>> Eat the World NYC

22 March 2019

Land of Plenty

CHINA ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ (Sichuan)

In the spectrum of things to be overrun with, Sichuan food is probably one of the least bad things in the world that could do the overrunning. Manhattan, Sunset Park and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn, and Flushing Queens all seem to debut a new Sichuan restaurant each week these days, with younger generations at the helm. While some of these places are not quite up to the level of being recommendable and do not get written up, it is still a good development to see these new waves of children of immigrants and younger Chinese from a range of provinces coming over and opening up restaurants and spread the diversity.

Sichuan food is of course known for its high heat levels, but Land of Plenty prides itself in bringing all seven important components of desired tastes: Hot, sour, pungent, sweet, bitter, aromatic, and salty.

Spicy dry cold noodle dishes always seem to excel in Sichuan cooking and the chilled noodles with spicy sesame peanuts dressing ($7.45, above) was no exception and my favorite dish of the meal. Designed as an appetizer to share, I felt no shame in devouring the dish by myself and enjoying the nice range of most of those seven flavors buried within the dressing.

The meal also had the cellophane noodle with pickled mustard greens ($8.45, below), somewhat by accident. I had misread an Instagram post and ordered the wrong dish, but of course this was pretty delicious as well with a focus on the sour. There is also a spicy and sour version of this that I will look to on the next visit.

One other recommendation? Come with friends. Sichuan food, like much of Chinese cuisine is better eaten with a group so that you can share an array of different foods and make sure to have some of each category. Land of Plenty has a vast menu and very fair prices for the location it lives.

Land of Plenty Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

17 March 2019

Sami's Kabab House


Sami's kind of lives in its own universe. Around the corner from busier 36th Avenue in Astoria, the spot is unassuming and the only glimpse of what all the fuss might be about is when waiting people are milling around outside the shop during busy nights. Inside, the dining room is much more formal and modern than other Afghan restaurants in town but still friendly and welcoming.

About one third of the space is taken by the kitchen, which runs from front to back along one wall, while the rest is dining tables. The wall opposite the kitchen is covered in beautiful imported fabrics that add a lot of warmth to the space if the smells from the kitchen were not already making you feel good.

A mixture of customers come here from Astoria and all over the city, drawn by rave reviews in important papers and online reviews. It makes itself very "user-friendly" for those unfamiliar with the cuisine, and makes a good entry point for anyone interested in learning more about the food and sampling their many kababs.

Before the large portions of meat, go for a plate of the lovely aushak ($5, above and below), vegetable dumplings filled with leeks and scallions. The thin wrappers would make Chinese grandmas proud, that is until the whole plate is drowned in a layer of their garlic mint yogurt sauce and then a lamb gravy.

They also have non-veg versions of this called mantu ($7, not shown), but I find meals here always get intensely meaty when the entrees arrive and think these aushak make for a more well-rounded meal.

My favorite of the chicken options is the Afghani kabab ($13.50, below), dark thigh meat that might be the most succulent piece of meat in the city. It is amazingly tender and juicy and tastes even better than it looks. They do breast as well and it is also surprisingly juicy, but the thigh is just better.

Most kababs and other entrees come with fragrant and wonderful basmati rice, but also make sure to upgrade your rice with qabuli for 50 cents, a sweet mixture of raisins and carrots that goes well with everything. This would also be a good time to explore the condiment dish that comes with four options in a tray like you see at noodle shops in Thailand. As I have said in previous Afghan meals, the availability of unlimited yogurt is a boon to my meal.

The other jars are filled with a red and green sauce, the latter of which is spicy, and some pickled peppers.

A plate of lamb sabzi chalao ($15.50, above) was also very tender, and is the same stew or gravy that was covering the dumplings. This is accompanied by a side of tasty spinach full of herbs and spices.

Salad arrives at the table with an entree purchase and usually a basket of Afghan naan does although not on this last visit. Both of these things are good for experimenting with the condiments as well. Also ask for a cup of the cardamom-infused Afghan green tea to accompany your meal.

Complimentary salad.

Sami’s Kabab House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

16 March 2019

Star Pide Salonu


The only thing missing seems to be the Black Sea, the northern border of Turkey that everyone seems to agree has the most delicious (and first) pide restaurants lining its southern shores. That, and some outdoor seating overlooking the beauty.

A proper pide experience can mirror those found in a good pizza shop. A wood-fired oven should be around but we'll accept gas in a pinch. When someone orders, flour is spread out on the table, dough is rolled out, toppings added. The pide goes into the oven with the help of an elongated wooden paddle, comes out piping hot and is cut up and served. It is best shared with groups.

In many full-service Turkish restaurants, they do not have a proper oven and/or skilled cook, but in a place dedicated to the craft you know they will. Their ease with the paddle, which resembles the oar you would use in a canoe, is almost like a show.

There are many options for your pide, but why not try the super karisik ($25, above), cut up and stacked in three rows in the photo but actually made as a five foot long boat. "Karasik" is just mixed and includes ground beef, pastrami, sausage, potato, and cheeses.

