EazyLife Restaurant & Lounge

Instagram Post 11/18/2019

If you like West African cuisine but can’t decide between Nigerian and Ghanaian food, you might consider EazyLife Restaurant & Lounge, 1300 East 222nd St. in Eastchester, Bronx, where two chefs are in residence, one from each nation. (Incidentally, the dual arrangement insinuates a round of dueling jollofs since the two rice recipes are markedly distinctive.)

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Our appetizer was Nigerian Isi Ewu, goat head sautéed in “native sauce” as the menu described it. Of course, the texture and flavor of goat head are unlike goat meat from further down the carcass; more like goat skin, these nubs are chewy and benefit from the spicy sauce and spears of red onion that accompany them.


Keeping with the Nigerian theme, this entrée is Bitter Leaf Black Soup. Bitter, yes, but in a good way, with a satisfying spicy kick. Croaker was the fish of choice in the starring role.


Afang Soup was less a soup or sauce and more along the dry stew <-> chopped leafy vegetable continuum. Made from afang (aka okazi) leaves, sometimes with the addition of spinach, cooked down with palm oil and dried fish, it had a medium spice level. More croaker alongside. Our starchy fufus (aka swallows) that day, not pictured, were amala and the more neutral pounded yam.
 
 

Yin Ji Chang Fen

Instagram Post 11/13/2019

It is not often that I have the opportunity to write about a restaurant so special that I am compelled to recommend it enthusiastically; Yin Ji Chang Fen, a well-known rice noodle roll chain from Guangzhou, China, made the cut. Recently opened at 91 Bayard St in Manhattan’s Chinatown, you can expect long lines so grab a take-out menu and hone your decisions while you’re waiting.

Cheung fan (Chinese rice rolls), amid alternate spellings, are enjoying a moment in the spotlight here in New York City. You’ve probably savored them at specialty venues, food trucks, and dim sum parlors; in essence they’re a thin roll of steamed rice noodle filled with seafood, meat, or vegetables or wrapped around youtiao (Chinese cruller). Now if you’ve been eating them forever, you’ll immediately recognize that these are a little different from what you’re accustomed to in at least three aspects: the noodle is thinner, they arrive doused with a bespoke soy sauce based mixture, and the proportion of filling to noodle is off the charts.

In addition to 16 kinds of chang fen, Yin Ji Chang Fen offers 14 varieties of congee (aka Chinese rice porridge), both with ample customizations available, and a few Asian snacks.

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Marinated Pork and Shrimp with Chives rice noodle roll; absolutely delicious. (Incidentally, portions are about twice as large as is customary around these parts.)


Inner workings: huge chunks of pork and whole shrimp.


Sliced Fish with Chives rice noodle roll. I thought I’d try an add-on so I asked for extra egg in this one. I was expecting to find the egg within, but what arrived was the rice roll as specified further enveloped in a thin omelet, a pleasant surprise.


Lai Wan Style Assorted Congee, topped with shredded egg, ginger, greens, peanuts and cilantro.


Inner workings revealed fish fillet, squid, pork skin, and more. Note that their congee may be a little thinner than what you’re used to. Although not canonical, you could unabashedly add some Spicy Chili Crisp, provided tableside, if you’re so inclined.


From the Asian Snacks side of the menu, Deep Fried Fish Skin; best I’ve ever had, ruined me for others.

Go here now. That is all.
 
 

Seafood Palace

Instagram Post 11/11/2019

Bensonhurst’s burgeoning Chinatown (yes, really) is home to a phalanx of Guangdong (Cantonese) and Hong Kong style restaurants as well as a few dim sum parlors (as you’d expect). The area is ripe for serious exploration, but to get things rolling my dining buddy and I did a survey of most of the eateries, noting which warranted further investigation. We settled on Seafood Palace, 2172 86th Street, Brooklyn, for lunch and despite the paucity of patrons that day, it did not disappoint.

