>> Wednesday, April 30, 2008

108-25 Ascan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 261-6599

Q (a Thai bistro) sits on cozy Ascan Avenue right around the corner from busy Austin Street. With its neat, comfortable and playful but classy interior, it's is one of a handful of restaurants that feel like a slice of Greenwich Village right here in Queens. Q is usually busy, but you always feel like you're surrounded by, if not friends, then at least by people you know and like. Q is consistantly one of the first places I think of when I want to impress upon people that living outside of Manhattan does not reduce eating out to diners, fast food, or dirty bodegas. It's hardly the cheapest place in the neighborhood, but it's worth the money. My one complaint is their brunch menu, which is noticeably weak. But coming in the spring or summer evenings to sit on the front sofa seats with a glass of wine and a snack can't be beat.

I've already reviewed Q once for eateryROW, and you can click the link to it below, but it's on the map, so it's getting mentioned here as well.




>> Sunday, April 27, 2008

72-27 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-0707

Many people in the local blogosphere have decided to cut Bonfire Grill some slack for being a new restaurant whose flaws, should any exist, will vanish once it gets it sea legs. I am not one of these people.

It's like this, Bonfire Grill is the third restaurant that the owners have. The other two are the Manhattan establishments Uptown Lounge and Choice Kitchen.

In fact, even just a quick scan of their respective websites show that all three menus are pretty much the same. For example, they all have "Nachos Grande" and sliced steak sandwiches. They've been doing these dishes for a while. So as far as I'm concerned, these guys are as good as they're gonna get.

But in terms of the food what does that even mean?

D and I showed up a couple of weeks ago on a Friday and the place was packed. We lucked out and got a table after only a few minutes waiting. Later on I went again with Bro to get some more dishes under my belt. Bonfire's dining area isn't very big with about 15 tables. The separate bar section where you walk in feels almost the same size. The vibe is casual but upscale. The client list is all over the map. There were families with their kids here, just as there were girls in little black cleavage enhancing tops. There was a guy in a football jersey and a guy in a suit. Bonfire would do well I believe, if it wanted to head more in the upscale direction, by getting rid of the plasma screens that dot the restaurant playing the news, sports, and The Simpsons. Okay... keep The Simpsons.

To start with, D chose a Ceasar Salad. I never, or almost never, order salads. So I'm the wrong guy to have an opinion on the subject, but she liked it a lot. I went for the Montego Coconut Gulf Shrimp. It could have been good, but it was overcooked and somewhat tough. The batter was too crusty and on the verge of burned and it was weirdly served with a honey mustard dipping sauce, making it feel cheap and like something I could have gotten at Applebee's. So, like I said, it should have been good.

When I went with Bro, I ordered the Maryland Spiced Crab Cakes. These were very good. Most crab cakes are heavy on the bread and light on the crab, or at least light on whatever they call crab there. These were nice and meaty and didn't rely on breading to make up their volume. I recommend them. Bro picked the French Onion Soup, which he also liked quite a bit. It wasn't as salty as most restaurant French onion soups are. And if there's one thing Bro hates, it's salty food. I have to agree. Salt is too often used instead of talent when a dish needs flavor. This soup did it right.

D ordered the Stuffed Breast of Chicken Au Jus. It was, in a word... generic. In another word, mediocre. The chicken itself was a standard breast where the flavor was virtually entirely dependent on that with which it is served. In this case, it was served with a stuffing of wild rice which was also solidly boring, and a side of sliced mixed vegetables. Actually, it seemed that all of the dishes are served with wild rice and sliced mixed vegetables. See the photos? Be it the chicken above or the duck and salmon below, the sides are all the same. At least the chicken's wild rice came with cranberries mixed in. I think we can all agree that this is lazy.

I ordered the Grilled Duck Breast in a plum sauce, which was pretty good but you don't get much. That said, they did a good job of getting rid of the fat that this bird has so much of. Bro ordered the Atlantic Grilled Salmon with a mustard au jus. Bro liked it a lot and I certainly won't complain about it. It was moist, flaky, and tender, just like a good salmon should be. Add the tangy mustard and you have quiet the tasty dish. Again, both came with the wild rice and the mixed vegetables... yawn.

Finally I tried the Sliced Steak Sandwich (yes, probably the same one I mentioned were at the other places), medium rare, served with provolone, caramelized onions, tomatoes and horseradish sauce. It was delicious and might end up being my go-to dish whenever I return.

Since so many people will be using Bonfire for its bar, I felt compelled to have a cocktail. Or at least that's the excuse I came up with. I picked the French Martini, which was good and strong. The cocktail list that we got at the table was, sadly, pretty short. I seriously think that Bonfire would do well to add some more to the list and make this a more focal point of their dining experience.

