>> Wednesday, July 16, 2008

106-03 Metropolitan Ave
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 261-2043

Theater Cafe, owned by the same guys who run the adjacent Cinemart Cinemas, evokes feelings of an Italian street-side cafe. It's only missing the Vespas. The amount of seating outside it huge, and yet it fills up in the evening. You can sit here for hours and not even notice time pass... and people do.

More than just a coffee shop, Theater Cafe has a bit of everything. In addition to specialty coffees and teas and desserts, they have salads, sandwiches, paninis, crepes, smoothies, pizza, wraps, and a cocktail menu. I think that this waters it down. There's just too much and I'll be blunt. I have yet to have any food here that is any better than mediocre. If it up to me, I'd put my energy into drinks and desserts, maybe salads too. I'd thin the menu considerably.

The other problem is the waitstaff. They're not bad, but not one time have I been here and seen more than one person working the tables. There may be two more staff by the cash register inside, but pity the poor girl running from table to table.

Still, I've only been here for the atmosphere. I came here with Gnome this past winter and we sat for hours. The inside has big cushy sofas and a fireplace and you could curl up here and not want to leave. And, in the winter anyway, that's really the whole point. In the summer, the point is sitting outside and letting yourself be calmed by cool breezes and the company of your friends.

This isn't an American coffee shop like Starbucks or Esparks Coffee, where you go with a laptop and study or blog about restaurants you've been to. Theater Cafe has no wifi access. This is the kind of cafe you go to and order an espresso or glass of wine, take a drag of your Parliament, grab a copy of the Times or some friends, and sit.

And tip the waitress well. She deserves it.



>> Friday, July 11, 2008

106-17 Metropolitan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 544-5644

Forest Hills has relatively few restaurants that I personally think would draw someone from Manhattan, but My Kitchen just might be one of them. My Kitchen, according to the owner who also doubles as the hostess, started here in Forest Hills only to move into Manhattan and blossom into a handful of restaurants. Now they're back. Most restaurateurs claim that running restaurant is the most stress one could undergo without being in a war zone. But I suppose that after running a bunch, only having to deal with one can seem like a comfy way to retire.

As of this writing, My Kitchen is one step away from being completely unknown. Chowhound has virtually no posts about it. The local blogs barely mention it beyond its opening last fall. Yelp has 2 user reviews. Urban Spoon and CitySearch have never heard of it. And Zagat? Please. For outer borough dining, Zagat's basically a burgundy-clad joke.

For this specific meal, I went with Bro and The Rents. It was high time that The Rents began coming to my neck of the woods for more than the Stop & Shop and parking lot-equipped Trader Joe's.

The menu at My Kitchen is pretty small. There are only about a fifteen things on the menu in total. And although the four of us ordered nearly half of that, you may arrive unable to eat what we did. My Kitchen changes it's menu on an almost constant basis. What's on the menu now may not be there tomorrow and almost certainly won't be there next season. Some might relish this as an opportunity to try new things and give them fresh excuses to try something new each time, rather than be bogged down in the mire of monotony. But it gives this review an unfortunately short half life. Good for you, bad for moi.

So anyway, what about this food you may never get a taste of? What was it? Patés were very popular on the day we went, and everyone but Shrink ordered something that been reduced to the consistency of toothpaste. DudeMan ordered the Duck Live Paté, served with Dijon mustard and onions. He gave it an initially lukewarm response, but it grew with him over time. I, it must be said, have never been one for liver, be it duck or otherwise. On its own, my mind went unchanged. However, I will concede that when paired with the mustard and onions I was more enthusiastic. My choice was the Salmon Mousse, served with cream cheese and what appeared to be Carr's crackers. A very warm weather dish, reminiscent of something I should have been eating at brunch with a bellini. That may sound like a sarcastic dig, but actually, I scarfed this one right down in about two minutes, pausing only long enough to spread the salmon mousse onto a few crackers for everyone else. And everyone else enjoyed it as well. Bro ordered what I considered to have been the best of the patés, the Tricolor Vegetarian Mousse With Goat Cheese. This was excellent (and I hate goat cheese). DudeMan liked it as well, but Shrink, who eyes anything vegetarian with rolled eyes, was indifferent. Her loss. And speaking of Shrink, she, ever the hippy rebel, ordered the Mussels. These were served in a marinara sauce similar to something one would find in a Manhattan clam chowder. The mussels were tender, there was no sandy grit to them, and the table found itself asking for a second round of bread to dip in the sauce once the mussels had been eaten.

