Tag Archives: Dining

Cara Mia: Family makes it special

| editorial1@queenscourier.com


At Cara Mia on Hillside Avenue, it’s all in the family. From the opening of the first restaurant in 1970 to present day, family has provided a concrete base for success and an authentic dining experience. With a menu constructed around typical Italian dishes, Cara Mia utilizes fresh ingredients, aged vinegars and tantalizing sauces.

An Italian dining experience is a marathon, not a sprint. At Cara Mia, this style of dining is encouraged through a surplus of appetizers, salads, entrees and sides. Begin your meal with the fried calamari – light and. In the mood for something truly authentic? Taste the eggplant rollatini – fresh eggplant rolled with ricotta cheese, baked in marinara sauce, topped with melted mozzarella.

Entrees include the traditional chicken parmigiana, francaise and Marsala. More inventive entrees include the Capri – breaded cutlets topped with tomato, onions, mescaline lettuce and fresh mozzarella cheese. One of the house specialties, pork chop Valdostando, presents a pork chop stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese, smothered in a Portobello mushroom sauce – truly delicious.

Pasta acts as a large portion of the menu at Cara Mia, combining classic dishes such as lasagna and baked ziti with homemade specialties such as gnocchi Bolognese, an aesthetic presentation of homemade potato gnocchi in a creamy meat sauce. Vegetable inspired dishes include the spinach ravioli marinara and spinach ravioli Portobello. This ravioli will bring you back to your grandmother’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon – fresh, textured, tasty.

Italian people take their seafood very seriously – and at Cara Mia, the seafood menu is nothing less than serious business. Mussels, shrimp, clams, scungilli, calamari, flounder and salmon – this is just the beginning to a mouthwatering, delightful Italian experience — complete with creamy garlic sauces, fresh mozzarella cheese and the family’s hearty marinara sauce. Share a variety of entrees and add some sides – perhaps the sautéed escarole or asparagus. Make sure to try the famous meatballs created by Liberata, the grandmother that inspired great success for Cara Mia— providing recipes, family support and an abundance of love.

Cara Mia separates itself from other Italian restaurants through its quality, homemade specialties and genuine love for food. From the small city of Brocastella, Italy to the streets of Queens, family recipes have stayed strong and quality ingredients have prevailed.

At Cara Mia, the mission statement is simple, to the point and admirable: “We cannot emphasize to you, our valued guests, our desire to make your dining experience with us the best you’ve experienced. We hope to have the pleasure of serving you at our establishment very soon.” Visit Cara Mia on Hillside for savory entrees, a pleasant dining atmosphere and a nostalgic visit to the streets of central Italy.

Cara Mia

220-20 Hillside Ave

Queens Village, NY 11427




Tue-Fri 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Sat noon – 10 p.m.

Sun 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Credit cards accepted

Full bar

Erawan: Great Thai on Bell Boulevard

| editorial1@queenscourier.com


With the ideal combination of spicy herbs, sweet pastes and fresh ingredients, Erawan of Bayside has succeeded in bringing authentic Thai cuisine to Bell Boulevard. Thai food is a “vacation” from the heavy Chinese takeout we’re all so accustomed to, as it combines aromatic sauces, tender noodles, fruits and vegetables with tender meats and fresh seafood.

The menu at Erawan brilliantly fuses many Southeast Asian cuisines, utilizing ingredients such as soy, curry, sweet chili, lemongrass, lime and cabbage. A surplus of fresh fruits and vegetables is used in creating these Thai delicacies, and most dishes are paired with thick, flavorful pastes and spicy sauces. Lightly prepared, yet potent with flavor – my taste buds entered a foreign “culinary kingdom” of fresh seafood, spicy curry and tantalizing herbs.

Appetizers are traditional and a great way to become familiar with Thai cuisine. Try the Moo Ping- strips of grilled marinated pork in honey herbs. Searching for something spicy? Order the Tom Yum, shrimp or chicken in a spicy herbal clear broth, light – with hints of lemongrass, lime leaves, and mushroom. The Tom Kha combines coconut milk, galangal, lime leaves and chili with herbs to provide an eye-opening explosion of flavor – unknown, yet delicious.

Entrees range from the typical Pad Thai to pineapple fried rice to crispy duck. Entrees are centered around noodles, shrimp, steak, chicken or tofu. The noodles come in a large assortment of shapes, sizes and flavors – each granting a specific texture to its designated dish. The entrees at Erawan exhibit a flawless focus on traditional Thai cuisine with a delightful infusion of Southeast Asian ingredients, spicy thick curries and sweet homemade pastes.