On the side a nice dish of red tomato relish and some pickles show up, the former for folks who want to add some spice to their pide. Each piece has a slightly different feel, the ends are more doughy where the pide comes to a point while the interior has thinner crust and more ingredients.

The refrigerator case facing the dining room holds some really tasty sรผtlaรง ($5, above), a Turkish-style rice pudding with slightly burnt top layer. The version here is creamy, rich, and delicious.

The oven in the back also churns out popular lahmacun ($4 each, minimum order or 2, not shown), thin, round discs covered in ground beef cooked in peppers and spices.

Star Pide Salonu has been around well over a decade, was renovated late last year, and is still going strong on Paterson's Main Street. Stop in and tell us what you think.

Star Pide Salonu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

14 March 2019

Radhuni Sweets & Restaurant


At some point around four years ago, the popular restaurant named Sugandha shuttered and the space at 483 McDonald Avenue underwent major renovations to become even more popular (and larger) Radhuni Sweets & Restaurant. The steam tables and all food were pushed to the back near the kitchen and the space was opened up for much more seating. As in other Bangladeshi spots in Bangladeshi neighborhoods around town, Radhuni feels like a community center at times, busy with men drinking tea and chatting or arguing.

It is now open 24 hours, catering to a clientele that works every shift imaginable, many of whom are taxi drivers.

The steam table and counter might seem crowded and a bit of a fight, but the staff usually is friendly to those outside of the community and will make a point to help you. Just stand near the register and it will not take long. Feel free to ask questions about the food and come up with a good plan of action. Make an order, pay if they ask (sometimes you will pay after), and grab a seat. The water is already at the table and a small plastic cup will arrive with your selections if you have not been given it already.

High turnover makes the chicken rolls ($2, above, chopped up) and samosas ($1, above) always fresh and really good. If they know you are sitting down to eat in house, they will slice it up for you.

The soft, pillowy mountain that is beef tehari ($8, above) is the kind of dish that is hard to finish in one sitting. It also is sort of stunning in its simplicity despite having the ability to get a "holy shit!" when you eat that first bite. Those chutneys they offer on the side are both good with this, but it does not need them in the end.

I can never pass up a good haleem ($5, below), and the one here is fantastic especially when you consider the price. Paired with a piece of naan ($1, below) fresh from the oven, it's an incredible meal. The dish is full of so many earthy flavors like wheat, barley, and lentils, but also fatty meats and spicy peppers. The dish is cooked for hours until it becomes thick and is easy to pick up with pieces of the bread.

Radhuni also has an amazing breakfast deal consisting of naan or paratha with your choice of two items from sooji halwa, mixed vegetables, chana dal, and aloo bhaji. It is hard to go wrong here, as multiple visits have been rewarded with many fine dishes, including but not limited to the following:

Vegetable and spicy tuna pakoras.

Chicken tikka.

Beans, bitter melon, and potato bharta.

Radhuni Sweets & Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

12 March 2019

Chongqing Lao Zao ้‡ๅบ†่€็ถ

CHINA ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ (Chongqing)

Chongqing is a city and municipality often erroneously linked to its neighboring Sichuan province to the west. The city itself is actually one of four in China (the others are Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai) under the direct control of the central government and given special recognition as a National Central City (ๅ›ฝๅฎถไธญๅฟƒๅŸŽๅธ‚). 

A city of over 8.5 million people, its inhabitants are fierce advocates of spice and claim to be the people able to eat the spiciest foods in all of China. They do share a similar cuisine with Sichuan, much of which is indistinguishable to an outsider, but their hot pot style is famous throughout the country a point of pride.

At the entrance, some spicy signs of things to come.

"Lao zao" (่€็ถ) might literally translate to "old stove" but there is still a lot of work to do before we understand its significance and relation to this style of hot pot. Using oils that have been "aged" and cooked with beef tallow (delicious fat), the richness and depth is what is immediately striking. Many hot pots can be covered in peppers and spicy, but the tastes here are full of flavor that latches on to eat cut of meat dipped within.

Opened in January, the place was given a full makeover from its previous incarnation which was also a hot pot restaurant, although a very forgettable one. Starting on the exterior, everything has changed. A large and heavy wooden door is the first thing you touch, but this sense of style and more modern version of a rustic farmhouse carries through to the silverware and cups for tea they use. Flushing already knows its virtue, as the place is packed and requires a good wait on most evenings.

The oil in the broth is important, but so is the oil they serve as a dipping sauce for this style of hot pot. Our group of six all found the sesame-based blend that you are supposed to dip in after the broth to be too thick and not of value. They will bring the ingredients for this to the table and serve everyone their own dish automatically, but do note that a $1.95/person charge will show up on the bill. Maybe get one or two made for the table so you can try it and then go from there.

