilled onions and melted cheese.
It's hard to resist an al pastor taco. These came adorned with cilantro and onions while the grilled meats showed up naked.
I've had a gringa quesadilla in NYC before but couldn't recall what made it gringa. I was thinking the addition of cheese to the al pastor (despite cheese seeming like an American bastardization, plenty of melted white stuff finds its way onto tacos in D.F.) filling made it so. But I suspect it's the flour tortillas used for these gringa tacos.

Red Hooks & Barbs

Welcome to another edition of talk (to myself) therapy. Last week I came to terms with trendy Macanese food, now I’m trying to come to terms with the rise of the Red Hook ball fields and the public (ok, the blogosphere) rallying to preserve them. I should care if the little guy gets put out of business, especially when the little guy crafts tasty snacks. Yet the more I hear about something, the more I begin to loathe it even when it’s worthy of constant comment. Sometimes I worry that that’s a horrible self-defeating attitude I need to rid myself of, then I read funny, possibly made up letters and feel vitriolic and at peace.

The Latin American food vendors in no way approximate the oversaturation of Shake Shack or Momofuku Ssam—there’s no attitude or ridiculous waits. And most importantly, I just live up the street. But I don’t even feel like going if it’s going to be douche central. I thought about taking my visiting mom and stepdude this past weekend but the Charles Schumer and friends save our salt of the earth artisans spectacle ensured that I’d steer clear. We went to Coney Island and Totonno’s instead.

Happy Family

1/2 I’d never partaken in steamboat, shabu shabu, hot pot, Chinese fondue, whatever you want to call it, until recently (though I’ve broth-swirled a little Canadian horsemeat). Flushing’s Happy Family a.k.a. Little Lamb (a cartoon sheep with a shirt collar appears on various signage) proved to be a great jumping off point. Actually, it’s a little more advanced than amateur; we had some procedural ordering confusion.

SetupIn my day, Mongolian was simply suburban code for a pile of stuff cooked before your eyes. Here it’s all d.i.y. You pick your broth from red, white or green. The latter is herbal and I wasn’t feeling the urge. But you can also go yin-yang and choose two broths kept separate in a huge metal pot inset in your table. White=creamy soymilk. Red=hot as hell. There are all sorts of oddities floating in the liquids like a whole nutmeg kernel, jujubes (Asian dates) and a metal tea bobber filled with mystery herbs and chiles (opening it would’ve solved the mystery but I didn’t want to unleash any unnecessary fury).

HotpotThe tricky part was how to acquire dipping material because you pick the hot pot by meat i.e. lamb hot pot or fish head hot pot, but there are also pages and pages of a la carte items like chicken, taro, and innards. We picked beef hot pot because it seemed neutral and it came with a plate of bean curd, greens, rice vermicelli, dried mushrooms, hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts and lots of other crunchy things. We eventually got our waiter to bring shrimp and pork-stuffed fish balls to supplement our thinly sliced beef. Practically anything could be improved by the hot pot treatment, but whatever you do abide the menu’s plea “please don’t bring other products into the store to cook (including beverages and liquors).”

Lamb_skewersBecause we’re gluttons, we also got grilled lamb skewers to start. Cumin was definitely present but I was surprised at the chile level of the spice rub. This was my kind of food. I have a high tolerance for heat (though I’m not sure when I acquired this. I’ve always liked spicy food but I was just thinking about a birthday dinner in my early twenties where my mom took me out to Bangkok Kitchen in Portland and the tom kha gai was so punishingly hot that we couldn’t slog through it. Now, wiser and older, Portland Thai food seems pretty tame though I’ve never returned to Bangkok Kitchen for comparison. Were we NW wusses and I’ve toughened up or have my taste buds dulled from years of smoking? I only sparingly indulge anymore, f.y.i.) and even so there was a tongue-burning that persisted throughout the meal. Combined with the heat and steam emanating from the hot pot itself (and a few drinks—though no soju for me), sweating was nearly unavoidable. And as you might imagine, as the broth bubbles and cooks down the resulting concentrated soup is intense. It was nice to be able to alternate between the fiery and sweet chambers of stock.

