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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lin's Taiwanese Gourmet (CLOSED)

(It's now a place called Taiwanese Specialties, by all accounts, a better restaurant.)  Last night I decided it was time to try an altogether new (to me) cuisine, so I headed to Elmhurst to a restaurant I had walked past many times before, but had yet to visit: Lin's Taiwanese Gourmet.

Since I had never had any Taiwanese food before, I have nothing to compare it to. But I liked it, and will go back--which already puts it in a category above 99% of the restaurants I try. Went mostly with the more famous dishes, like oyster pancake (excellent, much like Korean pa jeon) and "3-cup chicken" (the menu calls it "chicken with ginger and sesame oil"--also excellent, and unlike any chicken dish I've had before... I could develop serious cravings for this one). We also tried an appetizer called "fermented pork". Quite tasty, although a bit difficult to determine exactly how and why it was "fermented". It appeared to be a pork chop marinated in something that perhaps includes fermented rice wine, then fried up (it comes out red) and cut into strips. There are two dishes on the menu translated as "shredded beef with chili pepper" (with a couple of different Chinese characters in the name, and a difference of a dollar in price). When asked what the practical difference was, the waitress said the more expensive one had, additionally, hot yellow peppers (?--I think she may have meant yellow chives, but I'm not sure). We opted for that one, and it was great.

I'm looking forward to returning so I can try the stinky tofu, which my friend would not have liked at all. It's a bit on the pricey side, but not ridiculous, and it's open LATE--until 2 a.m., I believe.

Lin's Taiwanese Gourmet
84-02 Broadway, Elmhurst 11373

(G, R, or V train to Elmhurst Ave. or Grand Ave.-Newtown. It's about halfway between the two.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Northeast Taste Chinese Food (CLOSED)

There has been some internet buzz of late among Chinese food aficionados about a new Dongbei-style restaurant in Flushing that sounded like just my kind of place. A couple of evenings ago, I was able to gather the faithful--Jose and Jennifer--and give it a try. I'm happy to report my instincts were correct... Northeast Taste Chinese Food is my kind of place!

Upon being seated, we were brought a complimentary plate of pickled cabbage that looked and tasted very much like a slightly sweet kimchi. Not surprising, since the area is literally just above Korea: Dongbei apparently refers to the three northeastern provinces of China--Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang. I felt compelled to order many of the dishes I had already read about, and they all lived up their hype. The "stupid chicken" was a hearty stew of pieces of what must be a freshly-killed free-range chicken (it certainly didn't taste like any chicken I've bought at the grocery store lately) with wild brown mushrooms and mung bean noodles in a broth seasoned with star anise. A lovely winter dish. Boiled dumplings filled with pork and sour cabbage were spectacular, and a huge hit with our trio. The fresh leek and pork pastry was delightful--hearty and delicate at the same time. "Stuffed minced mutton in fish" is a slightly misleading name for the dish that arrives at ones table: a whole fried fish, covered in a light brown sauce with chunks of mutton. I'm a big fan of fish preparations with meat (okay, I'm a big fan of almost anything prepared with meat!), but I have to say that tasty is it was, it's no match for Little Pepper's fish with spicy minced pork. Similarly, I would probably change the name of "sauteed pine nuts with corn" to "sauteed corn with pine nuts". Still, the dish was a delicious contrast to all the meat and fish.

But the most astonishing dish--and that is not too strong a word--was the "sauteed egg with egg". Egg is cooked slowly, while being stirred constantly, until thick--almost solid, but very creamy. The mound of egg presented on the platter retains the shape of the bottom of the wok, and is topped with a light brown sauce with shrimp. It is ambrosia.

Northeast Taste Chinese Food
43-18 Main St., Flushing 11355

(7 train to Main St.-Flushing, then 9 blocks south on Main St.)

Fiza Diner

As a Manhattan dweller, I keep hoping to find great, cheap ethnic joints a bit closer to home than, say, Flushing. Instead, I find outrageously good food even farther away. This evening I tasted the most delicious Pakistani I have tried in the course of my wanderings so far in the Glen Oaks/Bellerose/Floral Park section of Queens, a few blocks before it turns into Nassau County, at Fiza Diner.

It's little more than a hole-in-the-wall, and it's definitely no-frills (of the Dera variety): the prepared dishes are on display at the counter, and kebabs are grilled to order in the back. But Michael, Elizabeth and I all literally moaned with pleasure when we tried the chicken tikka kebab--tender, juicy, and expertly spiced. Apparently, we were all in the mood for chicken... in addition to the kebab, we ordered chicken tikka masala (perhaps the most delicious I've had anywhere), chicken korma (korma with a kick--fantastic), and chilli chicken (all those peppers looked more intimidating than they actually were--sweet and delicious), and even a chicken roll as an appetizer (rather like a deep-fried, Indian-spiced spring roll filled with ground chicken--quite tasty). A couple of vegetables did make their way to the table, too: a good chana masala (chickpeas) and Elizabeth assured me--because I DETEST okra--that the bhindi masala was delicious. Purely in the interest of research, of course, we felt compelled to try three of the breads, all of which were fantastic: garlic naan (best I've ever tried), onion naan, and keema naan.

As if the great food weren't enough to make one very happy, it's unbelievably cheap, too. I'll be back, especially since I'm a big fan of bhatura bread (one doesn't find that everywhere) and didn't notice it on the menu until after we had already ridiculously over-ordered!

A second trip with Jose and Jennifer yielded a couple of things (besides a great meal): the information that they only serve bhatura bread for breakfast (dashing any hopes I had of ever trying it), and.... pictures!

Top left to right: salad/garnish, rice, and chicken tikka masala (which identically reproduced the "moan effect" from the first visit--EVERY time any of us took a bite of it), with a spicy lentil dal just below it. Bottom left to right: chicken tikka kebab, naan, and spinach with potatoes.

Naan, dal, and aloo sag (spinach with potatoes):

Kebabs--the stupendous chicken tikka, and the delightful new discovery, chapli (spiced ground meat):

Keema naan and garlic naan:

Fiza Diner
259-07 Hillside Ave., Floral Park 11004
(F train to 179th St., then the Q43 bus out Hillside Ave.)