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Katmandu Spice

I think this might be a record between a visit and a closing; Katmandu Spice is already closed. (9/13/10)

Queens is a melting pot, sure. And sometimes that pot bubbles right over. Whether or not you enjoy the culinary chaos might depend on how you feel about eating Brazilian, Nepali and Chinese-Indian food cooked by the same chef.

Kathmandu spice interior

I will never say no to novelty, so Kathmandu Spice, closer to the Irish end (after dinner, I was getting into the scene at the The Cuckoo’s Nest until they turned off The Smiths, flipped on the strobes and the techno DJ took over) of Woodside, lured me in. Sadly, others weren’t so convinced. Not a single other diner showed up during our visit on a prime Saturday night.

Kathmandu spice bbq appetizer

Oddly, we only ordered from the Brazilian section—I was more in the mood for grilled meats than momos or Manchurian chicken. The mixed grill contained a few chicken and beef chunks, breakfast sausage-like franks, farofa for sprinkling, and a vinegary salsa. It was a sampler but I could’ve gone for another pão de queijo even if this one was a little heavy on the bottom.

Kathmandu spice peixe de praia

The peixe de praia is a very similar presentation, just with the addition of rice, beans and plantain coins atop the farofa.

Kathmandu spice bobo de camarao

They weren’t able to make the ensopado de frango, a chicken okra stew, so I opted for the bobó de camarão instead. I knew intellectually that the sauce was made of yuca puree, coconut milk and dende oil, but I kept thinking it was cheese with a hint of pineapple. Something about this dish seemed Asian, similar to a  Hong Kong fusion marrying American cheese with lobster. I ate it, and my leftovers too, so I wasn't put off by the mix. I'm not sure that I would order it again, if only to  give the Nepalese food a chance. Hopefully, diners will give Katmandu Spice a chance, period.

Next stop:  Indo Hut, the self-proclaimed "Indo Continental Bistro" covered in grand opening flags I passed this weekend on Queens Boulevard.

Kathmandu Spice * 60-15A Woodside Ave., Woodside, NY


There’s no escaping pork no matter where you travel in the US. Cochon is The Publican of New Orleans, right down to the prominent pig paintings. Or maybe The Publican is the Cochon of Chicago. Cochon Is two-and-a-half years older. I’m currently planning a Labor Day trip to San Francisco and Incanto is high on my list—are they cut from the same porcine cloth too? Bah, I’m still waiting for goat to go mainstream.

While scanning the menu and having a hard time deciding what I wanted as a main (I still think it’s odd that we were never told the specials and didn’t realize there were any until I started seeing a mysterious fish dish topped with an egg on tables appear on tables near us) since James claimed the namesake cochon, I also began wondering if the number of fedoras in the city shrinks drastically after Tales of the Cocktail is over. I also wondered if young men realize you’re not supposed to wear hats indoors—thank god the Wall Street Journal has taken up my cause.

Cochon pork cheeks with peanuts & radishes

The food is so rich and distinctly flavored that you could just order a bunch of the smaller dishes, share and be sated. My favorite might have been the paneed pork cheeks. They were so unique because if you hadn’t read the menu—or temporarily forgot like I did—you’d think you were eating al dente beans, curiously textured and pleasantly mealy. The little nubs were softened peanuts like you’d get boiled in the shell in the south. Add sharp radishes and unctous pork cheeks, and you have a combination not likely found elsewhere.

Cochon mushroom salad with fried beef jerky & lemons

The mushroom salad also went down the unexpected pairing route by incorporating fried beef jerky, hints of cooling mint and thin wagon wheels of preserved lemons. Now that’s a way to serve vegetables.

Cochon fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly toast

Fried rabbit livers on toast got a lift from a savory, not terribly spicy pepper jelly.

Cochon louisiana cochon with turnips cabbage & cracklins

Not feeling like embarking on one of the larger entrees, I ordered a bacon and fried oyster sandwich (not pictured) then regretted my choice after seeing the bowl of suckling pig, wintry cabbage and turnips (I actually like root cellar vegetables more than fresh warm weather ones) garnished with curled cracklings. Thankfully, it was too much meat for one person in one sitting and I was able to try a good portion of this delicacy.

Cochon * 930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA

Chain Links: Eat Burgers, Pray, Love

A combo Wendy’s/Arby’s is coming to Russia. 180 of them in the next decade. It only makes me more sad that Brooklyn’s only Arby’s has already died a quick death. [Reuters]

El Chico is opening in Saudi Arabia. Consolidated Restaurant Operations already franchises a slew of American restaurants I’ve never heard of in Saudia Arabia and Egypt: Cantina Laredo, III Forks, Silver Fox, Good Eats, Luckys Cafe and Cool River Cafe. [Press release]

I’ve been to a Singaporean Carl’s Jr. (more than once!) so it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re venturing into nearby Indonesia. I imagine Eat, Pray, Love being a much more compelling story if there had been less yoga and more American hamburgers. [Press release]

“Freshly toasted sandwiches translate well across many countries and cultures.” Of course they do, hence Quiznos is expanding throughout Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Ok, pretty much the world. [QSRweb]

Eco-friendly Freshii will be opening four locations in Austria this summer. I wonder whatever happened to the Freshii promised for NYC this spring? [Fast]

National Crisis Solved

Some might say that Americans' reliance on fossil fuels and increasing obesity are complex issues. Not me! FreshDirect is clearly the culprit.

