A Considerable Taste

13 Sep

Taste Good
82-18 45th Avenue
Elmhurst, NY

 Taste Good was chosen by Gerry who usually sends us to the far corners of the tri-state region for better (Indian dosas in Jersey City, authentic Korean barbecue in Ft. Lee) or for worse (tacky Mexican in Yonkers and mediocre barbecue in Valhalla). This time he stuck closer to what Zio refers to as the “epicenter” of our food universe; the corridor around the number 7 train of Woodside, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst, where Taste Good was located. But even this time, Gerry’s curse was not totally diminished when the roads close to the restaurant were closed due to a subway shooting. Still, no one was complaining and a few of us, Zio, Rick and myself even had a few extra minutes to browse the next door Hong Kong supermarket where baby bok choy was on sale along with a special on live frogs.

Frogs for sale.

All of us were in attendance including Eugene who displayed no side effects after the defeat of his Red Sox. In fact, he was suspiciously silent on the subject. To prod him, we made sure he was aware of the availability of sting ray on the menu and even our collective eagerness to order it in some preparation would not illicit any type of self-pitying response. Thus is the demeanor of the now jaded Red Sox fan.

The menu was large and our waitress intent on speeding up our ordering. Though her English was shaky, she was not shy about making suggestions, especially in the quantity of our orders. When we suggested an appetizer of  nasi lemak, a rice platter served with curried chicken, salty spiced pungent anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs, she wanted to know how many orders. When we asked if one was enough, coupled with two orders of roti canai, an Indian-style pancake served with a chicken curry gravy, and tahu goreng, deep fried bean curd stuffed with bean sprouts and sprinkled with a peanut sauce, she shook her head adamantly and said, “No. Two!”

Golden aromatic clams

When I, on name alone, wanted to order the “drunken clams” she shook her head. “This is no good,” she said. “Have this instead,” she said pointing to the clams in “aromatic flavor.” I wasn’t sure, but pretty confident that debating the choices was not an option. With the clams, the aforementioned sizzling aromatic sting ray, hokkien udang mee, a shrimp broth soup with noodles, fish cake, eggs, and greens, and one of our Malaysian favorites, beef rendang, here subtitled cleverly on the menu as “Love Me Tender,” which, of course, when it comes to beef rendang, is the only way to appreciate it, we thought we had enough, even for our crew.

“Not enough,” our waitress barked. Scrambling through the dense menu, the waitress and I collaborated on the choice of char kway teow, rice noodles with shrimp, fish cake, and egg. “Two orders,” she said. At this point she had taken over and all we could do was nod compliantly.

Char kway teow: Two orders please

As it turned out, we ordered so much that by the time the last dish, a huge platter that held the sizzling sting ray, arrived Zio was beginning to groan. Mike from Yonkers, who was seated next to me, however, was unfazed by the assembly of dishes. His secret to enduring the onslaught of food could have been his propensity to rise to a semi-standing position while piling portions from each dish onto his already congested plate; the physical act quite possibly serving to allow his stomach to stretch, creating almost unlimited consumption capacity.

Though he made a few disparaging remarks about the rapidity of the service as if he would be happy with more deliberate service, Eugene held no grudges to the sting ray, which was smothered in a spicy, muddy brown sauce, and dug in dutifully.

The clams were seemingly roasted in, as the menu suggested, a golden aromatic paste, and drunken or not, an excellent recommendation. There was so much that when a big bowl of soup arrived, we wondered if we actually ordered it believing that our waitress might have just “thrown it in” thinking we wouldn’t know any better. But in fact, it was the fiery hokkien udang mee and we indeed included it.

Hokkien udong mee

Quantity certainly did not detract from the Taste Good’s quality and the restaurant certainly lived up to its confident moniker.

And when all, with the exception of the bottom half of the sting ray had been devoured, Eugene looked at his watch, which he had been doing throughout our meal and then nodded. “All that food eaten in about a hour,” he said.  An impressive feat, but from the look on Eugene’s  face, we could do better.

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