November 28, 2008

Golden Mall and Yipin Chinese Cuisine

So begins a photo-heavy post about our adventures in Flushing one Saturday evening. We ate and we ate and we ate.. our main targets handmade noodles and dumplings. Our comments will follow each picture, since otherwise we might all get a little lost.

Liang Pi ($3.50), Xi'An Small Delights, Golden Mall

L: Golden Mall is one of many "food courts" around Flushing. You enter and walk downstairs, where there are tightly packed vendors and a few tables squeezed in. There are people having hot pots, ordering dumplings and noodles to go, and even some shoes for sale. Nothing quite like it.

This cold noodle dish came out quick (no heating required), and featured bits of squishy tofu. I don't eat a lot of cold noodles, but this was pretty good. The spices were well done, but I'm not a big squishy tofu person.. more like a firm person. It was lightly spicy and had an interesting flavor.

J: As for the Golden Mall, a couple of us agreed that it smelled like a pet store. I think it was just all the fresh fish, etc. and they were frying it. Not that the frying it had anything to do with a pet store, but I'd say it was just all the fresh food. There were lots of people down there though, and everyone wanted us to eat at their booths...but when I looked at a pair of boots in one little booth, I thought the woman was going to cuss me out. She did not want me in there.

As for the food...The boys were raving over this one, but I have to say I wasn't a huge fan. I like my tofu more firm than squishy, and I wasn't overly impressed by the taste. And it was cold, which David kept saying it was the Chinese Tuna Salad, but I didn't really like that either.

Sauteed Lamb with Cumin Burger ($2.50), Xi'An Small Delights, Golden Mall

L: This was like a delicious, more interesting Sloppy Joe. The lamb was finely chopped with some bits of onion and pepper and spiced with cumin. It was a nice meaty snack for 2.50. It really could have been any meat, though, as it didn't taste overly lamby (yummy either way).

J: This was probably my favorite. The meat was so tender, with a little bit of cumin and other spices - but there wasn't too much. And the pita was fantastic - soft and flavorful, and the perfect combination with the spicy lamb.

Stewed Pork Noodle Soup ($4.50), Xi'An Small Delights, Golden Mall

L: I ordered this one, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The broth tasted like beef and veg, and was loaded with lots of hand cut noodles, chunks of pork, onions, bean sprouts and cilantro. The noodles were big and chewy, and I must say they were difficult to eat with chopsticks. The pork was delicious and falling apart it was so tender. It's a lot of soup, plenty for a meal (or, in my case, for leftover lunch the next day). My only problem was it could have used more meat and veg-- this soup was mostly noodle.

J: I liked Laurel's little pot roast soup. It was good. The broth was tasty, and with all the other ingredients, it was definitely better than mine. And those noodles were so LONG they were really hard to get in my mouth (that's what she said?).

Lamb Noodle Soup ($4.50), Xi'An Small Delights, Golden Mall

L: This soup was very similar to my soup, but with lamb. It was milder, and a good warm up for a cold day. I liked it, but it really needed more lamb, and a bit of added spice.

J: There was almost no lamb in this soup (the amount pictured above as about how much was in there, and I had to pull that up for the picture), and unlike Laurel's, the broth wasn't very good. And as for the lamb meat - it wasn't very tender and was a little hard to chew. However, I did like the bits of green onion and cilantro, it made it have a little more flavor. And of course those crazy long noodles were hard to eat. I attempted to take mine home, but after carrying it all over Flushing decided that I would never eat it, and threw it away.

Qishan Saozi Noodles (can't remember, I think $4.50), Xi'An Small Delights, Golden Mall

L: Check out them noodles. This dish was hot and had handmade noodles, scallions, lamb and a midly spicy sauce. I think the sauce had cumin it it. It was hearty and pretty tasty, and had an interesting not-overly-spicy flavor.

J: I loved this one. This was probably my second favorite dish. The little bits of ... whatever the meat was, probably chicken....was so tasty (I don't think it was lamb). I can't even explain the flavor though - let's say a mixture of spice and a little bit of vinegar. There was also lots of green onions, etc. The boys debated over this one and the top one being their favorite for a while. While they did that, I snuck bites.

Sichuan Dumplings, Chengdu Tianfu Small Dishes, Golden Mall

L: These dumplings were handmade, your standard pork and chive variety. They were a nice texture, but lacking in filling, and were drowned in chili oil. A little chili oil=good. A mouthful=greasy overload.

J: These were hard to eat. You couldn't take a bite, because the rest would slip out of your mouth and fall on the floor. The only real alternative was eating the whole thing at once. Which means having grease run down your chin. Also, I didn't like the way they were shaped, or their filling that much. If anything, they just tasted like noodles with chili oil...and a lot of it.