Pair your entrée with the sticky rice or order the pineapple fried rice and share. If you’re a meat eater order the Nuer Katah – sirloin steak cubes, cilantro roots, scallion garlic and vegetables. In the mood for seafood? The lobster Pad Thai is a gigantic plate of seafood heaven – a one-and-a-half pound lobster stuffed with shrimp. Thai food is a wondrous break from your grandma’s heavy Italian sauces and mom’s fried American staples- it combines sweet, spicy, and sour flavors with fresh meats, vegetables and colorful herbs. You’ll be presently surprised by the light, aromatic, textured cuisine served at this local haven.

“We come here because we know it’s consistent,” said Michelle. “I come hungry and leave satisfied- not full, it’s a great dinner option for people watching their weight.”

Erawan of Bayside offers something for everyone – through an aesthetic local atmosphere, delightful wait staff, and brilliant menu. Whether you’re interested in trying something new, watching your figure or call yourself a “Thai fanatic” – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the food served up at Erawan.


42-31 Bell Blvd

Bayside, NY 11361

718 428-2112



Monday – Thursday, noon – 10:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, noon – 11:30 p.m.

Sunday, 3 – 10 p.m.


A ‘Plum’ dining experience

| editorial1@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Joanna M. Adduci

When a restaurant has the ability to provide exceptional service, a savory seasonal menu and intimate atmosphere, it should be recognized. Plum, situated in Bayside, is the perfect date-night spot. Décor colored in deep purples, rich wood, intimate drapery – this is just the beginning of a night filled with quirky cocktails, homemade entrees and a hospitable wait staff.

The cocktail menu at Plum is anything but ordinary. Tailored to the traditional aspects of the establishment, the Apple Plum-tini is on the menu, in addition to the Plum-gasm and Cosmoplumitan. Make sure to try a Lady Bell, the ideal combination of champagne, Malibu passion and pineapple. If you’re looking for a more “classic” cocktail, ask for a Mojito or glass of the sangria. Looking for something sweet? The Plum-gasm combines Grey Goose with espresso and Baileys for a decadent dessert beverage.

Appetizers are a must at this cozy haven. Begin with the crispy calamari, lightly fried. Make sure to order the Mediterranean chopped salad – the perfect assortment of lettuce, tomato, onion, olives and feta cheese, all drizzled with a feta cheese lemon thyme dressing. If you’re looking for something different, try the sunflower crusted shrimp -light, tasty and served with a tangy plum mango salsa. The menu at Plum changes with the seasons, and integrates culinary aspects of various cultures such as Greek, Italian, American, and Portuguese — bringing the best of each cuisine to one menu.

The dinner menu includes pasta dishes, chicken, seafood, sushi, steak and burgers. Cajun Chicken New Orleans style, shrimp scampi, espresso bean crusted filet mignon, hanger steak – all share one common factor: savory, fresh food.

Owner Kostas Kantlis, believes in fresh ingredients, an inventive menu and a comfortable atmosphere. My guest and I sampled the steak served on a bed of hot mashed potatoes and glazed mushrooms. Decadent, fragrant, rich- this entrée is a wondrous combination of meat, potato and vegetable. If you’re not in the mood for meat, order the salmon. Cooked to perfection, it is light and full-flavored.

At Plum, family is an important factor. This is obvious through the ambiance that is present throughout the restaurant- a combination of locals, regular customers and impressed first-timers. If you’re looking for a location for a future event, look no further! Plum is known for its in-house events including baby showers, birthdays and even weddings. Good food, an exquisite atmosphere and professional wait staff – you will be sincerely impressed with the quality of this establishment.

Next time you’re in Bayside, visit Plum. Order a cocktail, some appetizers and an entrée, enjoy the ambiance and company of friends or family. Chat with Kostas about his family traditions, life in the restaurant industry and genuine love of food — evident through his charming restaurant on the corner of Bell Boulevard.

Plum Restaurant

47-39 Bell Boulevard

Bayside, NY 11361




Monday: Closed

Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 4 until 11 p.m.

Friday and Saturday 4 p.m. until midnight

Sunday Brunch: 11:30 a.m. until 4p.m.

Lounge Music: Friday and Saturday


BBQ unlike any other

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MexiBBQ is unlike any other BBQ joint. Mexican-fusion BBQ is the foundation for a menu filled with original appetizers, classic entrees and impressive desserts. Combine this with a modern atmosphere, a knowledgeable wait staff and prime location — and you’ve found your new neighborhood hotspot.

