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Indonesian food bazaar

Looks like the next Indonesian Food Bazaar at Al-Hikmah will be on Sunday 15 September from 10am to 4pm (according to an email from the mosque), at the usual location:

4801 31st Ave.
Astoria, Queens
(M/R trains to 46th St. station)

Sep 04, 2013
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

What's the word on 2 Kissena Blvd. spots: Mr. Noodle Restaurant and Mugi Bakery?

I passed by these two spots this weekend, but there was no time to stop in. Any intel on either of them?

Mr. Noodle is at the corner of Holly Ave. and Kissena Blvd.; Mugi is a few blocks away -- at the corner of Cherry Ave. and Kissena.

From the decorative garlands out front, I am guessing that Mr. Noodle may be new-ish? There were handwritten specials (in Chinese) on poster boards taped in the window (which I always take as a good sign) but otherwise no menu on display outside.

Jul 02, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Just moved to Parkchester (The Bronx)...

Neerob!!!

I also hear good things about Taqueria Tlaxcalli and Starling Coffee Shop (for Bangladeshi snacks: http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2012/0...).

Jul 02, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Kerala Masala Hut in Floral Park: any word?

It's on my list too. Hope to snag a friend w/wheels and head back that way soon. If I do, I'll report back.

Jun 26, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Kerala Masala Hut in Floral Park: any word?

I'm curious about a place I spotted on Jericho Tpk. in Floral Park -- Kerala Masala Hut. I haven't read anything about this restaurant, and it hasn't been mentioned on this board in other discussions of Keralan food in this 'hood.

I was in transit to a wedding, so couldn't stop to investigate on Saturday. But curious to know if it might be worth a return visit.

Jun 24, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Pure mustard oil, preferably in Astoria

what are the 3 brands? i have had good luck with Tez (or Taaza) -- something with a T & a Z (sorry! that rec requires some guessing on your part!)

May 10, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Best Greek restaurant in ASTORIA and bakery too(Greek) for dessert!

I'm too lat here, but I just had a pretty excellent meal at Thymari, the new Greek place that replace dPhiloxenia on 34th Ave. in Astoria -- and wanted to share the intel.

Overall, great quality food; big flavors, and generous portions. I hate to say it, but the food is a world better than the fare at my prior go-to Greek place in this part of Astoria, Zenon Taverna (though the prices are pretty much the same).

(Disclaimer: We're vegetarian, so no coverage of meat dishes here, though there were some great-looking octopus dishes on the menu...!)

REVITHOSOUPA: whole chickpeas in a mild broth with bits of carrots and onions and a hearty dose of lemon juice -- good but nothing special.

THYMARI SALAD: ouzo-soaked barley rusks (similar to Sicilian Friselle perhaps?) topped with pureed tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese and capers -- loved the combo of the tangy tomatoes/feta and salty capers w/the just barely sweet/anise-y ouzo in the rusks. This was really interesting -- apparently their take on a popular/traditional Cretan dish. I think I prefer the less fussy, simpler Sicilian variant, however -- chopped fresh tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, garlic, olive oil over rehydrated friselle.

PANTZARIA: golden/red marinated beets, red onions and capers with chickpea skordalia -- perfectly tender beets that were well paired with the piquant red onions and salty capers. The chickpea skordalia was spicy and intensely garlicky -- a great way to kick in some added flavor. We loved this!

PIKILIA: trio of dips w/grilled pita...last night the trio included a roasted eggplant dip, a spicy pureed feta dip, and tzatziki (yogurt + garlic + cuc) -- the tzatziki and feta dips were much better than the norm; distinctly flavored and thick (not watery), but it was the smokey, tangy eggplant dip that really got our attention -- amazingly delicious. I think they put Greek yogurt in there (judging by the color and flavor) -- totally works. The flatbread, however, was a bit dry and flavorless -- eh. But with dips that good, we barely noticed...

FETA SAGANAKI: pan-fried feta with a crispy sesame crust and sweet berry-based compote -- another hit! The feta was perfectly soft, not too salty or tangy, very mild. Though I was skeptical, it went really well with its sesame seed outer-crust and the mildly sweet berry compote. A good, mild counter-point to the strong, very garlicky flavors in our other dishes.

