BY BRADLEY HAWKS
According to Merriam-Webster, a kickshaw is “a fancy dish; delicacy; trinket; gewgaw.” While the name The Queens Kickshaw undeniably denotes its location, the double entendre also implies a collection of exquisite and rare morsels fit for royalty, which this café-restaurant certainly is.
With one of the most carefully-edited food and beverage menus in Astoria, a visit to The Queens Kickshaw is an expedition into unique, fantastic tastes in both food and drink, all in a rustic and warm epicurean gallery.
In a renovation that extended well over a year, husband-wife owners Ben Sandler and Jennifer Lim partnered with EcoSystems in Brooklyn to design a uniquely green space, with refurbished, recycled, and reclaimed materials mostly collected by the Sandler and Lim, achieving the intimacy of a downtown coffee shop, but with surprisingly grandiose spaciousness and reclaimed wooden tables of every size and shape imaginable to accommodate individuals to couples or large groups. An always-friendly staff fires orders to the kitchen via mounted iPads.
The menu showcases a collaboration between the husband-wife team and executive chef Youngsun Lee, whose credits include substantial kitchen time at the original Momofuku Noodle Bar, CraftBar, Blue Fin, and even two of his own endeavors, the Kimchi Taco Truck, as well as Persimmon in the East Village.
Grown-up grilled cheese headlines, including a toasted gouda sandwich with black bean hummus, guava jam, and pickled jalapenos. The Great Hill Blue arrives on cranberry walnut bread with sweet prune jam and slivers of fresh pear. Small plates range from mini knishes filled with celery root and blue cheese to a bowl of pepper-studded queso laced with asiago and Scottish ale served with crispy Nixtamal tortilla chips.
Highlights from the larger plates include a wild mushroom shepherds pie with red wine braised root vegetables capped with a whipped cauliflower mash with golden toasted peaks—or savor a generous helping of the gruyere-cheddar-smoked-mozzarella macaroni and cheese, which is glistening with ribbons of French beans and caramelized onions adorned with a diagonal sash of creamy tomato sauce. But be sure to save room for dessert, perhaps a scoop of luxuriously decadent fontina cheesecake, or a mug of mocha which is cocoa-fied with actual crumbles of Mast Bros. chocolate bars.
Chef Lee’s sophisticated whimsy really shines on the brunch menu, with dishes like the umami explosion of Japanese-style cold poached eggs with miso butter and mustard seed ‘caviar’, or the scotch eggs, presented here as quail eggs wrapped in sweet potato puree, dredged in crispy panko shell, over a garlic-leek confit.
The roster of beverages is equally enticing, from cone-capped pour-over coffees to brews from Coffee Lab Roasters in Tarrytown, percolated in the Marzocco Strada machine. Those vinegars that magically transformed the blueberries for the salad now become drinking cordials spritzed up with soda water—an age-old classic known as a shrub. The drinks are spirited as well, with rare craft ales (some commissioned exclusively for TQK), nearly 30 alongside wine and mead (also known as honey wine). In honor of NYC Beer Week, check their website or Facebook page for special events this week, including chef’s tasting menus and the tapping of specialty beers like a cask-conditioned collaboration between Peekskill Brewery and Coffee Lab Roasters on March 2 at 5 p.m.
The Queens Kickshaw
40-17 Broadway, Astoria
Mon-Fri, 7:30 a.m.-1 a.m.
Sat-Sun, 9 a.m.-1 a.m.; brunch weekends/holidays 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Vegetarian, free wi-fi
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