Friday, May 28, 2010

Rice Avenue

I like the name Rice Avenue. It sounds like a street I'd want to live on. It's also a very nice looking restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue. I got a lunch special at Rice Ave. this week, walking in at around 3:15, close to the end of lunch special time. They still let me order though, and I decided to get pretty much the same lunch special meal that I got at Rumphool Thai a few months ago: a salad and a curry. This time I got green curry, since it said on the menu that it was (spicy) while the red, penang, and yellow curries were (medium spicy) and the Massaman was (mild).
The salad: iceberg, carrots, a cucumber and a tomato slice. The peanut dressing topping it all was good, with a nice hit of spice at the end. Otherwise, nothing special.

The curry. I appreciated the pretty rice pyramid. The curry was thin, and yes, a little (spicy), but it also had a sweetness to it, more than just the coconut milk. It was full of chicken, string beans, basil, and lots of bamboo shoots (my favorite). Not a life-changing curry, but a good lunch special, for $6.95. As soon as my food came out, the staff of three sat down at a small table and passed around platters heaped with food for their family meal. I tried to be subtle as I stared at their plates, but it looked much more exciting than my boring old curry. Sorry for being rude, Rice Avenue workers, but I sometimes suffer from food envy.

Rice Ave.
72-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights

I would just like to share this bit about the interior of the restaurant from the Rice Ave. website:
The décor of RICE AVENUE reinforces the symbolism of rice, the staple form of physical nourishment for South, East and North Asian cultures and cuisine. Upon entering the red cherry wooden door, one first notices the ceiling, a lattice of squares that recall the rice paddies of Asia. The seating is the color of uncooked rice. While the rectangular, acrylic ceiling lights illuminate the dinner in soft rice colored white. The long, horizontal wall sconces are rectangular and white, or avenues of rice white. A border of green, grass-like rice plants rings the seats and tables.
I love that I sat in a chair the color of uncooked rice. Much thought was put into the details, and I appreciate that too.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Krystal's Lunch...Buffet

If I knew how to do a slide show I would, because Krystal's buffet is the kind of place that deserves a slide show. Upon entering Krystal's, it is necessary to walk back, past the counter, past the baked goods, past the tables, to the back stairway. Walk up the dark wooden stairs and you will find a large room, where there will be people, enjoying their lunch, watching some Filipino tv, and going up for seconds at the buffet. This is exactly what you should be doing too. I can't think of a better way to spend a lazy weekday afternoon. I went with Stella, who believes Krystal's to be a better lunch than Fiesta Grill. Or should I say "a better bang for your buck" so as not to misquote. I have to agree that unlimited soda, food, and cake, all for $8.00, is pretty hard to beat. Here are some highlights of the meal.
This is a terrible picture, taken to show you the size of the buffet table. There are around ten options. I didn't want to bother fellow buffet goers, so the man is blocking most of it. Sorry.
This is my first plate. Above the white rice are some lumpiang shanghai (spring rolls) and some crispy pork belly. To the right of the rice: some chicken stewed in coconut milk, adobo pork, and a beef stew with potatoes, peppers and olives. The lumpiang were good, I'm not sure I've ever had a bad spring roll. The crispy pork varied. I had a few nice crispy fatty pieces, some chicharron-y pieces, and some were too dry. I liked the chicken, it was falling off the bone tender, with a mild coconut sweetness. The adobo was my favorite. The pork was so soft, and the soy-garlic flavor really permeates the meat but doesn't overpower. The beef stew was very Spanish-tasting, hearty, beefy, and I love anything stewed with olives. Something I would want on a cold or rainy day. The rice was rice.
These vegetables were good. Still crunchy, barely steamed, and just seasoned carrots, cabbage, another vegetable that reminded me of chayote, (maybe because it was?) and the best part: quail eggs.
Soup! Chicken soup! Large chicken pieces and rice noodles.

The second time up to the buffet I got some pancit that wasn't out before, and a little more adobo. I couldn't resist.