In addition to this sauce presentation, there is an enjoyable theatre to everything they do. It is all very organized. Multi-tiered trays show up beside your table to hold all the small plates of each order before it gets put in the hot pot. They will watch over the progress and move dishes up for you and remove used ones. I found the service excellent.

The explanations are also good, which side of the pot each item should go, what to do, what not to do. Even for those that consider themselves skilled in hot pot, there was something to learn.

They give many options for your soups, but the split pot option ($15.95) should probably have some kind of heat on one end. This can be done mild, medium, or spicy, of which I lobbied for the latter but was overruled with a compromising medium. It turns out medium was enough, as even the spicy potions I mixed for myself at the sauce bar (above) were not as spicy as the broth. Shake off the dried red peppers and Sichuan peppercorns from your bites to avoid losing consciousness too early.

Orders of sliced lamb ($7.95) and sliced beef ($5.95).

All the foods we ordered, from the slices of lamb and beef seen above, to beef tripe ($12.95, below, right) goose intestines ($15.95) and duck tongue ($7.95), to dumplings ($5.95), juicy beef balls ($4.95), shrimp paste ($9.95, below, left) and everything in between was of very good quality. Crisp greens and other vegetables complemented the meats and seafood.

The meal will be more expensive than usual, but afterwards it will not feel unwarranted.

Are you not really a hot pot person? Have you been underwhelmed with it to this point in your life? I think this is the right place to try and see if you can have your mind changed.

Chongqing Lao Zao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

05 March 2019



At some point about a year ago, longtime Sunset Park resident Nyonya, cooking the Peranakan food of descendents of Chinese immigrants to Malaysia did some renovations and modernized. Then, with little fanfare a few months ago, the name disappeared and was replaced by Langkawi. It seems the mini-chain, which still has branches in Manhattan's Chinatown and 86th Street in Gravesend, has given up its Sunset Park operation and a new group has taken over.

Named for a picturesque island in the northern state of Kedah right on the Thai border, it is a place that inspires on many levels. The menu is really not all that different, still with a focus on Malaysian-Chinese favorites, all of which are pulled off generally with the same level of skill and love as most of the rest in the city. Which is to say it's fine, not mind-blowing.

Regardless of the creators, it is always difficult to start a meal without the Indian-influenced roti canai ($3.95, above), which was the best dish of our meal by far. Sometimes this dish can be forgettable, but this had me remembering mornings in Malaysia where I would wake up with Indian curries and flatbreads on my mind.

I am always intrigued by the sour tamarind and fish-based soup that is asam laksa ($8.50, below), but it is rarely executed well here in New York City. This version does not change that statistic, but it's not so bad. Underneath the bed of pineapples and vegetables, thick, slippery rice noodles await in the murky sour broth.

Meanwhile, the Langkawi seafood pan fried noodle ($14.95, below) did not actually seem to be pan fried. While it uses good ingredients, the flavors lacked a clear mission and were firmly on the plain side.

A glass of lychee soda (below) will set you back $4.50.

Langkawi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

04 March 2019

Taste of the City Fresh Grill

HAITI ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡น

In a tradition that dates back to the founding of the nation of Haiti in 1804, the first independent black republic in the world, soup joumou is enjoyed around new years day. This day means more in Haiti than it does for the rest of the world though, because it is also the anniversary of their independence, the culmination of a decades-long slave revolt against French colonizers.

It is widely believed that the tradition started because this particular soup was forbidden, once only the meal of the slave masters rather than the enslaved themselves. You can find the soup at many locations in East Flatbush around the first of January each year, but this three year old restaurant on Flatbush Avenue is also cooking it every Sunday.

Often translated as "pumpkin soup," the vegetable used is traditionally a squash found in Haiti that is very similar to what we consider to be a pumpkin here. The rest of the ingredients change with each chef and each audience, but there are some standards in the dish's tradition as well: beef, potatoes, pasta, and peppers to provide a nice heat.

When you come in, if they are busy enough not to have someone to greet you, make your way straight to the counter in the rear of the restaurant, jostle with takeout customers, and get your order in. Sitting down and waiting for a menu to show up is a strategy that does not always work here, especially on busy weekends.

The version here is good, and large. For $10, a full soup meal arrives in front of you. The first bites reveal spaghetti and penne, a modest hunk of beef, a few potatoes, some vegetables, and many spices. But the heat takes its sweet time. Somewhere deep in the bowl there is the heat of an angry pepper, but it does not hit your tongue immediately. Overall it is not too intense, but this feeling your mouth gets after being coated with the pepper's tingle is very enjoyable.

And so is the general atmosphere at Taste of the City, where on a Sunday you can delight in not only the soup but the after church diners that come with friends and family. Shouts of French from tables, or the customers ordering behind you in line somehow seem more gentle than if they were in English. I am looking forward to coming back for a more proper meal to take in their fritay and seafood dishes.

If you would like to learn more about the history before trying soup joumou, watch the documentary film entitled Liberty in a Soup.

Taste of the City Fresh Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato