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Posts from the ‘Fresh Meadows’ Category

King Yum

I wish I had known I was going to be in Floral Park earlier in the day so I could’ve tried Keralan food for lunch. In fact, I wish I had known quite a few things before heading to the Queens/Long Island border early Saturday evening. One being that the movie theater I was looking for that was still playing Swedish teen vampire movie, Let the Right One In, (don't tell me Robert Pattinson is hotter than this kid with zero pigmentation and a pageboy) was housed in the lower arcade of a retirement community. Two, that Let the Right One In had been replaced with He’s Just Not That Into You.

Sure, there was a theater 30-minutes away in the East Village also showing the film but I was intrigued by what Northshore Towers Twin Cinemas far into the outerborough fringes could possibly be like. I was relishing the prospect of an empty house in a weirdo location and as the black-and-white checked finish flag appeared on the GPS device when I all I could see were three ‘60s era co-op towers looming in the middle of a field adjacent to the Grand Central Parkway, I became more intrigued.

Northshore towers

While the Northshore Towers website paints the property as luxury residences, all I saw were walkers, canes and oxygen tanks. In the basement of the Beaumont building, you’ll find a gussied up diner filled with middle aged children dining with their parents, a grocery store for tenants only and a cinema with a hard ass security guard.

Northshore towers beaumont

We were told we had to wait behind the velvet rope because the previous movie hadn’t let out yet. We were the only expectant patrons so I had time to scrutinize the Xeroxed movie schedule taped up on the glassed enclosure and was alarmed to see that Let the Right One In had been whited out and He’s Just Not That Into You had been scrawled on top in block letters. Argh. My plan was too good to be true. After asking the humorless gatekeeper which movie was actually playing, she went downstairs fetched the manager, a younger brunette version of the Crypt Keeper (god bless your soul, Geocities), who had no idea what we were talking about.

Northshore towers cinema

He was all, “Er, I just play what they send me.” It was finally determined that he had no idea what Let the Right One In was and that it was never sent. I have absolutely no idea how it ended up on Moviefone in the first place (the schedule on the theater’s website is currently for the week of March 6-12 so no clue there). A white haired couple had appeared by this point and after noting the painful romantic comedy, slowly shuffled away.

The only thing I could think of that would soften my disappointment was finally being able to pay a visit to old-school Americanized Cantonese King Yum in nearby Fresh Meadows. How would it stack up compared to Staten Island’s Jade Island, the only other restaurant of this ilk that I’m aware of?

King yum interior

The dining room was appropriately bambooed, thatched and set off with wooden tiki carvings. A karaoke cabana was set up against one wall. Tall burgundy vinyl menus with fantastical rum-based cocktails on the front page seemed like a good sign.

But all in all the food was as I’d expected it to be: merely average. James thought the space was dreary and that little things like the duck sauce to the spicy mustard tasted off or watered down.

The cuisine isn’t meant to be mind-blowing, which is why I focused on the pupu platter for two and only ordered one entrée, General Tso Chicken. Lo mein would’ve been appropriate but I didn’t want to go overboard.

Nostalgia doesn’t come with a twentieth century price tag. The prices were a little higher than I’d expected. Sure, you can do the column A column B combos, and maybe most diners do (the Queensy crowd didn’t strike me big spenders) but a la carte dishes were well into the teens and the pupu platter was $20.

King yum cocktails

I chose a zombie to go with my sterno-warmed treats. Maybe I haven’t been giving fruity drinks a fair shake because this wasn’t half-bad.

It could be an east coast west coast thing but I never had wontons with sweet orange duck sauce growing up. I don’t really get their appeal though I do like the crunch they add to hot and sour soup. The sauces of my youth were candy apple red sweet and sour and ketchup in a little circular dish that also contained a small dab of hot mustard. My first ever job was bussing tables at a restaurant a few blocks from my high school called Hunan Garden and I’d spent the first 15 minutes of my shift pouring sticky still warm sweet and sour sauce from a tea kettle into little plastic to go containers. Hot mustard was doled out sparingly, only to the half-way mark.

King yum pupu platter

The pupu platter contained thick beef wedges on skewers and spare ribs, both dangerously sinewy and wanting to occupy the open space in the back of my lower right jaw where my wisdom tooth lived three days prior. Puffy hyper-battered fantail shrimp (they always remind me of fat miniature seals) were a must. The shrimp toast was oozing oil yet I still found the crispy mousse topped triangles irresistible. The foil wrapped chicken was odd. I think it was flavored with a shitload of curry powder, kind of bitter and yellow-tinged with a hint of crushed coriander. I heard a girl at an adjacent table refer to these as Thai chicken. Maybe the curry powder makes it so? Definitely not my favorite.