Handmade Cold Noodles ($4 or $5), Yipin Chinese Cuisine

L: This place was small, and the lady that was serving us was cute. The cold noodles were thinner noodles (than seen previously in this post) bathed in a chili sauce. These are definitely good and surprisingly fairly mild. They are pretty oily, but if you haven't been eating oily food all night like us, then these won't set you over the edge. Like they did me.

J: I loved the little old lady at this place. She was like the Chinese grandmother I never had. I believe these were the noodles where everyone started feeling a little sick. They actually reminded me of the dumplings, but they were in noodle form, and they were cold. These had just a very mild chili sauce taste and not much more.

Pork and Thistle Dumplings ($4 or $5), Yipin Chinese Cuisine

L: These pretty handmade dumplings tasted similar to pork and chive dumplings, but with a slightly different, sweetly bitter taste. They were excellent. Not too doughy, great with a bit of soy sauce. Boy do I love dumplings.

J: These dumplings were just right. Exactly how you think of dumplings. The dough was soft and not overly chewy. And the filling was your traditional pork and chive, and there was more than enough.

Address: Golden Mall: 41-28 Main St; Yipin Chinese Cuisine: 40-04 Union St

Website: N/A

Payment: Cash

Take Out: Yes

Delivery: no

Open Late: Not sure! We were in Yipin at 9 pm and they weren't closed, though

Bar/Happy Hour: I think I saw some beer at Golden Mall..

November 5, 2008

Caracas Arepa Bar

Lines, Lines, Lines. Those are the first three words that I think of when I think of Caracas Arepa Bar. But like rollercoasters and voting (Yes, we can), they're worth the wait.

The first time we ate from Caracas Arepas, Laurel picked it up from the to-go side (to the left. the "Bar" is to the right, and there is a closing thrift shop between), and met me in Thompkins Square Park so we could pretend we are homeless. The second time was a mere attempt on my part. My friends were going to meet me but even though they were running late, and I had already waited about 30 minutes for them, with our names in with the hostess, we were still going to have to wait an hour to an hour and a half. The third time was successful. We showed up, and got inside in about 30 minutes. We had to sit at the bar, but it wasn't bad at all and the waiter was attentive. The only bad thing was that my camera died, so we couldn't get a picture of the food. I attempted to draw them, but I am completely untalented in every way when it comes to art. And instead of looking like arepas, they looked like diapers.

At least they didn't taste like diapers! In fact, let me move on from the "Line, Line, Line" part to the "Worth the Wait" part. On my first visit, I had ordered the La Del Gato with beans. The La Del Gato ($5.75) contains guayan├ęs cheese, fried sweet plantains and avocado slices. With beans, it would be all of my favorite foods COMBINED and GRILLED. BOOM - Flavor explosion. It's like a Taco Bell commercial, but the food is actually good. The third (and most successful) time Laurel and I shared the De Pollo ($5.75), which contained grilled chicken breast with caramelized onions and cheddar cheese. It was surprisingly sweet, tasted a little like barbecue, and was the perfect combination of flavors.

This place is delicious. I strongly suggest at least attempting to get in. Isn't too busy before around 7, it seems, but you never know. - Jennifer

[Insert awesome picture of food here.]

Caracas is a delicious place. Arepas are relatively new to my food world, but I'm happy to welcome them to my eating out diet. So good!

So, for those of you who don't know, arepas are a South American dish and resemble a cross between a sandwich and a taco. Fillings are stuffed inside a handmade fluffy grilled corn tortilla, and include black beans, slow-cooked pork and beef, chicken, fried plantains, avocado, cheese, and more.
I ordered the De Pabellon ($6.75), filled with shredded beef, black beans, sweet plantains, and aged cheese. This is the arepa they are famous for, and there's a reason why. It's delicious. The flavor combo is different and slightly complex, but the salty-sweet-chewy-meaty combination is just good.

One arepa doesn't seem big, but it's pretty filling. However, if you're starving like we were, I'd suggest getting three and splitting one, or starting out with an appetizer. Note that there are lovely pictures of their arepas and other items at Caracas' website below (sorry for the lack of photo evidence).

The take-out location has a bit of seating, but a bit is it.. not to say that the proper location is much better. The space is tight and the wait can be long, but the staff is friendly and the food is tasty, so, as Jennifer said, it's worth it. Note that they make everything fresh when you order it, so don't expect real speed, even at the to-go location. But sit back and relax-- it's part of the experience. -Laurel

Address: 93 1/2 E 7th St (at 1st Ave)


Payment: Cash, Cards

Take Out: Yes

Delivery: no

Open Late: 10:30

Bar/Happy Hour: Yes, wine and beer
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