Also, great, very attentive service and a very welcoming vibe. We were disappointed to see that the dining room was totally empty at 9pm on a Wed. evening. Hope business will pick up and keep these guys going. This is, in my opinion, the best Greek food in S. Astoria (below Ditmars) and may even give Agnanti a run for its money.

May 10, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Pure mustard oil, preferably in Astoria

I get mine at Patel's in Jax Heights. Did you try the little Bangladeshi grocery at B'way & 31st St. They might have it. Don't be deterred by the warning label: "Not for consumption." It's some import technicality. Totally fine to cook with. (And some people use it to moisturize their hair too -- dual purpose!)

May 10, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

New Wafa's coming soon.

OK, clearly I need to be sure to try the Mujadarah next time. Sounds like an ideal veggie dish. And yes, that $10 veggie platter is a very good deal: both quantity and quality wise.

May 07, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

New Wafa's coming soon.

Great meal at Wafa's Monday night. We tried the special soup -- brown lentils (the flying sauce-shaped ones) with swiss chard -- amazing! Lots of cilantro leaves and lemon in the mix. Crazy flavorful. Very light -- no oily sheen.

We also tried the chicken shwarma (which I can't speak to as a vegetarian, though it looked tasty!), falafel (eh), babaganous (smokey and heavy on the tahini -- nice, though I prefer the tangy baba at Home Falafel in Astoria; just my preference), tabouleh (amazingly fresh and flavorful; the best I've had in NYC so far), the okra stewed with tomatoes and onions (a little oily but way flavorful; this could've come out of any north indian kitchen!), and the moussaka (again, a little oily but distinctly flavored with tomatoes and onions and ample mint -- i think; perfectly cooked eggplant hunks...soft but not mushy...and chickpeas thrown in for a great textural contrast).

curious about the fattoush (salad w/pita chips, essentially) and the mujadarah (bulgur wheat and lentils) -- any word on these?

May 02, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Best bakery in Queens and why?

Rudy's in Ridgewood all the way! Linzer tarts and danishes are amazing, among much else.

May 02, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

30th ave in astoria? what's good?

The owner was personally attending to us -- and he was lovely. Some of the best service I've had in a very long while in Astoria or anywhere in the city. Totally unintrusive but thoughtful and thorough.

If you're curious to see photos of some of our dishes, one of my dining companions wrote a review of our meal, with photos:

http://www.fooditka.com/2012/04/haris...

Apr 27, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

30th ave in astoria? what's good?

Queenseats, definitely give Harissa Cafe a try! We just ate there last night for the first time and really enjoyed our food (a mix of Moroccan and Algerian fare).

Service was also attentive (but not oppressive), and the ambiance was surprisingly lovely. It doesn't look like much from the outside but inside it's a cozy space -- perfect for a weekend morning b'fast/brunch.

On to the food:

BRIK: a triangular-shape filo dough packet stuffed with tuna, capers, parmesan cheese, egg, herbs and fried. I didn't get to try this (the tuna is off-limits) but it disappeared quickly and the woman who ordered it looked satisfied.

CHAKCHOUKA: scrambled egg cooked with green bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs/spices. This was totally different from the Israeli versions of Shakshouka we've had (whole egg cooked in tomato sauce), and we really enjoyed this. I'm not sure what seasonings were in the mix -- but they were what I would label Middle Eastern and were very distinct and tasty, too.

ZAALUK SALAD: roasted/pureed eggplant cooked with herbs and spices. I was prepared to be wowed by this, having read other bloggers' praise for it, but I was underwhelmed. It was definitely tasty -- smoky and distinctly flavored (though I'm not sure which spices/herbs were in the mix). But the begun bhartha at Neerob (Bangladeshi in Parkchester) is 10 times more flavorful (garlic, mustard oil, cilantro, chilies!); heck, most roasted eggplant dishes in Indian cuisine (it made properly) pack way more flavor than this did (or maybe I just prefer more strongly spiced food...).