King yum general tso chicken

The general tso wasn’t breaded and crispy as anticipated. I know there’s a real version of this dish that’s not battered, I’ve made it myself, but when I go to a restaurant of this ilk I expect crispy nuggets. There's no denying the silver dome is classy, though.

King yum pina colada Once the fruity cocktail floodgates had opened I felt no shame in ordering a pina colada. I’m not sure if it was my vicodin (this meal ended up being a huge mistake considering I was supposed to eating soft food only) or if they actually went heavy on the rum, but I started warming to King Yum after the second drink. I still prefer Jade Island. Even though it’s in the middle of a strip mall the kitschy establishment feels more like a hideaway.

There was no rectifying our thwarted Swedish teenage vampire flick. The least offensive movie playing after 9:30pm in the immediate vicinity was The Reader in Kew Gardens. I was at least hoping for some hot cougar action (ok, I actually take issue with anyone getting that label, but especially anyone under 40) but was faced with a bit more nazi schmaltz than I would’ve liked. Bizarrely, the couple in front of us left within the first 30 minutes, before the film even went south.

King Yum * 181-08 Union Turnpike, Fresh Meadows, NY

Royal Indian Oasis

*as per comments below, Royal Indian Oasis has kicked the bucket. (3/25/08)

I have no idea when Indian Oasis added Royal to their name because it’s not like I get out to subway-less Queens so often and it’s not the kind of breaking news bloggers go nuts over. The décor, prices and “Close Tuesday” misuse on the takeout menu are all the same as my last visit nearly two years ago but I imagine the Royal addition would be new management flair.

Indian_oasis_kung_pao_potatoes All I really need to say is that kung pao potatoes are a peerless fusion treat. Neither forced nor fussy, this genius Indian-Chinese invention (Taj Mahal? Great Wall of China? Feh) plays to both cuisines’ strengths without getting silly. (And no, kung pao isn’t completely made up American but it might go by gong bao ji ding in China). When fresh from the kitchen, the potatoes are sweet, slightly crisp and genuinely spicy. Crunchy water chestnut slices and peanuts add texture. Potatoes seem made for this combination. Halved dried chiles coupled with fresh diagonally sliced green ones, generate a heat that surrounds your tongue and sticks around for a good ten minutes.

Indian_oasis_drums_of_heaven We also had sliced lamb chilli, Hakka style, which was a strong choice–same for the lollipop chicken called drums of heaven (left). The Hakka noodles weren't anything special. There’s nothing mediocre about Royal Indian Oasis. The food is a shade better than both Tangra Masalas and they don’t go completely overboard with the corn starch thickeners.

I do worry that they aren’t drawing enough customers. There was only one other couple when we came in and only one small group appeared before we left. Perhaps 9:30pm isn’t prime dining time in suburban Queens, but the sushi place with Bennihanna table side cooking, a few doors over, was hopping.

Royal Indian Oasis * 184-22 Horace Harding Expressway, Fresh Meadows, NY

Indian Oasis

The best New Years Day hangover food ever. It's usually hard enough just to
get dressed on days like these, let alone leave the house. But I'd been
dying to try Indian Oasis, lured by reports of sublime Indian Chinese (as in
Chinese food theyd serve in India, which got me to wondering what Chinese
food around the world must be like. At least India is nearby, but what about
someplace like Finland or Panama?) and Thai food. I forced myself to get in
gear, desperately in need of a savory, spicy kick off for 2005.

This is one of those restaurants where I regret only being able to order
so many dishes. I suppose thats why group dining can be desirable, except in
my case where everyone I know seems to have some sort of dietary quirk or
irrational aversion to anything fun. The menu is varied, and having both the
Chinese and Thai food is a little incongruous (or the best of both worlds
depending on your outlook). Our penang shrimp, while very good, seemed
strange mingling on the same plate with kung pao potatoes (what a great
invention) and chilli lamb Hakka style.

All of our Chinese-Indian food was very dark, rich and liberally spiced.
The sweetly named drums of heaven: crispy, saucy lollipopped chicken wings,
also fell into this canon, which I don't think is necessarily Hakka (if I'm
correct they are known for dried and pickled items, as well as pork usage)
but some Indo-hybrid. I need to learn what ingredients they use for their
dishes, because its wonderful on the tongue. That also could have something
to do with a purported heavy MSG hand. But I was feeling so toxic after a
night of excess that a few more chemicals couldnt have possibly done any

Indian Oasis *
HoraceHarding Expressway, Fresh Meadows, NY