Cake Buffet. Does it really matter if it's good? I got a piece of the ube cake.
I just love the color. I mostly just ate the filling. It mostly just tasted sweet. I was too full to try anything else, but I just liked knowing that it was there. I just like knowing that Krystal's is there, feeding all of these people every day, while I've just been walking past, oblivious all of these years. I feel better about the world knowing that the upstairs buffet exists.

Krystal's Cafe & Pastry Shop
69-02 Roosevelt Ave

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Red Ribbon Again.

I have lots to say about Red Ribbon and their cakes, which you can read about here on Serious Eats. I am not going to get into the cakes, their flavors, or my favorite brazo de mercedes, because today I am going to talk about empanadas. I had already discovered, early on in the project, that Filipino empanadas are somewhat different from their Latin American counterparts in that there is a sweet element to these savory patties. I ordered one (if you buy five you get the sixth free, and I can't say I wasn't tempted) and an ube-tapioca drink, and went on my merry way. My ube (purple yam) was sweet and a little starchy, icy cold with chewy tapioca here and there. And a beautiful color. Drinking my ube shake on the walk home.
Red Ribbon's empanadas, while they have a somewhat mass-produced sort of look to them, are quite good. A sweet-salty, flaky crust encases a chunky chicken filling with a few plump black raisins here and there for added sweetness. But it made me realize that I need to try more empanadas from more Filipino places. So far I've only had Fritzie's and RR. I need to eat more empanadas to compare and contrast. Purely in the name of research, of course. Not because I like them or anything.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dear Fiesta Grill

Dear Fiesta Grill and your lunch special - I can not find the words to express how I feel about you. So many options, so much food that's new to me, I would go back every day if I could to conquer your menu. I like you lots.

Fiesta Grill has a steam table filled with all sorts of unmarked stews, meats, veggies. Lunch time was too busy to ask the counter guys for much explanation, so for this, my first visit, I stood at the end of the line, watched what other people were ordering, and copied them. The $3.95 lunch special is rice or pancit with one side. The $5.95 special is rice or pancit with two sides. I ended up, after some confusion, with a lunch special of pancit, pork adobo and kare kare.
This is the pancit. Pancit are noodles, and these are tasty. The rice noodles were mixed with snow peas, carrot sticks, bits of roasted pork, not too greasy, not too salty, they soak up the flavors of everything else on the plate.
Adobo pork. Really good. Chunks of soft pork, meaty and fatty pieces, with a great soy flavor. I like adobo. There were a few pieces of raw onion mixed in, adding crunch and bite to the dish.
Kare Kare. When I pointed to this stew and asked what it was, the countermen laughed. "It's beef in peanut sauce" they said, "do you still want it?" Um, yes, please. What's so funny about beef in peanut sauce? Oxtails, to be exact, braised and tender, along with some unidentifiable gelatinous pieces, soft green beans, greens, and bok choy, all cooked in a peanut sauce. It was good. But this is where I become word-less. One of the reasons that I began this adventure was to explore; to experience unique preparations and combinations of ingredients that I have not yet eaten. To go places that I would not necessarily have gone before. It's a great feeling, but I can't quite explain it. All I can say is thank you, Fiesta Grill. I shared my first kare kare experience with you. And it was not laughable. I am very serious about my love of food.

Fiesta Grill
69-12 Roosevelt Ave

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rice from Prince

Prince. New Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani place in Woodside. The blue awning has been up for a while now, and I was looking forward to a new place on the route so I checked out the menu and then looked behind the counter at the steam table offerings. The dish that looked the most exciting, and is also the most expensive ($8.99), was what I ended up ordering.
The special Prince kachi biryani with goat meat. I have a hard time resisting colored, hard-boiled eggs, it seems. Plus the man behind the counter said it was the best, and just made. It was pretty. Eggs, chillies, spices, goat in shades of yellow, pink, brown, and green. Then something else caught my eye, in the section reserved for fried treats like samosas, pakoras and such. This.Chicken patty. "Very good," said the man. The man looked trustworthy.
I walked it all home, and had a taste. The rice was fragrant and fluffy, each grain separate from the next. There were soft pieces of potato, whole cardamom pods, I found bits of caramelized onions, fresh and cooked chillies, each bite was a little different, some sweet, some spiced, some hot. Some pieces of the goat meat were a little tough, the best piece was one still on the bone and tender. The chicken patty was, as advertised, very good. Soft, flaky pastry encasing a chopped chicken filling that had more than a little spicy kick. The man also made sure I had a menu, which I misplaced but have since found, so can now put up the info.

