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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Salvo, Near-Suburban Tiki, Simits

bear quint

Bear Russian food, whether the time capsule Brighton Beach version or of the flashy Mari Vanna and Onegin persuasion, has never been in my wheelhouse. Of course, I didn’t say no to Queens’ answer to this genre on a chilly night practically crying out for dill martinis and substantial brown bread. The pickles, herring and potato salad, and salvo, described as lardo but much thicker and tougher to bite through, were fine drinking snacks, but portions are little overly precious. A lamb dumpling special (not pictured) that I’m remembering as priced in the high teens came three to a plate, more appropriate for dim sum than an entree. The layer cake, smetannik, was strangely gritty, which I’m now guessing was due to buckwheat, an intentional addition. There’s something off-kilter about the operation, and that may stem from Bear not knowing exactly what it wants to be. It’s a cozy place in a non-prime corner of Astoria that also happens to serve a $175 tasting menu, possibly a Queens record.

end of the century cocktails

End of the Century I’m not sold on Forest Hills’ stretch of Metropolitan Avenue being touted as “Michelin Road” (I mean, it is home to the one and only East Coast Sizzler, which has strong Michelin-negating powers). Forest Hills is a very different kind of Queens, though, still on the subway but  more suburban and upscale than most of the western half that non-residents associate with the borough. You will see lawn jockeys on the meandering walk from Queens Boulevard and definitely no other pedestrians. Some new bar openings are hyped. Others are not. End of the Century, tiki in mission but still looking a little like the pub that preceded it, has owners with pedigrees including PKNY, Maison Premiere and Dutch Kills, but on my visit its first week open the crowds were not there yet. The drinks like the above Dr. Funk and super gingery, honeyed and multi-rummed Kon-Tiki Mai Tai are crafted with purpose and well-priced at $10 (and may not stay that low indefinitely). I’m not convinced the concept is in line with the sleepier part of Forest Hills’ needs or expectations. I would be happy to see them succeed, however, especially since I need to try the scorpion bowl, the bar is only one express stop from me, and my neighborhood won’t be seeing any falernum or absinthe-filled atomizers any time soon.

buffalo wild wings da & night

For inexplicable reasons that hopefully will become apparent to me soon, I’ve not only walked past Forest Hills’ Buffalo Wild Wings twice in less than a week, I’ve also photographed it.

simit sarayi duo

Simit Sarayi is the latest foreign import in Manhattan, by way of Turkey. Simits are more or less sesame bagels with much larger holes, and they are going to be totally hot in 2015. Ok, probably not, but I had to get in one pseudo-end-of-year prediction. Clearly, I will need to sample more than just a cheese and tomato filled version to fully assess the situation. As far as authenticity, all I had to go on was the staff and clientele, who with the exception of my first and maybe my last (I say defeated-ly, not optimistically) Tinder date, appeared to be Turkish. Good riddance, 2014.

Where to Eat Emirati Food in Dubai

Late last year I was in Dubai, for the second time in less than a year and a half, which seems ludicrous in retrospect. I haven’t written about everything I intended to for varying reasons, mostly un-dramatic. 2014 has been quick and full of fits and starts that have demanded focus and left little time for tying up loose ends. I didn’t leave the country once this year. I also spent my life savings on an apartment you’d never see featured in “The Hunt.”

It goes without saying that Dubai is kind of a weird place and not a place that is on anyone’s food radar like Singapore, also a substantial flight away in another heavily malled city in love with air conditioning and luxury goods.

There is a food culture, though. I’d like to say that it’s on the verge–and it is being tapped into, for sure. Just last week Andrew Zimmern was Instagramming visits to camel farms (there is no way camel meat won’t be a bizarre eat) and fish sauce makers, and Penny De Los Santos, a Saveur photographer, was posting shots of fish markets and chai vendors. I imagine the angle will be Dubai behind the glitz, a.k.a. a taste of the real Dubai.

I could drum up very little interest when pitching in earnest earlier this year. Americans don’t go to Dubai and would need someone well above my stature to convince them otherwise, and foreign publications prefer local stringers. My fascination was and is more along the lines of what is local food when there aren’t many locals? Emiratis make up just roughly 13% of the seven United Arab Emirates’ 9.2 million population.

