Tag Archives: Queen dining

Grown-up grilled cheese and gourmet brews at The Queens Kickshaw


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos by Bradley Hawks

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
718-777-0913

Hours:
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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East Ocean Palace: A feast for the senses in Forest Hills


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

IMG_6700

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

East Ocean Palace in Forest Hills offers fantastically authentic Cantonese dim sum on the weekends, when Flushing and Chinatown seem too far away.  An interactive (if not sometimes athletic) dining experience from the moment you step foot in the entryway, stacked aquariums in the waiting area create a compartmentalized mosaic of oceanic life, allowing guests to window-shop the fresh seafood before even taking a seat or perusing a menu.

Like a frenzied bumper car buffet, a nimble team of cart attendants wheel through the dining room as if selling on commission, proudly displaying what appears like hundreds of dishes, from steamed dumpling baskets with every filling imaginable, to classic small plates like chicken feet and tripe, and gorgeous desserts like water chestnut New Year’s cake and chewy sesame balls stuffed with warm almond paste.  Whole live prawns are scooped from their tanks to order and flash-fried, served in a generous heap.  Plates range from $2-$5 and feed three to four people each, allowing a party of four to six to fill up for around $20 per person (or less). Orders are tracked on a tally sheet kept at the table, and totaled upon completion of the meal.

Language can be a bit of a barrier, but servers harbor a very sincere desire to satisfy guests.  It might even be advantageous to arrive with a small idea of possibilities to consider requesting by name.  Ha Gow are sweet shrimp in a crystal dumpling wrapper that arrive in steamed baskets, as do many of the other dishes.  Be sure to ask for the lo mai gai (“low my guy”), which at initial glance appears to be a small brick wrapped in a lotus leaf.  Peeling back the wrapping, however, reveals fragrant steamed sticky rice filled with mushroom, chicken, pork, and shrimp.

The entire experience is nothing shy of a culinary Christmas, which is part of the fun.  Shiny, curious, steaming dishes attract the eye like shimmering presents under the tree.  You can shake, smell, and conjecture away, but until you actually dig in there is no way of predicting what gift of flavor lies within—though practically everything that passes by proves rewarding.  That heart-shaped white gelatin tastes like mangos and cream.  That dish that looks like an éclair wrapped in pasta actually tastes like a pastry puff lasagna, only in a rich and savory brown gravy studded with sesame seeds.

Large plates may also be ordered from the menu, which is full of photographs that assist in ordering.  Consider these few critical tips to know before arriving, and the rest will come naturally as your experience unfolds: Grab a post-it from the hostess upon entering, as seating is called by handwritten numbers, with wait times rarely exceeding twenty minutes. Specify a tea order the moment a server appears, or receive the basic chrysanthemum tea traditionally served at the kids’ table. If the entire staff appears curiously apathetic to your gratitude and unable to say “you’re welcome”, be aware that “thank you” is gestured (rather than spoken) by gently tapping a single finger on the table, two fingers if married—a motion that mimics bowing, without disrupting the meal to actually do so.

 

East Ocean Palace
113-09 Queens Boulevard, Forest Hills
718-268-1668
Hours: Sat & Sun 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Mon – Fri 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Menu with photos and translations available here.