Every meal is a chance to try something new for the sake of the blog, so when my friend Shannon emailed me late last night to see if we could get together for lunch I said of course, but how about we meet in Queens? She somewhat reluctantly agreed, and braved the 2 trains from Brooklyn that could get her to Sunnyside. So where did we go? Tangra Asian Fusion of course! I've had my eye on it, and was just waiting for someone to join me so I wouldn't have to brave the huge, fancy place alone. Plus they have an $8.95 lunch special, so we would be crazy NOT to go. That's what I told myself anyway. I was unprepared for the grandeur. It was big. And fancy. From the chariots on the wall to the colorful reliefs on the ceilings, all I can say is that it's really really...fancy. I loved it. There were only two other people in the place as we sat down to lunch at around 2 pm. As soon as a huge group of teenage girls showed up, all in matching white t-shirts, black leggings, and boots, celebrating one of the girls' birthday (she had on a tiara, of course), we kind of wished that we were back to just the one couple. But it made for some entertainment.
It started out well. The waiter was very nice, as we ordered our two lunch specials, plus two appetizers. I had to try the "Lolly Pop" chicken, which everyone in the world seems to recommend online, while Shannon, the non meat-eater, got fish pakoras. For the lunch special, which comes with soup and rice, I got chilli chicken, and she got tangra masala fish. I've always wanted to get chilli chicken. There once was a restaurant called Chilli Chicken on 74th and Roosevelt that I used to pass on the the way home every day and then it suddenly disappeared. I had always meant to go. So, chilli chicken. We both ordered the hot and sour soup, which came right away, and was thick, very dark, and had a nice spice to it. And then came the apps. I thoroughly enjoyed my lolly pop chicken, how could you not, with that thick, spiced crust? I did not taste the fish, as I am a non-fish eater, and Shannon could not taste the chicken, so we were both forced to finish our own plates. So far so good. And then came the main courses. Chicken, with sliced onions, in a brown sauce. It was fine, but there was no spice at all to it, which is odd for a dish called chilli chicken. After I doused it liberally with the chili vinegar and the ground chili sauce, it was absolutely edible, but sort of puzzling, as I had to doctor it up so much. Shannon was not so lucky. Her tangra masala fish, she reported, was flavorless. No spice, no heat, nothing. Just fish in a sort of sweet sauce. We ate it, still in awe of our surroundings, watching as the place began to fill up. Our first half of the meal was far superior to the second. The question was why? With no answers in sight, we asked for the check.
The moment we got the bill it all became clear. In all caps, so we wouldn't miss it, underneath our lunch order: Tangra Masala Fish, Chilli Chicken, ALL MILD.
Mild? You want to see mild? Shannon nearly exploded. They hadn't even asked! The waiter just assumed that we would not want any heat in our meal, and since there was a chili pepper next to each dish, we didn't think to specify. We were expecting fireworks and instead we got rained on.
When confronted, one of the waitresses told us that Americans don't like spicy food. And there you have it.
So. I wish we had gotten our food as it was meant to be eaten, and not watered down for people with delicate sensibilities that probably wouldn't dine in a place like Tangra anyway. I would go back, it's too fun not too, but I will have to be adamant that the color of my skin should not dictate the level of spice in my food! Never again...
Tangra Asian Fusion
39-23 Queens Blvd