>> Sunday, November 15, 2009

100-30 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 897-5554

Knish Nosh, here on the corner of Queens Boulevard and 67th, is like stepping back in time to 1971. If Gene Hackman pulled up in a dented Plymouth sporting a porkpie and sat down next to me, I might not have batted an eye. You almost feel like there needs to be an automat down the block.

The blue and white interior, with its faded-to-brown newspaper reviews on the windows, the pale glows from their neon, and their polished aluminum tables and chairs hearken back to a time when diners and delis couldn't care less about decor and the only flavor coffee came in was wet. If Knish Nosh was in Williamsburg, hipsters would flood the place for its retro, purposefully un-modern feeling and Time Out New York would set up a satellite office there. But damn it if Forest Hills ain't Billyburg.

Knish Nosh's knishes might be Forest Hills' most famous culinary export, and since they'll deliver wherever you want them to, exporting isn't just a phrase. I had 50 shipped to my office last year. Each knish probably weighs about a pound and is larger than your average sized fist. You can get them in over a dozen flavors beyond the original potato. Mushroom, ground beef, spinach...

Each of the Knishes I've had here over the years have all been good, with a crispy shell and piping hot filling. But you have to like, or not mind, getting a week's worth of carbs in one meal, and I won't gloss over the extreme guilt I feel whenever I eat here... my poor waistline. I debated describing every knish I've tried, but I've decided that doing such a thing would be overkill. You either like giant potato/meat/cheese/veggie filled baked pies or you don't. I do, especially the beef one (see photo, left side). As for their Matzo Ball Soup, which I tried on my most recent excursion, skip it. Fatty broth and timid matzo balls.

The average knish is $3.50. The board is only about half the menu.



>> Friday, November 6, 2009

70-15 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-1470

Thai restaurants come in two basic varieties. Variety one is, or tries to be, trendy. Variety two is plain-Jane. Thai Austin is a plain-Jane Thai restaurant that, if the number of pickups is any indication, makes most of its money on takeout. Buried in the basement of the black architectural nightmare across from Lucille Roberts, Thai Austin is almost hidden from the bustle of the shoppers above.

Once inside, Thai Austin is dark, but not in a romantic way. Some Thai-esque things line the wall, and a Buddha statue fountain with a glowing blue ball in his hands sits between the tables for two and the tables for four. I feel that Thai Austin could have a certain fun kitchiness to it if it were crowded all the time. Instead, its usually empty dining room gives off a lonely aura. It feels like the kind of place Philip Marlowe would eat Thai food in while thunderstorms pounded the city beyond the window...

But for those New Yorkers who do venture into this little hole of a restaurant, some surprises may await within. The Thai Spring Rolls and the Chicken Dumplings are not among them however. The spring rolls are totally generic and the dumplings were soggy and saturated. The Thai Hoo Tod, a fried tofu appetizer, was decent, but depended very heavily on the sweet peanut dipping sauce that came with it. And you don't get nearly enough. However, there is a soup there, a Chicken Vegetable Soup that I failed to get the name of, which is absolutely fantastic. Chicken, Asian greens, garlic and scallions served boiling hot, but packed to the brim with flavor.

Where this restaurant really shines is in its entrees. Nothing that I ordered here recently has been greasy or bland. The Salmon Penang, a broiled salmon fillet in a penang curry sauce with bell peppers, onions, carrots and bok choi was delicious. No fishy taste, nicely spicy, perfectly flaky without being dry at all, I can't recommend this enough. The Chicken Thai Classic with Basil Sauce, chicken in a basil sauce, served with chili, onion, fresh basil and bell pepper was similarly good. To embrace my inner vegetarian, I also tried the Mussamun Curry with Tofu Duck, served with potato, peanuts, onion and coconut. This curry is not terribly hot, but the sweet and spicy flavors mingle well together. And while no one who has had the real thing will ever be fooled by the tofu duck, they actually do a pretty good job and it's a nice distraction from the same meats/protein alternatives over and over, again and again. Give it a try, I think you'll like it.

The average appetizer at Thai Austin is $5 and the entrees range from $10 to $20.



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