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The menu calls this delectable item Sea Clams and Sweet Pea Pods with XO Sauce; the Chinese reads XO蜜豆桂花蚌 which I interpret as XO honey bean osmanthus mussel (or clam). The XO sauce part is a gimme and honey bean refers to sugar snap peas. The clams looked and tasted exactly like sweet razor clams but I’m told that “osmanthus clam” refers to something dissimilar. Assuming you like clams, treat yourself to this eminently accessible dish served with a mildly spicy sauce enhanced with ginger, scallions, green chili, red chili, Chinese chives, purple onion and what I suspect were tiny nubs of flavorful pork. Definitely good eats.


Pan Fried Egg with Noodlefish was a tasty, unpretentious dish obviously prepared with great care and admirable skill. The scrambled eggs were light, fluffy, pillowy and moist and the kind of preparation you’d expect from French cuisine. Noodlefish, aka ice fish, are related to smelts, so watch for the few unavoidable tiny bones.

And yes, I’m going back. Soon.
 
 

Tessey’s International Kitchen

Instagram Post 11/2/2019

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She was a tough old bird, both in the barnyard and on the table. Nigerian Hard Chicken is prepared using older hens who laid their last egg when they wore a younger bird’s feathers. And yes, the meat is hard indeed, and chewy as well, but certainly flavorful. Fortunately, we also ordered Red Stew, a simple and tasty Nigerian dish made from red pepper, tomato, and love which turned out to be a perfect accompaniment. Darn good collard greens rounded out this pre-game lunch at the recently opened (June, 2019) Tessey’s International Kitchen, 2542 White Plains Rd in Allerton, The Bronx, where Nigerian as well as soul food options rule the roost.


The entirety.
 
 

Dek Sen

Instagram Post 10/20/2019

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I’ve written about Dek Sen (literally “child noodles”), before but not about their Zabb (very literally “delicious”) Wings. When you see zabb (you might also see zaab) it’s your clue that you’re dealing with food from the northeast region (Isan, Isarn, et al.) of Thailand. Dusted with a crunchy coating that combines chili and lime, these wings are crisp, spicy, not at all greasy, and they definitely live up to their moniker. Lots more to try from their menu as well.

Dek Sen, a stop along my Ethnic Eats in Elmhurst ethnojunket, is located at 86-08 Whitney Ave, Elmhurst.
 
 

King Dumplings

Instagram Post 10/12/2019

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Quick post about newish King Dumplings at 74 Hester St in Manhattan’s Chinatown; quick, because all we had time for was a plate of agreeable fried chive & pork dumplings (featuring one attempting an escape) – 4 for $1.50. According to reports, all dumplings are handmade by the chef of Prosperity Dumpling. The menu includes additional items like fried buns, sesame pancake sandwiches, and soups; frozen dumplings in quantities of 50 are available as well.


Innermost recesses – to give you an idea of the thickness of the skin and quantity of the filling.
 
 

Tarim Uyghur Food

Instagram Post 10/2/2019

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Breaking News! New Vendor Alert: Stall number 5 at the New World Mall Food Court, 136-20 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing is now home to Tarim Uyghur Food. They appeared about 10 days ago filling the void left by Pho Sushi (I suspect it was that, but I never tried it) which in turn occupied the former digs of Erqal and its distinctive Uyghur ice cream among other authentic dishes.

I’ve written extensively about Uyghur cuisine and I’ll do a comparison with my feast at Nurlan Uyghur Restaurant, also in Flushing (soon, I promise!) but for now, here’s a look at two dishes from Tarim.


Lagman (Handmade Noodles), item 2 on the menu, was a stir-fry (see first photo) of freshly sliced lamb (I witnessed him carving the meat from a huge chunk), sweet red bell pepper, spicy long green pepper, celery and onions.

Lagman (cognate to lo mein) presents as a single interminably long hand-pulled noodle…

, …stored in a coil, ready for action. Perfectly textured, dense noodles, the tasty dish had a spicy kick albeit no other side notes.


Diced Fried Noodles, item 8 on the menu. Called Ding-Ding Lagman at Nurlan (ding refers to dicing food into small cubes), the dish is as much about texture as it is about flavor at Tarim. Tiny cubes of lagman were stir-fried with lamb and the same vegetables as above, all cut into matching-sized bits; certainly comfort food (you want to eat it with a big ol’ spoon), but I wish it had a little more oomph in the flavor department.