LAMB TAJINE: A lamb and vegetable stew. I was disappointed that this didn't come out in its tajine but rather was plated nicely (not that that's entirely a bad thing). As a vegetarian, I didn't get to try this but the folks who ordered it raved about it, and their plates were totally clean by the end of the meal.

VEGETARIAN COUSCOUS: Hunks of roasted carrots, zucchini, potato and chickpeas over couscous. The couscous was perfectly cooked -- individual grains! And the vegetables were tender and incredibly flavorful -- cinnamon seemed to be the dominant seasoning. This is some of the best veggie couscous I've had yet.

MERGUEZ AOILISSA: Merguez & carmelized onions tucked inside a crispy baguette with Harissa (spicy, garlicky Middle Eastern condiment) aoili on the side (and French fries). I also didn't get to try this but the folks who ordered it said the sausage was legitimately spicy and the baguette was above average (crunchy outside; soft interior). The harissa aoili disappeared quickly.

Apr 26, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Indonesian bazaars, Masjid al-Hikmah, 2012

El Jefe, you totally called it. That gado gado was 100 times better than what I had at Upi Jaya (maybe I caught them on a bad day?). So fresh! And the peanut sauce was totally addictive -- spicy, salty, funky. I had one there and took one home with me. :)

If you're going next time, let me know. We could meet there. You know Indonesian food much better than I do -- would be curious to get your take on the offerings.

Apr 23, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Indonesian bazaars, Masjid al-Hikmah, 2012

Yeah, I think some of the vendors stayed away because of the rain. But there was some great stuff today.

These photos were taken at home afterwards -- it was far to rainy to snap photos at the bazaar itself: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?se...

But that means we didn't get photos of quite a few of the great things we tried (mainly the stuff we polished off before leaving), including:

*Coconut-y rice porridge with a sweet suace -- maybe brown sugar-based?

*Siomay ("shoo mee") -- boiled egg, steamed tofu, and steamed fish balls wrapped in what looked like wonton wrappers and doused in a thick, sweet-and-savory peanut sauce

*Hunks of tofu and bits of cabbage, breaded and deep-fried -- nice but nothing special (good vegetarian option

)

*Homemade tempeh -- you could still see the whole soy beans...nice!

*Kale sauteed in garlic and coconut milk -- this was amazing; still crunchy kale and very flavorful!

*Beef jerky doused in a spicy sambol-based (?) red sauce -- I didn't try this but others were raving about it

*Sweet glutinous rice probably cooked with brown sugar -- nice; mildly sweet

There were also some REALLY good looking SOUPS with meatballs and rice noodles -- unfortunately none were vegetarian, so we didn't get to try them.

The SATAY SKEWERS also looked great -- many were served over rice cakes with what looked like a thick, sambol-and-coconut-milk-based sauce.

And there were some really delicate baked, egg-washed COOKIES on offer at one stand. (I overheard mentions of pineapple fillings; others were coated with powdered sugar and resembled Italian cookies.)

My personal favorites were the GADO GADO (incredibly fresh veggies; addictive dark/spicy peanut sauce) and the CENDOL (pandan water + brown sugar water + coconut milk dessert).

We'll definitely be back next month for further explorations -- hopefully without the pouring rain.

Apr 22, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Favorites at Chao Thai

som tum (green papaya salad), jungle curry and anything with flat noodles!!!

Mar 28, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Woodside Cafe dinner (mostly vegetarian)

According to this flyer on their Facebook page, they are closed on Tuesdays:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbi...

Sorry, I didn't realize that -- should've noted that in my post.

Please do give them another shot -- it's well worth it.

Mar 20, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Sugar Freak Astoria

Yep, no go on dinner last night. Ended up at William Hallet instead. Eh.

But Mr. Porkchop -- thanks for the thorough break-down. I can see it's worth re-attempting a meal there!

-----
William Hallet
36-10 30th Ave, Queens, NY 11106

Mar 20, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Northern Blvd Canvassing

Are these available on a daily basis? Only weekends? Very curious!!!

Mar 19, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Woodside Cafe dinner (mostly vegetarian)

Yeah, like you I had no idea people would want to eat that stuff without seasoning it or cooking it. But it works.

