Archive | March, 2011

Duck on Groundhog’s Day in the Year of the Dog

29 Mar

Our visit to Danny Ng’s Restaurant on Groundhog Day, 2006 was also the beginning of our fourth year as a group. And in those four years, we had pretty much neglected the Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. In fact, Danny Ng’s was our debut Chinese restaurant in Chinatown…or anywhere else since starting our adventures. At the time, Danny Ng’s was located on 34 Pell Street. What we encountered I have summarized below.

Danny Ng Restaurant
(Now known as Danny Ng’s Place)
52 Bowery

I admit to selfish reasons for choosing a restaurant in Chinatown for our Groundhog Day expedition. Just six days earlier my sinuses went under the knife and not only was I still a bit wobbly from the surgery, but my sense of smell (and as a result, taste) were severely compromised. I didn’t want to venture far and sample an exotic cuisine under those conditions. But I also didn’t want to lower our standards just for my well being. It was the Year of the Dog. The firecracker wrappers from the previous Sunday’s celebrations were still littered on the streets. A good time as any to return to Chinatown. Danny Ng was advertised as authentic Cantonese, probably the most familiar of Chinese regional foods. To me, Cantonese is comfort food and there was no doubt that was what I was seeking.

And it was comforting to enter the very bright restaurant and see my name on a round table proclaiming that the table was reserved for my party. I was also reassured by the groups of Chinese families around similar large round tables. We needed a large round table because for the first time in a long time, all six of us were present. However, unlike the groups of Chinese families, ours did not come equipped with rotating tray. Why did I feel slightly slighted?



As we got comfortable and glanced at the extensive menu, we watched a parade of platters arrive at the table behind us where a one of those aforementioned Chinese families were seated. There was a platter of steamed crabs, another with a huge steak, one more with a mountain of unidentifiable steamed greens, and many other unknown, but appetite-inducing plates.

Our waiter, dressed in a starched white shirt, black vest and tie arrived; pad in hand, ready for our orders. As usual, we wanted help. We first inquired as to what the table behind us was eating. He told us about the steamed Dungeness crabs, the house special steak, and the greens; pea pod shoots he said. There were six small bowls in front of us already; a soup to share was, apparently, an essential part of the Danny Ng experience. I was opting toward the crab meat noodles in soup, but our waiter suggested the “house special” seafood soup. We went with his choice. I had noticed a number of very curious items on the menu; pastrami with lettuce, corned beef with spinach, roast beef “Western style”, and clams casino “Chinese style.”  What could be the Chinese spin on clams casino? Despite the hesitation of the others, I had to know.

Moments later, the soup and the clams’ casino arrived. The soup was clear with chopped bits of anonymous seafood and had very little taste. Was it my compromised taste buds? And the clams’ casino “Chinese-Style” with pieces of soggy bacon sprinkled over tough baked clams, a very poor rendition of clams’ casino “Italian-American Style.” I looked at the others to see if it was just me. Zio was mumbling under his breath. One of Gerry’s eyes was twitching. Mike from Yonkers was calling for soy sauce, and worst of all Eugene was speechless. Was Danny Ng’s Restaurant to be on the level of our biggest blunder, Uncle George’s? Had my recent surgery clouded my thinking in choosing such a place? At this point, I was resigned. Everyone had an off day.


The waiter returned for our entrée orders. Mike from Yonkers was adamant about the shrimp in salt and chilis and, because we liked the name, we wanted to try the braised duck with eight precious. In my research, I had heard that the chow fun was very good, so we ordered roast pork chow fun. And then we decided to go with what looked like a sure thing; two of the dishes the family behind us had ordered; the House special steak and the steamed pea pod shoots. I could only sit, stare at the flashing red and green lights of the decorative dragons on the wall, and hope that round two would be better than round one.