A full bar with a killer happy hour is available Monday through Friday with over 40 beers on tap, homemade margaritas and creative cocktails. As fall approaches, MexiBBQ will offer an abundance of pumpkin beers, appealing to new and returning customers. The ambiance at this cozy establishment is perfect for an after-work cocktail or dinner date: dim lighting, rich wood tables and plasma televisions. Locals rave about the consistency and quality of the food, manner of the wait staff and extensive drink menu.

Nightly specials such as “B&B Mondays” – (burger and beer for $10), “Humpty Wednesdays” (an all-night happy hour and half price wine bottles), and “Pig Out Tuesdays” (all-you-can-eat ribs for $19) — draw in customers from all over New York City. Nothing quite tops the Sunday brunch which combines large portions of delectable breakfast favorites with cocktails — all for a reasonable price. The happy hour at MexiBBQ includes $3 half-liter beers and $5 fresh margaritas on the rocks. Weeknights, 10 p.m.-midnight make sure to stop by for an appetizer and some drinks, enjoy the music or catch a re-run of the game.

While the ambiance and service are extraordinary, nothing quite tops the food. Baja fish tacos, quesadillas, ribs, jalapeno and goat cheese infused corn bread, grilled steak burritos. . .the list is never ending.

My guest and I began with margaritas and wings. We were then presented with chimichangas, drunken cherry salad and Cobb salad. The salads at MexiBBQ combine fresh greens, colorful vegetables, warm goat cheese, tart cherries and crunchy nuts — definitely a must-try.

For our entrees, we sampled the Baja fish tacos and shrimp burrito. Shrimp combined with rice, greens and diced tomato – simply delicious, and light, flavorful and inventive. The Baja fish tacos were lightly battered, combined with an addictive sauce and warm burrito – creative, beautifully presented and tasty. Other menu favorites include the burgers, quesadillas and tacos. Don’t forget the ribs and chicken torta sandwich. Pair these classics with French fries or beans, and you won’t be let down.

The desserts at MexiBBQ are distinct, aesthetically pleasing and offer an abundance of flavors. Tres Leches, chocolate torte, fried ice cream and pecan pie — each presented beautifully — are sweet, savory and hit the spot.

From the classic appetizers to the inventive entrees, MexiBBQ will quickly become a weekly ritual for friends, couples and families. Flavorful drinks, savory dishes and a warm atmosphere crowns this establishment as one of the best in Astoria.

37-11 30th Avenue

Astoria, NY 11103




Monday to Thursday 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Friday 5 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Saturday 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.

Sunday noon – 1 a.m.

‘Best Asian of New York’

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QNE_p072.pdf - Adobe Acrobat

It’s been said that “location is everything.” BANY of Long Island City has captured locals with its prime waterfront setting. It has kept them coming back with an assortment of intriguing Asian dishes. Whether you’re in the mood for sushi or ceviche, this modern Asian haven has something for everyone.

Begin your meal with the “Incredible Tuna” – a little piece of bliss consisting of spicy tuna surrounded by tuna tataki and a sea of nuta sauce. Served with ponzu sauce, this is most definitely a must try.

If you’re in the mood for something light, aim for the Granny Salmon, seared salmon served with tangy green apple and spicy ponzu sauce. Don’t forget the basil oil for that extra kick.

BANY fuses cultural influences into its cuisine, as seen in many of the appetizers, including the Indian pancakes, chicken satay and Vietnamese spring rolls. Although a large portion of the menu consists of Japanese classics, the establishment incorporates Vietnamese, Indian and Thai influences to build a diversified menu for the customer base.

After speaking with some of the locals, I was informed that BANY is known for its sushi. Everything from your typical California roll to the Spicy Bad Girl roll was rumored to be a combination of fresh fish, fresh vegetables and spicy sauces. Specialty rolls combine classic Japanese influences with foreign ingredients to create distinctive, aesthetic sushi creations. I was intrigued by the Pink Panther – spicy tuna & ground nut wrapped with soy bean seaweed – however, I chose to sample some of my original favorites. Salmon, spicy tuna and salmon avocado rolls were delivered to my table in what created a colorful, textured platter. Fresh, tasty and reasonably priced, I was a happy customer.

The entrees at BANY conquer a large realm of culturally inspired cuisine, hence the “fusion” in BANY’s title. Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Asian influences mesh to form the menu at this waterside restaurant incorporating ingredients such as curry, basil, banana leaves and pineapple sauce.

Entrees include mango shrimp, duck curry, Thai style chicken and the grilled Chilean sea bass – carefully wrapped in a banana leaf and served with miso sauce. All entrees are served with rice, and many include a combination of fish, vegetables and tantalizing sauces.