Number Ones in Recent History

Cheesecake Factory


Greensboro, NC


30 Minute Meals

Ethnic barbecue

Green M&Ms

P.F. Chang's

Per Se


While sweltering for close to 30 minutes on the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Poydras, waiting for the phantom bus 10 to whisk me to my po’ boy destination, I had two inclinations: one, to faint (not from hunger—the problem with vacation eating is that I can never conjure up enough appetites to cover all the meals I have in mind); two, to give up and get in the line at Mother’s, the tourist fave we were standing in front of. I’d already had po’ boys at Mother’s on my previous two (pre-digital photography) New Orleans visits, though. That would be pathetic.

Domilise's exterior

After walking a few blocks down Tchoupitoulas to the next bus stop to see if a change of scenery would change our luck, we caved and flagged down a taxi to take us the five miles east around the bend to Domilise or Domilise’s, depending on what you read. (Yes, we could’ve just taken the St. Charles streetcar, and we did on the return, but I thought we were outsmarting it because that involves a long sweaty walk, the trolley isn’t air conditioned and using Tchoupitoulas is more direct.)

Domilise's interior

I haven’t eaten enough po’ boys in my life to have stringent standards. I would hope to recognize if I were eating a bad version. These were not that. Roast beef is popular, but to me that isn’t much different from a hoagie, sub or your sandwich parlance of choice. What I don’t often encounter in the NYC area are fried seafood sandwiches. These I associate with New Orleans.

Of course, there was that little matter of the Gulf oil spill. I did not anticipate shellfish being on menus they way it was. Either the local seafood wasn’t affected or they’re not using local product. I hate to say it’s probably the latter and may have always been the case (you can never assume that the food you’re eating–even in places known for their cuisine–came from the immediate area). I did not ask. I can enjoy my fried, breaded nuggets without getting all locavore about it.

Domilise's bar

Yes, Domilise’s derives much of its charm from its frozen-in-time digs. You order at the counter where the women in the family seem to man the cooking station, and order drinks at the bar where a spry, older gentleman hands you beverages amidst faded ads for Jax beer and Manning brother memorabilia. More than a few businesses in New Orleans were using mechanical cash registers.

Domilise's fried shrimp po boy

A dressed shrimp po’ boy full of shrimp nuggets. I’d read complaints that they skimp on shrimp, but this isn’t paltry to me. Dressed at Domlise’s means lettuce, tomato, pickle, mustard, lots of mayonnaise…and ketchup. I don’t recall ketchup on others I’ve eaten. Very American flavors. Yep, it’s a sloppy mess, though the sludge layers well with the warm, crispy shrimp and crackly crusted, fluffy bread.

Domilise's fried oyster po boy

The oyster version happens to looks a little more dressed at this angle, but in all, not much different in appearance from the shrimp. Meatier, moister and flatter than than the shrimp, the oysters meld a bit more with the sandwich. This is a small. Large is four slabs.

Domilise’s * 5240 Annunciation St., New Orleans, LA

Tu Casa

I’ve been posting these little what I ate missives for a decade now, and it took until August 2010 before Kew Gardens needed to be added as a category (I have been to Max & Mina but did not blog about it). Perhaps I should start focusing on the other lesser-knowns that I pass through, but never stop to eat: Homecrest, Marine Park, Maspeth and the like.

Unsung neighborhood dining usually goes hand in hand with another activity. The impetus for this excursion was finding a modern multiplex to watch a summer blockbuster without having to go to New Jersey to beat the crowds. An 11:45pm showing of Inception at Glendale's The Shops at Atlas Park would  hopefully do the trick.

But I also really wanted to eat Peruvian food and to branch out from the Jackson Heights usuals. I would hardly say the chowhoundy stretch of Roosevelt Avenue is overrun with foodie interlopers (Sriphrapahi being the exception); the area is always rich with unhyped possibilities. Sometimes, though, it’s fun to explore less concentrated patches of the boroughs even if they’re not particularly known for their cuisine.

I had my doubts about Tu Casa (do Latinos even live in Kew Gardens?) and they were not assuaged by the lackluster one-block strip of businesses amidst the brick co-ops, just beyond the Jackie Robinson Parkway offramp. (My low expectations were also why I brought my new point-and-shoot that I still haven’t mastered instead of the dSLR.) The outdoor seating (neither this tail end of Metropolitan Avenue nor its origin in Williamsburg feel ideally suited to alfresco dining) was completely filled, though. The two indoor rooms were also bustling. A good sign.