Their chiura (beaten rice) is nice and flavorful and crispy, so that helps too.

It's hard to eat that stuff with your hands, though (I'm thinking of the newari thali, which has the beaten rice, rather than the cooked basmatic rice) -- nothing sticks together!

Mar 19, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Sugar Freak Astoria

Anyone check out Sugar Freak yet? Heading there for dinner tonight. Curious for recs re: dishes not to miss (the charbroiled oysters?) -- both veg and carnivorous!

Mar 19, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Food stalls on the corner of Maple and Main street Flushing?

Yes, the folks at the Steam Dumplings stall were amazingly gracious and patient with my total lack of Mandarin skills (I should've at least learned the word for "vegetarian" by now...!)

Mar 16, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Woodside Cafe dinner (mostly vegetarian)

I haven't tried the samay baji and Tawa Nepali Hut -- very curious about it now.

I can tell you that they make (aka, roast?) their own chiura (beaten rice) in-house, and it's got a really nice flavor and crispness to it. It's much better than the poha you can buy in bags at Patel's.

I also like the daikon pickle at Woodside Cafe better than Tawa Nepali's. Woodside's pickle has a more subtle flavor (sesame oil is prominent), the pieces are smaller and more delicate, and it's much less oily than Tawa's. Just my opinion. :)

Mar 16, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Woodside Cafe dinner (mostly vegetarian)

And Woodside Cafe's menu, in case meat-eaters are curious about non-veg options!

Mar 14, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Jax Heights Meanderings: Punjabi fare at Raja Sweets & Hole-in-Wall Paan

While making our way through Jax Heights after a great Nepali meal at Woodside Cafe on a recent evening, we decided to check out Raja Sweets (37th Ave.), a pure veg place for Punjabi chaat, sweets and cooked dishes (steam table!). We've always scorned it in favor of the much snazzier selection of sweets at Maharaja (across the street). But we were surprised to find some interesting offerings in the steam table. They had a great looking kadu (pumpkin) dish and surprisingly good looking Punjabi-style kardhi (a stew made of chickpea flour and yogurt simmered slowly with onions & spices). They were also frying up fresh mirchi pakoras (using those long & skinny Korean spicy green peppers), and they looked very enticing.

We couldn't resist taking home some kardhi, and it was lovely!! :) Very flavorful and low on oil. This is actually a very tricky dish to make -- very time consuming -- and it's comes out poorly if you try to cut corners. So most restaurants do a pretty horrific job with it -- it usually has an orange-y, oily sheen and very little flavor. I'm not sure what spices they used at Raja, but the flavors were unusually piquant -- not what I usually cook with (cumin seeds, ginger, onion, turmeric, chilis). I loved it, and so did my husband (who is a huge kardhi fan and is very picky about it).

We also took home some sooji (semolina/cream of what) halwa. Ugh. Weird chemical flavor and mega oil overload -- avoid!

But we'll be back w/less full stomachs to try the pumpkin dish and sample some of Raja's chaat.

As we were leaving Raja, we happened to glance around the corner (onto 73rd St.), where several people were lined up at a little window with a sign that said "PAAN." Normally we hit the paan guy near the former Eagle Theater (pretty eh), so we were curious to try a new paan vendor -- evidently one with quite a following.

We weren't disappointed. It was probably the best paan I've found in NYC (note: I'm no expert here) It was very fresh, with a fragrant flavor. Maybe this paanwala (aka, paan-maker) uses imported ingredients from India?

We snagged the paanwala's business card -- apparently the operation is called Shetty Paan Centre. Check them out between 10am and 10pm any day of the week. Paan is a great way to cleanse the palate after any meal.