BANY offers a selection of vegetarian dishes and classic Asian entrees including chicken teriyaki and pineapple fried rice. If you prefer something spicy, order the jumbo shrimp with sambal sauce or the sizzling salmon steak- served with sweet beans in a Thai sweet chili sauce.

Happy Hour is offered every day with 20 percent off sushi A La Carte and rolls, dine-in or take out. Lunch specials are offered during the week and include classic Asian dishes such as beef teriyaki, sushi specials and Thai basil sauce over rice.

Reasonably priced and conveniently located, BANY offers something for everyone. Whether you’re picking up lunch, sitting down for sushi or trying the entrees, make sure to stop by Long Island City and try out BANY, the “Best Asian of New York.”


CJ Sullivan’s gets a makeover

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

Every neighborhood prides itself on “the place” — the down-the-block eatery and watering hole where co-workers grab a cold one and shake off the day. CJ Sullivan’s, Bayside’s brew hub that draws a crowd of regulars like moths to a flame, is rolling out a revamped, sophisticated menu. With the assistance of youthful-yet-skilled chef Jackson Yorden, whose southern influence brings panache to longtime bar favorites, the lineup blends upscale taste with hearty portions.

The crab cake, seasoned with lemon zest, tarragon and fennel, stood out as an innovative take on a standard dish. Accompanied by a summer melon salad and red pepper slaw, it transcended expectations and would give any seafood restaurant a run for its money.

The house made lamb burger, topped with feta cheese, grilled onions and a giant slab of tomato, was absolutely incredible. The meaty sandwich was served with thick-cut potato wedges and an unbelievable blue cheese dipping sauce. Our mouths are still watering just thinking about it.

The lobster macaroni and cheese was sinfully rich and creamy, sprinkled with homemade herbed bread crumb topping. The dish blends four cheeses — mozzarella, goat cheese, Pecorino and Romano — into a gooey, noodle-filled masterpiece. While it might seem a little “white table cloth” for a neighborhood pub, we can’t wait to chow down on a bowl while watching the big game.

With tried-and-true bar favorites and new, revamped culinary classics, CJ Sullivan’s is bringing the people of Bayside what they’ve been craving.

Riverview: A restaurant with a view

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alex DiBlasi

For a room with a view and captivating cuisine, Riverview is the borough’s best. Overlooking the breathtaking Manhattan skyline, the upscale Long Island City restaurant provides top-notch eats against a stunning backdrop. The space boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing diners to take in the gorgeous cityscape while indulging in its perfect plates.

We began with a goat cheese salad — warm, lightly fried goat cheese rounds over delicate mesclun and garnished with ripe cherry tomatoes and crispy apple skin, tossed in a honey balsamic dressing. The salad was fresh, light and perfect for summer — definitely a dish we would go back for again and again.

The scallops, a signature Riverview appetizer, were absolutely delicious. Sautéed and dressed with a cauliflower puree and tangerine syrup, they were gobbled up as soon as they hit the table.

We sampled one of the restaurant’s pizzettas, topped with prosciutto, spinach, mushrooms, mozzarella and ricotta. The flavors balanced each other spectacularly and the fresh ingredients made for an incredible pie.

The lobster ravioli was a favorite. Hearty pasta pillows stuffed with lobster meat and served in a saffron cream sauce were so tasty, we couldn’t resist diving in with a spoon.

For our entrees, we tasted the duck and the salmon. The duck was incredibly savory, cooked in a honey lavender sauce and accompanied by sweet potato mash and sautéed spinach. The flavors worked wonderfully together, providing an excitingly new dish unlike anything we had seen before. The salmon was tender and flaky, joined by tasty roasted beets and asparagus.

For dessert, we sampled both the house-made crème brulee and tiramisu. The crème brulee was rich and hinted with notes of orange while the tiramisu was light with just the right amount of coffee essence.

The meal was spectacular and the view was incredible. We can’t wait to head back to Riverview for one of their famous weekend brunches, enjoyed on their gorgeous outdoor patio while watching boats on the East River sail by.

Few Queens restaurants take part in NYC Restaurant Week

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Water’s Edge Restaurant

NYC Restaurant Week, a biannual promotion where restaurants offer special three-course prefixed menus, runs until August 10. Though it’s a citywide event, out of over 300 restaurants participating, only three are not in Manhattan. Two are in Brooklyn, and one, Water’s Edge Restaurant, is in Long Island City.