RoomEven though the hot-potted treats don’t really require them, there is an eighteen-slot condiment bar in the back of the long room that’s just kind of fun to poke around. Black beans, chopped garlic, sugar and soy sauce all kind of make sense, but if you’re feeling wild you can also take a scoop of pure MSG. Ah…sweet, sweet glutimates.

My “real” review for

Almost completely irrelevant asides (you have been warned):

Hot-potting has become a euphemism in my household for what gastro-intestinal unpleasantness occurs about twelve hours later. There was a lot of hot-potting going on last week in Mexico City that has yet to cease. But I never realized how funny hot-potting was until I heard it referred to by someone who had no idea what hot pot was.

I met up with a former coworker a few weeks ago to get the dirt on who’d been fired, humiliated and so on. But I became intrigued when she started describing my replacement, a young Chinese-born go-getter with an apparent penchant for hot-potting. It seems that the girl whoops it up all over Flushing, indulging in hot pot with wild abandon, comes into work late, and then complains, “I have terrible cramp…very strong period” as an excuse. No one seems to think that these cramps are liquor induced except for my friend who now refers to binge drinking as hot-potting. But she’s suspicious, mean-spirited and astute like me so I’m inclined to believe the hangover theory.

Once the former coworker walked into the women’s bathroom to find the new me laying on the ratty entryway couch moaning in pain with her boyfriend at her side rubbing her head. Frightening (though not so much as the pair of abandoned shit and blood stained panties once left in front of a sink on the floor by god only knows. P.R. is a classy profession).

Hot-potting has become a great catch all phrase for everything unseemly. This former coworker (and no-nonsense dyke) also shared my love of the word hot pad, the self-given nickname of my butch Girl Scout camp counselor who resembled an obese John Denver. I don’t even want to imagine what hot-padding is.

Happy Family * 36-35 Main St., Flushing, NY

Ham on Wry

HamI don’t want to end up one of those cranks who constantly finds fault and starts writing letters to the editor (not emailing, writing—that’s when you know you’ve lost it). I’m more of a stewing and festering, then forgetting type.

But I was a little baffled by Time Out NY’s bit on jamon (by their new staff writer) that I read last night (I’m actually reading rather than skimming now that I temporarily have no internet or TV to entertain me into the wee hours). They get all gushy over the hand-cut serrano ham at Stinky Bkln. I like the place, nice enough people, but they can’t cut jamon to save their lives. This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned their mangling.

I was excited to see the meaty hooved leg around Christmas-time and had to get a pound. I ended up with a pile of chunks and stubs. I’m absolutely no Spanish expert but I have bought bellota in Barcelona and the cuts were invariably long and paper-thin.

I hoped my first Stinky Bkln foray was an aberration and tried again a few months ago. After watching the hip young man slicing off pudgy squares in a painfully slow fashion, I became nerved out and was like, “just give me a quarter pound.” It was unbearable to watch even for a few minutes. I’m trying to imagine shelling out $400 for three hours of this pleasure.

There are a lot of things I stay out of because I just don’t feel fit to judge. Barbecue and wine are two that immediately come to mind. Serve me swill and Dallas BBQ slop and I’ll hardly know better. But I do have a grasp on Spanish ham and there’s something wrong here.

