>> Tuesday, February 16, 2010

109-23 72nd Road
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(347) 475-0569

If you work in Midtown or FiDi, then you know how the salad cafe has grown into a venomous beast dominating the lunch scene. Pax, Chop't, Hale & Hearty, Cafe Europa, Pret A Manger... and those are just the ones I can name off the top of my head. They all sell salads, soups, sandwiches. Lunch zones where you can get your custom salad with everything. Pax will even take that salad and shred it into an inedible baby-food-like mush if you're so inclined to try drinking your salad through a straw.

Forest Hills has long anticipated its own Midtownesque lunch spot with EuroPan on the corner of Austin and 70th. But as of this writing it's progress is comparable to that of a stranded and dehydrated Bedouin crawling helplessly through the desert in search of water as the cruel Arabian sun saps his energy with each lethargic step. No one seems to have noticed Chic & Green, tucked between Austin and QB on 72nd next door to Best 1 Sushi.

Chic & Green is like a cute, Park Slopey version of the cold salad giants. It sports a bright white interior with light blue tables, and no sodas except the high brow Izzys. I'm not a salad person, but I can attest that the variety of toppings is comparable to the big boys. If memory serves, there are 26. They also serve sandwiches and soups and a handful of desserts. I tried their Mushroom Soup and was impressed. Creamy, not too salty, and with plenty of big chunks of mushroom.

Since salads aren't really my thing, I'll leave to everyone else to critique the place in their comments.

My soup and a water was about $7. Salads start at $6.50 The wi-fi is free.


Brunch Report - NETWORK CAFE

>> Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brunch Report
108-02 72nd Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 263-5700

When I wrote about Network last Spring, I placed it squarely in the mediocre-but-there's-hope category of FH cuisine., but that was before brunch there. Now... who knows...

As many of you are all too painfully aware, getting someone visit you from another borough can be difficult. So I considered myself lucky that FF agreed to shoot on over. I am also lucky that she has a good sense of humor.

We entered Network a somewhere between 12 and 1230. It was dark and deserted. "Are you open?" I asked. Confirmation followed. I grabbed a seat in the corner to get a good camera angle while FF headed downstairs for the bathroom. Her return was prophetic. "How married to getting brunch here are you?" Pretty married. Why? "It's gross downstairs. It smells like sewage, among other bouquets." Luckily for us, up here we can only smell their overpowering use of heavy-duty floor cleaner. "Great. I'm not ordering the fish."

Service was extremely slow. It took so long to get us coffee that I can only guess that we were the first customers of the day and that they had yet to make any. "It's pretty clear that this place hasn't seen capital investment in a decade." FF noted. "I mean, the mirrors behind you are duct taped to the wall. No one's here. How can they possibly afford to stay in business?" Yeah. The shabby-chic look only works if there's some chic to it. I tried defending it, but I could only delude myself for so long. "You've been seduced by the big, red French windows." I'll admit it. They are kinda nice.

So it's grungy and smelly downstairs and dark, dank and broken upstairs. So that's the set-up; let's get to the follow-through. I ordered the Challah French Toast. I don't know what they think challah is, but this wasn't challah. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was the same type of bread they put on the table when we sat down. Shock of shocks, it was awful. FF requested the Eggs Benedict. "And how would you like your eggs?" she was asked. We looked at each other quizzically. How many answers are there to this question? "Benedicted. Benedict the shit outta them" was just about to escape my lips when FF said "Poached? Like it says on the menu?" Ah, the menu. Here's the quote from the it: "Classic two poached eggs served over Canadian bacon with Hollandaise sauce on a toasted English muffin with herb roasted potatoes". Now here's the what was placed in front of her. Take a peek and meet me below the pic.

Okay, so let's start at the beginning. Two poached eggs. So far so good. Served over Canadian bacon. No, she got regular bacon. Okay, no biggie. Personally, I like regular bacon more anyway. But the bacon was cold. So how long was it sitting around waiting for someone to order it? With Hollandaise sauce. Again, no. Hollandaise sauce is egg yolk, lemon juice, and a whole lot o' butter. It's practically florescent. This was some basil pesto concoction. On a toasted English muffin. Another no. The same bread that they confused with Challah was also, apparently, confused with an English muffin. This is the bread of all trades, master of none. With herb roasted potatoes. Uh, French fries. One outta five. ONE. Did they even read their own menu? I mean, the ingredients are literally written right there.

Both meals came with a small salad which, to Network's credit, wasn't bad.

Our two meals cost $37 with tax and tip. We left having not eaten most of our meals and were thinking about going around the corner for something else, but our appetite was gone and we got coffee at Starbucks instead.



>> Friday, February 5, 2010

110-80 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 520-1123

I was not looking forward to dinner. "Come on," said Bro. "It's time. Suck it up." See, we had plans to finally sup at The Family Restaurant. The Family Restaurant on Queens Boulevard, for those who don't know, is one of a half dozen or so large Italian restaurants that pepper the dining corridors of Forest Hills. Thus far, my large Forest Hills Italian restaurant experiences have been less than stellar. Pasta Del Giorno. Portofino. They tend to charge far more than any other restaurant would dare to for what you get, and the food has been, and I'm being diplomatic here, a joke. So being 0 for 2, Bro and I sauntered off for Round 3. Will The Family Restaurant resurrect my opinions of these red sauce havens? On our walk, given that the first page of reviews on CitySearch included phrases like "Never ever eat there!!!!!", "pasta out of a box would be better than this!" and "even if I paid $5, I'd feel disappointed." I was predicting that this would be yet another loss.

