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Chengdu Heaven -- the best Sichuan food in a tiny basement stall at the 41-28 Main St Mall, Flushing

Do you or anyone else here knows which days the head chef is present? I was there Monday and he wasn't working. It's crucial knowledge for those of us who take the train from Manhattan all the way to Flushing just to eat.

Apr 30, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

I need Rego Park & Flushing Recommendations

I am back in my apartment in the East Village after staying in Queens for four days. But I didn't quite stay in the neighborhood that I had sought dining recommendations here for. To those who responded with Rego Park must-visits, I thank you very much and promise to not play truant the next time I am in Queens. I put up in Jackson Heights instead.

On the first day of my visit, a Friday, I took the 7 train from 82nd to Flushing Main St. I went straight to Spicy & Tasty. I had planned on wringing the most value out of their six dollar lunch special. But after a couple of quick vertical scans of their lunch special menu - from top to bottom and then again from bottom to top - I was disappointed to not find a single lamb dish. Then I looked at the rest of the menu and found one of the two must-have lamb dishes that I had jotted down. The shredded lamb in something wasn't listed. The waitress didn't know what I was talking about. So I ordered the lamb in chile pepper - the other must-have. It was 12.95. It was a generous plate. It tasted well. But after finishing half of the plate, monotony set in. I think it's best to have company to share each others' big but different orders. But I have a feeling that if indeed it was a knockout taste I'd have wolfed down the whole thing and not whine about boredom later. I did finish my meal. As also the ginger and garlic that came with the lamb. I had paid for the roasted chili peppers so I ate most of those too. Then I went and looked for the stalls in the basement of the Golden Mall. I wanted to know where I was going to lunch the next day. I found both the Chengdu ( # 31 ) and the Xian ( # 36 ) stalls. On the way back I broke my journey at the very next stop - Shea Stadium. I swam for an hour in the Olympic-size Flushing Meadows pool. The pool is lovely! And I made it back just in time to Jackson Heights. Just in time to not have my name cited in the next day's Queens Chronicle as the culprit behind the horrible defecation accident that cut short the Friday afternoon swim of hundreds of Queens residents in the brand new pool. It's at times like these that I am reminded not everything goes wrong in my life.

That night I waited in line for an arepa and a chuso by the arepa lady on Roosevelt ave and 78th st. Both were tasty. The next day I returned to Flushing for lunch. I went to the Xian stall. The owner spoke good English. He recommended the ' Lamb Bone In '. I had one of that besides a lamb burger and a lamb noodle soup. This was a very satisfying meal. Loved it!

On Saturday evening I was in Brooklyn to attend a house party. There I made friends with a lady who coincidentally lives in Jackson Heights. The next day we lunched together at Sripraphai. We shared the papaya salad as well as two items from their seasonal menu: a Tom Yum with coconut slices soup and a whole fried red snapper. It was not a bad meal. I choose those words because I wasn't in heaven as I had expected to be. I relish Thai food and had read countless times that Sripraphai is the best. Maybe I should have ordered the steamed whole fish. How different was Sripraphai's papaya salad from that of any other Thai restaurant? I don't know. The soup was the best of three.

Sunday evening I played lazy using the downpour outside as an excuse to not dine at Pio Pio as I had planned to.

On Monday I reversed order and went swimming first in Flushing Meadows to be followed by lunch at Chengdu. I didn't wish to be punished by the Gods for being too cocky about my good fortune the last time. I went to one of the two ladies at Chengdu and pointed to the $ 9.99 sign. I had learned from Brian S' posts on the Chengdu thread that this was the fish & tofu. She said something in one of the Chinese languages. She then helplessly pointed me to an English speaking customer. He told me there was no cook on Mondays but insisted I have the beef soup that he was slurping. I tried to get away saying ' I don't eat beef '. He said ' she'll make it for you with vegetables '. I said ' it's Ok I'll come back tomorrow when the cook is back'. The lady agreed but the customer still tried to cajole me a few more times. He was being hospitable and usually I am very pliant. But the lamb burger from two stalls down was calling me back. I needed just an excuse to go back to the Xian stall. And the absence of the star cook at Chengdu was the perfect pretext for me to taste my beloved lamb burger at Xian again. Does anyone here know which days the cook is working at the Chengdu stall? I had also read praises of the Biang Bian noodles at Xian. So I ordered the noodles besides the burger. I had the burger first. Then the noodles. I left half the noodles uneaten and then ordered another lamb burger. I just don't get what is so unearthly about those Biang Biang noodles. I didn't like them.

The lamb burger and the lamb noodle soup at Xian together make an unforgettable meal. I am hooked. I now have my at-least-once-a-week trip to Flushing planned - swimming in the spic and span pool in Flushing Meadows followed by a hearty lunch at the Xian stall.

Apr 30, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

I need Rego Park & Flushing Recommendations

Thanks JFores for taking the time. I'll be spending most of my eating time in Flushing. So your tips help. I am hoping all these places are a short hop from the Flushing # 7 train stop.