The shrimp came first; lightly fried in a perfectly salted batter with a hint of chilis. My sense of taste was returning. Then the braised duck arrived; squid, shrimp, mushrooms, and scallops among the eight precious that blanketed it. The chow fun was in a huge bowl simmering in a light brown gravy topped with Chinese broccoli. Both the pea pod shoots and the House special steak looked as good when they arrived at our table as they did at the table behind us. The steak, a T bone, seemingly deep fried, yet still cooked medium rare and in a soy-based sauce that was spectacular. There was no more mumbling. Gerry’s eye had stopped twitching. Zio was picking at the gristle that remained on the T-bone, and Eugene was chattering about his visit to Boston to see a Celtic’s game. All was once again right with our world.



I returned to what is now Danny Ng’s Place on 52 Bowery across from the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge recently. The round tables made the move from Pell Street along with the dual dragons with flashing eyes. The menu was exactly the same; clams casino Chinese style, pastrami with lettuce, corned beef with spinach, roast beef, braised duck with eight precious, and the house special T-bone steak all remained. The waiters were as sharp as ever in their black vests and bow-ties. My waiter, who donned a faux Mohawk haircut, noticed that I was interested on the gallery of photos of Danny Ng on the wall with various family members and police officials. “That’s him,” my waiters said. “My boss. Eighty one years old. He’s the best. The best!. He here today.” He pointed to the kitchen.

Even NYC Police Commish, Ray Kelly knows Danny Ng is “The best.”

I could only see the silver ponytail of the man helping unload a supply of vegetables that had just been carted into the restaurant. But when he turned and walked through the dining room, I saw that it was undoubtedly the man in the photos on the wall. And this was, most definitely, Danny Ng’s Place.

The Fusion Files: Part Four

25 Mar


I don’t know about you, but I  always have a real good time when I combine Chinese food with Tex-Mex.


Have a great weekend and look for another Adventure in Chow City on Tuesday.

Romanian Pickles and Polenta

22 Mar

Our last gathering in 2005 was Romanian Garden which still exists on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside. As far as I know, none of our group has returned for a second taste. And maybe that tells you all you need to know about our first taste, chronicled below.

Romanian Garden
4604 Skillman Avenue
Sunnyside, Queens



The cuisine of Romania is not one of the world’s most celebrated. And I admit to not knowing much about Romania beyond what I’ve learned from vampire lore—that it’s a country with a bloody past whose most well known historical figure was called Vlad the Impaler. That there was a Romanian restaurant in Sunnyside, Queens, and that Rick was able to find it was impressive and yet again displayed that the borough was indeed the epicenter of international eats. There were only four of our group at Romanian Gardens on this holiday week evening, and we were most likely the only four in the comfortable, bright restaurant who could not claim a Romanian past, though Eugene might remind one of a middle-aged Sicilian Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad the Impaler bears an uncanny resemblence to Eugene…in his better days.

The menu featured hearty Romanian fare—meaning stews or dishes accompanied by rich polenta. Who would have guessed that polenta was a staple of Romanian cooking? And the polenta we tried, in an appetizer topped with eggs over easy and sprinkled with a non-descript cheese was creamy and moist. The polenta also came with the stuffed cabbage and was the highlight of that dish. The Romanian stew was bits of pork in a bland tomato gravy while the red garlic chicken stew seemed to be missing garlic, red or otherwise. The appetizers fared better at Romanian Garden with the fish roe spread, a Romanian-version of the Greek specialty taramasalata being the standout. After overhearing a senior citizen with a thick Eastern European accent sitting at the table behind us reminiscing over the homemade pickles of her youth, and seeing that there were pickles on the menu, how could we resist. Though I can only hope the pickles she remembered, maybe from her village in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains were better than what we experienced at Romanian Garden. Strudel was the dessert offering, but after all that polenta, only Zio, who was back in Connecticut recovering from post-holiday stress syndrome, would be the one to brave it.

Garlic chicken stew, an egg, and polenta.

Today’s Special

18 Mar

Today’s special is Memphis Soul Stew. The recipe is courtesy of King Curtis.

Follow it closely for best results.

