Tag Archives: Queens cuisine

A tale of three Henrys


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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“My brother is serving the food we cooked at home growing up,” explains Luis Aguilar of his brother Cosme, who began hand-stuffing chorizo and butchering meat at the age of seven.

Luis and Cosme, who worked for over a decade at Café Henri – with locations in Manhattan and Long Island City – are now the general manager and executive chef, respectively, at Casa Enrique. It opened last year in Long Island City under the same ownership. While the chef serves many dishes from Chiapas, where he was born, the menu reads like less of a regional tribute and more of a family history, since they moved several times throughout Mexico.

The space, formerly a satellite kitchen for Café Henri – the restaurant’s French older sister just down the street – is now whitewashed like a blank canvas, with a communal table up front and cozier, intimate seating at smaller tables in the back room.  Servers are attentive and eloquently describe the menu and cooking procedures in multiple languages. Unique cocktails and homemade soft drinks form a beverage menu to be enjoyed while dining or simply snacking on chips and salsa at the bar. A mojito with muddled cucumber adds subtle sweetness, while the horchata  – rich with vanilla and cinnamon – tastes like Christmas in a glass.

The menu boasts one salad, and for good reason. The Ensalada de Betabel con Jicama is unlike any I have ever enjoyed. Like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, slender sticks of golden and crimson beets and white jicama zigzag in a climbing haystack. It has two triangles of salty queso fresco and everything is doused with a fresh mint-speckled lemon vinaigrette. Crunchy, tangy, creamy, cold and refreshing, it is one of the most simple and all-around enjoyable summertime salads.

Though ceviche presents itself in several forms, the Tostadas de Jaiba remains one dish I have had to order every single time I visit. A long platter arrives with three seafood sombreros. Crispy tostadas are capped with mounds of lump crabmeat jeweled with citrus-kissed avocado, chiles, tomato and cilantro.

While tacos range from beef tongue to pineapple marinated pork, the chorizo tacos are not to be missed. The hand-stuffed sausage is crumbled onto mini tortillas with a surprising complexity of tenderness, sweetness, and gentle blend of spices, requiring nothing more than the light sprinkling of cilantro.

And speaking of complexity, the lamb shank draped in a huaxamole of dried peppers, apazote, and huajes falls from the bone at a mere prodding – a most exquisite presentation of mutton.

Weekday service is dinner only, and weekend brunch adds several egg-centric menu items. While the huevos rancheros is exceptional, the brunch dishes still do not outshine the entrees. Opt for the chicken quesadilla with a tomatillo sauce. And then you absolutely must save room for dessert. The pot de crème is like chocolate-almond velvet, but the tres leches cake puts to profound shame every other rendition I have ever tried.

Casa Enrique
5-48 49th Avenue, Long Island City
718-448-6040
Dinner 7 days from 5 p.m. to midnight
Brunch Saturday & Sunday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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Milkflower blooms


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Bradley Hawks

Milkflower’s storefront sits like a pristine display case allowing passersby an exposed view of the dining room and brick pizza oven. Created by brothers Danny and Pete Aggelatos, Milkflower is their first restaurant, though they have been baking pizzas with their uncle in New Jersey for over 10 years. The brothers spent the better part of the past year redesigning the space – formerly a dry cleaner – with reclaimed wood tables, burlap banquettes, a vintage-style mural paying homage to the space’s previous occupant and even a table created from old police barricades.

Named after “fior di latte,” the cow’s milk cheese used for their pizzas (and made in-house daily), Milkflower’s menu features an array of Neapolitan style pizzas.  The classic margherita, with tomato, mozzarella, basil, and parmigiano, is called The Queen. The spicy soppressata packs a sweetened punch that comes from red chili flakes and honey. But one of the most popular dishes is the Brussels Sprout – a sauce-free pie with mozzarella, cracked black egg, shredded sprouts, truffle oil and a soft-centered egg perfect for soaking up with the charred, flaky crusts.

While the pies are truly delicious – I have now tasted six of the 11 options – the dishes that make this pizzeria particularly unique are the small plates. Mixed greens tossed in lemon vinaigrette are jeweled with glistening ruby strawberries both sweet and tart. The Toast Plate for $12 is an absolute must-order, featuring four gorgeously dressed toast points. The chef has whipped a ramp puree into a savory pudding, spreading it onto the crostini, along with charred onions, broccoli rabe and a light dusting of cheese. It is otherworldy. Another is smashed with peas, a delicate ricotta and a whisper of lavender.  These are genuinely special.

The Queen sells for $10, which seems to be the going rate for similar artisan pies in the vicinity.

“We noticed a definite absence of artisan pizza on 31st Avenue,” Danny said.

Milkflower joins the powerhouse avenue lineup that includes the original Bareburger, mex-eclectic Pachanga Patterson, rustic neighborhood cornerstone Brick, tapas-paninoteca extraordinaire Il Bambino, date night favorite DiWine, and family-run Cypriot at Zenon Taverna, just to name a few within a 10-block span morphing this former sleepy street into a legitimate restaurant row.

Drink service includes a selection of craft ales along with some unique sodas – try a bottle of the Fentimans Cherry Cola – though a wine list is soon to come. Dessert arrives in the form of gelato from il laboratorio del gelato on the Lower East Side, with unusual flavors like toasted sesame and honey lavender.  The grapefruit is reminiscent of a delectably bitter creamsicle. From start to finish, Milkflower offers a unique new flavor to 31st Avenue, though I get the feeling people will be traveling from much further away to try it.

Milkflower
34-12 31st Avenue, Astoria
718-0204-1300

BY BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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