Apr 24, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

I need Rego Park & Flushing Recommendations

Thanks. I have been to Tangra Masala once before. It's good to go in a group. Everyone here seems to like Istanbul and I have read Chowhounds recommend Pio Pio before. So will have to try them both.

Apr 24, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

I need Rego Park & Flushing Recommendations

Thanks Janie. That's very kind of you. I'd really try to get to the Israeli grocery store and buy some specialties from Israel.

Apr 24, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

I need Rego Park & Flushing Recommendations

But doesn't that mean I'll have to finish each small plate by myself rather than being able to share it? That way I'll end up full soon and without tasting many of their dim sum offerings.

Apr 24, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

I need Rego Park & Flushing Recommendations

I'll be visiting Queens this weekend. Actually I'll be staying in Rego Park while some visiting Midwesterners make my apartment in the East Village their home.

What do I eat? Where do I go? I want good food. I am not looking for ambiance or service. Just good food. Also I'd like to do dim sum in Flushing this Sunday. Or should I not do dim sum because I'll be by myself? Anyone care to join? I have a feeling JFores has all my answers. Jfores.........

Apr 23, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

Deshi Biryani on a second thought

I wrote here about my first visit to Deshi Biryani.

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44750...

I had their goat curry special then. Even against my exacting Indian food standards I couldn't find a fault in the meal. So I went back. Again for lunch. Good value and all that. But lightning didn't strike twice. This time I had the Ruhi Fish Curry special. Goddamn America! Errr....I mean Goddamn Deshi Biryani. The lunch threw me back to my undergrad years in India. Not in a getting-laid-every-night way. But in a dorm-food-is-crap kind of way. Really. The curry looked like an oil spill sample from the Pacific destined for some environmental lab and awaiting a toxic content report. There was water. There was oil floating on it. And the red could have been the color of the lifeblood left behind by some departing marine critter. And taste? No taste. It was lazy cooking. There was potato galore, both in the fish and in the mixed vegetable side dish. It's the damn potatoes tasting funny and abounding in an unwelcome space - mixed vegetables dish - that infuriated me. You fixed that kind of culinary smoke and mirrors in my dorm. To shortchange undemanding students preoccupied with more important things, like girls. As for the Dal, I don't know. Maybe that's how Bangla dal is supposed to taste. Rajasthanis in North India do Dal the best. Punjabis too but theirs can be heavy. But not all was lost. The accompanying salad was fresh and lemony. And despite the menu pricing the fish special at $8.95, I was asked for only $ 5.95. Maybe I shouldn't be complaining after all.

Apr 23, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

Crabcakes

A few days ago I stepped into Westville in the East Village for lunch. I had earlier passed by it several times. I live only a few blocks away. It was always packed to the gills with beautiful people in snug clothing. When I went to Westville for lunch on a weekday it was sparsely populated. I had the crabcake burger. I loved it. I hadn't had a million crabcakes or even a hundred before, but this one was the best that far. Sweet and savory. The crust rightly charred. Now I am not sure if it was all crab meat or crab meat adulterated with bread crumbs. Is there someone else here who has been to Westville and had the crabcake? If so, do you agree with me about the relative superiority of the crabcake there? Am I a consummate or at least a potential crabcake connosieur?

Apr 21, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Manhattan

Best 5 restaurants in Jackson Heights?

I too am beholden to the romance of discovering and the thrill of narrating my choicest meals in the most unlikely places - places that can hardly be called restaurants. Like the fried chicken at a strip club or the banana pudding out of the kitchen attached to a funeral home. So I am disappointed because I have to agree with Missmasala. The Flushing Hindu Temple's food isn't a gustatory revelation. Now the South Indian food at the Hindu Temple in Bridgewater, NJ is another thing. It's good! In my opinion the topmost South Indian food is consistently found at Saravaanas in Murray Hill. The food there is even better than that at the two cheek by jowl cafes on Newark Avenue in Jersey City.

OK never been to a funeral home and hardly been to strip clubs but you get the point;) Right?

Mar 17, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

Best LUNCH SPECIALS in QUEENS!

You have been talking about the best lunch deals in Queens and you don't even mention Deshi Biryani? As of now Deshi Biryani's $5.99 Goat Curry and $8.99 Rohu Fish Curry aren't just unbeatable lunch deals in Queens but they are two of the very best lunch values in all of New York City!

Here's the link to the post I wrote after my lunch at Deshi Biryani less than a week ago;

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/447501

But those of you here who like and frequent Indian lunch buffets, well you might not want to read that post. To put it politely, I am not fond of the purveyors of Indian buffets. I believe buffets have almost irreparably harmed the cause of Indian food.

Mar 17, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

Deshi Biryani -- second best Bengali in Jackson Heights

Indeed the fish curry is now $ 8.99. I am happy that the owner would rather raise the price to keep up with his cost of the special fish than unfreeze an inferior fish and serve it for the same price.