½ teacup of bass

1lb of fatback drums

4 Tbs of boiling Memphis guitars

Pinch of organ

½  pint of horns

Place on the burner, and bring to a boil.

That’s it.

Now beat well!

For audio instructions, click on the link below:*

21 – Memphis Soul Stew (SingleLP Version)

Now that should most certainly whet your appetite for something big and bold this weekend.

Enjoy the arrival of Spring and I’ll see you on Tuesday for another Adventure in Chow City.

*If you get my posts via email, go to the website to hear the audio above.

Yak Under the Tracks

15 Mar

After traveling to Queens numerous times in the almost four years we had been doing this, in 2005, we coined the area under the number 7 train tracks around Roosevelt Avenue and in the environs of Woodside, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights as the “epicenter” of our Chow City food universe. And it pretty much remains so six years later.

Himalayan Yak
72-20 Roosevelt Avenue
Jackson Heights, Queens

Eugene had his sights set on a Tibetan restaurant for a long time. We really don’t know why the cuisine of Tibet intrigued him. He didn’t know much about the region. He didn’t know it had many high mountains. He didn’t know it had monks. But something was telling him—or so he casually said as if he were referring to Chinese food, “that it was time we ate Tibetan.”



So Himalayan Yak was found—in the epicenter of our culinary universe, just under the number 7 train on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens. Though the title implied yak might be on the menu, there were no yak offerings to be found there. That was fine with Zio who grumbled upon learning where we were to eat that he was, quite frankly, getting sick of yak. “No matter how you prepare it, it still tastes like yak, smells like yak, and looks like yak.”



Though there was no yak on the menu, there was, however the promise of goat brain and ox tongue. Zio brightened at that prospect but was disappointed when our genial Tibetan waiter quickly informed us with a straight face that they were out of brains and tongue. We would have to settle for more pedestrian fare such as shabaleb, a doughy patty stuffed with a tough slab of ground beef that was pink, almost tartare-like. Or the la phing, a cold spicy bean jelly that was tossed with garlic, vinegar and soy sauce that our newest member, Mike from Yonkers took one bite of and, to the dismay of the rest of us, immediately spit out into his napkin and excused himself to run to the bathroom. The la phing and its slime-like consistency certainly had to be an acquired tasted among the Tibetans, but regardless, we expected more temerity from the Tae Kwon Do-trained Mike from Yonkers.  The tsel phing, on the other hand, bean thread in a broth with vegetables and two tingmos (Tibetan steamed rolls) was the perfect comforting antidote to the admittedly revolting la phing.



One of Yak’s special entrees was the gyuma, ten very dark sausages filled with beef that were so good would they would undoubtedly tempt even a vegan monk. What we sampled from the Nepalese kitchen side of the menu was reminiscent to Indian food. The haku chhwela, roasted pieces of lamb were tender and fragrant with Indian spices, while the achar was similar to aloo gobi, pieces of potato and cauliflower in a thick curry. Both were devoured almost instantaneously by our gluttonous group.

Though they do not need worldly pleasures to find fulfillment, Tibetan monks, I had heard, make an exception when it comes to sweets. You wouldn’t know it from what was offered at the Yak. The dey-see, steamed rice with yogurt, raisins and butter had only a hint of sugar and would have made a better breakfast choice than one to follow the likes of ten beef-filled sausages, while the bhatsa markhu, a hand made pasta that reminded Rick of cavetelli with barley, sugar, butter and grated cheese and according to Gerry tasted somewhat like the Jewish dish, kugel, remained practically untouched, a rarity in our insatiable circle.

Our feast was accompanied by a pot of buttered and salted Tibetan tea. The creamy, salty tea at first was a shock, but after a few sips grew on all of us. It would have been the perfect beverage for a wind-chilled night in a tent in the mountains. Not so perfect, however, for a muggy September evening with the scent of gasoline from the next door gas station.



