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

Chinese Tomato Beef with Rice

A lot of folks think of tomato beef with rice as a Cantonese-American dish, but some claim that it’s actually a very traditional, very old-school, totally Cantonese comfort-food classic. Of course, there are different versions, including pure Cantonese takes, very sweet Hong Kong café versions with ketchup, scrambled eggs, and French-style cubes of filet mignon, and the gloppier Americanized takes.

Some versions start with a vinegar base, others with ketchup, and others with soy sauce, explains ipsedixit. Though ipsedixit likes the cubes of filet mignon in the various Hong Kong versions around town, the excess sweetness in the Hong Kong version (a result of an excessive dependence on ketchup instead of real tomatoes) is a turn-off.

Bamboo House Chinese Restaurant is a dumpy little place, but the tomato beef with rice is incredible, says J.L.. This version is Mandarin-style, with a soy sauce and tomato base, and thinly cut flank steak.

May Mei serves quite authentic Cantonese fare, and their take is quite tasty, says crystaw.

Bamboo House Chinese Restaurant [San Gabriel Valley]
2718 W. Valley Boulevard, Alhambra
626-458-8888

May Mei [San Gabriel Valley]
639 W. Duarte Road, Arcadia
626-574-1318

Board Link: Chinese Tomato Beef w/Rice

A Huge Lobster Benedict

Here on the West Coast, most lobster Benedicts are either too small, or “can best be described as ‘long time no sea,’” says Servorg. But not so at the wonderful Mollies Famous Café. “This is a huge portion of quite nice New England lobster meat, excellent hollandaise and two perfectly poached eggs with soft yolks … along with a raft of country potatoes done with a nice brown crust,” describes Servorg. The whole mess is a mere $11.50, which is more than fair.

Mollies is, in general, a great local breakfast spot, says Servorg, and it also has wonderful apple butter. Beware, though: There are other, similarly named restaurants in the area that bear no relation to this one, and aren’t nearly as good.

Mollies Famous Café [Orange County]
32033 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano
949-240-9261

Board Link: Lobster Benedict in San Juan Capistrano (SJC) This Morning

San Francisco to David Chang: Go Momofuku Yourself

San Francisco chefs are pissed. One week after Momofuku’s David Chang said that in San Francisco, “There’s only a handful of restaurants that are manipulating food,” and that “every restaurant in San Francisco is serving figs on a plate with nothing on it,” the Asia Society center in San Francisco has canceled a forthcoming Chang book-signing.

Giving what Grub Street calls a “Larry David-style apology,” Chang said it was a misunderstanding yet affirmed, “I’m never gonna open a place in San Francisco.” OK, thanks for that.

By the way, the context for the “figs on a plate” comment was a panel at the New York Food & Wine Festival with Anthony Bourdain that actually sounded pretty amusing. Chang and Bourdain’s other targets included Guy Fieri (“Those dumb fucking sunglasses and that stupid fucking armband,” says Chang), food blogs (Chang copped to calling one blog “The Shitbag”), and Alice Waters (“I’m constantly having [my own internal] argument with Alice,” said Bourdain, as quoted in the New York Post. “I agree with the message, I just don’t think she’s the person to deliver that message … [like] when I see her cooking Leslie Stahl one egg over a roaring fire.”).

The Asia Society book signing was to be the first event in an upcoming book tour for Chang. Ouch.

Image source: Flickr member ∗clairity∗ under Creative Commons

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Forecast: Soup Days Ahead

Soup’s on, just in time for this month’s rude preview of winter. ferdia says Mexican hound haunt Taqueria Coatzingo makes two of the best broths in Queens: a rich, porky posole (spike it to taste with lime juice, cilantro, onion, and cumin) and spicy, bright red chilate de pollo, full of chunks of tender chicken and hauntingly scented with an unnamed Mexican herb (2slices guesses it’s papalo, which also turns up in Coatzingo’s terrific cemitas). Either of these soups is a meal in itself, ferdia advises.

A few blocks up the street, Jose Fish Market, a go-to spot for Jackson Heights hounds, is on its game, dishing up cheap, delicious seafood soups: “Surprisingly good and very well seasoned,” says janethepain, especially with some hot sauce and a squeeze of lemon.

For lentil soup with a Turkish kick, phylrose suggests the ezogelin at Mangal in Sunnyside. (Get it with a slice of lahmacun, the crisp lamb flatbread, urges Anicca.) megc counts on Il Bambino in Astoria for “pretty kickass soups.” Recent choices have included split pea or Tuscan white bean with prosciutto; an autumnal pumpkin-apple; and a popular smoked-tomato bisque.

In Long Island City, Sage General Store also makes excellent soups, including daily vegetarian choices, phylrose reports. Coming up this week: chicken-vegetable with lime, roasted tomato-fennel, and roasted butternut squash, among others.

Thai soups can deliver heat in more than one way. ferdia goes for num tok noodle soup at Chao Thai in Elmhurst, which can be ordered with beef or pork, and light or dark (that is, enriched with pork blood). Nearby Ayada makes a killer beef tendon soup, also offered light or dark. icelandadam swears by it.

For a restorative tonic, ferdia recommends the Malaysian-style bak kut teh at Taste Good, which is a rich brew with medicinal herbs, fried tofu, and pork stomach and rib (just the thing to scare away the swine flu).

And Miss Needle fortifies herself at Woo Chon with sachul jungol, a spicy Korean lamb casserole with vegetables and perilla (shiso) seeds. “Stick-to-your-ribs hearty comfort food for the winter,” she promises.

Taqueria Coatzingo [Jackson Heights]
76-05 Roosevelt Avenue (near 76th Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-424-1977

Jose Fish Market [Jackson Heights]
81-04 Roosevelt Avenue (near 81st Street), Jackson Heights, Queens
718-478-0232

Mangal [Sunnyside]
46-20 Queens Boulevard (between 46th and 47th streets), Sunnyside, Queens
718-706-0605

Il Bambino [Astoria]
34-08 31st Avenue (near 34th Street), Astoria, Queens
718-626-0087

Sage General Store [Long Island City]
24-20 Jackson Avenue (between 45th Avenue and 45th Road), Long Island City, Queens
718-361-0707

Chao Thai [Elmhurst]
85-03 Whitney Avenue (near Broadway), Elmhurst, Queens
718-424-4999

Ayada [Elmhurst]
77-08 Woodside Avenue (between 77th and 78th streets), Elmhurst, Queens
718-424-0844

Taste Good [Elmhurst]
82-18 45th Avenue (between 82nd and 83rd streets), Elmhurst, Queens
718-898-8001

Woo Chon [Flushing]
41-19 Kissena Boulevard (near Main Street), Flushing, Queens
718-463-0803

Board Links: Good soups in Queens?
Recent Jackson Heights meals #3

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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
212-387-8487

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
718-358-3935

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