Suicide food painting courtesy of

Please Don’t Force Me to Read a Book

CableguyIrksome: having no internet, phone or television for four days. It can’t be a coincidence that as a new tenant moved into our building yesterday and the cable company was out setting him up that our cable inexplicably went out. Yet, our apartment is the only one of the four with a problem so Time Warner won’t consider it an outage and won’t come to see what’s going on until Friday. TV and phone won’t kill me but I can’t stand having no internet. I know it increases productivity (and I have plenty of friends with no computers, cell phones or TVs—in Portland, duh—and they survive) in the long run but I don’t feel like making life changes this week—I’m still in a post-vacation funk/readjustment period. I don't have any books to read, though I have a new New York, ReadyMade, Domino and Sabor (a pretty cool looking food magazine I picked up in D.F. but can only skim because it's in Spanish). James is losing his shit because he works all hours of the night (and doesn't read and can't entertain himself in an unplugged fashion). Honestly, I’ve never quite understood his schedule. He might get home at 7pm but will work from midnight to 3am downstairs. Now he’s going to have to make up this extra time in the office. Normally, it wouldn’t be the end of the world because the guy on the third floor doesn’t encrypt his wireless network. But um, he’s the person who moved out so the new tenant could fuck up our cable. This is actually posing a serious problem because we have to pick my mom up from the airport at 4pm on Friday and I had planned on taking a half-day and working from home in the morning. Now, I’ll have to go into the office for four hours (which feels needless) or use a full personal day. Plus, the cable guy (I really didn't want to think about Jim Carrey today or ever) is supposed to come between 1-4pm and you know how reliable those numbers are. And we need to leave by 3pm to get to Newark in time. I’m actually getting more annoyed as I type this. How am I going to post all of my brilliant thoughts on tacos and Nuevo Mexican cuisine without web access at home? (I don’t even have time at work because I’m a week behind still.)

Amores Perros

Maybe the JFK terror plot bust this past weekend was no biggie, I have a hard time judging the severity of things, but when it appeared on CNN mere hours before I was scheduled to fly into said airport I was “oh no, not again.” Just days before we were going to fly out Barcelona last summer, the big British bust occurred. Maybe terror plots are constantly being thwarted and I only notice the ones that directly affect me.

Anyway, Mexico City is now done and over and I need to recap rapidly because my mom’s coming to town Friday and I’ll be consumed with good daughter sightseeing duties instead of internet tinkering. A few thoughts:

My first inclination was to compare Mexico City (from here out referred to as D.F. a.k.a. Distrito Federal like their D.C.) to Bangkok because it the closest thing in my first-hand experience. But it really wasn’t like Bangkok at all except that there’s a lot of chaos and traffic. Whenever I started feeling hot, fussy and frustrated, I thought “well, it’s not as bad as Bangkok.” S.E. Asia had more heat and humidity, more touting, more pedestrian unfriendly sidewalks, more language barriers but it seemed safer and more modern in many ways. You could at least use public transportation to get around.

Instead of stray dogs everywhere, a weird pervasive thing in Thailand, pet dogs take up like every open inch of space. Apparently, Chilangos love canines. Everyone in Condesa, the area we stayed in, seemed to be walking dogs, dining with their companions or have them barking from roof terraces. Parque Mexico had outdoor dog obedience classes and a mobile van for grooming. But I’m a cat person. The only cats we saw were scruffy street felines, one with a missing eye. At a mall pet store they had gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, puppies, birds and fish, but no cats. I started wondering if the cats as pets concept didn’t exist but there were ads for Whiskas all over the place. Perhaps kittens are kept indoors like most in NYC.

I then started thinking of D.F. as west coast. It’s much more of an L.A. than an NYC and I don’t always identify with that. The weather is very much west coast, i.e. nice. You know, 70s during the day with no humidity and 50s at night so you can wear light sweaters and jackets and your makeup doesn’t melt off your face. Here, it’s like 80s, sticky as hell and the temperature doesn’t budge once the sun goes down.

Also, you really need a car to get around and only losers take buses and subways. Practially every restaurant that's the tiniest notch above a hole in the wall has valet parking. Guidebooks make it seem like you’re taking your life into your own hands by riding the metro (or eating street food or using exposed ATMs or hailing street taxis) so we were initially scared off. But we started getting tired of taking $10 taxi rides just to go to adjoining neighborhoods. We did avoid the metro during rush hours and night, but it was hardly harrowing. The worst aspect was that it’s not air-conditioned and occasionally sat for long periods at stations. I don’t think anyone who rides the NYC subway daily would be put off by crowds or CD salesmen or musicians traipsing through. But unlike NYC, it’s not a great equalizer. You have to be a special level of rich to eschew subways here but in D.F. like much of America, middle class and above wouldn’t set foot in public transportation. James works with a guy from Mexico City who has never ridden it in his life and strongly recommended against the metro.