The entree that I ordered was the Roasted Loin of Pork with carrots and potatoes. It arrived about fifteen minutes before everything else because of a mix-up with another table. While we personally didn't think that it was a great big deal, the restaurant did and apologized for the rest of the day. But whatever. We got some more plates and divvied it amongst us while waiting for the rest of the entrees to arrive. We also got the wine we ordered free of charge. The pork loin itself was delicious and tender and, while not something that a New York Times food critic will care much about, was exactly what it was supposed to be. Delicious pork loin. I literally cleaned the plate. I even hesitated giving up some to the rest of the fam.

When the rest of the food arrived, Bro's was the standout. He ordered the Breast Of Chicken In Summer Peaches and Champagne. Incredible. It was almost like eating candy-coated chicken served with grapes, figs, and cherries. Extremely sweet, but in a good way, with a hint of cinnamon. Very tender and in an impossible to finish size. Half of it got taken home. The same can be said of Shrink's Shrimp And Seafood Paella. According to the hostess, this is one of their most popular dishes and has been one of the menu's holdouts for several years. Our table's plural personal opinion was that it was, while good, not the dish that's we'll remember or recommend to you as the one thing to get if you can only get one thing. I thought that it was a basic, ho-hum paella. It was big and got wrapped to go, but it was no chicken with peaches and champagne. There wasn't really even that much seafood. Anyway, finally, DudeMan ordered the Prime Rib in a potato, carrot and mushroom sauce. This was also very good and very tender and very finished by the end of the meal. No one could argue that they didn't eat well this evening. In fact, we were so full we didn't think we could order dessert. Luckily for us, we didn't have to.

For the same reason as the gratis vino, we also got a whole tray of desserts on the house. Like a humongous sampler, only in full sized form. Eighteen million calories later, I was able to finally breath. The majority of the desserts, the hostess explained, are imported from Italy, with two notable exceptions. The Canoli is imported from Arthur Avenue and the Peach-Champagne Thing (my name since I forgot what they called it) you see in the photo is made right there. There was also a Berry Tart, which was very very good (they say it's the most often complimented dessert), and two other Italian chocolaty goodies that I can't remember.

Something you'll notice about My Kitchen is that it's not fancy. It's a family owned, family operated place. The food is like a better version of what you might get if you went to someone's home. Comfort food with class, I suppose. The portions are a good size and they aren't put on the plate in some fancy schmancy way. They just taste good. My Kitchen has wine, but they pick the type and brand. But they also allow you to bring your own. In a sense, it's half BYOB, half not. An additional piece of advice is to ignore the online menu. The real one changes so often that the online one won't be of any real value.

Four appetizers, four entrees, an iced tea, and a round of coffees came to $125, plus tax and tip. We got all of our wines and appetizers comped. We left a large tip.

This exact review, sans this update, is also published on the citywide eateryROW. Just now I got comment on it telling me that Urban Spoon has just added My Kitchen to its restaurant listings. So there you go.



>> Thursday, July 3, 2008

109-21 72nd Road
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 897-0460

Forest Hills has a sushi place for every twelve people, and most are pretty good. Best 1 Sushi, to me, still stands out as one of the best. It's never crowded and the staff is really nice. Now that it's warm out, I'd like to sit outside, something that, sadly, not too many restaurants in our fair hood have the space for... unless they're Dirty Pierre's and just decide to take over the whole sidewalk (good for you, Dirty Pierre). Anyway, Best 1 Sushi is one of the best ones and it's been my go-to place for sushi since I wrote about it a while ago.




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