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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Girls Who Hate Girly Drinks

Girls Who Hate Girly Drinks

Bad bartenders assume you're wimpy. READ MORE

Back-to-Basics Lobster Roll at Luke’s

Luke Holden, who grew up trapping lobsters in Maine, barely recognized what passed for a lobster roll in the big city: gooped up with mayonnaise, cut with celery, priced in the high $20s. So he enlisted a dependable supplier (his dad, still in the seafood business back home) and opened Luke’s Lobster in the East Village.

His lobster roll is sparely seasoned (salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, celery salt), bound with the barest amount of mayo, and served on a lightly grilled and buttered bun—and it’s just $14 for a four-ouncer or $8 for a snack-sized two-ouncer. So far, hounds are eating it up. “There is just enough mayo and butter to intensify the flavor,” says iFat, “but the focus is on simplicity and freshness, which is exactly what eating good lobster is all about.”

Some find the meat too cold or too salty, or the portion too small. NYAngeleno allows it might be on the small side next to the usual seafood-shack suspects, but finds it quite substantial, well proportioned, and better than rival rolls at Ed’s Lobster Bar, Mary’s Fish Camp, and Pearl Oyster Bar.

Luke’s Lobster [East Village]
93 E. Seventh Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A), Manhattan

Board Link: Luke’s Lobster

Where Kimchee Meets Wheat Dough

HLing went nose-to-nose with a gigantic kimchee bun at Ming Chan Dong, and came out a winner. “The bun was almost as big as my face,” she swears, but it went down in no time thanks to its well-balanced and spicy but not overpowering filling stuffed into tasty wheat dough. The same dough is made into buns filled with pork, red bean, or vegetables (robust and delicious), as well as ma hua, deep-fried foot-long braided rolls that are slightly sweet and agreeably chewy.

Ming Chan Dong is on Union Street in Flushing, which marks the rough border between New York City’s richest hunting grounds for Korean food (mostly to the east) and Chinese food (mostly to the west). Not surprisingly it’s a Korean-Chinese hybrid, serving kimchee soon dubu (soft bean curd), more tart and flavorful than most, and both the Korean and Chinese versions of noodles in bean sauce with pork. The menus are in Chinese and Korean only; the waiter, who speaks both, is from an area of China near the Korean border.

“This is a new type of restaurant that’s got the best of both worlds,” HLing writes, “a very unpretentious place that suits my ‘peasant’ taste well.”

Ming Chan Dong [Flushing]
36-24 Union Street (between Northern Boulevard and 37th Avenue), Flushing, Queens

Board Link: Giant Kimchi Buns from the borders of China & korea

Trend-O-Meter Says: Bread & Jam Is In (10/16/09)

Who doesn’t love a good bread-and-jam combo? More restaurants are seeing how, done right, it can be a pretty thing on a menu. It was spotted at Culver City, California’s Akasha, where you can choose among breads, including one made from spelt, served with strawberry jam. And also at Duck Fat in Portland, Maine, as grilled brioche topped with your choice of berry jams and mascarpone cheese, Nutella, or peanut butter. And though not technically jammy, in the spirit of the thing: a dessert being served at NYC’s Prune that’s called “butter and sugar sandwiches with raspberries.”

See more food trends, or tell us what trends you’re spotting.

Image source: Flickr member moriza under Creative Commons

New Find: Never-Stick Brownie Pan

No more broken brownies or stuck-to-the-bottom brownies. This is like a springform pan for brownies or bar cookies, even Rice Krispies Treats. You simply cook the batter in a grid shape, then the bottom lifts out so each brownie is individually formed and needs no scraping out of the pan. Genius!

Slice Solutions 9×9 Inch Brownie Pan Set, $19.99

Mayhem in the Kitchen

The New York City Wine & Food Festival went off last weekend, and the Hungry Beast took the opportunity to pry some hysterical stories of kitchen mishaps from the famous chefs at the party.

Ex-Top Chef-er Sam Talbot was in the midst of opening his Surf Lodge when the propane tanks ran out. He undertook a dangerous mission to borrow a tank from a friend of a friend: “we jumped in a 1967 Pinzgauer, which is a European, Humvee-like military vehicle, and sped over. Actually, we left one guy to make cold salads. Lots of cold salads. And the servers poured as much Champagne as they could. The nine of us loaded the propane tank into the back, and then lurched our way back to the restaurant across bumpy roads. Those things are highly explosive—it had to be the most dangerous thing I’d ever done.”

