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Feline Good in the Neighborhood


I love cats and bathroom humor (not crazy about cleaning cat crap off the floor daily) and I don’t hate Applebee’s, but I’m not sure if a QR code-triggered cat talking about pooping will distract hungry lunchers during the 14-minute-or-less wait promised by the company.

Or is that 14 minutes for the entire lunch? I never eat my food fast enough for servers who always bring my entrée when I’ve barely taken a bite of any appetizers.

I’ll take TableCat over the rapping office workers, though.

Chain Links: India is Young and Young People Like to Eat

MenuschezwancheeseFast food appeals to India's vast under-30 population, and it's not all Maharaja Macs and paneer pizza. Homegrown chains like Kaati Zone and Jumbo King (I love those fried potato burgers) are stepping up. 

Young people in India (the 50% under 30 stat is cited yet again) also love coffee. Dunkin' Donuts wants a piece of that.

Some Indians, though, are eating at the opposite end of the spectrum. New Delhi's Le Cirque opened in August and has had to accommodate restrictions like Jains' onion and garlic-free diet. Luckily, pasta pirmavera, a Le Cirque invention, is already vegetarian.

Tony Roma’s is one of those Kenny Rogers Roasters-esque restaurants that flounders here but persists abroad. Bangkok and Jakarta now have more American ribs. And so does LA…in a cross-cultural twist, the new Tony Roma’s in Torrance is paired with Capricciosa Italian Restaurant, a Japan-Italian chain. (Both are ran by the same Singapore-based holding company, Mas Millennium.)

Not all American chains are having the same good fortune as KFC or McDonald’s in China. Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, and California Pizza Kitchen have all had to close down branches in Shanghai and Beijing. American businessman, Scott Minoie, has took a different approach and opened a chain of restaurants in China called Element Fresh with no US springboard. He’s been looking to local successes like Hai Di Lao and South Beauty (um, that Sichuan chain is way fancier than Outback or Applebee’s) for inspiration.


Vada pav photo from Jumbo King



Eaten, Barely Blogged: Nearly Sog-Free

Sripraphai crispy chinese watercress salad

As often, fried pork belly with chiles and basil, and duck with Thai eggplants were on the agenda, no need to rehash. But the Chinese watercress salad? What the heck?! Since when did they start serving it all deconstructed? I appreciate their new (to me) attention to sog (never mind my own personal sog brought on by my lack of waterproof shoes–that freak Saturday snow  caused wet soggy socks that I had to keep on my feet for hours) but I actually kind of liked the spicy and fishy goop, filled with softened shallots and stray pieces of batter that collected at the bottom of the plate. It reminded me of  how one of the best parts of an ice cream sundae is all the melted ice cream and whipped cream mingling with syrup (coffee, butterscotch, and hot fudge) that I used to call “the drink’ when Farrell’s still existed in Portland and I could order the Mocha Nut. Previously on Sripraphai.

Astor room
Astor Room
$1.50 oysters might not be the most suitable snow in October snack (I don’t associate chilled raw seafood with wintery weather) but paired with two for one classic (the Mary Pickford, pictured) and newfangled (The Mexican Firing squad, not snapped) cocktails, the 5pm-7pm happy hour is a fun pitstop before a movie at the nearby UA Kaufman Astoria multiplex. Except that we stayed beyond our showtime. Luckily, Drive was still playing at Kew Gardens Cinemas (and Cobble Hill Cinemas—they’re owned by the same company, which becomes apparent during the ‘80s-seeming, probably made in the ‘90s s pre-trailer sequence with a synth soundtrack to rival Drive’s—but I like my old, small, two-dollars-cheaper theaters bereft of people). Previously on Astor Room.

Jolie Cantina
BrooklynDid you ever eat at Jolie? I did not. It took a move and sprinkling Mexican touches into the French cuisine to get my attention. I like mish-mashes. And they were subtle. Like funky merguez links in tacos and duck confit in enchiladas. The blueberry strudel with pistachio ice cream was straightforward. It’s a low-key neighborhood restaurant, not one worth traveling to, but one I could revisit since it’s not one of those places where weeknight dining demands a lengthy wait. Plus, I like the roosters in a beret and a sombrero.

Duran duranRedFarm has moved onto its fancier digs. Now you have burgers, salads, sandwiches, and the new Mr. Wong’s, filling the Chinese void. It is kind of fun ordering duck wonton noodles by touchscreen. And it was one of the least offensive dining options near Madison Square Garden. It took nearly three decades (sweet jesus) but I’ve finally seen Duran Duran live. That is my view from above, and not my noodles (obviously).

Chip Shop
A plate with 90% of its surface taken up by stubby, gravy-soaked fried potatoes (at least two spuds) beef and kidney-filled pie centered on top should probably not be consumed unless one is bulking up for the winter. What else is the Chip Shop good for if not adding snow-in-October padding. Too bad they were out of Scotch eggs.