Skip to content

Archive for

How Do You Say Tiki in Staten Island?

Jade island drink

Guy at end of the bar to guy on neighboring stool: "How
do you say Tony Romo in Spanish?"

Answer: "Mark Sanchez."

The small separate but open-doored front portion of
Jade Island devoted to drinking (not to be confused with the main event, a strip
mall restaurant serving a Chinese-American Polynesian amalgam to 90% locals/10%
Zipcar drivers) is really a sports bar that happens to serve tiki drinks. And
to steer from bottles of Bud Light or practiced classics with mixes at the
ready is to ask for trouble–or at least a suspicious glance. Don't even think about
Batavia arrack or allspice dram.

I did not get that joke, by the way. And I'm not
convinced that following football (I do not) ups the hilarity.

There may not be more than five patrons on a Friday
night, but the odds are they will all be middle-aged men, not unfriendly, even
the one who talks to himself and rides a bike, not for fitness or carbon
offsets but in the way that grown men sometimes do in the suburbs, perhaps the
result of poor decision-making, maybe due to a banning from the accepted mode
of transport. They talk of Jose Tejas, the popular (I've attempted to go three
times in the past year, most recently this weekend and can never bear the
hour-plus waits. Chevy's is a compromise, but they do serve Bulldogs,
i.e. margaritas with shrunken bottles of Corona tipped in
) Tex-Mex restaurant on
Route 1, in the nearby part of New Jersey, my favorite part, that blurs with
Staten Island, despite the Goethals Bridge separating them.

Ask for a Harvey Wallbanger and
invoke the wrath of the bartender, Chinese by way of Hong Kong, who may have
been there as long as the NYC-mandated signs warning they will card, dated from
the '80s (the restaurant, itself, can't be much older; it's not a mid-century
relic). "Those are old drinks!" Never mind that those old drinks are
listed on the menu. I knew better to even look at that section after an
encounter with a jordan almond blue Grasshopper and being denied a Pink Squirrel on my first visit five years ago.

Even something as mundane as Jack Daniels, requested
by a regular, has the potential for exasperation and consequential trip to the
basement to look for a bottle. Like I said, beer or Scorpions.

Bartender: "How do you say Mark Sanchez in

Answer: "Tony Romo!"

Er, ok. You couldn't accuse the
bartender of being entirely humorless.

Jade Island * 2845 Richmond Ave., Staten Island, NY




Eaten, Barely Blogged: Cold-Fighting

Taste good malaysian trio

Taste Good Malaysian There are many directions you
can go if you're a spicy soup to ward off a cold type: soondubu jjigae, hotpot,
menudo (for some reason tom yum doesn't appeal) or Singapore laksa, a.k.a.
laksa lemak, the rich coconutty style. Somehow the combination of heat and
creaminess just makes sense for a sore throat. Elmhurst's Taste Good Malaysian
is as good as anywhere to get a fix. Their version filled with bean curd puffs,
half a hardboiled egg, chicken shreds, a few small shrimp, fish cakes, bean
sprouts and fat, round translucent noodles is a meal in itself (always a
problem because it's too filling to allow for any rendang, nasi lemak or sambal
shrimp) though a shared roti canai and popiah won't hurt. I only regret having waved off the scrappy gentleman trying to sell a
bottle of Robitussin in front of the Queens Adult Care Center on the walk to
the restaurant because I'm still sick (the laksa didn't work, but it was tasty)
and too beat to walk the eight blocks to the nearest drug store.

Die kolner bierhalle bratwurstDie Koelner Bierhalle The Park Slope beer hall with
a surprising amount of seating (communal, of course) is more for drinking and
sporting, though a simple bratwurst and big plate of spaetzle and speck (not
pictured) are fitting winter accompaniments. Just don't try to order the bauernwurst
or you'll be steered away with "Nobody orders it. We're removing it from
the menu." What's wrong with the bauernwurst?

Blaue Gans You could also get a bratwurst here (no
bauernwurst, sorry) but it will be $7 more than in Park Slope. While relatively
casual, Blaue Gans is still more of a sit-down affair. If you order the blood
sausage, you might be asked if you've had it before. (Do you see a trend
forming? During three recent meals–including Qi Grill, not mentioned here–I
was essentially told that I didn't really want what I said I wanted, which
makes me testy.) Or maybe the server just meant it's not presented in cased
sausage form, but loose and molded into a circle. No one warned me away from
the calves liver with apples and bacon, thankfully.