We also ate street food and (technically) hailed a street taxi but it was in a mall parking lot so the threat of kidnapping seemed reduced. And I didn’t have any majorly bad food reactions until the very last day when we had to leave and I was in serious trouble (it’s not two days that I’ve been back and my stomach is still not calm—in fact, I just had to run to the bathroom at work and I’m not one for such public displays). It’s too bad duty free doesn’t sell adult diapers. I was seduced into security at a French bistro, where we had our last dinner. It was all quaint and I let my guard down and ordered a salad when everyone says you’re not supposed to eat raw fruit and vegetables. I think the lettuce and sprouts nearly killed me. That’s what happens when you stray from meat, frijoles and corn products.

I don’t see anything wrong with watching TV on vacation. When I flipped on the TV right after we checked in, No Reservations in Puerto Rico (an episode I never saw) was on and I got sucked in. All those spa, beach, resort people lounge around the pool or sand or get massages–all essentially lazy things. I usually go to cities and for me, relaxing involves sucking up air conditioning on a king sized bed, sipping overpriced bottled water and watching crap like Van Helsing. Oh yes, I did and it wasn’t subtitled at all so it was kind of funny and more tolerable. Same for CSI, which I’ve never really watched in my life. I also watched most of We Don’t Live Here Anymore, which I’ve never sat all the way through in the U.S.

Film-wise we saw Piratas del Caribe at a near-empty matinee. I haven’t followed the franchise so it didn’t mean much to me, but it beat the other English language choice, Premoniciones.

The mall. No, I didn’t see any pyramids but I became consumed with finding a mall. I like malls on vacation, they’re grounding and non-hot (except in Mexico where they don’t believe in climate control). No one seems to have a problem with this in the parts of Asia I’ve visited. Singapore and Hong Kong are shopping crazy. The freaking Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur contain a giant mall. Even Penang, which is a tad backwaterish, had a modern mall. Mexico City not so much. But I knew a beauty called Santa Fe in some bizarre planned community on the outskirts of town, existed. It’s the largest mall in Latin America (and isn't all that huge). There was no way we were not going but the logistics proved exasperating.

Discerning locations and directions from websites in D.F. was taxing. There’s no Google Maps or Mapquest. I had no idea if this mall was a few miles away or an hour away. Could it be reached by public transportation? Who knew, because anyone who could afford to shop there would have a car. We considered asking our hotel but they overcharge and I feared at least a $30 charge each way to be driven and by this point we’d figured out the mall was only about six miles away.

It wasn’t until our very last day in the country that we pieced together a plan. We took the metro two stops to someplace called Tacayuba that had a bus hub, which supposedly had buses to Santa Fe. But once you get out of the subway it’s nutso and there aren’t any sidewalks or proper bus stops and traffic is insane and the only way to know where is a bus is going is to look at the little paper rectangle with destinations in the front window. I didn’t see Santa Fe bound vehicles anywhere and it was hard to look while dodging other buses. This is where we started to fret because there wasn’t a proper taxi sitio, and tourists aren’t supposed to approach random cars. But we did because we were hot and desperate and got crammed into a taxi with two other women and hoped for the best. About 20 minutes later and $2 each, we arrived at the freaky business district teeming with tall luxury apartments, pseudo-skyscapers and freestanding Chili’s. Awesome.

I realize Mexico has a severe income gap (not that there’s much of middle class in NYC either—any city where six figures is considered barely scraping by is perverse) so I get that there’s a market for the $550 Prada wedges I saw. But I do wonder about things like the $10 burger at T.G.I. Friday’s. That’s Manhattan pricing. There were a lot of items that weren’t outrageous luxury but surprisingly expensive. I don’t even spend $100 on a pair of pants or $4.50 for an iced coffee here. And I don’t think the growing Mexican middle class does either. However, the $48 seven-course high caliber-tasting menu I had at Pujol seemed like a great value compared to what you’d pay for the equivalent in NYC.

Oh shit, I was just going to rattle off a few thought and now I’m getting annoyingly wordy.

Elevation. It’s high (too lazy too look up exact number and make a comparison to Denver. Never mind, I can’t let that slide. D.F.=7,349 ft. Denver=5,280 ft.). You get drunk faster. My cardiovascular system went haywire and I thought my lungs were collapsing and my heart was giving out the first night walking around. I must be in worse shape than I realized and didn’t start feeling normal until the end of the week. Now in NYC I’m a maniac going up the stairs and have tons of energy. It’ll probably wear off shortly.

