Flushing sure has a lot of good Dongbei restaurants these days. Tonight I joined a small group of Chowhounders at Rural (興順逹) (the Chinese name seems to be one of those names chosen for its "good omen" quality and has nothing to do with the concept of anything rural). I thought I had eaten there before a while back, but when I walked in, I realized my memory had confused it with the restaurant next door. There is a reason I never blogged about the other one... Rural, on the other hand, is very good.
It's great to be able to try a lot of dishes, and, as is to be expected, there were some real hits as well as some near-misses. As anyone with a passing acquaintance with this blog will have gleaned by now, I am most definitely a carnivore, tending to be rather less interested in seafood. The scallion conch (葱油螺片 - cōng yóu luó piàn) is one of the better conch dishes I've tried, but I think I'm just not destined to be terribly fond of conch. Some pieces were tender, others fairly chewy... overall, probably the least rubbery conch preparation I've had, with a nice fresh, briny flavor.
Another near-miss was the "Leek with Urechis Unicinctus", or stir-fried sea intestine (sea worms) with chives (韭菜海肠 - jiǔ cài hǎi cháng). This is a dish from Quindao (the owners of Rural are, I believe, from Lianoning) and it was much better at the now-defunct M & T. Still, not bad - like chewy squid-flavored hollow tubes. The general consensus was that the chives were nicer than the sea intestine.
The "Sarony Cumin Flounder" (孜然龍利 - zī rán long lì), however, was fantastic (it has been suggested that "sarony" is a misspelled "savory"... I have no clue). A whole flounder is covered in a dry cumin spice mixture (reminiscent of a spicier version of Lao Dong Bei's Xinjiang lamb chops), then wok-fried. The fish, enchantingly, emerges in the shape of the wok. I would happily eat that spice mixture on almost anything.
Dry Bean Curd with Spicy Pepper (尖椒干豆腐 - jiān jiāo gān dòu fǔ) is a very good version of this typical northern Chinese dish, with the welcome addition of some ground pork.
The stir-fried garlic sprouts (蒜薹 - suàn tái) was one of my favorite dishes on the table. It's not on the menu, but the hostess is happy to recommend things they have that day, and I'm very glad this was on offer. The firm-yet-tender sprouts are stir-fried with bits of beef and some oyster sauce. Delicious.
The hóng shāo ròu dùn yún dòu (紅燒肉炖芸豆) was, predictably, my favorite dish of the evening. Cubes of pork belly stewed with runner beans, chunks of potato, garlic, and dà pí (大皮 - mung bean starch noodles) - it's marvelous, and, in the words of the hostess, very Dongbei-style. Not on the menu, but definitely worth asking for.
I want to eat this dish again, but I think I'll probably wait until winter to do it - it's very warming.
Cold appetizers were good, and an apparent specialty of the house. Crystal Pig Skin (pig skin in aspic - 水晶猪皮凍 - shuǐ jīng zhū pí dòng) was on every table but ours (in fact, one table had nothing but several of the cold appetizers). Preserved Egg with Tofu (皮蛋豆腐 - pí dàn dòu fǔ) was very mild and comforting:
Conversely, the Ox Tongue and Tripe with Spicy Pepper Sauce (夫妻肺片 - fū qī fèi piàn) was a bolder version than usual, heavy on the Sichuan peppercorn and soy sauce, and incorporating a wider variety of intestinal tract bits than what's normal for this dish (notice the honeycomb tripe):
Rounding out the feast was an assortment of excellent dumplings, a good deal at 6 bucks for 20:
I'd suggest going early or late - the restaurant is quite small - only 6 tables - and there seems to be a group of hardcore regulars. Partway through our meal, we were given the quite definite impression by an arriving group that we had taken "their" table.
All in all, an excellent meal. I'm not sure how often I'll get back here, though - the existence of the wonderful Lao Dong Bei means most of my northern Chinese cravings will be satisfied there first.
42-85 Main St., Flushing 11355
(7 train to Main St.-Flushing, then 8 blocks south on Main St.)