Since 2004, Queens has held a similar promotion, Discover Queens Restaurant Week, that takes place in early fall. “Restaurants are probably just happy with [our restaurant week] and that’s enough,” said Robert Mackay, director of public relations, marketing and tourism for the Queens Economic Development Corporation.

NYC Restaurant Week feels more Manhattan centric, he added, and people are unlikely to travel from Manhattan to eat in Queens.

Mackay also feels it’s set to Manhattan prices. Discover Queens Restaurant Week’s suggested fixed price is $25 for lunch or dinner. NYC Restaurant Week’s required fixed prices are $24.07 for lunch and $35 for dinner. During Queens Restaurant Week, participants can also offer their own special promotions.

Another price difference between the two is the fee restaurants must pay to take part. This fee is the main reason that Testaccio, an Italian restaurant in Long Island City, no longer participates in NYC Restaurant Week, said manager David Green. Testaccio took part during both the winter and summer citywide Restaurant Weeks in 2010 and 2011.

“I didn’t see the return at all,” said Green. According to him, Testaccio paid $2,500 each time it participated in NYC Restaurant Week. Testaccio didn’t have enough customers during the promotion, or enough first-time customers that came back to justify the fee.

In 2010 Testaccio also started participating in Queens Restaurant Week. It plans on continuing to take part in it, said Green. He’s comfortable with its fee, and feels that the advertising for Queens Restaurant Week, which the fee helps pay for, is a better value than the advertising his restaurant receives during the citywide promotion.

NYC Restaurant Week targets all the city’s boroughs and its visitors, and with adverting, reaches a wide net of people across the city, said Kelly Curtin, senior vice president of membership and destination services for NYC & Company, which manages the promotion. “We would love to have more restaurants in the other boroughs participate,“ she said.

When NYC Restaurant Week started in 1992, lunch was $19.92. In 2002, dinner was added and cost $30.02. The current prices have stayed the same since 2006.

Water’s Edge Restaurant, the only restaurant in Queens that participates in NYC Restaurant Week, is happy with those prices. “It’s a nice promotion. It definitely gives the restaurant revenue,” said general manager Abhi Mukherjee.

During the promotion, the average amount spent per person decreases but revenue increases because of customer volume, said Mukherjee. About 125 to 150 more people come to the restaurant, many of which are from Manhattan. “It’s a tool for building your clientele,” he said.

Water’s Edge doesn’t take part in Queens Restaurant Week because it could lose revenue by charging only $25 for a three-course dinner.

Perfect burgers at the ‘Corner’

| editorial1@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Joanna M. Adduci

At Corner Bistro, simplicity is the key to success. For years, the original Greenwich Village location has been serving up burgers and beer to generations of discerning locals and visitors. So when they decided to open a second location, they chose to bring their bohemian ambiance to Long Island City.

When you walk into Corner Bistro, you’re greeted by the sight of a full bar and booth-style seating. My guest and I had eight choices for our dining adventure, including the hamburger, cheeseburger, bistro burger, grilled chicken sandwich, BLT sandwich, grilled cheese, chili and finally, the chili burger.

I was eager to see if the burger lived up to the hype. My guest and I ordered the bistro burger with a side of French fries and as it arrived, my eyes widened in disbelief. It was a classic all-American burger topped with cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato, all sandwiched inside a soft sesame seed bun. Complete with a McSorley’s Ale and a side of sweet potato fries, my taste buds were pleased, and so was my wallet, as these monstrous burgers are all under $9.

Although the menu is simple, the restaurant grants consistency to customers, letting them know that each time they visit Corner Bistro they will receive quality food, pleasant service and an assortment of draft beers — all at a modest price. Ask for Amie, a friendly and informative waitress.

The location of the new Corner Bistro is appropriate for a Greenwich Village-based saloon, nestled in Long Island City on Vernon Boulevard, a quaint, up-and-coming area with its own bohemian ambitions.

Grab some dinner at Corner Bistro and head down the block and witness a view that will surely take your breath away. Located a few short blocks from the water, after dinner be sure to relax on a bench and enjoy the view of Manhattan.

As summer lingers on, enjoy the simplicity and quality presented consistently at Corner Bistro in Long Island City. Good food, good service, good beer — what more could you ask for?


47-18 Vernon Blvd

Long Island City, NY 11101



All major credit cards


Full bar

La Gioconda: A gem in Great Neck

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Great Neck, the economic retail center of northern Nassau County, is the scene of continuously changing establishments. A constant in this maelstrom is La Gioconda, at 21 North Station Plaza, a family-owned and operated fine dining restaurant.