Food blogs. Where are they? (Don’t make me start in on my Asian blogger diatribe.) It’s not like Mexico is the Sudan. There’s an incredible food culture and someone immersed in it needs to capture and disseminate the goodness on the web. Oh, in English, so I can read it easily.

Hot food. Uh, duh. It sounds like I’m stating the obvious but Mexican food (well, the salsas and condiments) is really hot. I’ve sampled a decent amount of west coast and NYC Mexican food and I swear nothing has been as spicy and I have a high tolerance. The pickled jalapeños are at least twice as strong as what you find here. And the upscale restaurants don’t tone it down. The salsa accompanying my whimsically plated grilled steak at a fancy pants restaurant numbed my mouth and shocked my tongue. In a good way, of course.

Turibus=sheer evil. I know, I know, what do you expect from a tour bus. And the fact that they even mention complaint forms on their homepage is tip off. For my eleven bucks I’d at least expect vague punctuality and to be returned back in my original neighborhood not dropped off in the middle of nowhere in the pitch dark. We initially thought it would be worth trying the Turibus because it’s such a pain to get around the city and with a day pass you can get on and off anywhere on the route, 9am-9pm and why not see the city? (I’ve done the NYC one twice, not of my own free will—thankfully, this time round my mom has decided she’s seen enough from a double decker.)

First off, it took an hour to find the stop in our neighborhood. Mexican websites have a real problem with maps and locations and the lack thereof. Then they make you wear this paper wristband that screams I’m a tourist come pickpocket and harass me on the streets and say you have to keep it on the re-board. I took mine off immediately after disembarking and then realized that even though we were on top for what seemed like less than an hour I had received a violent sunburn (the blisters are still peeling and oozing) with a nice white circle where the band blocked the rays.

Fine, we spent the afternoon doing all the historic stuff in the central area then around 6:30pm saw the Turibus and debated whether to run for it or wait for the next one. Not running for it was a near fatal mistake. They are supposed to come every 30-40 minutes, yet we ended up standing on the hot, sooty street corner until almost 8pm. This was cruel because up until this point and every day afterwards, we would see the Turibus in like every corner of the city, completely ubiquitous and full of idiots waving to passerbys on the street. Nothing a good ol’ flip of the bird couldn’t fix. What I hadn’t considered was the 9am-9pm thing and that wherever the bus may be on it’s 2.5 hour circuit at 9pm is where it stops for the night. We didn’t make it back to our neighborhood by the cut off and we were left at some auditorium in Chapultapec Park and had to find a taxi to take us back to our hotel (we were still green—it was probably a 30 minute walk that we did later in the week but we didn’t know where we were at the time).

Ok, it’s easier to show photos with captions than to use lots of words without illustration so here’s a slideshow thing that links to my flickr set.

Turning Macanese

So, I’m gone for a week and now Macanese food is the new hotness? I have no idea why this irks me, though I’m sure I could get to the bottom of my annoyance if I dwelled a bit (isn’t that what therapy is for? Figuring out your feelings? I couldn’t say because I’m not one for paying for such indulgences. I’m certainly not going to waste $100+/hour on why I’m bothered by a restaurant with the already off-putting name of Employees Only deciding to open a Macanese restaurant).

BabyjojoI’ve eaten food in Macau (and am still kind of kicking myself for not trying Joel Robuchon a Galera) and the traditional Chinese-Portuguese culture is really a dying breed even on the island, itself. I don’t see how it could transcend gimmickry or approximate authenticity on this island. (I’ve thought the same of Wild Salmon. The only food I ate in the NW were burritos and jo jo potatoes.) Maybe they’re trying to ride the Fatty Crab hip-Malaysian wave. I would be curious to hear what dishes would be served at this mystery eatery since I suspect food will be secondary.