Walking into TFR is a somewhat interesting affair. For starters, the first person to meet us scowled as though we pushed his kid down to get in. Everyone after this first guy though was very nice. In fact, our Wal Mart greeter aside, if TFR served service instead of food, they'd get high marks. The interior, with its white tablecloths and white cloth napkins, high-backed chairs, bow-tied waiters and lots of reds and browns is extremely old-school. This restaurant exudes the feeling that it's been around for a long time and hasn't changed an iota.

But let's not beat around the bush. Eating in TFR is like having dinner in a retirement home. Save one table of a family with kids running around clanging their forks on their glasses, for most of the meal Bro and I were the youngest people here by thirty years. You can't see them in the pic, but about eight dark still life paintings line the opposite wall, which couldn't help but remind me of Ms. Havisham's inevitable impending doom. If only there was a wedding cake up there...

Still, taste in decorations (or the lack thereof) have nothing to do with the food. Bro ordered the Prosciutto and Melon, which was literally that. Slices of melon that they draped prosciutto on top of like a blanket. If there was an award out there for laziness in presentation, then this would win. Am I being unfair saying that they used a cheap cut of prosciutto? And yet, this might have been the best tasting dish of the night. In all honesty it wasn't that bad. But, come on. They could have at least tried to make the plates look good. Barnes & Noble even sells books on creating garnishes. I opted for the Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer. Not terrible, to be fair, but bland in every sense of the word. The stuffing was a mush of powdered Parmesan cheese and 4C breadcrumbs. The sauce was generic. At least the mushrooms were larger than the tiny insults that I was served Portofino. But again, no presentation. They didn't even wipe the drops from the rim of the plate. (Seriously, do I expect too much? Let me know.)

Both of our entrees came with a choice of salad or pasta on the side, and Bro and I both chose the salad. The salad arrived before the appetizers did and was an interesting mix of lettuce, carrots, one sprig of steamed (or old) cauliflower, one tomato wedge, one black olive, one green olive, a piece of red bell pepper and a jalapeno. This was a diner salad from 1975. I ended up eating the jalapeno and the tomato and then focused on buttering my roll with the gold foil butter pack those same diners give you with your pancakes. But back to dinner. Bro ordered the Filet of Sole Francaise ($17). It was just awful. Francaise sauce is a lemon-butter sauce. There are variations on it, of course, but this one really liked its lemon. It was beyond sour. And the fish was so fishy I found it difficult to take it down. Bro didn't mind it as much as me, which is surprising because he won't eat food that fell on the floor and I will. I ordered the Chicken Cacciatore ($18). It's not small. It's half of a chicken. That's way too big for any normal person and I'm not the type to be wooed by quantity over quality. I'd rather have a fraction of the food, made perfectly, for the price. Alas, this dish was far from perfect. It was greasy and the tomato sauce was cheap. They baked the chicken, skin and all under a large helping of tomato sauce. When the fat melted away it did so right into the sauce*. So while the chicken was so tender I could have cut it with a spoon, it was so greasy that the chicken would have have slid right off from said spoon. If TFR wanted to keep the skin so badly, then what they should have done was blast the chicken (on a rack for drainage) in the oven at 500 degrees for ten minutes to melt the fat off, discard that fat and THEN bake it. This way it wouldn't be sitting in grease. It would also help if they used a better sauce (the same sauce, by the way, as covered the stuffed mushrooms).

* If you look at the pic, you can even see the color shift where the grease becomes tomato sauce.

For dessert, Bro ordered the Home Made Cheesecake, which instead of being smooth like cream cheese, was crumbly like a sand castle. It tasted okay, but the texture was terrible. My dessert was the Home Made Canoli. This wasn't bad, actually, except that the shell was very brittle, like a fortune cookie that never gave me my lucky numbers. Plus, and I'm no accountant, should our two $6.50 desserts and my $2 coffee have totaled $16 and change?

0 for 3.

While The Family Restaurant isn't Balthazar expensive, it's not cheap and it's grossly overpriced. Our meal of two appetizers, two entrees, two glasses of house white, two desserts, one coffee, tax and tip was $103 and change. My advice is to spend your Social Security money HERE or HERE instead.



>> Monday, February 1, 2010

Cheeburger won. Johnny Rockets closed.
108-50 Queens Blvd
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 997-8600

70-28 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 793-8882

Cheeburger Cheeburger & Johnny Rockets are, at least on paper, the same thing. Burger chains playing homage to the 1950s. Chrome, neon, rock-n-roll, doo-wop, Coca-Cola deification, pink Cadillacs and a commie around every corner. Our particular nook of Queens has both. So who wins? Which chain makes the better burger? Where should we go to spend our hard-earned money when the craving for bun-enclosed grilled beef hits us?

To find out, click HERE for my comparison of Cheeburger Cheeburger and Johnny Rockets (along with Checkers) in Part Six of my eateryROW burger series. Those of you familiar with this series know that I eat at three burger joints per post, tirelessly searching for the best hamburgers NYC has to offer at the expense of both my cholesterol and clothes size. I've come across some real gems in sampling the independent burger joints of the city. This time though, I decided to try the chains.



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