Cafecito bogota cartegena arepaCafecito Bogota If you find yourself in upper
Greenpoint on Sunday during dreaded brunch time, you could do worse than an a
la carte arepa (though feel free to order the $16.99 three-drink with food special
if you're into mucho mimosas, sangria or refajo, an unseemly blend of Colombian
beer and cream soda–they weren't able to make a bloody mary). The Cartegena
comes with a big mound of scrambled eggs, shrimp and cilantro.

Hudson Yards Cafe This might be the most inoffensive lunch place closest
to the Javits Center. Never mind that all the
other badge-wearers (you've taken yours off, of course) are drinking iced tea
and Diet Coke. Stick to your guns and down two pints of Stella with your
fontina (spelled fontana) and prosciutto panini; it'll endear the older bartender who's also midday tippling to you. If you're a certain age being referred to as a "good girl" isn't offensive.

Taco chulo rajas hashTaco Chulo I don't normally eat restaurant
breakfasts (despite contrary evidence above) especially not on weekdays, but I
had time to kill before looking at a nearby apartment (I didn't realize how
many area restaurants are dinner-only) and rajas hash with chorizo was right on,
greasy and yolky with a bit of heat. Of course when I showed up to the
apartment on time, a twentysomething couple was also waiting even though their
appointment was a half-hour after mine and so I was forced to look at their
out-of-my-budget apartments with them (and vice versa). Why kill time, waiting
your turn when you can just be a twentysomething in Williamsburg?




Qi Thai Grill

Qi Thai Gril is Williamsburg’s latest attempt at Meatpacking the neighborhood. The enormous stage set restaurant could simply be ignored if the food wasn’t actually pretty good. Though I can’t say that’s true across the board, since I was careful to mostly order things that sounded interesting, no green curry or pad thai. And if our server’s cock-blocking of multiple dishes ordered is any indication, no one’s opting for the stuff that’s worth trying.
(Overheard at neighboring table: “I don’t like coconut milk.” What?)

Ignore the chopsticks, order the small dishes and specialties, don’t for the love of god be a couple who each orders one thing and eats it like an individual entree (the worst!) dig the statuary and ambient Asian boutique hotel chillout music while pretending you’re at an upscale Bangkok restaurant for foreigners. Then laugh because you’re in beardo Brooklyn. Whatever Qi is, it’s not Fushimi.

Qi thai grill spicy beef tendon salad

“Do you know what tendon is?” is not what you expect to hear after explicitly ordering tendon. No one should be scared off because I suspect this is one of the more intriguing things on menu, if you know and enjoy eating tendons, of course. In fact, it’s the first thing on the first page of the menu (from the list of Sripraphai-created small plates). The tendons are not thin strips more common to Sichuan preparations, but fatty blobs that are a chewy foil for the bright lemongrass and kaffir lime and creeping heat that’s mighty. The roasted rice powder adds a toasty finish.

Qi thai grill ovaltine ribs

Minus the chile dipping sauce, there’s nothing particularly Thai about the Ovaltine ribs from Pichet Ong’s grilled selections. Rich with five spice–or at least star anise and cinnamon–the malty chocolate blends into combination that’s almost Malaysian. Like rendang on a bone.

Qi thai grill fiery pork red turmeric curry

When you see verbiage like “Perhaps the spiciest Thai dish that NYC has to offer” it’s hard to let the claim go untested. I’ve yet to encounter anything hotter than the brutal Southern curry at Sripraphai that no one should order more than once every half-decade, and the Fiery Pork Red Turmeric Curry is a little kinder. The split bird and dried red chiles are tamed by a soupy amount of coconut milk, though the heat is certainly on the serious end of the Scoville scale by Brooklyn Thai standards. Plus, I’m always happy to see those apple eggplants.

Qi thai grill pad kee mao

Noodles are always underwhelming, and the pad kee mao fell into that carby and comforting but ultimately unexciting category. A little chile-spiked fish sauce might have helped.

Qi Thai Grill * 176 Ninth St., Brooklyn, NY



Chain Links: Cumin Chicken Fries & Indian Indiana Chicken

Taco indiana chicken

If for some reason you are keen on such things, 2013
has already been a banner year for international chain expansion news.

Since I don't surf or really do beaches, I've not
thought much about Costa Rica, but Technomic declares it a hotspot. It's good enough for Cosi, Moe's Southwest Grill and Smashburger.

Poor reading, i.e. skimming, comprehension led me to believe that "McDonald's takes on pizza for Italy growth spurt" meant McDonald's was going to start selling pizza in Italy. No. The only concession to local tastes described in the article is a ham and cheese sandwich.

Despite KFC's presence since 1987 Yum! Brands is losing its luster in China, along
with Western fast food generally. Domestic brands like HeheGu featuring
delicious-sounding "slow-cooked pork and bamboo shoots over rice" and
Taiwanese chains like Dico with less delicious-sounding but highly creative "cumin-flavoured
chicken fries and pineapple-chicken-mayonnaise sandwiches" are beginning
to catch up with fried chicken and pizza.