“Good news for all meat lovers,” proclaims a streaming headline on the Himalayan Yak website: “We now have Yak meat on our menu.” This might be good news for meat lovers, but maybe not so for yaks. I recently returned to Himalayan Yak for the first time since our 2005 visit and could not find any yak on my menu. Besides the supposed addition of yak meat, the restaurant has blossomed—if you can call it that—by adding three flat panel LCD television screens positioned next to bucolic scenes of Tibet and a Buddhist altar and proudly, as all restaurants do, displaying their well earned blue A from the Department of Health in their window…and on their website. There is also live Tibetan, Hindi, and Nepali music in the now sleek dining room. I confess to never having heard Nepali or Tibetan music but wonder if it’s prominent enough to help drown out the consistent rumbling of the number 7 train just outside Himalayan Yak’s door.

Black and White Fantasy

11 Mar

I can see them from outside the shop.

They’ve just come from the oven

and now spread out on a sheet.

Rows of round cookies

with shiny frosting on top.

Half black.

Half white.

No need to compete.

Equal partners in sweet sin.

The yang

and the yin.


and ivory

existing as one.

Equal partners

in blissful harmony.

I’ll buy one for sure

and save it for later

I say every time.

But I have no control.

I have no restraint.

And my hand is in the bag

before I’m even out the door.

Inside the bag, my hand gropes the warm moist mound.

What am I searching for?

What will be found?

Determined fingers break off a piece.

Will it be white?

Will it be black?

I have no preference.

I play no favors.

I want to be fair.

I want to do what’s right.

I pull it out

and look at what I hold in my finger.

My heart sinks a bit.

And then I get mad.

I’m not happy.

I don’t like the sight.

Because in my finger,

I hold the white.

Harmony broken,

I pull out the cracked cookie.

Black is better,

There’s no denying.

If I said any different,

I’d just be lying.

Still it wouldn’t make sense,

to throw the white away.

So I’ll eat it first and get

that out of the way.

One sweet brother gone

half a cookie remains.

So much for togetherness.

Nothing stays the same.

I’ll eat the black

until nothing is left.

I’ll enjoy every bite,

I’ll have no regrets.

My belly full now,

remorse sets in.

My mind is in conflict.

Because I favored the yin,

when in my heart,

I know I’ve panged,

to give equal respect to the yang.

Some say it’s a fantasy;

that there’s no such thing

as cookie equality.

But peace can exist

in one perfect round.

A place where sweet truths

can often be found.

It’s not hard to discover

the secret of black and white.

It’s easy really.

All it takes is one bite.

The cookie crumbles.

Extending Familia

8 Mar

This 2005 visit to Braulio’s & Familia marked a return, albeit, temporarily by Charlie to our group. More significantly, it was the debut of new member, Mike from Yonkers. And as I recall, the company was more memorable than the meal.

Braulio’s & Familia
3908 63rd Street

Was Gerry usurped when Zio choose Braulio’s & Famlia, the Ecuadorian restaurant, as our most recent destination? Or was there a leak among the participants to aide Zio in his choice. The facts show that there was no crime committed. A couple of months back Gerry had chosen an Ecuadorian restaurant in Portchester, an increasingly multi-ethnic suburb in Westchester. But his pick was waylaid by circumstances beyond anyone’s control: a wall collapsed on the West Side Highway and Gerry’s knee buckled under the pain of the knife; he had surgery on it the day before. Thinking he might be a food hero and limp courageously to the table, he did not postpone our dinner. But even as devoted Gerry is to our cause, the percodan he was taking to alleviate the pain would not only take away the pain, it would numb his senses, including the all important sense of taste. So, regrettably, his unique yet remote Portchester selection was nixed.

Zio’s selection came next and, as he always does, he researched the internet studiously,  narrowing his choices between Braulio’s and an Indian restaurant in Richmond Hill , Queens . The pick was Braulio’s, located in Woodside, a block from the shadow of the elevated number 7 train, a neighborhood so ripe with a variety of inexpensive ethnic restaurants that traveling to Portchester would be folly. Though Rick was excused from joining us, we were most happy to welcome Charlie back, who made the trek from Pennsylvania .