-----
Maharaja Sweets and Snacks
7310 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11372

Raja Sweets & Fast Food
72-31 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11372

Mar 14, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Northern Blvd Canvassing

Any intel on a little Korean restaurant at 154-28 Northern Blvd. in Flushing? We passed by last night but neither of us read Korean, and there was nothing in English on the awning -- except Gaji Corp. I grabbed a takeout menu, but the name is only in Korean. Looked like a truly Mom & Pop operation -- very humble decorations. Interesting menu. An entire section dedicated to Jungol (a sort of stew, I gather) -- anyone know more? Also a "special menu" that lists these three dishes (these are the English translations):

"boiled whole duck with traditional herb and black sesame and mung bean porridge"
"fermentation skate sashimi with boiled pork and rice wine"
"boiled chicken with ginseng and chicken porridge"

Also an a la carte / takeout "Jokbal" menu with monkfish, boiled pork hocks, boiled goat meat, snals, femented skate sashimi, makuro, boiled tendon and the like.

And a "Meal" section with more familiar dishes -- various kind of tang, jigae, dupbap, baekban, bokeumbap, guk, and even a seafood soon dubu.

Pretty expansive selection of sojus, too. :)

Has anyone tried this place? Very curious!!

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Gaji Gaji
154-28 Northern Blvd, Queens, NY 11354

Mar 14, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Northern Blvd Canvassing

Just tried Bon Juk last night -- really enjoyed the Octopus + Kimchi Juk -- thick and flavorful, without being too heavy. Much more flavor than Chinese congee -- ingredients are simmered into the rice porridge, correct? (Rather than added at the end/on top, as with congee.)

Portions are huge (2 of us split one and were perfectly full), and the ban chan are refillable (kimchi, shredded beef, some sort of spicy-gingery paste). So it was a $15 meal for two -- not bad at all.

Curious to try the vegetarian versions (including one with cheese -- mmm?).

-----
Bonjuk
152-26 Northern Blvd, Queens, NY 11354

Mar 14, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Woodside Cafe dinner (mostly vegetarian)

Definitely ignore that stale pizza in the window. In two visits, I haven't seen anybody order it. It's all about the Nepali stuff. In fact, on both visits, I've been at the only table not filled with Nepali ex-pats.

I went back again and this time snagged a take-away menu. So here's some more info (names mainly) on things we tried.

The soy beans appetizer w/mustard oil is called MUSYA PALU. The spicy potatoes appetizer is indeed ALOO PALOO. The grilled beef dish is called HAKU CHOILA. The pan-fried momo are the KOTHE MOMO (as opposed to the steamed or deep-fried momo).

I did indeed drag my husband to Woodside Cafe for our anniversary, and we tried a few new dishes that we really enjoyed.

The ALOO CHWON is basically potatoes and black eyed peas (the menu mentioned bamboo shoots too, but I couldn't spot these in the mix) cooked in Indian spices with ample, very flavorful gravy (aka, thurrywala!). This dish was lovely -- low on oil and had a beautiful flavor -- maybe from ample use of cinammon-y garam masala? This definitely reminded me of North Indian home cooking.

Since it was a weekend, the NEWARI THALI was available (Fri/Sat only). It's basically a larger version of the vegetarian thali we tried last time -- it included the same black chick peas, black eyed peas, sauteed greens (they're mustard greens -- mm!), those awesome soy beans (musya palu), both daikon and potato achar (pickle), as well as the aloo chwon and a sweet (yogurt with a gulab jamun plopped in the middle of the dish). The key difference -- the Newari thali comes with the beaten rice (chiura) rather than with the cooked basmati rice that comes with the veggie thali.

We also ordered a side of that SPLIT URAD DAAL, which was even better this time -- it clearly had been made with ample ghee (it had that signature rich, nutty flavor). Thin, thin broth and lots of flavor. Perfect.

Mar 14, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Best St. Joseph's Day pastry (sfingi di San Giuseppe) in NYC?

Second Villabate in Bensonhurst! Loved their ricotta filled zeppole for Feast of San Giuseppe last year!

(photo: http://www.cityspoonful.com/feast-of-...

)

Also love Sal & Dom's in the Bronx -- great, authentic Sicilian bakery...but haven't tried their zeppole. Can only assume good things about them, though. :)

Mar 14, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs

Woodside Cafe dinner (mostly vegetarian)

Holy mother of awesomeness. (Yes, our meal was that good.)

We were drawn to Woodside Cafe by the intrepid Dave Cook's and Joe DiStefano's descriptions of Nepali-Italian fusion, which just sounds crazy and great in an only-in-Queens kind of way.

