UPDATE - Brunch Report - AGED

>> Sunday, April 25, 2010

I returned to Aged for Brunch. Went with Bro this time.

Click ---> HERE

Then scroll all the way to the bottom.



>> Friday, April 23, 2010

71-60 Yellowstone Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-2099

Dumpling Cafe, the relatively new Chinese/Thai place on Yellowstone where Munch used to be, has been on my map for a while. Before it opened, during the renovation, I stopped in and was given the impression that it was going to be a real restaurant. And it is, sort of. You can sit down and there's table service, but the "waitress" also works behind the counter taking phone calls for takeout and you'll be served on paper plates or from takeout containers.

Deep down, this is another takeout place, and it's pretty much why I became more hesitant to bother reviewing it once it opened. After all, I've already done my Takeout Smackdown and honestly had no interest in reviewing their version of fast food lo mein. Indeed, they're right across the street from Red House Kitchen, the Smackdown winner, and I'll be up front about questioning the financial wisdom of that decision. But it's done and I suppose that Dumpling Cafe's niche could be being the takeout place you don't itch to leave as soon as the food shows up. In other words, it would bank on being "classier". And let's be honest, that doesn't take much effort. Most takeout restaurants have about as much class as wrestling fan after hopping up on an eight ball of Aunt Hazel.

With a name like "Dumpling Cafe" I somewhat expected (indeed I was enthusiastic about) a large dumpling menu. In my head, I kinda thought that they'd be the dumpling specialists. Alas, 'twas not to be. They do serve dumplings, to be sure, but only about a half dozen, and the rest of the menu is pretty much what you'd get just about everywhere else, just with some Thai food thrown in.

Back in the fall, I ventured over and tried their Wonton Soup and the fall special, the Steamed Pumpkin Dumplings. The wonton soup was very good, with scallions, Asian greens and shallots. The wontons were firm, the broth was flavorful. It may well have been the best wonton soup in the area, especially on the cold afternoon that I was eating there. The pumpkin dumplings were considerably less wonderful. They definitely tasted like pumpkin, but they were soggy and drained water like sponges resting in a sink.

Recently, I returned to try Dumpling Cafe again. Again, I didn't try their main dishes, but I did try their Pork Dumplings and Beef Dumplings. I recalled the sogginess of the pumpkin from months ago and, this time, ordered both dumplings fried. But they were only fried to a point. They were still soggy. The pork dumplings were better than the beef by a wide margin. Indeed, the beef dumplings tasted like dumpling with hamburger inside and, for my palate, the combo just tasted didn't work.

Given that Dumpling Cafe serves way fewer dumpling dishes than not, I ordered two staples of any takeout menu: on the Thai side, I ordered Chicken Pad Thai. Mediocre, too tangy, too limp. It felt uninspired even for takeout pad thai. From the Chinese side, Beef With Broccoli. Very very good. Very good. Fresh, crisp broccoli. Lots of beef. A sweet sauce that wasn't gloppy or salty or oily. Truly excellent beef with broccoli.
I also ordered the Scallion Pancakes which were completely forgettable, and a plate of the humongous dumplings pictured below. I liked these but can't for the life of me remember what was in them... spinach I think. They were the best of the lot, albeit I will grant you that such a feat wouldn't be hard to accomplish.

Dumpling Cafe is hit or miss. Some of you will go and find something you really like and will probably order from them constantly. Others will order a couple of times and go back to the tried and true method of ordering from the first menu you pull randomly out of your kitchen drawer. Dumpling Cafe will be my go-to place for beef with broccoli and its ilk, but for dumplings I'll cross the street.



>> Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The (first) poll has closed! Almost 50 people chimed in (is that a lot?) and the consensus seems pretty evenly split. In fact, there's no clear winner. Most people aren't total cheapskates (the $15-20 lot), but of those willing to hand out a couple more Jacksons, there's a near even split between them.

So let's do a calculation based on the people willing to spend over $20+ for an entree, in the interest of getting restaurateurs to move here. They can expect that people will be willing to spend $24.77 for an entree at their establishment. I'll round that to $25 for the sake of the math.