Upon entering the beautifully decorated eatery you are greeted by the family members — Kathy the wife; our waiter was Peter, the son; and the chef is dad Peter.

The feeling was as though we were invited into their home.

Drinks were generous and moderately priced. My Negroni was mixed to perfection, Stoli martinis shaken not stirred. The wine list is extensive with both domestic and imported selections.

La Gioconda offers a $24 prix fixe menu on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. It includes four different soups, 16 entrees (seven pasta, three chicken, four veal and two fish) and best of all, dessert and coffee and tea. It is by far the most inclusive prix fixe menu in Nassau.

Our appetizers included baked clams, spinach salad with raspberry dressing and grilled calamari. The clams, unlike other restaurants, were not stuffed with bread, the salad greens were fresh and the calamari tender.

Presentation is a major part of the enjoyment of any meal, and as entrees we ordered calf’s liver smothered in onions, which was tender and delicious. My favorite dish, veal piccatta, was proffered with just the right taste, texture and number of capers. Grilled pork chops were large and tender. Mussels are a fresh choice with marinara or white wine sauce. The accompanying green and white pasta was cooked to perfection and comes with a choice of sauces. I choose to have it with butter and pepper.

Each dish was both a splendor to behold and a gift to the palate.

Dessert included homemade napoleons and Italian cheese cake, both a culinary delight.

La Gioconda, with seating for 65, is available for private parties every weekend with a $35 menu with unlimited wine.

This is definitely a restaurant to put on your favorites list I intend to return frequently.


La Gioconda

21 North Station Plaza

Great Neck



Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 4 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 10:30 p.m.

Catering available

Gluten free available



Lotus Pad: Well-known dishes and traditional fare

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Lotus Pad, owned and operated by Charles Cheng, is much more than your typical Chinese restaurant.

Far from mundane, this establishment offers a handful of signature, authentic dishes aimed to please the Asian community by reminding them of their deep roots and culinary foundation. Cheng has been sharing his love of food at Lotus Pad for over a year, and owns a handful of establishments throughout the other boroughs as well. He prides himself on family, a sincere passion for food and a genuine work ethic.

My guest and I began our meal with bubble tea, offered in a surplus of flavors. Almond and mango are just two on the list, but both are refreshing.

The menu presents classic dishes that Americans favor from local Chinese take-out havens, such as General Tso’s chicken, and beef and broccoli.

My guest and I decided to take the alternative route and sample the signature, authentic Asian dishes that were beyond unfamiliar. Everything from fried scallion pancakes to golden bitter melon to General Tso’s tofu – my taste buds were certainly on an unexpected journey through the authentic world of Chinese cuisine.

The world of tofu is new to me, and Lotus Pad did an excellent job of preparing it in various styles. General Tso’s tofu presented lightly-fried tofu surrounded by an aesthetic flowering of broccoli and a sea of sauce- spicy with hints of pepper and orange. Next we were presented with the basil chicken, also known as “three cups chicken,” which appears in a stew-like pot combining tender chicken with herbs.

Classic Chinese dishes also include Chinese style meatball casserole, fish casserole, golden bitter melon and squash.

The person responsible for running the show at Lotus Pad is Elaine, a pleasant, business- savvy woman who knows every dish on the menu and works with Charlie to offer customers the utmost service and most authentic experience.

Although Lotus Pad looks like your neighborhood Chinese restaurant, it is so much more. Go in and chat with Charlie about his family’s history, his love for food and constant dedication to welcoming new customers and bringing something special to the neighborhood. Lotus Pad combines a simple atmosphere with a genuine, persistent dedication to authentic cuisine.

Lotus Pad

25-25 Parsons Boulevard

Flushing, NY 11354


Open seven days, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Credit Cards accepted

Private parking lot

Delivery: Yes

Take-out: Yes

Beer & Wine

Wheelchair Accessible

Conti’s, a star along Northern Boulevard

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Conti's restaurant

Northern Boulevard in Little Neck hosts some of the finest restaurants in the New York metropolitan area. A star among this galaxy is Conti’s, at 249-11 Northern Boulevard. A warm welcome by partner Alessandro was the opening to a very pleasant and relaxing dining experience.

With subdued music supplied by keyboardist Lynn and pleasant lighting, the atmosphere of this 75-seat restaurant, with a nicely appointed bar, offered something not possible in larger eateries — the ability to converse with my dining partners in normal tones.

Opening cocktails were generous and my Negroni was mixed to perfection.