But aside from the pizza operation up front (and the straight-from-the-bottle Italian dressing on the iceberg lettuce that accompanied one of our dishes), we found no evidence of Italian cuisine here. This was straight up Nepali -- specifically Newari food from Kathmandu.

As our patient waiter explained, food in Kathmandu (unlike in other regions of Nepal, like Mustang, or in neighboring Tibet) is known for its spiciness. And it's true, the kitchen didn't skimp on the spicing/heat in our dishes, despite the obvious fact that no one at our table was South Asian. (Finally! Amen!)

The flavors were very North Indian, to my palate -- especially the SPLIT-URAD DAAL and very tangy YOGURT that accompanied our VEGGIE THALI, as well as the cauliflower, potato, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and black chickpeas dishes (from the thali and the SAMAY BAJI appetizer). But the ample use of mustard oil is usually more common in Bengali cooking, and the lightly seasoned, sauteed greens are definitely not South Asian -- more Chinese or Tibetan, I'm guessing. The SOY BEANS and raw ginger are something I've never seen in Indian cooking, and the POTATO ACHAAR (pickle) and DAIKON ACHAAR, which combined Indian spices with sesame oil/seeds, is a flavor I love, which I've only encountered in Nepali food. The CHATMARI (rice flour pancake topped with meats, beans, etc.) and GRILLED BEEF appetizer (a meat you'll have to look hard to find in Indian cooking) were also distinctly Nepali, though their seasonings surely overlap with flavors you'll find in Indian cooking.

Advance apologies for the missing information -- e.g., some of these dishes' names and ingredients. There was no "to go" menu available, and I was so sucked into my meal that I didn't bother to take notes.

I'll track down that information and include it in my formal review (TK on City Spoonful). In the meantime, I'm already plotting my return. I may just snag a nice bottle of wine (their operation is BYOB) and drag my lovely husband here to celebrate our wedding anniversary this weekend. Yes, it really was that good.

Onto the dishes:

SOY BEANS appetizer (w/mustard oil and fresh slices of ginger): Though I can't remember the actual name of this dish, it was my favorite of the night -- stunning flavors of mustard oil (think wasabi but smoky) with a slightly nutty, burnt edge and fragrant raw ginger. Wow. What a flavor-maxed snack -- totally addictive!

ALOO PALOO(?) appetizer (boiled potatoes cooked in a spicy sauce): This was definitely tasty but still kind of "eh" -- soft/tender potato pieces, devoid of gratuitous oil, legitimately spicy. But the flavors were a bit one-dimensional. Still, the sad reality is that this was better than about 80% of the North Indian potato dishes you'll find in our fair city.

ALOO ACHAAR appetizer (boiled potato w/a whole lot going on here!): I'm ashamed to admit that all my time spent cooking Indian food did not prepare me to identify the flavors in this dish. Sesame oil/seeds were prominent, but other than that, I'm not even sure what those little black seeds were (kalonji, black sesame seeds, mustard seeds??). I'll be back for further investigations.

GRILLED BEEF appetizer (I will dig up the name! But for now, that's all I got): This was served cold (intentionally) and was (according to our meat eaters) very spicy and flavorful. Our waiter, who recommended the dish when we asked for something spicy, told me that this would normally be made with buffalo meat in Nepal, rather than beef (which is not terribly popular in South Asia). But in N. America, beef is a better substitute for Nepali buffalo meat than bison meat.

SAMAY BAJI appetizer (meaning, literally, "beaten rice snack"): The beaten rice (similar to Indian poha) is the glue that holds this snack together. Our patient waiter advised us to take a bit of baji (flattened, then roasted rice -- actually MADE IN-HOUSE here!!) with a bit of each of the 6 savory accompanying dishes. The pleasure here comes from the contrasts in flavor and texture -- some of the dishes were mild (the SAUTEED GREENS), others salty (those aforementioned, rockin' SOY BEANS, in a 2nd appearance), some spicy (OK, almost all were spicy...). Similarly, some were soft (the CURRIED POTATO), some firm and meaty (the KAALAY CHOLAY -- black chickpeas -- and BLACK-EYED PEAS), others crunchy (an awesome DAIKON PICKLE that combined sesame oil and Indian spices...yes really!) or even downright hard (SOY BEANS). Pair these with the flakey, dry baji, and you get a completely satisfying food-sensory experience.

