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Joe MacBu had the buckwheat noodles at Chung Moo Rollrice & Dongas and hasn’t been the same since. “It was almost as perfect as a bowl of cold noodles could be,” he rhapsodizes. This was bi bim naeng myun, a brothless, gently spicy dish topped with shreds of egg, cucumber, cabbage, and dried seaweed, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Turn up the heat if you like with dried chile, mix it all together (bi bim means “mixed” in Korean, as in bi bim bap), and savor “the chewy slipperiness of the mildly spicy noodles, the crunch of the refreshing vegetables and the haunting accent of the toasted sesame,” says Joe. chefjellynow seconds this tip: “off the wall delicious.”
As great as the noodles are, they don’t seem to be the signature specialty at Chung Moo, a mostly takeout shop whose name touts its kim bap (rice rolls) and dongas (fried pork cutlet). Hounds haven’t sampled them yet, though they’ve spied nice-looking dumplings and tempura-like fried seafood and vegetables. The house-made soondae (blood sausage) has also gotten some buzz.
In more news from the shifting border of Korea, China, and Queens, Han Song Ting, a standout vendor from the fondly remembered Roosevelt Food Court, has resurfaced in a nearly vacant shopping center on Main Street, DaveCook reports. Fresh-made wheat noodles are the smart order, advises Joe MacBu, who recommends the number five, a delicious dish with ground meat in spicy broth. Another popular choice, he says, is a soup with noodles and rice cakes. The menu also includes bi bim bap and soondubu (soft bean curd), among other things.
Han Song Ting, whose owners are from Shenyang, was celebrated in its previous digs for its
hearty bing, the griddled wheat flatbreads from northern China. Its tiny new kitchen isn’t equipped to make them, sadly.
Chung Moo Rollrice & Dongas [Flushing]
39-04 Union Street (at 39th Avenue), Flushing, Queens
Han Song Ting [Flushing]
In Main Plaza shopping center, 37-02 Main Street (at 37th Avenue), Flushing, Queens
Let’s you and me team up, get an old historic brick warehouse in a picturesque little river town somewhere, and start publishing our own cookbooks, K? We’ll photograph heirloom tomatoes picked from our garden in old crockery dishes. Maybe roast sweet potatoes in the coals of the vintage stove. If anybody calls and wants us to test some recipes or take some photos for their cookbook, we’ll do that too. Oh, and we’ll have a cocktail around 5 p.m. everyday, naturellement.
Hey, that’s reality for Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, so we can all just go feel jealous now. The two are both former Saveur staffers (Hamilton was its food editor, Hirsheimer a founding editor, and then an executive editor), and Hirsheimer is a renowned food photographer, as well, who helped spearhead the idea of naturally lit, naturally styled food shots. (She took my favorite food photographs ever, in The Gift of Southern Cooking by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.)
In the forward to their first book, Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 1, they explain that before they decided to “join forces” they had been living in towns across the river from each other, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Now they occupy a historic loft on a canal in Lambertville, NJ, which is their “studio, workshop, dining room, office, kitchen, lair, lab, and atelier devoted to good ideas and good work relating to the world of food.”
Their main endeavor there, Canal House Cooking, will be a quarterly seasonal cookbook series, a cross between a magazine and a book. The first volume, which just came out, is beautifully shot and filled with simple, produce-driven recipes, such as two ways to make potato leek soup (puréed or chunky), roasted eggplant and zucchini with breadcrumbs, and paella cooked over an outdoor fire. (OK, maybe that last one isn’t so easy, but they sure make it look fun.)
Anybody want to go in on a warehouse with me?
Purists and chileheads might as well pass on Sura Thai. “This isn’t the place for you,” warns cimui. “Nothing is terribly hot.” But for sheer deliciousness, high-quality ingredients, and kitchen chops, she adds, this place is sure worth a try.
Fusion preparations are unusually well executed, cimui reports. Pinot Noir duck is a knockout: fried marinated duck breast with beautifully crisp skin, cooked with shallots and sun-dried chile, and topped with tamarind reduction. It comes with steamed Chinese broccoli and a tempura-style hard-cooked egg (“sort of reminiscent of a Scotch egg—in a good way!”). Almost as good, cimui says, is tender, well-marinated honey-glazed duck over bok choy. Other winners include banana-leaf-wrapped barbecued trout (with caramelized fish sauce, shallot chips, roasted chile) and drunken noodles, low on chile heat but full of tender seafood and vegetables.