Good-sized appetizers were presented in the most decorative manner, with crab meat served in a star of fennel leaves. Prosciutto ham was served with roasted peppers and mozzarella.

The calamari grilled with lemon and balsamic vinegar was the most tender and sweet I have had in a long time. The mushroom appetizer offered a combination of shiitake, portobello and porcini topped with shaved parmigiano cheese and a truffle oil drizzle. Thinly-sliced raw filet mignon with arugula salad, shaved parmigiano and a truffle oil drizzle was delightful. Oyster offerings were raw, casino and Rockefeller.

Each of us had a different entree, including a double-cut tender veal chop grilled to perfection with a side dish of homemade green and white linguini; chicken with asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes; red snapper with a parmigiano crust sautéed in a dry vermouth and lemon sauce served over broccoli rabe; and sesame-crusted ahi tuna over spinach, garlic and oil. All portions were generous and pleasing to the eye and palate. Delicious in everyone’s opinion.

Also offered but not sampled are whole branzino, sea bass and striped bass broiled whole with garlic, oil and white wine on the side. A great pasta entrée is homemade gnocchi in a chunky veal osso bucco sauce. Gluten-free pasta is available, and it was fabulous. One of our chicken dishes was prepared gluten-free — amazing. Those on a celiac restricted diet will really appreciate this.

The desserts we sampled were homemade Italian cheesecake and Napoleons, and both were light and delicious.

One must visit Conti’s to enjoy a stellar culinary experience.

Ayna Agra brings India to Bayside

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Ayna Agra is a diamond in the rough, bringing a refreshing cultural addition to Bayside. This restaurant combines traditional aspects of a typical Indian dining experience with a cozy atmosphere and warm wait-staff. From Marinated Chicken Fritters to Spiced Samosas, Ayna Agra offers an assortment of classic Indian-style appetizers, entrees and homemade desserts.

Appetizers include traditional dishes such as Samosas and Bombay Shrimp, yet incorporate chef-inspired specials such as Bombay Calamari and assorted appetizers. Inventive condiments are utilized with most dishes and include a delicious Mango Chutney and Raita, which combines chopped carrots and cucumber in yogurt. Other condiments include a mix pickle which is a mix of lemon, mango and flavorful Indian spices.

Along with condiments, warm Indian breads complement the meal. These include Papadum, which mimics a crisp waffle, hinting at flavors of lentil and cumin. Classic breads such as Naan are offered in a surplus of variations including onion, garlic and cheese. Roti, a multi-layered whole wheat bread is similar to the Paratha, which is also a multi-layered bread served with butter.

Most entrees include a meat complemented by a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits and rich sauces. Classic Indian entrees such as Chicken Curry are served in a traditional home-style curry sauce and are savory, spicy and flavorful. Chicken Dhan Shag presents chicken cooked in creamy spinach, lentils and bits of pineapple – hearty with hints of many flavors. I tried the Beef Kurma – tender beef cooked with coconut milk and rich almond sauce. Unusual yet extraordinary, presenting the tender beef complemented by the rich coconut milk and nutty almond flavors.

Other entrees include Keema Peas Curry, which is a minced beef dish cooked with green peas in a home-style Masala. The Lamb Vindaloo combines lamb and a spicy Masala sauce, while the Lamb Shag is savory, combining tender meat with creamy spinach. All entrees include Basmasti Rice, Dhal and seasoned cabbage.

Ayna Agra also offers vegetarian and seafood entrees, appealing to all culinary audiences. In addition to these offerings, a signature menu is presented, including dishes such as Bombay Duck and Chicken Tikka Masala.

Before leaving this cozy restaurant, make sure to try one of the homemade desserts. Everything from the mango ice cream to the Gulab Jamun (deep fried cottage cheese dipped in rum syrup) is presented in an authentic, beautiful manner.

Ayna Agra offers savory-sweet breads, truly authentic entrees and innovative homemade desserts, all served in a warm, intimate atmosphere. Located conveniently off of Bell Boulevard in Bayside, make sure to visit this charming establishment and taste all it has to offer.

This Trattoria has a ‘Neo’ take on Italian

| editorial1@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Joanna M. Adduci

Trattoria Neo combines customary Italian dishes with a pleasant, aesthetic atmosphere making for an enjoyable, innovative dining experience. The venue is charming, to say the least, and provides a full bar and a cozy dining room lined in antique Italian pottery, finished with exquisite walls and ceiling.

Open for over two years, Trattoria Neo has redesigned its menu and incorporated music-inspired evenings and wine specials.