So, what is Emirati food? It’s not hummus or pita or shawarma, though those Levantine staples in the form of Lebanese food, specifically, enjoy great popularity in the UAE and have blended into the culture. There are definitely flatbreads, rice and grilled meats and seafood. Traditionally, the cuisine isn’t elaborate, especially considering that it’s born of nomadic desert-dwellers pre-oil boom.

emirates shrimp machbous

Shrimp machbous, akin to a biryani and using loomi, a dried black lime powder, and an Arabic spice blend called baharat, served in Emirates business class (the most amazing, unexpected, free upgrade I’ve experienced in my entire life) is a traditional Emirati dish. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend anyone judging anyone’s cuisine based on airline food.

There aren’t a lot of restaurants that bill themselves exclusively as Emirati–whether because the food is considered home cooking, the small number of locals, or that it’s not assumed to be of interest to tourists or expats–though that’s starting to shift. There also doesn’t appear to be a strong urge to appeal to outsiders, and especially not women on their own.

A half week here (during Ramadan, no less) and ten days there is not enough to call myself an expert. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a few first-hand suggestions for the curious.

al fanar harees

Al Fanar is probably the best known example and goes as far as calling itself “the first and only” Emirati restaurant in Dubai. It also recently opened a new branch at Town Centre, Jumeirah. The one I visited at Festival City is in a mall like most things and a little kitschy with an outdoor tableaux of camel statues and 1960s vehicles meant to evoke an older, simpler Dubai. It also happens to be near a Trader Vic’s and a Jamie Oliver restaurant. Harees, above, is a stiff porridge made from cracked wheat and lamb stewed into oblivion, then accented with clarified butter. I was warned against it being “like Quaker Oats,” which it isn’t really. Previously on Al Fanar.

Milas is a newer entrant (in Dubai–the original location is in the more conservative emirate to the north, Sharjah) and slicker. It’s located in a ground floor section of the Dubai Mall devoted to denim that’s called…wait for this…”The Village, Denim District at The Dubai Mall.” This was the middle of the afternoon, not prime dining time, but I was the only patron sitting “outside.” Lack of diners was a common occurrence everywhere I went. (And some establishments like Bait 1971 seemed to keep hours based on whims–I was only able to try Bait Al Bahar, the more generic Middle Eastern restaurant on the beach.)

milas ipad menu

The menu is not just on an iPad but is presented in a wooden case propped up vertically. Yes, that’s harees on the screen. And yes, two harees experiences (I’d also tried it at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding) was plenty for a short time frame.

milas amuse

A chickpea and pine nut salad appeared with sesame-seeded, za’atar-spiced oil and what I want to call pita but the menu in English says is Oriental bread.

milas mbahar deyay

Mbahar deyay, which I ordered because it was the signature dish and one person can only eat so much, is very close to an Indian korma. The chicken breast is served in a lightly spiced, creamy sauce with saffron rice garnished with fried onions and cashews. This also came with green and red chile sauces on the side that weren’t Indian in the least and closer to the flavor and consistency of Sriracha. For the record, outside of resorts food is not prohibitively expensive in Dubai even at a relatively upscale mall restaurant. This entree cost about $16.

milas quad

I was kind of digging the purse hook, gold flatware and toothpick caddy (and that palate was used correctly on the website). Oh, and you are brought perfumes at the end of the meal, which are meant to emulate the hospitality you would experience at someone’s home. I would not know because I don’t think just anyone gets invited for dinner at an Emirati’s house.

klayya exterior

Klayya, a cafe in a smaller shopping center that looked to only be a 20 minute walk from my hotel but ended up being a trauma because the sidewalks literally end a few blocks outside of the central cluster I was staying in, was the source of one of my favorite meals. Once again, I was the only customer.

al barsha quad

In case you wondering, no one walks in Dubai even in the winter when the high is only 79 degrees. The way to Al Barsha Mall by car quickly led to lots of sand and dirt for pedestrians, as well as enormous home compounds covered in flags that may or may have not been a result of the National Day celebration.

bateel counter

Where Emirati food might excel, in my sweet-and-savory-obsessed opinion, is at breakfast. Maybe I just really love dates. (Bateel, a chain whose counter is pictured above, is where one satisfies that urge–I love that even a predominately Muslim country will package confections in a Christmas tree shaped box for the holidays.)