Simon, who prefers authentic Thai food, is unmoved by Sura. He finds its cooking less Thai and more standard Upper West Side Chinese-American. cimui agrees that the menu isn’t uniformly strong, featuring some skippable “Chineseified” fare. Best bets are duck and seafood dishes, she advises.
Sura Thai [Upper West Side]
2656 Broadway (between W. 100th and 101st streets), Manhattan
Board Link: Sura Thai UWS
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Roland’s Bakery has the best bagels in the city, say hounds who’ve been there. Hand-rolled, long-proofed, and boiled in water before baking, these babies have a nice crust with good chew.
“I am quite sure that these are as close to the ‘real deal’ as I’ve found this side of the Hudson,” declares Alan C. But does that mean they’re authentically New Yorkian? The bagels’ slightly flattened shape and hint of sweetness are more of the Montreal school, a few hounds say. The price, however, is pure San Francisco: $1.50 for a plain, unadorned, uncut bagel (some even say they were charged $1.75).
There are bialys too, and an Asiago cheese roll (or maybe bialy) that rworange says has replaced the Cheese Board’s cheese rolls in her affections.
Aside from bagels, there are nice morning buns, Cynsa says, and very good breakfast dishes like a California omelet and thickly sliced corned beef with potatoes, spinach, and perfectly cooked eggs. The almond croissant is wonderful, adds Martha Copeland, with “great croissant texture, and just perfect almond filling.”
Roland’s Bakery & Cafe [Haight]
422 Haight Street, San Francisco
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Tanguito, a colorful truck labeled “Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Paris,” may have the best food at Fisherman’s Wharf, says Melanie Wong. Sorry, tourists, it doesn’t serve chowder. Instead, excellent empanadas and even a burger with chimichurri are prepared fresh on-site; the truck is fully equipped with a grill, deep-fryer, a full-size oven, and smaller ovens.
“Filled with well-seasoned picadillo (ground Angus beef, onion, red pepper, olives), the flaky-crusted and golden empanada was quite delectable,” Melanie says. And don’t forget the top-notch chimichurri.
An Iranian customer loved the chicken with saffron rice, which he said reminded him of home. And that burger also comes recommended. There are also Spanish tortillas cooked to order, although Melanie found hers to be “more like tasty home fries bound with a little bit of egg.”
Empanadas are $3.50 each, most items are $5 or less, and everything is under $10.
Tanguito [Fisherman’s Wharf]
2850 Jones Street, San Francisco
If you live in San Francisco, there’s no need to trek across the Bay Bridge for killer non-barbecue Korean food. Heck, it’s worth coming over from the East Bay just to shop at First Korean Market for great takeout and the best kimchee in the neighborhood, says Robert Lauriston.
Nearby is My Tofu House, where Robert says the soondubu stew is “awesome and amazingly cheap.”
sfbing likes the soondubu stew at Muguboka, where it has “a lot of lovely soft tofu.” You also get plenty of side dishes: about 14, though they’re smaller than usual. The place doesn’t specialize in tofu alone, and there’s a broad menu with things like fish egg casserole, Korean blood sausage, and fried chicken. Windy says the dol sot bi bim bap hits the spot.
Shin Toe Bul Yi has good soondubu that’s not too expensive, says Mr_Happy, but Windy says the reason to wait in line there is the fried chicken.
Fried chicken wings are the specialty at Toyose, although it’s primarily a drinking joint, Robert Lauriston says. He also recommends Zazang for jajang myun, noodles with black bean sauce, and jampong, a spicy seafood stew. If you want to go upscale, he says, go for Hanuri, which has an extensive menu.
And while Han Il Kwan is known for its barbecue, it makes some mean fish cakes and seafood pancakes, and also does stews and soups.
First Korean Market [Richmond District]
4625 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
My Tofu House [Richmond District]
4627 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
Muguboka [Richmond District]
401 Balboa Street, San Francisco
Shin Toe Bul Yi [Sunset]
2001 Taraval Street, San Francisco
3814 Noriega Street, San Francisco
Zazang [Pacific Heights]
2340 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
4217 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
Han Il Kwan [Sunset]
1802 Balboa Street, San Francisco
Board Link: Non-BBQ Korean in SF proper?