Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Here, There, And Everywhere

Sunday night, my family and I headed out for seafood, the perfect match for a hot June night. Eastchester Fish Gourmet serves clean, honest seafood, the kinds of dishes I crave when the weather gets hot. Truth be told, I feel nostalgic for afternoons that sweep into evenings on decks above the Atlantic in Massachusetts, where lobster comes with a plastic bib and a bright cylinder of corn. New York is full of many culinary possibilities, but I've never felt that the dining scene here ever truly understood a proper New England seafood meal.

I considered the steamers, of course, but they are messy and I was wearing silk. Instead, I settled for east coast oysters, five different ones (Peconic, Blue Point, Malpeque, and Beau Soleil) that were as clean and briny as any served on any fine coastline. My softshell crab appetizer was crispy and well suited for the caper and pepper sauce that accompanied it. The bed of chopped spinach underneath was a nice final touch.

And then, my lobster. They had no chickens in house, so I bumped up to the next bracket, 1.75 lbs. of pure Maine crustacean. Any New Englander will tell you that the smaller lobsters yield the sweeter meat and the greed of diners who order the 3 or 6 or 9 lb. beasts is never rewarded. Lobster is a true measure of quality since it's eaten with nothing but drawn butter and this specimen didn't disappoint. I remember a time when I hated lobster, the one food in my home that my mother permitted me to pass up. More for her, she always figured, and now I know the error of my ways.

Dessert gilded the lily--I could have (and should have) stopped after my shellfishpalooza--but I needed that pineapple upside-down cake, didn't I? Or maybe I just needed the caramelized banana ice-cream that came with it.

From linen tablecloths to cafeteria dining, my next night out found me in Flushing, back to the Golden Mall for noodles, dumplings, and other assorted snacks. At Xi'an Famous Snacks, one must never leave without trying the Liang Pi noodles (cold, thick, glutinous noodles served in a secret sauce with slabs of tripe) or the lamb burger, a spicy combination of lamb and cumin served on a thin and crispy bun. You would never expect from the dinginess of the place that this stall has played host to Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain, but they know good tripe when they see it. Next door, the noodle-pullers at Lanzhou Handmade Noodles served us beef and noodles in broth, far tastier than whatever incarnation I had the last time I came (skip the gristly beef itself, but drink the cilantro-flecked broth).

At House of Xie, another mall stall, we sat down to julienned potato salad, slick with chili oil. Then: a perfect, sticky bun filled with savory beef and sweet onions; thin sliced kielbasa, served cold; chewy pig ear cut into fine ribbons. Nan Shian Dumpling House graced us with chive and meat dumplings, pan seared. They were soft-topped and brown-bottomed, like any good fried dumpling should be from a combination of steam and oil. A good dumpling sticks to the bottom of the pan. We ate ours with black vinegar and black garlic.

Back on the street, we stopped at the duck bun vendor for $1 duck buns, flesh and a perfect square of crisped skin served on a white, doughy bun with hoisin, scallion, and cucumber. There is no better dessert.

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Eastchester Fish Gourmet
837 Post Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
914.725.3450

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Xi'an Famous Snacks
Golden Mall
41-28 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355

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Lanzhou Handmade Noodles
Golden Mall
41-28 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355

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House of Xie
Golden Mall
41-28 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355

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Nan Shian Dumpling House
Golden Mall
41-28 Main Street
Flushing, NY 11355