We settled into a two-seater (my only beef with the restaurant was that they were very strict about twosomes being put at small square tables. We always order for four, though, and it creates havoc. Just as I predicted, they ended up not being able to fit all the plates, bottles, glasses and pitcher on our table) just as band began setting up in the front window. I had not been expecting Stevie Wonder covers in Spanish.

Tu casa ceviche mixto

I bummed James out by requesting the ceviche mixto when he really wanted the salchipapas. The octopus, shrimp and fish dressed in lime juice (I always want to add fish sauce and more spice to make it Thai-esque) was my attempt at creating a mildly healthier meal.

Tu casa pollo a la brasa

We ordered the Lo Grande de Tu Casa, equivalent to the matador combo at Pio Pio, and the food turned out to be very similar to that rotisserie chicken chain, right down to the creamy green sauce that you can’t help but slather on everything. Here, you also get a plastic squirt bottle of a citrusy-garlic mojo sauce. It was the perfect condiment for my usual side of choice, yuca fries.

Tu casa yuca fries

I happen to love salty, savory pollo a la brasa, no matter which country it originates from. It was my benchmark, and Tu Casa excelled. Unlike at Pio Pio, though, you’re not relegated to this specialty. They also offer a variety of “Spanish” food including grilled steaks, stewed chicken and pernil, as well as Chinese-y Peruvian dishes like fried rice and the infamous French fry-laden salchipapas and lomo saltado. There’s always a next time, though it might be 2020 before I dine in Kew Gardens again. When we left at 10:45, the outdoor tables were still packed, a non-sleepy anomaly.

* * *

We arrived at the Atlas Park mall in time to grab at beer at Manor Oktoberfest, kitty corner from the theater. The only people up and out in Glendale after 11pm appeared to be under 30. Smoking and drinking at outdoors mall picnic tables feels odd, but you have to take your subway-less Queens entertainment where you can find it.

TheaterfeetI hate to be the crotchety old lady bemoaning the declining manners of today’s youth, but when did it become acceptable to take off your shoes in movie theaters and put your sock feet and dirty flip flops up on the chair in front of you?

Tu Casa * 119-05 Metropolitan Ave., Kew Gardens, NY

Willie Mae’s Scotch House

1/2 I was recently talking with a trade mag writer and got on the topic of pizza, burger and fried chicken mania. He didn’t get it and was of a burger is a burger why overanalyze it mentality. I tend to agree (says she who photographs 85% of her restaurant meals). I just can’t get into the nuances of a pizza slice, and frankly, don’t have strong opinions on these American classics. I’m forgiving on the mediocre end—I can’t think of a particularly bad burger that I’ve eaten.

Willie mae's exterior

But on the rare occasion that I encounter an exemplary version of a foodstuff, I certainly recognize it. Willie Mae’s Scotch House, the no-secret-to-anyone restaurant just a handful of streetcar stops from The French Quarter, squeezes in the crowds during their narrow four-hours-a-day operating window. And it’s not just touristy hype.

I ate a lot of fried chicken over our long New Orleans weekend: fast food-style at Popeye’s and even lower brow at Brother’s, a 24-hour convenience store near our hotel. It was all pretty good. But nothing matched the pure golden perfection of this three-piece plate. 

Willie mae's fried chicken

The crust is substantial, but not superfluous or heavy despite its strong presence. I don’t know if it’s the seasoning (neither too salty or peppery) or the cast-iron pan frying that makes the skin and batter meld into a single, flaky entity. Greaseless is often an adjective used to describe stellar fried chicken. These drumsticks and breasts were oily, grease was present (James wrapped up my third uneaten piece in napkins and stuck it in his bag and it soaked right through its paper wrapping) and there was nothing wrong with that. The meat stayed juicy. Normally, I’m ho hum on chicken breasts but the one I saved to eat in the middle of the night was still moist and the skin hadn’t turned blah and flabby.

Wllie mae's butter beans

Soupy butter beans are a classic side. I regret not ordering a biscuit, too.

So, now I have a benchmark and I’m spoiled. I’ve yet to eat any fried chicken in NYC that matches Wille Mae’s. Ok, that’s not saying much since I actively avoid crowds and long waits, particularly in one corner of Brooklyn. I will build up my tolerance and see if Pies ‘n’ Thighs and The Commodore deliver the sublime experience everyone says they do.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House * 2401 Saint Ann St., New Orleans, LA

Sour Grapes

I live in Texas where the customer is always right; therefore I’m unduly concerned about one wine bar in a city with zillions of other options being un-American by only offering Riesling by the glass for a few months. You deserve to go out of business. Also, I hope that everyone in the Big Apple chokes and dies on a big grape from the Rhine.

Not the New Cupcake

Doughnut ring I'm going to be in the Bay Area over Labor Day weekend and mini doughnuts (my first inclination was to agree with the angry commenters crying bullshit over what look to be no more than standard doughnut holes, a.k.a. munchkins) will certainly not be on my eating agenda. If someone were to propose marriage by slipping one of these Lilliputian pastries onto my finger, I would stab them in the eye.

Ring photo from pinc.stuff