klayya breakfast

From 8am to noon, you can order breakfast combos like this ryoog yerana, described as an omelet, with three breads and karak, a local version of chai. Clearly, it’s not an omelet but hard-cooked eggs (I have no idea if runny yolks, my preference, are not standard) sprinkled with cumin seeds and sitting atop a slew of caramelized, charred on the bottom dates. It’s a lot of food–and only $9.50, by the way.

klayya duo

You can’t see all three in this photo, but the tin of breads holds chebab, which is almost exactly like an American pancake, khameer, the Emrirati answer to pita, and regag, a dosa-like crepe.

klayaa duo interior

Candied flavors paired with protein are kind of love or hate. If you like bastilla or sweet and sour pork or monte cristo sandwiches, you will be on board with Emirati breakfasts. This wasn’t technically my first one. Jetlag bolstered by two days of heavy drinking (big resort brunch, then small town hotel bar crawling) almost killed me (I say only in half-jest). My friend’s sister who I stayed with in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi’s second city, on my third night, reported back to her sibling that I might be dead because I hadn’t moved from the couch long past what seemed like a reasonable amount of sleep. When I was finally able to pull myself together that afternoon, I was made a dish involving scrambled eggs, crumbly white cheese and date syrup. It was amazing. I also credit it with reviving me.

mama tani exterior

Mama Tani is a little new school and specializes in using khameer, the traditional flatbread, in less traditional ways. And I almost hate to point it out, but look, no one’s there.

shake shack entrance mercato mall

It’s not a matter of cuisine or name recognition, I’m afraid. This same shopping center, Mercato Mall, along touristy Jumeirah Beach Road also houses one of Dubai’s five Shake Shacks and there were certainly no lines there either.

mama tani khameer

I chose a savory version stuffed with cilantro, cream cheese (not American cream cheese, but a white processed spread* that became a source of obsession) and toasted walnuts, and a rose pista, which is like a thin, icy milkshake made with rose water and pistachios. There are also sweet khameer with saffron, rose and cardamom creams. Oh, and camel hot chocolate.

mama tani doggie bag

I appreciate the attention to design and branding. A British family did stop in while I was there and got food to go, or rather “takeaway” as they say in the rest of the world including Dubai and the UK, which made me think that asking for a doggie bag wouldn’t be a big deal (it’s not). The cardboard Fed Ex-like package kept my khameer safe (who needs refrigeration?) while I continued on my food ordering while not particularly hungry journey. Envelopes are the style, apparently, because I encountered another later.

local bites cafe counter

Local Bites Cafe is on Jumeirah Beach Road like Mama Tani, but seven blocks south, i.e. not walkable as I quickly learned. Distances are so hard to judge because there are two main drags that everything is clustered around and the rest is desert, a bit like Vegas. Because of the city’s vertical nature when represented cartographically, the scale is off and what looks like two inches on Google Maps is close to ten miles.

Local Bites Cafe had customers. A tourist laptop guy and two Emirati women who sat behind me and wanted to order their driver something with cheese while he waited in the SUV outside. Despite the strangeness of having a chauffeur (this isn’t Saudi Arabia–not only can women drive, there are female taxi drivers) it was nice seeing two women out and about with neither men nor children and I don’t mean that to sound condescending.

local bites cafe balaleet

Balaleet is a pretty traditional breakfast that also does the sweet savory thing. It’s vermicelli cooked with saffron, rose water, cinnamon, sugar and cardamom, emphasis on cardamom, and topped with slices of omelet, in this case an adorable cut out heart.

local bites cafe arabic coffee

If you dislike these spices, you’ll be in big trouble if offered Arabic coffee. And you might be. It’s another gesture of hospitality, usually presented with small no-handle cups. My non-Western chain hotel had a pot in the lobby for the taking. Served in a curvy dallah, important enough to appear on the one dirham coin and serve as Local Bites’ logo, the coffee also gets blended with cardamom, saffron, rose water and cloves. It’s not necessarily something I’d want to drink daily on its own in the morning, but it pairs well with dates and these sweetened egg dishes.

emirati cheese spread

*While writing this, I received a very important Facebook alert from my friend in Abu Dhabi coming home to South Carolina for Christmas. Cheese spread processed in the UAE!