Prince Restaurant
64-04 Roosevelt Ave

Friday, May 7, 2010

Good Time with Koba

It's been a lunch special kind of week, and here's another one. Have I told you how much I like lunch specials? Shannon and I went out first for ice cream, she was accompanying me on a Serious Eats stop, and then lunch. A little out of order, but the ice cream had a deadline. We then walked around on Roosevelt, looking for a good, quick bite, and Koba in Woodside seemed to work. It turns out that Koba not only gives you free soda and miso soup with your $5.95 special, but also banchan. Not sure why I wasn't expecting them, but I was definitely surprised when all of the little salads came out of the kitchen.
There were, from left to right: marinated tofu, cucumber salad, some tiny fish (wish I knew what they were called), kimchi, and eggplant. The tofu was dense and hard to cut through, but it was marinated in soy and had some nice crunchy onion on top. The cucumbers were great, still crisp but had a nice vinegar kick. I did not taste the fish as I knew I wouldn't enjoy them, I'm sort of wimpy when it comes to whole little fish, so fishy. Shannon liked them though (I think, let me know if you read this). The kimchi was kimchi, and the eggplant was mild, but had a nice texture: not too mushy, not too crunchy.
I got a bowl of miso soup with my lunch too. You can sort of see my free ginger ale behind it. I really like when drinks are included. Shannon ordered soft tofu stew with seafood. Not a lunch special, but still very cheap. Soondooboo jigae, small, $4.95. I had a great one at Natural Tofu a few months ago, bubbling pot of spicy broth and soft tofu, so good.
And she got a very special rice bowl.
She had a good time with bear family, but I wasn't invited.

My kimchi fried rice was good. Not spicy enough, but I got some chili paste on the side. Anything topped with a fried egg is fun. Break it open, let the yolk ooze out, mix it up, enjoy. I had good time with egg, at least.
I got lots of food for around $6, had a nice visit with Shannon, and was home in time to write about ice cream. That's what I call a successful day.

Koba (Korean Barbeque)
64-16 Roosevelt Avenue

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tropical in Woodside

Lunch Special! I walked into Tropical, not knowing much about it except that it might be Ecuadorian. Turns out it was. Tropical is a mini-chain with 4 locations throughout Queens, but there is not much written about it. Not sure why. It's a very spacious corner restaurant, full of natural light. There were three tables full of other people enjoying their meals when I gave my order to the waitress. I am assuming that the lunch specials change daily, and yesterday the two options for the first course and two for the second were: Sopa de vegetales (vegetable soup) and caldo de pata (cow feet soup is their own translation and I like it), and then cazuela de marisccos (seafood casserole) or pollo a la parilla (grilled chicken). I chose the caldo and the chicken, but if I were a seafood lover, obviously the cazuela would be the way to go. I noticed that the next few people who ordered lunch specials (and I was the only non-Ecuadorian in there) all went for the caldo and the chicken, so I felt good about that. The waitress immediately brought out a small plate with lime slices, a little container of green sauce (yay!) and a small glass of orange colored juice. I wasn't expecting the juice so that made me very happy, and once I tasted it, even happier. It was passion fruit!

My soup came out quickly.
The milky-looking broth was mild, with the light flavor and full-bodied texture from the gelatinous pata. The caldo was full of mote (pozole) and chickpeas, and garnished with cilantro and green onions. A squeeze of lime brightened it all up. Really filling.

Grilled chicken breast. Yellow. Grilled tasting. A little stringy but had good flavor. It was served with a cucumber salad, light and refreshing. Cukes, chopped tomatoes, green peppers, sliced red onions with citrus. And then long grain white rice. I ate the chicken with the green sauce, which was super-garlicky and actually even a little spicy. Green sauce, I will one day know your secrets! The total for my entire meal, drink and all, was $6.99.
Lunch specials are the best.