Milan is the friendly owner of Deshi Biryani and I had a good chat with him. One of my ( and others' ) assumptions about operating a restaurant in an out of the way neighborhood like Jackson Heights is that the restaurant will save lots of money on rent. Well Milan told me that's not true. His current rent for example is $ 7,000 a month and he told me with confidence he can lease a similar place in Manhattan for no more than $ 9,000 a month. But he charges slightly less than ten bucks for a tandoori entree that he can easily sell for twenty dollars in Manhattan. Now you do the math.

Milan also told me that his lunch specials hardly make him any money. I believe him. He hopes the $5.99 lunch specials will lure us back for more at dinner time and that we'll bring a platoon of heavy eating friends along. That's when he will have his monetary comeuppance!

Mar 14, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

Deshi Biryani -- second best Bengali in Jackson Heights

Thank you. When you go to the Punjab Deli try the roti instead of the white rice to go with your vegetables and legumes. Every non-Indian gets the rice. I am not sure why. Although rice goes well with Rajma.

Mar 14, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

Deshi Biryani -- second best Bengali in Jackson Heights

Thank you JFores. I actually have tried Spicy Mina's on yours and other Chowhounders' recommendations. A few months ago at Mina's I had fish kofta balls for lunch. It was fantastic! When they took their time to bring my order out, I knew it was going to be the real thing. And so it was! I haven't been back there though. I'd like to.

Thanks for the other two Bengali food tips too. I'll make it there too someday.

Mar 14, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs

Deshi Biryani -- second best Bengali in Jackson Heights

Red chilli powder is omnipresent in Indian food. It's also essential in Indian cooking. Today I trekked to Jackson Heights to buy my refill. I'll need it to make my signature fixture at the dining table - cracked wheat stew with zucchini, spinach and tomatoes - or to just fix omelette for breakfast.

Before I set off for Jackson Heights from Manhattan, I aspired to a decent lunch to coincide with my red chilli powder shopping. I turned to Chowhound expecting a few can't-go-wrong recommendations of Mexican and Thai eateries to pick from. I am aware, sadly, of the counterintuitively bad Indian food in the heavily South Asian Jackson Heights. I began and ended my search on this very post. Assured by a majority of the posters here, I headed to Deshi Biryani in Jackson Heights for lunch.

Since I believe weekday lunch specials are a great value, I ordered one of Deshi Biryani's $5.99 specials. It was goat curry with a side each of dal and sauteed cabbage along with rice and salad. I didn't leave a speck of unfinished food behind! The meat was tender, the gravy potent and the dal redolent of fresh coriander. The salad was a fesh salad not a fistful of only lettuce and that too wilted.

Ladies and gentleman of Chowhound I am happy to declare the $ 5.99 goat curry special at Deshi Biryani a peerless value. I am also happy to compose my very first Chowhound post. What will I bring to the ( dining ) table? I'll start with an infant list of best lunch values in New York City. I'll pinpoint the pick of the restaurant's specials. So what will be different about my list? The answer is in my handle. I'll talk only about substantial and quality lunches that are a great deal. This will rule out the cookie you can buy for under ten dollars at the Four Seasons. Don't believe me? Just look for posts under ' Cheap Eats '. Even though I'll often overlook the ambiance and sometimes live with the bad service, I'll never compromise on the freshness of the ingredients. So what does the list look like? It's still very short and quite limited to Manhattan. In no particular order;

Sliced Salmon with Vegetables and Spicy Bean Curd at Doyers Vietnamese Restaurant in Chinatown, Manhattan - $ 5.95

South Indian Vegetarian Thali at Saravaanas in Murray Hill, Manhattan - $ 9.50

Goat Curry Special at Deshi Biryani in Jackson Heights, Queens - $ 5.99

Lamb Harissa soup + Chicken Tagine with Couscous at Cafe Mogador in East Village, Manhattan - $ 8.50

Soup + Shrimp in Chili Sauce at Fuleen's Seafood in Chinatown, Manhattan - $ 5.00

Saag + Rajma + Dal with either Rice or Roti at Punjab Deli between 1st ave and Ave A on Houston Street, Manhattan - $ 5.00

This last one is available anytime of the day and not just for lunch.

One more thing. My list of ' substantial ' lunches will never include no goddamn Indian buffet. In fact if I could, I'd ban those damn Indian buffets all together. But before I do that I'll make their peddlers lunch out of their own all-you-can-eat trash for seven days straight as punishment.

I hope my fantasy of inflicting cruelty on my ' own people ' will clear any doubts of ethnic bias on my part. I am born and raised in India. In my ten years in America I have tasted food from all over the world. I am confident I now have a reasonably refined palate. So trust me when I say that Indian cuisine is one of the finest. Unfortunately it's also one of the most underrated. Two factors contribute to that dismal state - an abysmal lack of creativity on the part of owners and chefs, and a glaring omission of the prodigious repertoire of Indian cuisine.

So friends I'll also from time to time comment on foods Indian. And feel free to add to my list. Just avoid the nine dollar cookie at the Four Seasons!

Mar 12, 2008
MostSalmonForYourRupee in Outer Boroughs