The desserts are kinda the been-there-done-that variety. Ice cream, chocolate cake, key lime pie, cheesecake, etc.

So is Bonfire a welcome addition to the neighborhood? Yes. Most definitely. Just like a Target is a welcome addition to a mall but is really just a fancier Kmart, Bonfire needs work to be anything more than a fancier version of the TGI Fridays down the block. The cocktail menu is short and someone needs to add fresh drinks to it. The menu is all over the place. Nachos and buffalo wings should not be sharing the page with filet mignon and wild mushroom ravioli. If these things aren't fixed, I fear that Bonfire will wind up being lumped into the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none category. I like it and will return when I want comfort food. But I want Bonfire to be more than that.

And I have a feeling that everyone else does, too.

Meal one: Four glasses of wine, two appetizers, and two entrees, no dessert, came to $94.00 plus tax and tip.

Meal Two: Two beers (one normal and one huge), one cocktail, two appetizers, two entrees, no dessert, came to $75.86 plus tax and tip.



>> Thursday, April 24, 2008

1 Station Square
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 793-2203

As I've already reviewed Jade on eateryROW, I won't bother to re-review it. Not much has really changed since last year.

I have chosen to start this blog with Jade, however, because of that fateful Forest Hills Celebrity & Entertainment Magazine issue I mentioned in my intro post. Allow me to quote the text from the April/May 2008 issue:

"The first thing that catches your eye when you walk into Jade are the two giant pillars in the middle of the room. At closer look you can see that each pillar is carved, and decorated in candles. Between the two pillars is a beautiful reflecting pool with a statue at the head. The water in the room embraces the candlelight coming from not only the pillars but all around the room and makes for one of the most romantic settings I've ever seen. As I peered at the candles flickering in the crystal water I couldn't help but think that this would be the perfect place for couples. Not just a date though, this is the place where you can whisk her away for a secret rendezvous. A glass of wine from the extensive wine list, the soft candlelight on her face, and the aromatics from the brilliant food will have you sweeping her off her feet and into your arms in no time."

If you're not laughing at this description, then you have no soul.

Clearly this guy has never eaten here. I mean, who describes food, let alone Thai food, as "brilliant"? I love Thai food, but don't bullshit me to fill up some space. "Secret rendezvous"? "Sweeping her off her feet"? The "crystal waters"? This reads like an ad for Perillo Tours.

Let's get a few things straight. This is easily the sexiest restaurant in Forest Hills. The interior is heavily candlelit and there's a big reflecting pool right smack in the middle of the room. It's flat out trendy. They have a good cocktail list and I suggest you order from it. But what about the "extensive wine list"? I've never even seen it. As for "sweeping her off her feet", that part will come a couple of hours and a few of those cocktails later. Sweep her off her feet and out of her panties (since it's easier with her feet off the ground).

And yet the nice thing about Jade is that you can still go with your guy friends without weirding them out while at the same time you SHOULD go here with a date if you want her to think sexy thoughts instead of cliched "romantic" ones. There's a club vibe. It's just a plain cool place to go.

With warm weather approaching, I suggest sitting outside if you can (see above photo). With the cobblestones and trees, you won't be disappointed.



>> Monday, April 21, 2008


I think that, despite the fact that Forest Hills does not have the same street cred with food that Astoria or Brooklyn do (sad but true), it has some truly great places to eat. In fact, it has more than some. It has plenty. But I wasn't about to water down eateryROW by clumping too many reviews in one neighborhood. Enter the spinoff as a natural solution.

I'd been toying with the idea of this local spinoff for a few months, but never really had enough of a reason to start it until recently. See, I just read the latest issue of the free neighborhood glossy Forest Hills Celebrity & Entertainment Magazine and knew that the time had come.

Here's my problem. I can't (and don't think others should) trust a review when the writer not only knows knows the owner of the restaurant, but tells that owner he's coming, dines with him, and then places an ad for that very restaurant in that same issue. It's a do-the-math thing. Sure, I'm just one guy with one guy's opinions and you can flush them down the toilet if you want to and think I'm wrong, but at least you'll know you're not reading an ad.

I'm not going to tell any of these restaurants I'm coming. I'm not going to eat with the chef. I'm not going to get free meals. I'm not going to stage photo ops. I'm not going to eat something that tastes like ass and praise it as amazing (unless it's supposed to taste like ass).

I will endeavor to keep these reviews as bullshit-free as I can. Forced-feeling flowery lingo that is so sticky-sweet you could barf will be reduced to a bare minimum.

Off to the side is a map link. On that map are all the restaurants I plan to review. Eventually, I'll get to all of them, though in no particular order. When that happens (or I move) this blog will come to it's natural conclusion.

In the meantime, let us raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens.




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