>> Thursday, June 7, 2018

104-02 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 674-6503

Where once sat Queen's only Michelin-starred restaurant, Danny Brown, now sits Rimtin, an upscale but casual Mediterranean spot. Open for about a year, Rimtin is long past the point of finding and ironing out any opening-day wrinkles and sculpting the most appropriate menu. Lutsy and I have had it on our shortlist for quite some time, and we finally got around to going. And I wish they had hired me on as a consultant first. 

The interior of Rimtin is a decidedly nice one and on the surface, they would appear to have done everything right. But there are all of these tiny mistakes that add up and are especially odd given how this isn't the owner's first restaurant. Rimtin only just got a liquor license, so there's no wine list. They just ask you what varietal you'd like a glass of. That's fine, but it's been a year and the central design element is a big fancy bar area. There's no website, which would be fine fifteen years ago, but is just bizarre these days. There isn't any music playing, so unless the whole place is busy, your conversation is projected for all to hear. The bathroom is clean, but once you pay attention, you see that it's been painted very sloppily. In the dining area, the left side of the room has bright lighting while the right side is shrouded in darkness, which is completely nonsensical. For some reason there's a television on the back wall, which I suppose could be for... I dunno, ESPN?

Once we placed our order the waitress, who was extremely nice, brought out a warm basket of delicious bread and some olive oil, which was promptly devoured. We ordered two appetizers to share, Stuffed Grape Leaves and Zucchini Pancakes. The grape leaves were a must-order. Once I saw them on the menu there wasn't even a conversation to be had. And they were good. Very good. Sweet and light, with a little tartness from the lemon juice, I can safely say that they were a good choice. Far and away better than anything you'd get at a supermarket. The zucchini pancakes were also good, but not at the same level. They were a little too charred for my taste and relied too heavily on the yogurt sauce to have much flavor. But for a fried dish, they didn't feel fatty and I enjoyed the illusion of eating something healthy.

We both opted for lamb entrees, as lamb tends to be a bit more rare on restaurant menus. I really don't understand this, as Americans love beef, and lamb is quite beefy, but such is life. Lutsy got the Adana Kebab, a pair of ground lamb cylinders served with a scoop of rice pilaf, a small side salad, a grilled pepper, and half of a grilled tomato.  The other half of that grilled tomato found its way onto my plate, the Lamb Shish, which is quite literally the exact same dish but with cubed lamb instead of ground lamb. The adana kebab was too dry, which resulted in a rather flat taste, so I don't really recommend that one. The lamb shish (kebab) was, on the other hand, quite good. Tender, medium rare, flavorful.

Both dishes had an optional side of yogurt, which we both went for. I shit you not, Rimtin gives you what appears to be two cups of yogurt. Therefore, our meal included four cups of yogurt. Unless you plan on taking it home to throw granola in come morning, I highly discourage ordering this particular supplement.

We both enjoyed our experience at Rimtin, and I fully plan to return and try the chicken and other dishes offered here, but this leads me to my final critique. I know that when I do so, I'll get a small side salad, a tomato, a pepper, and some rice pilaf. And that's fine. But it's not better than fine and it will never be better than fine. Because it's lazy. Am I asking too much because this is Queens, not Manhattan? No, and fuck you for saying that and fuck you for giving outer-borough restaurateurs reasons to go to Brooklyn instead. 

In the end, I like Rimtin and they can expect to see more of my money in the future. They're a comfortable spot with lovely staff, a decent kitchen, and they are relatively inexpensive. But I'd like to see some imagination on the menu, to be handed a decent wine list, to hear some music on the speakers, and maybe one day they can get around to fixing the lighting.

Expect to pay around $10 for an appetizer and $20 for an entree, on average.Rimtin is not on OpenTable.