Matthew Weingarten of Inside Park at St. Bart’s had a tale from his younger days:

“When I was a young cook, Julia Child came in to eat at the restaurant that I was working at. She ordered roast chicken and I ended up cooking her nine roast chickens. The first was probably fine, but it wasn’t good enough to me, so I put it aside. The next three I burned, the second two were undercooked. So it ended being nine before one went out.”

Image source: Flickr member rubber bullets under Creative Commons

He Really Wanted Tacos

It’s well known that working in fast food is a thankless task. Between the hours, the pay, the sizzling-hot grease, and the often cranky attitudes of supervisors and customers alike, it’s not surprising that when the choice is between working at Burger King or an entry-level position with the Gangster Disciples, many opt for the latter.

But a pistol-packing would-be customer at a Taco Bell in Miami took “unpleasant workplace environment” to the next level last week. A local Fox affiliate reported:

“The gunman, who remains at large, ambushed several employees as they stepped out of the Taco Bell at 630 NE 79th St. at closing time, at about 3:30 a.m., Tuesday. He fired several shots, and Rebecca Bouie took a bullet to her leg, before he fled the scene. ... Bouie took the bullet, according to Miami Police, because some guy was upset the store had closed and he could not buy any food.”

Holy. Hell. We’re all sensitive to the importance of the Fourthmeal, but shooting a single mother who’s already working the graveyard shift at the Bell is absolutely beyond the pale.

Image source: Flickr member greenmelinda under Creative Commons

Eggcellence on a Toasted Baguette

Sometimes a really basic dish can be something special. Like the egg salad sandwich at Kefa Coffee, which is “delicious,” says Cheesy Oysters. It “has a mayo Dijon dressing and it’s served on a toasted baguette with romaine and three lovely strips of bacon.” It’s treated with care, too; when ordered to go, both halves of the sandwich are wrapped separately for neatness.

This place deserves more buzz than it gets on the board, agrees abstractpoet, who likes the inclusion of green olives in the egg salad sandwich, and also recommends the breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

Kefa Coffee [East Bay]
422 29th Avenue, Oakland

Board Link: A lovely egg salad sandwich at Kefa Coffee

Down-Home Mexican Flavor, Organic Meats

Rocky free-range chicken? Check. Niman Ranch pork? Check. Homemade tortillas? Yeah, those too.

Taco Grill gets praise from hounds for its fresh, authentic, down-home Mexican cooking and superior ingredients. “It’s nice to be able to get good Mexican food without having to close one’s eyes to the quality of the meat,” comments lexdevil, who says the red pork posole is “super.”

Chicken posole “was the best I’ve ever had AND it was made with Rocky free-range chicken,” marvels fruti.

Among the tacos, chicken and carnitas are standouts; fruti also really enjoyed the chile relleno. Tacos are $5.95 for three, a reasonable price for the quality, says betterbeheaven.

Taco Grill [East Bay]
3340 E. 12th Street, Oakland

Board Link: Rave for Taco Grill - E. Oakland

Northern Chinese in San Mateo

The newly opened Sun’s Chinese Cuisine in San Mateo has a Northern Chinese menu, and the highlights are the dumplings and noodles, says Chandavkl. The fish dumplings, a rare find in these parts, and shrimp and cucumber dumplings are both tasty. Chandavkl says the jia jiang (black bean sauce) noodles were “very good, the noodles having a firm, crinkly chewiness that you usually don’t see for this dish.” The tofu and fish hotpot and cold appetizer of cold cucumber both bode well for future meals here. Sitka loves the orange beef and pork with garlic sauce.

Speaking of fish dumplings, Sun Tung and Everyday Beijing make excellent ones, says JoyM. Sun Tung also has fantastic pork and dill dumplings, JoyM says, although K K thinks the pork and cabbage ones are overly seasoned. Everyday Beijing’s fish dumplings are made with rock cod and chives, K K says.

Also recommended for fish dumplings: Cafe Yulong, Noodle Shop,
China Stix, and Hi Chiang Dumpling House (a.k.a. HC Dumpling).

Sun’s Chinese Cuisine [Peninsula]
251 S. B Street, San Mateo

Sun Tung [Peninsula]
153 S. B Street, San Mateo

Everyday Beijing [Peninsula]
637 S. B Street, San Mateo

Cafe Yulong [Peninsula]
743 W. Dana Street, Mountain View

Noodle Shop [Peninsula]
164 W. 25th Avenue, San Mateo

China Stix [South Bay]
2110 El Camino Real, Santa Clara

Hi Chiang Dumpling House [South Bay]
10877 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino

Board Link: Fish Dumplings At Sun Chinese Restaurant in San Mateo