Greeted by the host on our arrival, we were seated in the intimate dining area, and immediately ordered from the extensive wine menu. The establishment offers a surplus of renowned wines including a delightful Sauvignon Blanc and the acclaimed “Blood of Jupiter,” a distinctive, strong-bodied Cabernet. The dinner menu is organized into various categories including salads, antipasti, first-course selections, second-course selections and a traditional dessert menu. This establishment has elevated itself over many Italian eateries through its ability to harness traditional cuisine while incorporating a modern atmosphere and innovative menu.

Antipasti include classic selections such as an Italian cold cut platter and fried calamari, as well as chef-inspired specials such as an imported buffalo mozzarella and a shaved artichoke dish served with granulated pistachios, mache and shaved Parmigiano. I tried the artichoke dish and was overwhelmed by the combination of the textured artichoke and nutty accents from the pistachio. Served over a bed of arugula, this dish is a must-try. My guest and I sampled the veal and beef meatballs — flavorful, moist and just the right amount of sauce topped with basil leaves. Finally, we had a fried rice ball – a savory assortment of flavors capped off with a saffron sauce — delicious!

Dinner platters range from homemade pastas served with classic Italian sauces, to creative dishes such as the spinach gnocchi in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce, or the ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta in a light, creamy black truffle sauce.

Trattoria Neo has a sincere passion for food, and an innovative outlook on reconstructing Italian classics into modern-day customer favorites. And with a genuine concern for customers’ gastronomy, they also offer gluten-free pasta.

For my main course, I sampled a filet of sole with lemon sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly, served on a bed of sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. The presentation was nothing less than impeccable. The chef completed the platter with shaved lemon rind and cherry tomatoes lining the plate — beautiful!

There are many selections for customers who don’t prefer fish, such as the Parmesan encrusted chicken served with a martini lemon sauce and the grilled 14oz Brandt sirloin steak surrounded with steak fries.

This restaurant embraces its Italian heritage while incorporating various aspects of American, French and Southwestern cuisines. Before leaving this charming Trattoria, try the homemade tiramisu or Nutella Pizza complete with an espresso.

Trattoria Neo of Whitestone provides a contemporary, yet classically-influenced menu complete with a warm, cozy dining area and full-length, beautifully-placed bar. Make sure to visit the web site for weekly specials including DJ nights, wine/price fixed dinners and pasta nights.


Trattoria Neo

15-01 149th Street

Whitestone, NY 11357



Open daily for lunch and dinner

Sunday Brunch Buffet 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Wednesday is “Pasta Day”

Dine in, take out


the Kebab House, Middle Eastern Cuisine at It’s Finest

| jlane@queenscourier.com


Queens, with its plethora of cuisines, is an epicurean dream.

Luckily, one does not have to travel far for superb Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes, as the Kebab House can be found right on Northern Boulevard in Little Neck.
The night we dined there we were greeted royally by owner Ramazan Ay, who has created a colorful, yet cozy and warm atmosphere for patrons. Ay had the table set with an array of appetizers, fragrant and delectable, which included humus, a grilled eggplant salad called Patlican, stuffed grape leaves, Yalanci Dolma, pan-fried phyllo rolls stuffed with feta cheese, Sigara Borek and an amazing platter of calamari made in a seasonal flour batter sautéed to perfection and served with his very own special sauce made of Italian bread and an egg yolk . . . amazing. There was a choice of beverages including some Turkish wine and soft drinks.

Ay took great delight in describing the freshness of his food and in making sure his customers are happy with his own special touches. The staff was warm and attentive to our needs as well.

We were enjoying the ambiance of his restaurant and all the appetizers thinking we couldn’t possibly eat any more when Ay placed before us a sampling of grilled meats seasoned with Turkish spices. This was served on top of a bed of rice and vegetables. There was Doner Kebab, vertically grilled lamb sliced very thin; Kofte Kebab, char-grilled ground lamb; and chicken shish-kebab served with a cool and refreshing yogurt sauce. There is something for every taste on the menu, from grilled meats to vegetarian dishes and superb fish choices including a char-grilled Branzino and European sea bass marinated in lemon and parsley.

The restaurant was filling up as we were sampling and enjoying and all those around us seemed to be enjoying the warmth, the background Turkish music and the fragrant dishes being served.

The food was so plentiful and again we could not imagine eating any more, but how can one resist dessert? Before us was placed a tray filled with sweets like baklava, rice pudding and Halva and Tahini pasta with pistachios. Delicious!

We thoroughly enjoyed our tasting and the Kebab House’s wonderful hospitality. We traveled to Turkey without ever leaving home.