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Can't seem to find authentic Sichuan in NYC - Where's the ma ้บป???

If you are really craving ma, in my mind fuqi feipian is the dish that cannot exist without it. Plus, given the ingredients (tongue/lung/tripe) and the fact that it is served cold, improper use of ma makes the dish meaningless / tasteless. I found it quite good at the Ollies on 42nd Street, though I also like the versions at S+T, Duoyi, etc. I agree with Jen and Andrew that you will get a better bang for your buck with a cold ma dish.

Then, if you find that significantly ma enough for you, order the mapa dou fu (there's no rule that says you have to order everything at the same time at a sichuan restaurant), but I find that a much harder dish to master.

Dec 12, 2010
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Dino's Restaurant and Bar in Astoria

I went last night (Saturday) and it was still very quiet. I thought it was pretty good, the Montenegrin salad that comes with the entress is awesome, like the best greek salad I've had in America.

There's a lot of craftsmanship -- the bread is great, the butter and oil are first rate, everything is cooked well. I had the pecenje which was nice and toothsome.

the one thing I didn't like was the physical menu -- it didn't seem to go with the decor and it didn't draw me to the food. It looks like the menu you would see at one of those autostrada cafes.

would be nice if they could get some traffic...

Dec 13, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Churrascarias, Rodizio, Brazilian Barbecue!

Mr. Miller's review is verbatim to a review for Samba Grill on UrbanSp00n.

29-17 23rd Ave

Samba Grill
29-17 23rd Ave, Queens, NY 11105

Oct 24, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Anybody been to Aureole lately?

I got the tasting menu -- and I wouldn't say you get out in half the time (unless it would usually take 6 hours!)

I'm a big fan of Christopher Lee's cooking -- I didn't realize how ballsy the parallel concept was until I tried it -- you basically have to present two dishes simultaneously that are close enough not to clash in taste while at the same time not overlapping with one another to closely in flavor profile.

I think the pair that best handled this was the sole -- different preparations - one fried, the other sauteed, one sour, the other sweet. The first course was caviar, one paired with peeky toe crab, the other with a liquid ravioli. Technically, very accomplished, but not the same level of contrast between the two plates.

I found the cooking to very precise and very subtle -- I'm not sure how well that will play as think people are gravitating more towards bigger, bolder flavors. But I really enjoyed seeing all the little elements of the plate come together.

The space looks old/hotelesque. The musak is rancid. The first three beer selections on the cocktail menu are Bud Light, Amstel Light, Heineken. And the four bread selections were dreary. So I am confused as to who the restaurant is designed to appeal to -- Midtown powerbrokers? Foodies? Tourists? Reminded me of the old Gray Kunz space in the TWC ...

I'd prefer to see Chris Lee do incredible work in a less fussy space ... will have to wait.

Sep 06, 2009
John_Keenan in Manhattan

Astoria Greek Style Food

I liked Akti when i went there -- though I think the whole write on the menu shtick is kind of silly. Everything was well prepared.

However, I don't think it's destination worthy. Although there are many Greeks, I don't think it's worth the schlep to Astoria just for Greek food anymore -- there are too many places in Manhattan putting out comparable food -- and it's not like the Astoria places are super cheap, either.

Fighting words, I know ...

Sep 02, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

CHEAP Restaurants in Astoria

Not Greek, but Bambino has great panini's for 8 or 9 bucks and Arepas Cafe is fantastic and cheap as well.

Also, you can grab a taco from the Taco Truck on 30th...

For Greek, you could probably share 4 mezes among two people at Agnanti for less than $40, I think.

Aug 20, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Moving to Astoria

thanks for the suggestions -- i'm pretty impressed by Astoria food wise so far! I've also become a passionate defender of Vesta -- it might be a destination worthy restaurant in Astoria.

Also destination worthy in my mind is Arepas Cafe-- I was skeptical, but man, that dough is incredibly tasty and fillings are phenomenal. I want to see a movie just so I have another excuse to eat there.
On the Greek side -- I'd been to Philoxenia before, liked it. Also have tried Aki, S'agapo, Olevia and Agnanti. All are good in their own way and have their own vibe -- what are the unusual dishes to order at Agnanti? I think the Taram is best at Agnanti btw.

Seva is a great Indian spot -- the naans are fantastic, pungent spices, everything feels fresh. staff is nice. and its byob so you same some cash.

Rudar was very nice for Istrian -- and it's fun to go the basement since you think you are entering some kind of private sanctuary. that's a must see.

Tried BareBurger -- want to make a few more trips before I render an opinion. I think Brick is an OK stand by place, but there are more compelling options.

BTW -- 30th Ave is the greatest food street in America -- From Vesta to the Trade Fair to the small greenmarkets, butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, outdoor cafes, taco truck, souvlaki cart and italian stores. There is simply put no other street that offers as much in such a compact space.