Ok, I’ve dwelled for a few minutes and have gotten in touch with the shriveled black nugget that is my soul. I think I’m annoyed because this is actually a good idea, an idea I might have if I had any inclination towards restaurateurship or chefhood (which I don’t—there’s not an entrepreneurial capillary in my body) but that it’s going to be bungled by smugness or irony and smothered by a pointless scene. Eating there will not make me feel happy and I don’t enjoy unnecessary unhappiness.

A Fan Ti

One of our waitresses matter-of-factly asking James “Is she your wife?” baffled me all evening. I’ve learned that there’s a certain ESL bluntness that seems particularly acute with Chinese to English and it doesn’t bother me. I’m never sure if lack of subtlety is a translation thing or if it’s cultural. It was easier to shake our heads and say yes rather than explain, “Well, actually it’s kind of complicated. We’re actually just dating but we’ve been together for nearly eight years which is longer than anyone I know has been married, but we’re just boyfriend and girlfriend.” We were the only ones speaking English so maybe she was attempting to chitchat to make us feel welcome? Or was it that I didn’t seem like his wife, and we make an odd couple? I like James’s version, that it was her way of asking if he was available.

A_fan_ti_salt_pepper_lamb_2The other waitress didn’t speak English at all and I do appreciate that she brought us Chinese menus, though I think it was more a case of her not really thinking it through as opposed to concerted non-pandering. After a few seconds she was mildly scolded by the lady boss and made to bring us English menus without our saying anything.

At least the English menu wasn’t lacking any of the oddities that we didn’t order anyway. I have no fear of offal but it’s no fun eating it alone. The first thing listed is lamb testicles and a bowl of eyeballs bobbing around in liquid is also for the taking. We compromised and stayed on the tame side.

A_fan_ti_kung_pao_lambDespite sounding like an American bastardization, I had to order the kung pao, which is called simply lamb in hot pepper sauce. It’s peanut crazy and full of startling ma la sensations. Going double lamby, we also had the salt and pepper lamb, which comes spice-crusted (cumin-heavy) on the bone with a little saucer of crushed Sichuan peppercorns and salt for dipping. We barely used half and our mouths were numb by the end of the meal.

This is the type of place where it’s not like you’re blending in anyway so why bother trying. I was initially afraid of looking barbaric by using my fingers to pick at the bits left on the bone of our salt and pepper lamb. I then noticed others were flat out gnawing on the thing. I should be so shameless.

A_fan_ti_eggplant I would’ve ordered something with bean curd but soybeans and well as organs don’t fare well with this not-my-husband dining companion. To squeeze a vegetable in, I tried the eggplant, which I’m sure was oil laden to make the flesh so silky. It was nothing like you’d get from corner takeout (last night I ordered pork with eggplant from our local not-so-great place Ting Hua [not to be confused with Wing Hua a few blocks up and definitely not to be mixed up with Me and My Eggroll in between the two] and I was given pork egg foo young instead. Bizarre, I haven’t had that since I was a kid) there’s a sweetness and also a chile spiciness, not just garlic, and somehow it stayed steaming hot for a full twenty minutes.

I love places like this, i.e. Little Pepper and Happy Family, which I haven't posted yet. Maybe it’s all the chiles and peppercorns but I always end up with a good feeling, even a sense of well being (seriously) when I eat Northern Chinese food.

My review (nitpickers, it contains a to-be-corrected inaccuracy not of my doing)

A Fan Ti * 136-80 41st Ave., Flushing, NY

Taco Overload

So, it's my last full day in D.F. and once again I've managed to get a scalding sunburn as I have on every vacation (even in Wales where it rained like 75% of the time). And I've eaten way too many tacos…and fancy food, too–I never thought I'd live to see tortilla foam. I also discovered an insane street food where they put a tamale in a big roll, creating a starch sandwich. As much as I love them, I think I'd eventually get burnt out on beans and corn if I stayed here longer and Asian food (other than sushi–they seem to love Japanese food) is severely lacking. I haven't seen a single Thai restaurant (though they did have pad thai at pan-Asian place that I didn't intend to eat at but kind of got stuck at because I was trying to escape a downpour).

Briefly thinking back to NYC, here is a Top 5 Thai Restaurant round-up I did for that just got posted. I swear, I'm going to head out to Queens tomorrow night and load up on curry.