Soup’s On: 8 Paet Rio’s Kuai-Tiao Neua Tun

8 paet rio kuai-tiao neua tun

This is one of those dishes that’s Thai in name, but Chinese in origin. In the US, the closest commonly eaten thing to kuai-tiao neua tun would likely be pho.

It’s a rice noodle soup that’s rich with beef brisket and beef balls with a more mousse-like texture than a typical Western meatball. There are some bean sprouts and greens for contrast, but that’s the gist. I’m eating it here with more stuff and less broth than how it would be served in its entirety in a bigger bowl.

The broth is sweet (I’m nearly certain it actually contains sugar) and aromatic with cinnamon, ginger and star anise. It’s also pretty bold and salty from the inclusion of both soy and fish sauces. This may seem like a wet soup on the surface but if you refrigerate it, the liquid will solidify into a gelatinous mass. The collagen is why it’s so satisfying when it’s cold out and maybe you’re a little run down (or maybe said “yes” to more than one shot of Fireball Whisky at a holiday party).

What I’m not clear on is the intended spicing. As with pho and a noodle-free version of this soup from Qi, the flashy Times Square Thai restaurant with some genuine dishes that I frequently eat for lunch, I had assumed this was a simple beefy soup that you could jazz up if you liked with condiments. However, this iteration arrived already hot in that throat-tickly way that’s induced by powdered chiles. Maybe I was being second guessed because I also ordered my duck larb very spicy? Either way, this is a very good soup.

P.S. I apologize in advance for this bowl, which you’re probably going to see many times because I’m big on delivery and am not a food stylist with cupboards full of props.

8 Paet Rio * 81-10 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY

Pack(age) Rat: Amul Pure Ghee

For reasons no one needs to hear about, I recently ended up at the giant Food Bazaar on Northern Boulevard three times in two days. (Aside: despite aisles and aisles of international groceries–and even warm beer–the Middle East is not represented one bit. Where does one get pomegranate molasses in this part of Queens?). Amul Pure Ghee’s colorful can demonstrating leaping and stretching silhouettes mixed in with flowers and butterflies makes eating butter seem like the pinnacle of health. I’m sure someone somewhere is putting it in their coffee.

Photo: Amul

Photo: Amul

Amul is also genius enough to include an ad archive on its site. Processed cheese that’s “easy to use as a cheesy alternative to chutneys, sauces, ketchups and dips?” It’s almost as if Amul is seeing into my soul. Also, mozzarella is simply called “pizza cheese.”

I’ll just leave you with this.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Housewarming, Heartwarming, Housestinking

la esquina de camerones prep

I was growing concerned about my unintentional trajectory on the path to becoming person who never eats in Manhattan or Brooklyn and then Queens became number one in the universe so now it’s ok. (I’m hoping my plan to snag a seat at the new Momofuku Ko over Christmas week will help provide some balance.)  I didn’t know that yet, though, when I threw a housewarming party meant to feature neighborhood food.

la esquina de camerones sign

La Esquina del Camaron Mexicano. Shrimp cocktail signifies class, and therefore I wanted all the seafood in a chilled red sauce as possible at my party. Ok, the real motivation was seeking out dishes that didn’t have to be served hot. This Mexican coctele specialist is an operation in the back of a bodega that also makes fish tostadas and empanadas, but on the weekends is an outdoor affair even when it’s literally freezing.

party seafood cocktail

The mixto, here, combines shrimp and octopus in a tangy tomato-based sauce that ends up being like a more robust, less tart ceviche even with all the fresh squeezed lime juice. Avocado, cilantro and onions get chopped and tossed in (only if you want all three garnishes) and thick orange Valentina sauce gets drizzled on top if you want more heat. Saltines are the traditional starch on the side and really puts this dish in a class of its own.

party nam prik

Sripraphai is not technically a neighborhood restaurant, but I can walk there and that’s where I turn for my fiery dipping needs. Nam priks need more love, though I’m pretty sure I converted no one. They are hotter than most expect–there was some hand-waving in front of mouths–and the one with fermented fish truly stinks.

Before the dinner rush, Sripraphai Tipmanee, herself, was on hand and walked me through all ten or so small plastic tubs in the refrigerator. Which is the hottest and which one is the mildest? “All are medium,” she said. Probably not for a lot of people, an irony considering a medium-spiced dish at Sripraphai is now pretty tame.

sripraphai nam prik

The tamarind-based one that simply says tamarind sauce on the label, was new to me and chosen after asking which would be suitable for friends who don’t like spicy food, really was the mildest, though not mild in the least. Nearly whole chiles are visible in the paste but this dark, glossy dip is also sweet, sour and a little fruity. You could almost put this with a cheese plate and pretend it was chutney if you were mean.

Pla-ra-sub, yes, this includes the fermented fish that truly is pungent enough to be used as a weapon. The label just innocently says anchovy, chile, garlic, galangal and salt. Not only is this nam prik strong smelling, it’s also swampy looking and pretty damn hot Definitely advanced level.

Nam prik-pao-pa is one I often keep around the house, though I prefer the slighter sweeter variation. This is hot, shrimpy with earthy galangal undertones.

It’s healthier and more traditional to eat these nam priks with a variety of raw and blanched vegetables (there were no Thai eggplants to be found, though I know they exist in these parts) but they’re also good with chicharrones and chicharrones de harina for the vegetarians who are ok with shrimp and fish.

party empanadas

Argentine empanadas from La Nueva? You already know about them. The beef pastries lie on their sides while the spinach ones stand up straight with a crimped spine.

maharaja mithai

Maharaja Sweets and Rajbhog Sweets and Snacks. Mithai are an obsession of mine, not just from a visual standpoint like my former obsession with Malaysian kueh, which don’t always taste as good as they look, but from a too much sugar is never enough angle to the point where I wonder if I’m disordered. I will never understand people who max out over one piece of mithai or cut them into little slices. I picked so much at the pound I bought three days early (above) that I had to go back (not to Maharaja where I spied the same woman inside, but Rajbhog where they’re cheaper and no one would recognize me) and buy more two days later. Luckily, a friend brought even more mithai so no one suffered.

Sadly, arepas didn’t lend themselves to the set up, so I settled on auguardiente for my Colombian contribution and even picked up plastic shot glasses that I completely forgot to bring out at the appropriate moment. It was for the best, if you’ve already imbibed and partaken to the point of forgetfulness you probably don’t need anise-flavored firewater.

indian breath freshener

A breath-freshening send off.



(Un)International Intrigue: Dairy Queen Queens

little chief

No one would argue with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard cake, which is what I ended up with for Thanksgiving. Yet it’s still not the “Little Chief” ice cream cake with two tones of green icing and Thanks! piped somewhere on the surface as I specified in my online order more than the requisite 48-hours in advance.

I spend so much time wondering about foreign chains that I forget how badly NYC messes up everything middle-American, a brutal irony considering so many would prefer these businesses stay away in the first place.

I don’t think Corona realizes Dairy Queen is about ice cream or more accurately, soft serve. No one was eating any on the afternoon I showed up (which to be fair, was wet and sleety–and dare I say blizzardy?). The large multi-door freezer case where the ice cream cakes should’ve been stood dark and empty.

A manager (one of three I was directed to) was candid in saying that business hadn’t been as strong as expected in the two weeks since opening on Veterans’ Day. I do wonder if the key to success is brand recognition and nostalgia, not just appearing as another place to get fast food burgers and fries, because Manhattan’s first DQ drew a great deal of attention (lauding and detracting) and I’ll admit I was pretty excited when a branch opened in the Staten Island Ferry terminal last year. Junction Boulevard isn’t exactly teeming with suburban transplants.

“You had the Dora cake, right?” Um, did I? After 15 minutes and numerous interactions with different staffers, phone calls being made to other managers, and passwords needed to look up online orders, I started forgetting why I was at Dairy Queen in the first place. Oh right, my cute anachronism did have a brown bowl cut. Just think if I took the suggestion to change the hair color from the special requests ad copy online:

“Do you want us to change the decoration in some way? Make the hair blonde, change the number on the jersey, don’t use red, ….”

Not "Little Chief"

Not “Little Chief”

I just nodded. “Yes, the Dora cake.”

There would be no Dora cake until Friday. My order hadn’t been received until Tuesday, despite my email confirmation at 9:46am on Monday.

dq cake remains

When it was all said and done, a Reese’s Peanut Butter cake was produced from somewhere in the basement and it was only $13, a new store half-price promotional discount, and I’ve been eating it gradually for the past two weeks.

It’s still no Little Chief, though.