Our host, Senor Braulio, was on hand to make sure we were comfortable and if he could be of any help with the menu. We always appreciate assistance from the waiters or owners who might guide us in properly selecting the restaurant’s absolute authentic cuisine and Senor Braulio was more than happy to do so. So, instead of poring over the impressive and extensive menu ourselves, we gladly let him order for the table.



Both Peru and Ecuador are renowned for their ceviche and we previously experienced Peruvian ceviche at the excellent La Pollada de Laura in Corona two years ago. Now was our chance to sample the Ecuadorian version. To accommodate our extended familia of six, Senor Braulio had the kitchen prepare a custom-made, mixed seafood ceviche.

Dried hominy corn kernels, crackers, a spicy yellow pepper garlic sauce and bread that intentionally or not, was stale, was brought to our table as accompaniments to our ceviche. We, however, are an impatient group and began munching on the accompaniments—even the stale bread. Finally the big bowl of ceviche arrived brimming with seafood in a marinade. Unlike the clear marinade of Peru, this marinade was green. There was octopus, shrimp, fish, and what is known as “black clam.” I asked Senor Braulio about the black clam and it wasn’t that the clam belly was black, just the shell. Since there were no shells to be seen, we took his word on this. The ceviche was tangy with lime and vinegar, the green color coming from the extremely generous amount of cilantro tossed in. The seafood was “cooked” perfectly in the marinade; nothing tough or suspicious tasting or smelling.



As we waited for our meat platter, Senor Braulio pulled down a big screen and turned his many televisions on to EcuaTV, the television station of Ecuador . He came over to our table and apologetically exclaimed that there was a big soccer match on and hoped we wouldn’t mind, which of course we did not. It was Barcelona (not the Spanish city) vs. Nacional, two Ecuadorian club teams. The restaurant soon was full with groups of men, large bottles of Pilsener, Ecuodorian beer in front of them, watching the game with comparable zeal to our watching a Sunday NFL game.

Soon the huge meat platter appeared; a variety of grilled, seasoned meats, beef, pork, chicken, and sausage along with steamed hominy, green fried plantains, and a very pleasant green salad in a cilantro-flavored vinaigrette. Senor Braulio estimated properly and there was more than enough for the six of us. The meats and the accompaniments were perfectly fine, but what was missing was variety. By ordering familia-style we were not able to sample the curiously-named “ball soup” or the Ecuadorian fried fish, or the rice with black clams, or the tripe with potato, just to name some of the menu’s interesting offerings. In retrospect, opting for the easy route and having Senor Braulio order was a mistake.

Joining us to help devour the food was a potentially new member to our group, Mike from Yonkers . Mike from Yonkers displayed proper passion for our venture, but raised a few eyebrows within our circle when he expressed concern that there might be more food coming after the gigantic meat platter. He quickly realized his error—the promise of more food should never be cause for concern—and knew better than to refuse a few bites of the dessert of figs and cheese.

There’s always room for some figs and cheese.

On a recent visit to, I passed Braulio’s & Familia. They have prospered since our 2005 visit and on the take out menu I noticed that they now have karaoke on the weekends and that the ball soup is still available. Their menu also claimed a website but when I tried it at home, it came up blank.  Charlie has not returned to the group since our visit to Braulio’s & Familia, though Mike from Yonkers has become a mainstay. You will read much more about him in the posts to come here on the Adventures of Chow City segment of Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries.

C is for Chow

4 Mar

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing all those glowing blue “A’s” in restaurant windows.

They are everywhere; on Dunkin Donuts windows, Subway sandwich shops, and, like above, in the window of an Ethiopian restaurant. Their smug perfection is right up there in your face; a constant reminder of the absence of them on so many of my own report cards. Sure, we all strive for perfection, but really, what kind of world would it be if everyone was an “A?” So when, finally, I came across a big orange  C, I felt much better.

Now that’s a grade I can relate to.  I was so excited I almost ordered the homemade gyro. Almost.

