Home-style Taiwanese chow, a rarity around New York, has turned up in a seldom-discussed quarter of Flushing. Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet cuts no corners in preparing slow-cooked casseroles like san bei ji or three-cup chicken, made with Thai basil, garlic, and thick slices of ginger. The chicken is supposed to stew for hours in sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine until it’s nicely caramelized. Most restaurants rush the process, Dave_G complains, but this place does it right, earning high scores on his “GBD (golden/brown/delicious)” scale.
Also recommended: oyster pancakes, stewed organ meats, and, TastyLlama insists, “anything with chives!” Service is sweet, the vibe authentically homey. Despite this restaurant’s virtues, hounds have had little to say about it, probably because it’s a good mile south of the heart of Chinese Flushing.
Closer to the Roosevelt-and-Main hub, Gu-Shine on 39th Avenue continues to pack in crowds of Taiwanese expats drawn by seafood, stinky tofu, and a vegetarian menu highlighted by excellent pickles and Buddhist-style mixed vegetables. And in Elmhurst, Lin’s (formerly David’s) offers a meatier, oilier take on Taiwanese; past reports praise intestine with preserved vegetable and shredded pork with bamboo shoots, among other things.
If you’re craving upscale Cantonese, not down-home Taiwanese, consider Ocean Jewels. Brian S describes a series of unique and splendid banquet-style dishes from this Flushing favorite, which seems to be in top form. Don’t be put off by the menu description “steamed fish pieces with peculiar flavor.” This dish is a knockout: pieces of sea bass artfully arranged over remarkably fresh-tasting preserved vegetables (dried plum, various shoots, tree ear fungus)—“a traditional dish refined and reinterpreted by a master chef,” Brian S writes. Another winner, deftly balancing rich and gamy flavors, is succulent braised duck, ringed by green vegetable stems and topped with assorted mushrooms and a layer of shredded dry scallop. In a third standout dish, steamed medallions of tofu come with flavorful shredded beef, lightly marinated greens, and a bit of intensely meaty consommé.
E Eto reports a stellar dish of Dungeness crab, wrapped in lotus leaf with sticky rice, garlic, and other aromatics, then steamed. The result is wonderful crab but even better rice, especially when it’s mixed with the tomalley. Also recommended: fish maw soup, delicate “barbecued” beef flavored with fennel pollen and a light soy-based sauce, and an exemplary roast chicken topped with fried garlic and scallions.
There’s humbler but equally irresistible Chinese food at Tian Jin, a modest takeout spot around the corner from Ocean Jewels. wadawada, seduced by the smoky aroma wafting from this tiny shop, has discovered scrumptious fresh-killed chickens, seasoned with soy and five-spice and smoked to a beautiful bronze. They even hold their own against memories of a similar smoked bird from Kin’s Kitchen in Hong Kong. “Unlike a lot of breads that smell better than they taste, this chicken is as good as its aroma!” wadawada promises.
Ready for dessert? ZenFoodist loves the French-by-way-of-Hong-Kong cakes at Sun Mary, which she ranks well ahead of Flushing’s other Asian bakeries. Mango mousse cake is ethereally light, with just the right amount of sweetness. The Champs-Élysées showcases surprisingly good dark chocolate. Other worthy treats are ground tea cake, blueberry yogurt cake, pineapple shortcake, and honey sponge roll cake.
Main Street Imperial Taiwanese Gourmet [Flushing]
59-14 Main Street (between 59th and 60th avenues), Flushing, Queens
Gu-Shine Taiwanese Restaurant, a.k.a. Gu Xiang [Flushing]
135-40 39th Avenue (between Main and Prince), Flushing, Queens
Lin’s Taiwanese Gourmet [Elmhurst]
84-02 Broadway (near St. James), Elmhurst, Queens
Ocean Jewels Restaurant [Flushing]
133-30 39th Avenue (between College Point and Prince), Flushing, Queens
Tian Jin [Flushing]
135-02 Roosevelt Avenue (entrance on Prince between Roosevelt and 40th Road), Flushing, Queens
Sun Mary Bakery [Flushing]
133-57 41st Road (between Main and College Point), Flushing, Queens