I also can’t believe I just devoted this much energy to a bungled ice cream cake, but that’s what happens when the sun goes down at 4:27pm and you don’t leave the house over the weekend.

The Week in International Intrigue: Artisanal, Upscale, Oversaturated

I’ve only lived in Jackson Heights two months and I’m already getting uppity and unrealistic. (Well, not like posters on community message boards who seem to think the neighborhood demographics would support a Whole Foods and love Chipotle, the chain whose fanaticism I’ve never quite understood, while deriding Panera as declassé.)

A photo posted by Krista Garcia (@goodiesfirst) on

No, we don’t have a lot of  nice things. It’s ok. I’m down with the Pecoshitas (whose name’s meaning is lost on me but appears to be a riff on Pecositas, a legit bakery in Medellín) that’s about to open even if there’s not exactly a shortage of Colombian bakeries already.

But couldn’t we also have a Devotion Botica del Cafe, the artisanal Colombian coffee chain that just opened in Williamsburg?

I don’t suppose Colombians are the target market for its first US location. Maybe they should be?

* * *

100 Montaditos, the Spanish mini sandwich chain, also has notions about aiming higher to broaden its NYC appeal. The nearly new Lower East Side location has already shuttered and has vowed to come back with an “upscale concept,” whatever that entails.

* * *

I don’t have the wherewithal at the moment, but I’d like to pinpoint when stunt food at foreign chains reached peak blogginess. Even two years ago, it felt peripheral and five years ago it was unheard of. Using myself as a lens, simply because that’s what I know best, in 2008 I blogged about McDonald’s doing Olympics-themed items after seeing it in The Wall Street Journal. and Serious Eats/A Hamburger Today picked it up and that was the end. Today, every food blog, even those not focused on fast food or burgers, would have some rebloggy take and it would be in my Twitter feed for days.

This is all to say that this week Burger King Japan’s fondue burger was the subject of coverage overload and even mainstream news outlets like USA Today are producing videos about it.

Burger King Korea already had a fondue burger as far back as August, by the way. And that’s the last thing I’ll say about the subject.

Oh, and that Dunkin’ Donuts India, which has been doing better with its beefless burgers than donuts, introduced a new sandwich this week, the Naughty Lucy, which is also pretty oozy, fondue-y and odd. Specifically, the “patty gushes out warm, loving cheese.” It’s a grotesque global trend.

Er, and Pizza Hut Australia did something with Doritos that did not involve gushing

Ok, for real let’s never speak of international stunt food again.



Soup’s On: El Toro Bravo Pancita

el toro bravo pancita bowl

The first time I visited NYC, twenty years ago, I ended up having a falling out with my travel companion, also a recent graduate who had no clue what to do with a fresh B.F.A. I kept pestering and pestering, literally asking “What are you going to do?” as if she must’ve known the answer since she was a decade older. After a stint on a floor off Avenue C, we ended up at a budget hotel, The Roger William, and eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant on the ground floor.

The friend wouldn’t eat soup. “Soup is too wet,” she said. I knew what she meant but pretended I found it absurd to further antagonize her.

Pancita is a wet soup. Pancita is also confusing. On the west coast I’d never heard Mexican tripe soup called anything except menudo even if my experience with it was primarily from a can until adulthood. My dad liked it from a can, so I liked it too.

el toro bravo pancita

In NYC, we have pancita, which at least at El Toro Bravo does not have the heft and starch of the hominy kernels characteristic of menudo. (To confuse things further, I once had a version called pancita in Oaxaca that used chickpeas) Pancita is for purists, just broth fortified with cow’s feet for body, and tripe for chew.

I can’t help but think that the soup’s reputation as a hangover cure has something to do with stomach soothing a stomach (a cabeza taco would probably also be in order). The blobs of soft and jiggly honeycomb tripe combined with the hyper-red, oil-slicked broth, works, though. The spice is strong, a building tickle that never turns brutal.

Pancita will not convert tripe-haters because there is little to distract from the meat, even though the flavor is mild and not gamey in the least (or I could just be lacking scent receptors because I’ve never seen this soup described as anything but funky). A squeeze of lime perks up the broth, but isn’t needed for masking purposes. And don’t forget the onion, if only to add contrasting texture and bite to all the smoothness and, yes, wetness.

El Toro Bravo * 88-12 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, NY