Tropical Restaurant
67-22 Roosevelt Ave

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lunch at La Frontera

In honor of the Battle of Puebla, I went to La Frontera in Woodside. There are three Mexican restaurants on the same block, and I picked La Frontera for no particular reason, but it turned out well. I got sopes. It seemed like the right thing to do.
The rounds of masa were crisp on the bottom and soft in the middle. Topped with beans and meat, these sopes were very patriotic with their red radish, white cream, and green lettuce garnish. Viva Mexico! There were three to the order, and I got chicken, beef, and al pastor (pork). The chicken was my favorite, it was the most flavorful and tender of the meats. The green salsa was thick and bright, but not spicy at all, unfortunately. The whole plate cost $7.50, and they gave me chips and salsa to snack on. The place was empty, but I got caught up in the novela playing overhead, and it was so nice out today, and the door was wide open, so I just sat for a while. It was a nice, relaxing lunch for one. Not the same experience I might have at a Mexican place in Manhattan tonight. Luckily, at these little places on Roosevelt, no one much cares about 5 de Mayo.

La Frontera
64-03 Roosevelt Ave

Sunday, May 2, 2010

La Perrada de Chalo, or Fun on Northern Blvd

What a week! I'm so happy it's over. Not enough eating time, yet again, but a good way to end the busy-ness was at this month's JH food group. Although La Perrada de Chalo is not even close to being on Roosevelt Ave, it warrants a post because it was just that exciting. Northern Boulevard is another great street to explore for food, and I'd really like to spend more time there. Someday. But in the meantime I will just visit occasionally whenever I get the chance. La Perrada de Chalo, with its dancing, slightly disturbing hot-dog with green boots logo specializes in Colombian street food and snacks, and the crazy hot dog was what I ordered.

Super Showy- Mortadela, cebolla, piña, salsas, queso, papitas. (Bologna, onion, pineapple, sauces, cheese, crushed chips) $3.35
What can I say about my Super Showy (which was just a showy, as they had no super-sized hot dogs at the time of our ordering, and in retrospect I think that was just as well)? The name is so perfect, I really didn't care what was in it. Do I really need bits of bologna in a hot dog? Completely unnecessary. Cheese? Ditto. Tons of mayo? Nope. But put it all together and it creates something magical. Each bite of hot dog was a new taste experience. The snap of hot dog, plus the soft bun, then the creamy mayo, plus melty cheese, citrus and herb tang from the green sauce and crunchy chips = flavor/texture collision in mouth. Super Showy! I was tempted by the Iraqui, which had hard boiled eggs on top. If I could have eaten another, I would have. But one was enough.
Some other trays. This one had the Super Showy, Al gusto (con todo) (with everything, and they mean everything!), and Hawayano (pineapple, cheese, sauces). I was jealous of the everything. It had eggs and bacon.
This was the mini picada. Crispy parts of pork, beef, chorizo, and chicken over a fried arepa and french fries. Greasy and delicious. $7.15
Pernil sandwich. It looked great, the bread was pressed so flat and thin and crunchy, a huge sandwich for $6.

We then moved next door to El Palacio de lol Cholados for a cholado.
Wikipedia says that a Cholado is a cold beverage common in Colombia. It is made from crushed ice, fruit and/or fruit syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and is sometimes topped with whipped cream. I think that is a fine description. I enjoyed my cholado immensely. Once again, so many textures and flavors. There was the crushed ice on the bottom, then freshly sliced bananas, strawberries, and pineapple, the juice/syrup was not too sweet, which mixed perfectly with the very sweet condensed milk. A sprinkling of dried coconut, and the whole thing was topped with a maraschino cherry. Fun in a plastic cup, for $5. There is even a sign with directions on how to eat it. First you drink the juice with the straw and then eat the rest with the spoon. Good to know. I think I did a pretty good job with that. A beautiful day with nice people eating strange concoctions and taking lots of pictures. Just a normal weekend in Queens.

La Perrada de Chalo
83-12 Northern Blvd.
Jackson Heights

El Palacio de los Cholados
83-18 Northern Blvd
Jackson Heights