A Tibetan Chef in a Japanese Kitchen in Sunnyside, Queens

21 Jun

The night after the Di Fara experience, our group dined at Yamakaze, on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, Queens. Apparently, Yamakaze is no more, but here is a brief testament to its short life.


 The trip out to Sunnyside, Queens on the 7 train was an easy one especially compared to the previous night’s trek to Midwood. Eugene’s puzzling choice was a Japanese restaurant called Yamakaze. We were all more than familiar with the obligatory Japanese restaurant menu—the sushi, the tempura and teriyaki dishes, the udon and soba noodles, What would make Yamakaze a unique experience; one worthy of our efforts? I would withhold judgment. We all had confidence in Eugene’s peculiar, but effective approach to his choices. There was a method to his madness.  We hoped.

The carbohydrate-induced bloat in my stomach after Di Fara’s pizza the night before had subsided throughout the day, but to make sure I ate a light, fiber-rich lunch in preparation for the additional starch to come. The 7 train got me to the restaurant early where I saw Zio waiting outside, perusing the menu skeptically.

  “Whatta we gonna eat here?” he asked, gesturing dramatically with his hands.

  I shrugged and mumbled that maybe the noodles would be good. Again, I was resolved to withhold judgment.

Dazie’s : Live entertainment with your linguini, Thursday through Saturday.

 To kill some time, we walked a block for a drink at Dazie’s Italian restaurant. The bartender, who introduced himself as Dominick, informed us that they were “auditioning” piano players. Before we could withdraw our drink orders, Zio and I had the misfortune of sitting through an abbreviated set of “My Way” and “New York State of Mind.” Thinking we might actually consider returning to Dazies, Dominick gave us each a card and carefully wrote on the back that on Thursday, the entertainment at the piano bar would be “Danny” while on Friday and Saturday, “Jimmy” would be the featured act. We graciously accepted the cards and then got out of there as soon as we could suck down our drinks.

 Yamakaze was empty, but the waitress led Zio and I to our “reserved” table for six. Eugene showed up on time, but Gerry and Mike from Yonkers took a wrong turn off the BQE and ended up in Brooklyn while Rick was stuck in traffic near the Kosciusko Bridge. I’d often heard about the dreaded Kosciusko Bridge and the traffic jams attributed to it, but this was the first time somebody I knew was actually stuck in it.

Fun time on the Kosciusko Bridge

 Taking a look at the menu again, I did notice a few unusual, non-traditional Japanese items. Among them were “Buffalo wings,”  “chicken pocket,” and a Caesar salad.” But along with the above-mentioned non-appetizing appetizers was something called “choi-la,” spicy grilled beef and cucumber stick, and “alu tarkari” spicy potato on deep fried bread. On the entrée portion of the menu, there were others that looked promising like the “Himalyan rasha,” braised goat meat in Thai red curry sauce, and the “sha-ngopa”, sautéed beef or pork with jalapeno, garlic pepper and served with bread. These were definitely not Japanese in language or food. The waitress said that the chef was Tibetan and the menu included a few Tibetan dishes. Did Eugene know this was a Tibetan-Japanese restaurant? Was he, the man who brought us to Himalayan Yak, still fixated on the cuisine of Tibet? Or was it just coincidence? Eugene claimed the latter.

Once Gerry and Mike from Yonkers arrived, we ordered two of those Tibetan hot starters, the choi-la and the alu tarkari along with Japanese gyoza. Rick arrived just as we were cleaning up the very tasty alu tarkari with the deep fried bread and ordered another for him. Tibetan seemed the way to go here—not much excited us on the Japanese menu, but Zio and Eugene ordered noodles, ramen for Zio and thick noodles for Eugene. I mistakenly, maybe intrigued by the name, ordered something called momo which turned out to be the Tibetan version of gyoza. Gerry, who can never get enough of goat, couldn’t resist the Himalyan rasha. This Tibetan goat, however, didn’t meet the high standards set by the Punjabi or African versions of goat we enjoyed at previous outings.

Alu Tarkari: Fried bread and spicy potatoes

There was nothing really wrong with Yamakaze. Sure the muzak of Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand we had to endure while dining didn’t enhance the experience. But we met our $20 limit, even with a few rounds of hot sake. Everything was perfectly fine. That being said, I doubt any of us will ever return.

And no one did.

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