Have a great weekend. Look for a new Adventure in Chow City on Tuesday.

Harlem’s Sisters

1 Mar

I remember having dual purposes in bringing our group to Sister’s Caribbean Cuisine. It met our criteria as you will read below and I also had been assigned to review it for a weekly New York-based magazine. I felt slightly guilty about reviewing it. Would my coverage of Sister’s in a major glossy destroy the authenticity we seek out for our group? Read my postscript  below to learn the answer.

Sister’s Caribbean Cuisine
47 E. 124th

With a few notable exceptions (overpriced Turkish food in remote Sheepshead Bay—thanks Gerry) our group has had little difficulty in meeting our criteria of a $20 per person maximum tab, drinks excluded. Many of our choices have been much less than that; the Old Poland Bakery from earlier this year possibly being the record low. But it’s not only about price with us, it’s also about atmosphere. For our group the ideal atmosphere is no atmosphere. Paper plates and utensils are a good sign. Wobbly tables are encouraging. Friendly waiters and/or owners whom we have to converse with using hand signals due to language difficulties is usually a plus. And, of course, the food must be exciting and genuine. It can’t be dumbed down for a “crossover” clientele. We want what “they” are having; “they” being those who live or work near the establishment usually of the same ethnicity of that particular restaurant.

In many ways, Sister’s Caribbean Cuisine, located in the middle of Harlem across from Marcus Garvey Park, epitomized what we search for. The restaurant was small and much of the business was takeout, but it was sparkling clean and along with a few paintings of Caribbean scenes, curiously and to Eugene’s delight, there was a large photo of the 1980’s Boston Celtics playing on the parquet floor of old Boston Garden. Good R&B from the ‘70’s was playing. Our table was not wobbly, nor did we need sign language to converse with the affable Marlyn, host/owner of Sister’s. But we did eat off paper plates and the menu seemed genuine.



The food on the menu was primarily Caribbean, though not from one particular island. Marlyn, was from Guyana and her country was represented on the menu by masala curry chicken, chunks of chicken on the bone in a thick, dark brown curry fragrant with Caribbean and East Indian spices, her cooks were from Trinidad and that island’s specialty, roti, curried chicken, beef or vegetables wrapped in an Indian-spiced flatbread was available, as was Jamaican jerk chicken, here minus the smoky flavor from a genuine jerk pit, but tender and fragrant with a mild bite of heat. Salt cod, known as “saltfish” in the Caribbean was stewed in a piquant tomato-based sauce. Marlyn was impressed with our tenacity when we went above and beyond by ordering yet another dish, the oxtail stew, served in the same tomato-based sauce as the codfish.

It wasn’t that the four of us, Zio was absent, back in Glastonbury doing his part in ridding eastern Connecticut of a variety of pests and vermin, could not handle the entrees, it was what came with them. Each entrée was accompanied by a paper plate with two sides that exceeded the size of the entrée. We had piles of rice and peas, the rice speckled with kidney beans and infused with coconut milk. We had callaloo, the Caribbean equivalent of collard greens, here mixed with okra. We had curried chick peas and potatoes, and cabbage and carrots, and string beans, and collard greens, and macaroni and cheese, and corn bread. And, of course, we ate all of it and added three desserts as well; carrot cake, pecan pie, and despite Gerry’s vague “I just don’t like it,” referring to our last choice: red velvet cake. For all that food, and a few drinks, including sweet homemade sorrel and lemonade, our tab was a lowly $45. So, as far as our experience at Sister’s Caribbean Cuisine, in the words of our ignominious commander-in-chief, “mission accomplished.”


I now live not far from Sister’s and I am happy to report that despite my review, it remains exactly as it was in 2005. Even the photo of Boston Garden is still on the wall. Though in my recent visit, I chatted with a man working the orders behind the counter. He explained that Marlyn had “retired” but soon her sister (one of the three “Sisters” of Sisters) was about to resume her lead role in running the restaurant. And when she did there might be “some changes.” I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but I planned on finding out.

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