FOREST HILLS BIERGARTEN

>> Thursday, September 13, 2018

117-18  Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 263-9754


Once upon a time, back in the Gilded Age, beer gardens were a big thing here in New York City. They dwindled away over the decades but suddenly, now that we're in a new Gilded Age, they're back! Seemingly, they've sprouted up everywhere, even as pop-ups in unused summertime parking lot. The closest that Forest Hills has had to one would be the Finback Brewery tasting room. Failing that, denizens of our fair hamlet would have to trek out to middle-of-nowhere backwaters like Brooklyn and Astoria. Thankfully, the fine folks at Cobblestones, the Queens Boulevard pub about three-quarters of the way between Continental Avenue and Union Turnpike, decided to right this particular wrong.



The Forest Hills Biergarten isn't the biggest beer garden in the city, but it's hardly the smallest, and it's a right proper one. There are murals and greenery. Long tables dominate the seating. There's a waterfall wall made from beer taps. Along with the food menu, the bulk of the beer is German or Oktoberfest themed. There's a bean bag toss, a six-foot tall Jenga block set, and a bunch of table games for people to play with. Forest Hills is a demographic melting pot and the customers that I saw were of every race and age. The beer garden was loud and lively without ever getting loud and obnoxious. You could have a conversation. Lutsy and I showed up around 9pm and got a seat right away, though there were precious few left.





Lutsy ordered a wine cocktail; some kind of frozen margarita type thing that was sweet and fruity. Very girlie. I ordered a liter of Hofbrau Oktoberfest that was the size of my head. Very manly. She did her nails and I beat my chest while we went over the menu deciding dinner. The food, as I stated, was very beer-garden-y. Bavarian pretzels and bratwurst and so forth. Having never eaten at Cobblestones before, I can't speak to whether this was their regular menu. Feel free to leave a comment if you know. In the end, I chose the Chicken Schnitzle Club Sandwich, which came with pickles and German potato salad. Neither Lutsy nor I expected the potato salad to be warm, but no biggie. It was pretty good. As was the sandwich, and I inhaled it much faster than I expected.  Lutsy chose the more pub food traditional Buffalo Chicken Wrap. Not exactly currywurst with spaetzle... but whatcha gonna do? She liked it and the fries that it came with, and would get it again. Her one nit to pick, the one stick in her craw, was that it was too small, and looking at the photo anew, yeah. It's small.



The Forest Hills Biergarten is a great addition to the neighborhood. The beer list doesn't pay much, if any, attention to the craft microbrews that have taken over the scene in recent years and the food is basically bar food, but that's the point. This is a beer garden. You go to have fun, drink, eat, play. There are games and TVs and pretty much anyone can go and feel at home. Go for a not-romantic date night or with your buddies or with the kids. I can say very honestly that the Forest Hills Biergarten might have the most social atmosphere of any place in walking distance. And I walk long distances.

Just about everything on the menu, from the food to the drinks ranged in the $10-$15 zone.

Just an FYI. the entrance is not through Cobblestones Pub, but around the corner and down the side street.

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RIMTIN

>> Thursday, June 7, 2018

RIMTIN
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.

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NUMERO 28 PIZZERIA

>> 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.

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eateryrow@gmail.com

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