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Posts from the ‘Sunset Park’ Category

Elite Turkish

Despite visiting Sunset Parks Chinatown on a fairly regular basis, I've
never been inclined to eat Turkish food. Now that I think about, I hardly
eat at any of the neighborhoods restaurants. If I'm ever anywhere near the
area it automatically becomes a Ba Xuyen banh mi occasion.

Ill admit that most Middle Eastern cuisines blur a bit to me, its not my
strong suit. So I'd forgotten that Turkish food isnt thin pita oriented but
bready. I love the fluffy pide, but it might be better as an accompaniment,
not as gyro (I love testing the NYC propensity for the word gyro,
specifically when its pronounced jie-roe. James ordered the doner kabob,
which was written as such on the menu. Of course the waitress said,
“Ok, the gyro”) wrapper because it upsets the filling to starch
ratio. I ended up resorting to knife and fork to tear into what felt more
like a chopped lamb burger hidden in an enormous bun.

I'm sure the food is better than I'm portraying, we only sampled the
sandwiches. But the overall impression was so-so, if only because of little
missteps having nothing to do with taste. The space wasn't air conditioned
despite the outside heat, I was expecting real iced tea, not a can of Lipton
Brisk, and the waitress unnerved us with her pacing and hovering.

EliteTurkish Restaurant * 805 60thSt., Brooklyn,

Gia Lam

You say faux, I say feu. Everyones got their way of pronouncing pho. And to
be honest, I havent listened closely enough when a Vietnamese speaker orders
to hear how they say it. I had always read that it was like foot minus the
letter T, and I've stuck to this track even if it makes me sound
pretentious. It was only recently that I read how pho is derived from the
French pot au feu. You know, French colonization and all that. Duh.

Despite a fondness for pho I rarely eat it. Vietnamese cuisine is that
way. While rabidly fanatical about banh mi, which isnt sit down restaurant
food, when prowling for a full Asian meal the cleaner, simpler Vietnamese
style usually loses out to a preference for richer, spicier fare, most often
Thai, occasionally Chinese. However, while searching for a wok in Sunset
Parks Chinatown, which is rapidly becoming Vietnamesetown, the blustery
weather was practically begging me to eat a bowl of soup.

I had the dac biet, I almost always go for the special combo thats at
the top of the list. The hodgepodge of parts always differs from place to
place, though flank steak and tendon seem standard. This menu mentioned the
inclusion of navel, which confused me a bit. The pho was very no nonsense,
no choice of sizes, condiments consisted of basil, bean sprouts and lemon.
It seemed like something was missing—maybe sliced chiles?

I've yet to master the art of slamming a bowl. Customers came in after
us, slurped away, and hit the road while I was still sucking noodles. It
made me wonder about the French and all the recent press about joie de vivre
being the secret to thinness. Good quality and long meals savoring each bite
supposedly lend to good health. But fat Asians are still pretty rare and I
don't see a lot of lingering and pondering over each morsel. Maybe I just
visit gauche enclaves.

Gia Lam * 5402 Eighth Ave.,Brooklyn, NY

Pollo Campero

Closed: hmm, that was short lived. (7/05)

I think Pollo Campero is meant to mean more to homesick Central Americans than run of the mill North Americans. Though, an appreciation of fried chicken is practically universal. I'd heard about travelers smuggling Pollo Campero chicken on planes from Guatemala to loved ones in the States, so I figured it must be something worth checking out. And I was especially convinced since I always have a soft spot in my heart for businesses in my old neighborhood, Sunset Park. (Their first NYC location was in Corona, but I don't get out that way very frequently.)

The sunny orange-and-yellow color scheme and pot-bellied bird logo were more than enough to entice me. But I was also fascinated by a fast food menu that listed horchata and flan. The chicken is pretty much fried chicken. The coating is light and not heavily seasoned, and I sort of prefer a thicker, crispy crust. Sides include rice, tostones and chili-spiked, meaty, soupy beans (my choice) and of course starchy classics french fries and mashed potatoes. The salsa bar with red, green and a deeper red smoky mystery condiment (my personal favorite—chipotle? tomato?) was a nice touch.

I hate to say it because the concept and even the execution of Pollo Campero is alluring, but its probably not worth going out of your way for their fried chicken. But definitely do stop in if you happen to be near a location—I hear Spanish Harlem is next on their list (do they still say Spanish Harlem or has that gone the way of Alphabet City).

Pollo Campero * 4506 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Truc Mai

*Truc Mai has become a Malayisan place, Blacan something-or-another.

I think I need to explore Truc Mai more. I only had basics like spring rolls (they had some crazy sounding version that involved "hash" and both soft and crispy skins) and grilled lemongrass pork on rice vermicelli. I'm fanatic about banh mi and Vietnamese snacks and desserts, but I'm not up to speed on entrees. I did enjoy the overheard conversation between the husky teenage waiter and a loud middle-aged woman with a heavy Brooklyn accent and a weed problem (I've got one too–weed problem that is, not a Brooklyn accent). He suggested she get a goat to eat all the crap in the yard and then when that's all done turn the goat into gyro (pronounced ji-ro, of course) meat. Why didn't I think of that?

Truc Mai * 6102 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Taqueria La Campirena

I so rarely venture up (I say up because it's up a hill and the street
numbers are increase that direction, but geographically it's south so I
guess that makes it down, not up) into the 40s and 50s, but on a boring,
lonely Friday night I filled my time with laundry at the shiny 24-hour place
and porky tacos, al pastor and carnitas. There are worse ways to spend an
evening, I suppose.