>> Wednesday, April 11, 2018

107-12 70th Road
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-4600

If there's one thing that this blog advocates for, it's for the inclusion of more restaurants to the area. Good ones. Fun ones. Cool ones. Ones that might make people in Manhattan or Brooklyn go "hey, nice." Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Numero 28 Pizzeria, the rather highly regarded minichain that sells upscale wood-fired pizza recently opened a Forest Hills location and I decided to go... four times.

Numero 28 is sort of like a cross between the gastropub feel of Station House and the Italian restaurant feel of Tuscan Hills with a thin crust pizza menu a la Nick's. The exposed brick walls, Edison bulbs, and glowing ball table lamps are youthful and cool, but the dark woods and red leather seating along the wall between the bar and the open hearth wood-fire oven lends an upper-class atmosphere to the place. As a result, Numero 28 is able to appeal across age demographics, alienating no one but those with little kids.

On none of my four trips to Numeo 28 did I order standard Italian entrees, so if that's what you're looking for a review of, then I hate to disappoint you, but you're gonna be disappointed. I did, on the other hand, try two of their appetizers and both were very good. The first appetizer, the Polpo Alla Griglia, a grilled octopus leg with Brussels sprouts over a butternut squash puree was more than very good. It was amazing. It was tender, lightly charred, exploded with flavor, and both Lutsy and I absolutely loved it. The other appetizer I tried, on a subsequent excursion with my parents, was the Sicilian Rice Balls. The rice balls, which are filled with a meat sauce and mozzarella cheese, are about halfway between the size of a golf ball and a tennis ball,  come in a group of three, and are served in a little bowl of sweet marinara sauce. We all liked them very much, and I'd certainly get them again. My parents were happy to have tried them but weren't swooning. "I prefer the ones we had in Sicily," my mom remarked. First world problems notwithstanding, I predict that you'll enjoy them.

In no particular order, I tried seven pizzas from Numero 28. All were good even if I didn't like them. Case in point, the Marinara pie was particularly awful, but that's my fault because I was a schnook and didn't read the description. Others out there might say "hey, this is loaded with anchovies and capers and doesn't come burdened with pesky cheese? Who could ask for more?!" That said, I'm sure it was a good pizza. It's just that I'm the wrong market for such a dish. On the other side of the spectrum, the Numero 28, a white pie with speck and mushrooms, was insanely good. I wish they made a red pie version because, at the end of the day, red pies are where my heart is. Speaking of white pies, aside from the Numero 28 the white pies, across the board, were weaker than the red ones. The Salsiccia e Friarielli pie, which comes with spicy Italian sausage and broccoli rabe (gotta have my dark greens), and the Pere, which is a Gorgonzola pie topped with walnuts and thin spices of pear were both just okay. The Salsiccia was understandably bitter, but also kinda dull. I'd absolutely get it again, mind you, but I'd want to get it with a companion who is ordering a red pie so we could split the two. Meanwhile the Pere, which one would expect to be sweet, wasn't. Indeed, it was somewhat bland. I really can't recommend the Pere, but Numero 28 can fix it by adding a drizzle of honey and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. THEN I think it'd be great.

The Margherita pizza is the closest to a standard plain pie that I saw on the Numero 28 menu, and it's not going to disappoint you. The marinara is sweet, there's just enough fresh basil to give you that amazing aroma without turning the pie into smelling like a dry goods store, and they don't skimp on the cheese. Skimping on the cheese is the biggest threat to a good margarita pie and Numero 28 loads the pie down with fior de latte (the go-to cheese on most of their pizzas). If you want something with a little bit more oomph, the Fricchettone and Rustica pies are great. The Fricchettone is loaded up with kale, sausage, basil, and two kinds of cheese and honestly is just heaven on a plate. The similarly optioned Rustica uses green pepper, which I thought made the pizza a little less complex and interesting on the tongue. On the plus side, it's easier to pronounce, especially after two glasses of malbec.