The other important element of samay baji is a palm-size disc of fried-lentil awesomeness, called WOH. I'm not normally a fan of fried food, but this was really good. The outside was perfectly crispy, and the center was soft and flavorful. (Note you can this on its own on the menu, with an egg cooked on top of it -- it's a common Kathmandu street food, according to our waiter.) The woh itself is made from split black lentils (aka, urad daal) and split yellow lentils (masoor daal and moong daal). It's a winning combination, if you ask me.

PAN-FRIED and STEAMED VEGGIE MOMOS: OK, these might be my new favorite momos. (It's a tough call, though -- because the veggie momos at Tawa Nepali Hut, my prevailing fav', are so different that it's almost not fair to compare them with these ones.) I didn't try the steamed ones, but the pan-fried momos were juicy and soft, with a mega-flavorful filling. And the dough was just thick/ample enough, without leaving you feeling heavy. My only complaint: It was hard to identify which veggies were in the filling. Then again, why look a gift horse in the mouth? The momos came with a fiery red-chili-based sauce and a yellow-colored "chutney" that was tangy and complex -- definitely some tomato action going on there. Maybe some sesame oil, too?

CHICKEN CHATAMARI: These rice-flour pancakes were topped with chicken and black-eyed peas, with an egg cooked into the center). I didn't get to try the meat version, but our meat eaters seemed happy with it. The coolest part? It came with a small bowl of GOAT GRAVY.

VEGGIE CHATAMARI: This was the same rice-flour pancake topped with black-eyed peas, mashed-up potato, raw tomatoes & onions, with an egg cooked into the center. The pancake itself was thick -- like a South Indian uttapam -- and soft (almost dissolved in the center), but nice and crispy at the outer edges. I'll admit that I wasn't blown away by the flavors here. But I can imagine this being the perfect hangover/drinking food. It's heavy and dense -- both carby (potato on top of a rice-flour pancake) and protein-rich (black-eyed peas and a baked egg), with a mildly sweet, tomato-based(?) sauce.

VEGGIE THALI: The thali included CAULIFLOWER pieces cooked with what tasted essentially like Indian spices, KIDNEY BEANS in a spicy, Indian-inflected tomato sauce, more of those SAUTEED GREENS, and more of that awesome DAIKON PICKLE -- with a huge mound of BASMATI RICE in the center. On the side, there was also SPLIT-URAD DAAL, YOGURT, and more of that tangy TOMATO-ISH "CHUTNEY" that came with our momos. With the exception of the SPLIT-URAD DAAL, the dishes were good but not amazing -- though all were light and simple...like what you might find in an Indian/Nepali home.

About that DAAL: I can't stop raving about this! This could've come from my mother-in-law's (North Indian) kitchen. And it is what Daal Mukhani (or Maa ki Daal, if you're Punjabi) SHOULD be but never is in NYC restaurants. The broth was THIN and flavored SUBTLY with onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric, etc. (No heavy cream or other rich flavor shortcuts here!)

Even the PLAIN YOGURT deserves props. This was thin, watery, and way tangy -- pretty much what you find in Indian homes. (Not surprisingly, they make a pretty fine LASSI here, too.)

As with the samay baji, the key to a good thali is assembling a good balance of flavors and textures. In this case, the kitchen definitely succeeded. Each dish in our thali had a very distinct flavor and texture, and when I abandoned my inhibitions and used my hands to mix a bit of rice with the daal or yogurt and then mashed in a bit of one or another vegetable, I got something really satisfying and well-balanced. In this case, the sum was greater than its parts. And I'm OK with that.

And the bill for all this food? $13/person (including tax/tip).

(Photos of our meal here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?se...

)

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Woodside Cafe
64-23 Broadway, Queens, NY 11377

Mar 07, 2012
CitySpoonful in Outer Boroughs