Pakistan may not love our politics, but they do love
our Fatburger
…and Johnny Rockets, Hardee's, Cinnabon and Mrs. Field's. Of course Yum! has been there the longest–since the late '90s–minus Taco Bell as usual.

While KFC
and Pizza Hut get all of the attention abroad, in 2010 Yum! did launch Taco
Bell in India. It hasn't exactly won coverts so the menu will become 60%
localized and vegetarian
, an unusual move. Thing is, I thought that's what they
were already doing. It seems like just yesterday we were hearing about Mexican
paneer potato burritos.

Sure India has a middle class, but for most Domino's
has been perceived as a special occasion treat.
company swapped out pricier mozzarella for "liquid cheese sauce" and
voila: a 65-cent pizza. What I'd really like to see is an explanation for Taco Indiana Chicken (pictured above) described as "delicious oregano sprinkled crispy crust and a cheesy layer over seasoned minced chicken" on the menu. That's roti not tortillas, right?

I should omit this Washington Post link on principle for allowing "Vietnamese palette" to make it in. Starbucks has infiltrated Asia, but is just now
getting around to Vietnam. Trouble is, the country already has an established
coffee culture. It might be cool if Starbucks offered those individual metal
drip filters and used a shitload of sweetened condensed milk for iced coffee.

Not all
extensions are fast food.  Brooklyn
Brewery is coming to Stockholm
and will likely cash in
Brooklyn's caché.  “Swedes love the taste of our beer, the
name of our beer and the mystique of Brooklyn," said the brewery's COO.




New York State of Mind

not trying a beef bacon burger at Dubai's Shake Shack, I was a little obsessed
with the possibility of doing so
next to a faux ski slope in 110 degree
weather.  The new Lupa in Hong Kong stymied
more than anything (is a lunch buffet true to form?)

Both of
those examples were included in a New York Times article this weekend about the
power of New York restaurant brands abroad
(and I thought it was Brooklyn
getting all the attention, from Paris to Texas and even Bangkok). BLT restaurants, upcoming
Fatty Crabs, Michael White's Al Molo, and the fake Craftsteak (the company,
Dining Concepts, which is responsible for the Tourondel, Batali and White
restaurants in Hong Kong, also has a Nahm in its portfolio, which has nothing to do with David
Thompson, a non-Keller Bouchon, and a Blue Smoke that may be Danny
Meyer-approved but isn't explicit anywhere) also get mentions.

And yet
there are even more NYC brands, some big, some small, that have crept beyond
our borders:

Magnolia bakery dubai

In Dubai Magnolia
is in a Bloomingdale's in a mall.
I would've loved to hear if women in
black abayas claimed to be "Carries" or "Samanthas," but
cupcakes were not making a daytime appearance during Ramadan.

I have no
idea what the Park Slope of Kuwait might be, but it's doubtful that breast-feeders
and  Mother's Milk Stout drinkers will
comingle at the Tea Lounge's new Middle Eastern franchise.

Sarabeth's can be found in Manhattan and area
Lord & Taylors, and now too in Tokyo.

Dubai festival city

I don't
know that I would call The Brooklyn Diner (with its only two NYC locations in
Manhattan, it already sounds foreign-ized  and innacurate)an institution. In fact, I'd
never heard of it before seeing the name plastered on the wall at Dubai's
Festival Walk mall, just above a Jamie Oliver restaurant.

Exterior mcsorley's ale house macau

I must admit my favorite New York transplant is McSorley's
in Macau
because the layers of international intrigue are nearly unimaginable:
an Irish bar in the East Village transported to a casino mimicking Venice from
Las Vegas and re-imagined and scaled larger for a Chinese Special
Administrative Region. The world should give up because Macau McSorley's has

Mcsorley's ale house macau

While drinking a beer at dark wood booth, I watched
a video slide slow on the wall-mounted TV showing a bag of rolls, brand name
, and a small child with the caption, "Fuck milk and cookies,
give me titties and beer."
The B 52s and Jermaine Stewart played in the
background. There were no frat boys, just a few Chinese couples not drinking beer. Drinking is not a big part of Macanese casino culture. Perhaps what happens in Macau, does not stay in Macau.

Nathan's Famous has spread from Coney Island to Japan,
Kuwait, UAE and the Dominican Republic.

And while
not typically associated with New York, at least in its contemporary form, T.G.I.
, is the original local kid makes good. The singles bar turned flair
popularizer has penetrated every continent on earth.