Margherita (top) and Pere (bottom) pies
Fricchettone pie
Numero 28 pie
Marinara pie
Rustica pie
Salsiccia e Friarielli pie
Having now sampled a rather large swath of Numero 28's pizza menu, I can state unequivocally that they know what they're doing. The pizza is most similar to Nick's in theory, but not in practice. Nick's is where I'd go for a more traditional pie if I want that pie in this style. Numero 28 is more specialty-focused. There's no basic cheese pie; no pepperoni pie; no plain white pie. And while they have a "toppings" list where one could presumably build the pie of their choice, since there's no basic cheese pie to build it on, the toppings section seems like a waste of menu real estate. Plus, as I alluded to before, Numero 28 isn't really kid-friendly. I'm not saying that they'll kick you out, but Nick's with it's bright lights and big booths is way way better for families with children.

Side notes to the management: please lose the TV over the bar. NASCAR and negronis do not mix.

Each individual pie is about 12 inches in diameter, which is enough for one person to eat without stuffing themselves to bursting, and costs an average of $17. They also make pies for "couples" that are bigger, and "family" sized pies that are about a yard long.



>> Thursday, March 8, 2018

72-38 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 520-5199

A late lunch brought Lutsy and I to Xin Taste a few days ago. We wanted cheap, good, fast, and not burgers. Neither of us had been to Xin Taste, the pulled noodle spot on Austin Street. Pulled noodles have become quite the trend in the last year, with restaurants popping up across the city; Chinese cuisine's answer to ramen. It makes sense. I won't get into politics, but life ain't cheap. Hence, the rise in demand for dining options that are. Enter Xin Taste. Huge portions and not a burger in sight.

Xin taste is small. It has just a few tables and one long counter. If you're like me, your inner nerd emerged began and you immediately thought of Blade Runner. If only it was pouring rain, pitch black out, and the cars flew. Definitely grab a seat along the wall, watch the chef through the window make the noodles from scratch and whip them like jump-rope stretching them out, and enjoy the coziness of eating at the only noodle bar in the area.

Lutsy and I both ordered soups with thin noodles. She ordered Roast Pork La Mein Soup, and I ordered the House Special La Mein Soup. All of the soups come with your choice of beef broth or clear broth. "The clear broth is pretty tasteless, but the vegans like it" said the girl taking our order with a no-accounting-for-taste look on her face. "Sometimes, they even just ask for plain hot water." I told her we'd go with the beef broth.

The soups both came loaded with cilantro and scallion and with a hard-boiled egg and some additional veggies. Throw in some hot pepper or vinegar and let your sinuses open up while you smell that deliciousness. The bowls are big. I'd say you get a solid quart's worth for your money. The main difference, if not the only difference, between our choices was the meat. The House Special comes with a variety: spare ribs, roast pork, roast beef, and sausage. I was most surprised by how good the sausage was. And if anyone ever asks you if you should throw your spare ribs into a soup, you now know that the answer was yes. The one downside was that the cuts are cheap and by the time the soup was done there was a little collection of fat or bone or cartilage to throw away on the side of the tray. All the same, this was a great bowl of soup. I couldn't wait to return.

So I did. I came back a few days later by myself to try a stir fry. I chose the Roast Pork Dao Xiao Mein (the wide noodle). Again, the amount you get is massive. The couple next to me, as they were leaving, remarked how full they were and probably won't need anything else for the rest of the day. This is clearly a common response. The wide noodles are thick and doughy and they stick together into delicious globs. The meal is essentially a stew. It's thick and syrupy. There were mushrooms, tomato, bok choi, and sprouts along with my roast pork, but not nearly as many as I would have liked. More vegetables are always a plus in my book, especially with a dish as starch-heavy as this. That doesn't mean it wasn't good. Even though I preferred the soup, and will likely stick to soup at Xin Taste from now on, I all but licked my plate clean.

"So how is this soup different from ramen?" Lutsy asked as we left. Well, I told her, it's hard to explain but you'll see for yourself when Tamashii opens up down the block.

Each bowl of soup or stir fry dish ranges from $10 to $13.




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