Dinner for two.
Entrees: $25 x 2 = $50.00
Appetizers at half entree cost: $12.50 x 2 = $25.00
Desserts at one-third the entree cost: $8 x 2 = $16.00
Decent quality glass of Montepulciano (because I like it): $10 x 2 = $20.00
Coffee/Tea with dessert: $2.50 x 2 = $5.00
TOTAL for two: $116 plus tax and tip.

So for those willing to open up something great here in Forest Hills are, we're willing to drop $116+. We just have one small rule.

Don't suck.



>> Wednesday, April 7, 2010

See the right hand column? I'm trying out a poll. If I get enough responses, maybe it'll become a regular part of the eateryROW routine. If not, well, I can't say I didn't try.

Poll #1: How much is it worth to you for your fantasy restaurant to open here in Forest Hills?



>> Thursday, April 1, 2010

113-09 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-1668

If you want real and real good Chinese food, not the basic, find-it-on-every-corner fast food stuff, then Flushing's where you need to be. The trouble is, unless you drive, Flushing's real pain in the ass to get to. The bus takes forever. The Roosevelt Avenue subway station, as you make your way to the 7, is so crowded that it's like wading up to your neck in a swamp. You... just... can't... move... Even if you do drive, good luck parking. That's where East Ocean Palace comes in. It's a Chinese restaurant that's a Flushing ex-pat.

Walking inside it's immediately different from anywhere else in the neighborhood. It's super bright. Brighter than McDonalds. The dining room is massive and the least intimate one I've eaten in in years. The smallest table is for four people and about half of the tables there are for groups of eight or more. Decorations are sparse, as though their interior budget was spent only on lighting. The high-backed chairs and large tables make it feel like eating dinner in either a banquet hall without the wedding band or a college cafeteria with tablecloths. English isn't the wait staff's first language (or second), so expect to point a lot if your Chinese is rusty. That said, Bro and I were one of very few white folks here. I took this as a good sign. I don't like my food fake unless that's the point. Romantic, no. Fun, maybe. Group spot for people who like to share lots of food, yeah.

Bro and I started off with dim sum. Fried Bacon-wrapped Shrimp Rolls were the first to arrive and they were just that. Steamed shrimp wrapped in bacon which they deep fry and then serve with a dish of mayonnaise for dipping. My initial thought was bacon and shrimp! I love those. Well, not everything goes together like peanut butter and jelly. It's an acquired taste, to be sure. But hey, you might acquire it. In contrast, the Pan Fried Leek Dumplings were fantastic. Crispy, leeky, tangy. You should definitely get this.

We ordered the Steamed Watercress Su Mai, but they gave us the Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings instead by mistake. I didn't notice until I bit in and found mushroom where watercress should be. It was okay, not amazing, and I was really looking forward to the watercress. Sitting in a wooden steamer tray beneath the vegetarian dumplings (by the way, East Ocean Palace has a huge vegetarian-only menu) were the Royal Steamed Pork Su Mai, Both it and the Hot and Sour Soup were pretty good, but neither blew me away. I still say the best hot and sour soup I've ever had was at Vegetarian Dim Sum House in Chinatown.

For dinner Bro and I ordered two meals to split between us. First, the Fresh Squid with Garlic and Ginger. The squid was very stir fried with dark greens and was very tender. There's always a risk that the squid you will be like chewing on a rubber band and that didn't happen.. It was delicious. We alternated between the squid and the Sauteed Frogs with Vegetables. I must not fit the frog-ordering profile. The waiter's eyebrows went way up. "The frogs? You sure?" I'm sure. Hit me. Actually, I eat frog whenever I see it on a menu. There are two things one needs to know about frog. First, there ain't much meat, so you're usually eating with your fingers to suck on bone. Second, they don't taste like anything you've already had. Or, better described, they tasted like a combo of two things. Like a hybrid of chicken and fish. But unlike bacon-wrapped shrimp, this is one instance where the peanut butter and the jelly go well together.

Dessert isn't even offered, unless you count the orange slices that came with the bill, so have a place in mind when you leave. This meal ended costing $72. Oh, and no tacky fortune cookies, thankfully.




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