Aug 07, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Vesta - new Astoria Italian at 30th Av and 21st St

I went a 2nd time and I'm still a big fan. Had a special arugula, tomato, caper salad. Solid. Cold tomato soup -- I could go for some more acid, a bit sweet for me, but my wife loved it. Pork Milanese would be better if it were veal, but still very nice, maybe could use a sauce instead of salad, but I kind of like the salad option instead. Had the Festonati pasta with zuchinni pesto -- phenomenal. Had the chocolate dessert, very nice, not as good a baby jesus, but would be great if you didn't know of baby jesus. So on my scorecard, there have been no misses, and three destination worthy dishes -- baby jesus cake, roast chicken, zuchinni pasta.

I don't get argument that the menu is somehow homogenized american. that's simply false. It is not standard italian american fare as you would find, certainly not arthur avenue style or even some of the more classic italian you find in the city. I would say it's very modern italian -- Il melograno in Hell's Kitchen is probably the most similar Italian restaurant to Vesta I've been to -- and the owner there basically transported his restaurant from Italy to NYC.

If you go expecting "standard" Italian food, like I said you will be disappointed. If you think this will Battali style (or some kind of knock off like Roberto Passon), you will also be disappointed. If you expect Union Square Cafe style food, in a small, low key, Ft. Greene/Park Slope style setting, then you will be happy.

Aug 07, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Vesta - new Astoria Italian at 30th Av and 21st St

Stuart, I think you missed out. Tried Vesta tonight and I have to say I think it's one of the best haute barnyard restaurants in NYC. The baby jesus cake has to be tried, its spongy, sweat, caramelly and so good. I went with roast chicken -- fantastic -- similar to Irving Mill, but better, salty (which is key) with a crisp skin. Had their local greens salad with anchovy dressing and avocado -- basically a locavore caesar, very good.

I get the criticism of the pie, but if you want UPN or Keste then go there. For a local spot, I thought the pie was good -- we got the apple/pancetta pie so maybe that worked. It's probably more akin to a philo dough pie or the puffed pastry pies of Nice (though not as much fat). Wife had the tomato and mozz crostini, the homemade mozz was phenomenal.

yossdov, you captured the vibe perfectly -- six points on tap, of course. it's very general greene/five points/cookshop in its feel. as those happen to be my favorite spots, i'm glad theirs an outpost like this in astoria.

I think the mistake of this place is marketing it as "Italian." It's not Italian and when people come expecting NYC Italian food, they will be disappointed. It's Blue Hill style local oriented food with an Italian accent.

yossdov -- you have to go back and get the chicken and the baby jesus cake and report back -- I think you might change your mind :)

BTW, I didn't notice any music while I was there ...

Jul 17, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Must Eat In Astoria/Queens?

Sorry, new thread is here:

I compiled the listings of this thread into a list b/c when you start a new thread, there is always some guy who says, "why don't you do a search of Chowhound yada, yada, yada"

Jun 16, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Moving to Astoria

There was a must-eat Astoria list circa 2006-2007. I compiled into a list here

Jun 16, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Must Eat In Astoria/Queens?

Created a list of most of the places mentioned here as I am moving to Astoria and wanted a handy list reference. Thanks for the suggestions ahead of time and please update anything that is no longer open.

Jun 16, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Moving to Astoria

cool list -- do you know if there any way to search lists on Yelp?

Jun 16, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Moving to Astoria

Queenseats --

I took your recommendations and put them into a Chowhound list -- let me know if I put everything in right -- thanks much for your suggestions!

Jun 16, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs

Moving to Astoria

Hi --

I'm moving to Astoria in like 2 days. I was wondering if some CH folks would be so kind as to compile a top ten list of their favorites in Astoria -- I did one for Hell's Kitchen as a going away present using the new CH lists feature:

I'm basically looking for a variety of places to hit up -- truthfully, I'm a bit overwhelmed by the amount of food choices in Astoria and also the geography (I am also baffled by the numbering system which is straightforward, i know, but still baffles me!).

It's really pretty simple to create a list in CH and I find the Google map + list makes it much easier to put everything into context. As opposed to sifting through SE and CH which is what I have been doing for the last 3 weeks.

thanks for sharing!

Jun 15, 2009
John_Keenan in Outer Boroughs


Agree with lawgirl -- the way to go at Marea is multi-course, we did something similar, four top, we did two snacks + two crudo for our first course, 2 anti pasti next, two pastas for a third course and then four separate entrees.

entrees I think were the weakest -- my wife had the salmon which was good, the rest of us had the fish grilled with our choice of sauce. It wasn't that they were bad, it's just that they were small and compared to the earlier dishes, very familiar tasting.

The tuna crudo was OK -- the better choice was the marlin as the caviar really made it pop. Love the sardine snack and the chickpea fritters were great as well.

Did the octopus and the lobster antipasti -- the octopus didn't seem that small and it was very tender with a nice char. the rice was perfectly al dente. loved the lobster, like a caprese salad taken up a notch.

the pasta are very good - cod + spec -- wow, incredible rich and unctuous -- i actually preferred it to the sea urchin and crab pasta.

i was the only one who had dessert and the corn cakes with rhubarb -- this should be on a brunch menu, just fantastic.