Some decorative Uyghur bread. I’ll return soon to sample other items on the menu (since I’ve already tried everything at Nurlan! 😉)
 
 

Mekelburg’s

Instagram Post 10/1/2019

I enjoyed a busman’s holiday recently at Mekelburg’s, the eatery/craft beer/specialty food shop at 293 Grand Ave in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill. Two dear friends chose the restaurant and deliberated over the menu selections; my job was to enjoy the delightful company and conversation.

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Sambal Butter Roasted Oysters was probably the best item we tasted and it was seriously delicious. But what’s a holiday without a you-had-to-be-there story? So….

The only hitch was that somewhere along the route from kitchen to table, a considerable quantity of that tasty butter spilled, engulfing the mountain of rock salt upon which the oysters had been perched, effectively camouflaging it. Of course, I had no idea what lay at the bottom of the pool until I tasted an unfortunate mouthful of what I thought was provided as an accompanying condiment. Shoulda known better. And a regrettable waste of delectable sambal butter to boot. Fortunately, there was still plenty remaining on top of the oysters, all covered with sauce.


Wild Dandelion Greens Salad with white anchovies and parmigiana cheese bathed in a lemony dressing.


Ducka Ducka Banh Mi – a successful cross-cultural combo: Peking duck and duck rillettes, carrots and cucumber with sambal hoisin mayo.


Roasted Bone Marrow with rosemary grapefruit marmalade and crispy toasted slices of French baguette.


Salt Baked Potato with smoked black cod, crème fraîche, and caviar.

Sounds like holiday food to me!
 
 

Old Luo Yang

Instagram Post 9/30/2019

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Many years ago, when I was investigating every single vendor (🐷🤷‍♂️) in the New World Mall Food Court, 136-20 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, for my food tours, I was intrigued by the options at stall number 4, Old Luo Yang (Luòyáng is a city in Henan province). The phrase “Processed Noodle” grabbed my attention; seems like it was intended to describe Liang Pi (Cold Skin) Noodles which do indeed involve an elaborate process in their preparation: make a flour and water dough, irrigate it with more water, rinse it, discard the dough reserving the liquid, let it rest overnight to form a precipitate, dispose of the topmost liquid, pour remaining paste onto a tray, steam over boiling water, and slice into noodles. And that, dear reader, is a gross oversimplification.

For all that effort, the resulting noodles don’t have much flavor of their own; it’s more about what you do with them and every vendor/restaurant has a different strategy. Their flagship dish, Old Luo Yang Processed Noodle, arrives on a flat plate with so much (absolutely delicious) sauce, that it invariably spills onto the tray, and spills significantly. Mess notwithstanding, however, I strongly suggest that if it’s your first time here, that’s the one to order.

They have another area of distinction: they add vegetable juice to the recipe, infusing the noodles with color (but not really much additional flavor); adding carrot juice produces an orange noodle, then there’s spinach green, black rice, and purple sweet potato, shown here. The order comes with bean sprouts, slivers of cucumber, and gluten (looks like cubes of bread that soak up sauce like nothing else on the plate) plus (this is the altered part) three containers of sauce. The first time I ordered this, I wasn’t certain about how much of each sauce to use: I tried a bit of each individually, then in combination, and wasn’t really satisfied until I realized that the best approach was to use every drop of all three.

Maybe the inevitable overflow was the reason behind the division, maybe it was to account for varying tastes, but I found that for best results, combine everything together – including every dram of all three sauces – mix well, make a mess, and enjoy.
 
 

The Point

Instagram Post 9/29/2019

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I have been remiss of late in posting about West African cuisine, so here’s one that’s been waiting patiently for a few months. My dining buddy turned me on to this humble venue, The Point, in the Bronx; we only had time for a quick bite, food crawls being what they are, but the bite was a good one.

Ampesi, a Ghanaian specialty, typically consists of some form of boiled starchy vegetable like yam, plantain, cassava, or cocoyam alongside a rich stew/sauce. My best guess as to the starch we received was boiled yam although the photo on the wall showed others (should we have inquired?); the sauce, I suspect, was based on kontomire, cocoyam leaves, the traditional partner, but IIRC, she said spinach. We requested goat and mackerel as sauce enrichments – tasty stuff.

The Point is located at 2037 Webster Ave in the Bronx.