Taqueria La Campirena * 4010 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Los Pollitos

I used to get chicken salad for lunch from the Park Slope branch, but that's
all I'd ever tried until I visited the Sunset Park location while
researching a story on places to drink while watching the NY Marathon. Odd
topic? I suppose — drinking at 11 a.m. on a Sunday is a bit much, even for
me. I opted for a fresh-squeezed lemonade instead, which they kindly sweeten
to your liking. And tried a torta even though they're about the rotisserie
chicken. The food is perfectly acceptable, but what really gets me are their
comically portrayed chicken mascots, wide-eyed, wings flapping, strutting in
big red clodhoppers.

Los Pollitos * 5911 Fourth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Nuevo Mexico II

I didn't even know there was a new branch. It was so brand new that they
were still drilling and hammering and hadn't received a liquor license yet.
The carnitas sopes was pretty darn good, despite the hubbub. At first it was
exciting to have a new closer location, but the more I thought I about the
more apparent it became that I live in an in-between no man's land. The Park
Slope location is 19 blocks north and the Sunset Park one is about 15 blocks
south. I feel like a neglected middle child sometimes.

TacosNuevo Mexico II * 4410 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn, NY

An Dong

I'm pretty sure An Dong is gone. The space was slowly taken over by a cell phone business. An An Dong child opened Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches in the East Village, but I know it won't be the same so I haven't ventured over yet. (6/6/05)

They really only do one thing, and that one thing surely deserves four shovels. Bânh mí (I swear, I'll never go crazy with the accents again–allow me this one annoying indulgence) at its best, at least in my book. I've been obsessed with the unlikely amalgam that is the Vietnamese sandwich for some time now.

One of the good parts about living in Sunset Park (believe me, there's not many) is being able to walk (though it's not really a jaunt at 27 blocks–the neighborhood's large and spread out now that I think about it) to this little gem that many would refer to as a hole-in-the-wall. Actually, it's been remodled recently, creating an even smaller space, but a more inviting one that includes a table and chairs (you could wait a good 10 minutes for your sandwich). For better or worse, the video games surrounded by a constant gaggle of smoking teenage boys is still intact.

Every bnh m joint I've ever been to is similar to this (I've never been able to find the carts that are supposedly near the Manhattan Bridge), from my first experience in Portland to the Chinatowns here in NYC. Small, employing an aged toaster oven and furnished with little more than a counter covered with those green and yellow gelatinous goodies, shrimp crackers and assorted madness that I'm cautious asking about yet purchase anyway (case in point: Shrimp muffins. Odd, fried mung beans molded into muffin shapes with a prawn sticking out of the top, accompanied by a sweet, vinegary dipping sauce.) and filled with mini, square sausage patties with a garlic clove embedded in the top and basil seed drinks. Usually, I'm the only person in one of these places actually ordering food–the video game hooligans and lingering family members are given peripherals.

The biggest deviance I've witnessed was in Toronto where the treats were called Saigon Subs and lines snaked out the door. These places were rapid-fire assembly lines–French rolls were flying and a good handful of women manned the counters.

There's very little spoken interaction. In fact, my first visit to An Dong the woman at the counter appeared to speak almost no English. She held a calculator up to indicate the price of my two bnh ms and bottled water. I shook my head yes when she asked, "no hot?" but meant I did want it hot and couldn't explain properly. Unfortunately the damage was already done–I got a chile-less sandwich. Ouch.

I don't know if it's under new management, but on my last visit there was the aforementioned remodel and the man behind the counter was attempting to be customer service oriented (not something I've experienced, not that anyone's been rude either) and kept telling me I should sit down (I kept standing, I don't know…I was antsy. It's the growing New Yorker in me–you start to feel like if you're not in someone's direct line of vision, they're going to ignore or forget your request).

When my sandwich was ready he said, "French baguette" emphatically and pointed at it. I was like "yeah." And he started going on in a mildly hard to follow way about the French being in Vietnam and that's how the sandwich came to be and then started talking excitedly about Vietnamese coffee. I was happy to have someone who seemed passionate about their bnh m and could express it in fair enough English. I think he thought that I didn't know what I was ordering (this amused me since I can't imagine any non-Asian ever accidentally stumbling into An Dong, having the wherewithal to decode the handwritten poster board menu and order a Vietnamese sandwich.) so he was explaining, but I do know my stuff, and think this is the best rendition of the Vietnamese sandwich I've ever had and told him as much.

I was grasping at some sort of qualifier beyond, "I love these sandwiches" and came up with "these are much better than the ones in Manhattan" which seemed to win his approval. Now I'm primed to return.

And to be honest, I'm not 100% sure what is in a Vietnamese sandwich. I hate to stare, but maybe if I befriend this guy he'll show me specifically what they use. There are different fillings, but the standard seems to consist of roast pork, weird lunch meat, one that's gray (chicken?) and one that might be ham, pate/liver spread (the part that usually trips people up), mayonnaise (the part that trips me up), cucumbers, cilantro, marinated shredded carrots and radish and the optional hot (no joke) chile rings all on a toasted French roll. I've read that Vietnamese baguettes are made with a combination of rice and wheat flour, but I think generally people use French rolls. It's not the sort of thing you want to scrutinize because it can be kind of scary. Have faith, and jeez, if you hate the thing you're only out $2.50.

An Dong * 5424 Eighth Ave., Brooklyn, NY