I think the menu is too big, too sprawling, trying to do two many things at one time. I question how they will be able to maintain freshness for so many seafood items. Also, the columns - comical! there are tables that are nearly impossible to reach.

oh, and the chairs are very uncomfortable. and they still haven't fixed the ladies rooms doors (only one works).

May 23, 2009
John_Keenan in Manhattan

Your Favorite Szechuan Dishes in Wu Liang Ye, Szechuan Gourmet and/or Grand Sichuan

Also in midtown, the Ollies on 42nd street has a number of fine sichuan dishes -- and it's 50/50 laowai and hanren, so I think it's authentic, despite the fact that all of the waitresses are from Fujian. I like the husband and wife there, maybe even better than SGs (they slice the tongue and tripe very thin).

May 20, 2009
John_Keenan in Manhattan

Where to buy duck "fries"

aka duck testicles -- I'd like to a make a pasta with them as they do at Del Posto and Per Se. I have heard you can mail order from D'Artagan, but I'd like to see if there is someplace in NYC I can just pick them up.

any ideas in Chinatown or elsewhere?


Jan 08, 2009
John_Keenan in Manhattan

new in ny

In the neighborhood and traditionally southern American soul food is Jezebel (45th and 9th). you can also get take out by walking right into the kitchen.

There's also an outpost of Junior's in the neighborhood at 45th and Broadway for cheesecake

I would definitely try Daisy Maes in the hood, that would cover traditional bbq

I think Vinyl is worth the trip. And H&H (12th and 46th) is great, especially if you go early on a Saturday morning and can see the club kids falling out of Pescha across the street. Ask for Bagels that are hot out of the oven.

Hell's Kitchen also has a better selection of Mexican than the rest of NYC -- more high end (and endless waits) is Hell's Kitchen (47th and (9th). El Centro is also good for Nueva Mexicana (52nd and 9th).

Close to the Skyline are two excellent taco stands that are very authentic (some may think too much so) -- Tulcingo Del Valle (47th and 10th) and Tehuizingo (48th and 10th) and very inexpensive. I would go for any pork based taco -- carnitas, chorizo, or al pastor -- at either place. Also grab a tamarindo soda or a mexican coca cola.

44 and X is in the neighborhood, but I think overpriced -- try to reserve at Cookshop or Red Cat in Chelsea (20s and 10th Ave) -- I think they are the epitome of modern american cuisine and are reasonably priced (entrees in the 20s). You can either walk (1 mile through some nasty neighborhoods) or cab it down for less than 10 bucks.

The diners will tend to have larger portions, but a place like Hell's Kitchen or Cookshop are going to have Euro-sized portions. The huge portions are generally an outside of NYC phenomenon IMHO.

I agree with the suggestions of pizza and burgers.

Note: I think there are potentially better restaurants in some of these categories, but these are all relatively close to the Skyline. The LES trip sounds like a great idea as well.

Apr 25, 2007
John_Keenan in Manhattan

Best Italian in Hell's Kitchen?

Hmmm, I listed 14 restaurants, I think that is a pretty fair listing of Italian restaurants in HK. Any reason for your snarkyness or would you care to actually add anything to the conversation?

Nov 08, 2006
John_Keenan in Manhattan

Sushi in Hell's Kitchen

I'll second Shimizu. West Side is fairly mediocre but it is cheap. sushi of gari just opened in restaurant row.

Nov 07, 2006
John_Keenan in Manhattan

Where to eat in Hell's Kitchen???

Agree for the most part (i must be the only person who doesn't _hate_ blue point). would add under Great Esca and Taboon. I like Chelsea Bistro for Burgers most of the time -- I think Island Burger can be a bit dry -- but their black and white shake at Island is pretty tasty. I like Oleang as well which is funny since Pam Real and Wondee are much better known. I think 44 and X is way overpriced for what it is and i've never loved Eatery or Whym though my girlfriend is a fan of both. I'll second Vinyl and add El Centro as well. Hell's Kitchen is great food and great deal and a great long line though you can reserve for pre theatre ... and shimizu is the best choice for sushi, I'm not fond of west side sushi and haven't tried sushi of gari yet.

Nov 07, 2006
John_Keenan in Manhattan

Best Italian in Hell's Kitchen?

Roberto Passon, Maria Pia, Putanesca, and Cara Mia are all owned by the same people -- they also own film center cafe (which on an unrelated note was just renovated). Also in the hood are Vice Versa (on 53 next to Maria Pia) as well as La Locanda (at 9th/50th), 44SW and L'allegria; Becco (Lidia Bastianich restaurant), Barbetta, Tuscan Steak, and Tremonti on restaurant row; Esca (Mario and Lidia's son and David Pasternak) ... I think that's all of them (and Mangia e Beve, but that is strictly for bacherlette parties).
Esca is in a class by itself, I think Passon/Putanesca/Cara Mia all can be above average and are a good price point. I was underwhelmed at L'allegria and La Locanda, Vice Versa feels a little dated, and I haven't made it to the restaurant row italians, though Barbetta is the oldest Italian restaurant in NYC I believe -- I think they've been around 100 years or so...

Nov 07, 2006
John_Keenan in Manhattan