Tag Archives: Shi

EXCLUSIVE: LIC restaurant owners reveal video, deal with backlash after couple attack

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo/Video courtesy of Shih Lee

A night that started off as “very uneventful” for one Long Island City restaurant now has its owners sifting through dozens of pieces of hate mail rife with threats and fielding angry phone calls.

“They say I’m disgusting, a monster and that I’ll never get their business again,” said Shih Lee, owner of Shi restaurant. “They said they’ll organize boycotts.”

The family-run business of five years became infamous last week after an interracial couple was assaulted near the 47-20 Center Boulevard eatery on August 17.

Billie and Jacob James-Vogel told multiple media outlets their pleas for help after the beating were ignored by Shi restaurant.

They also said their race and the fact that they were with a gay friend prompted the attack.

“We walked out and they started yelling racial and homophobic epithets,” Billie wrote on Yelp. “They leaped out of their car and severely beat my husband and attacked [me].”

The incident was ruled not a hate crime, a police source said, which means it was not motivated by bias. It is still being investigated by the NYPD.

According to her post on the business review site, Billie, who is black, said her husband, who is white, asked the doorman to call 9-1-1, but the guard said “not my problem” and closed the door in his face.

Surveillance footage exclusively obtained by The Courier shows Jacob calmly walking up to the security guard after the assault and speaking to him for about one minute. Though it was unclear what was said, Jacob walks away seconds before the front door starts to close.

The video also shows Jacob, minutes before the fight, being escorted out by the guard after he was in a long, heated argument with another man by the bar.

Darryl Simmons, the restaurant’s security guard, said Jacob did not ask to come back inside after the fight, but he wanted to know why he was originally kicked out.

“I said it was because he was in a verbal altercation and I didn’t need that in the restaurant,” Simmons said. “He never asked me anything else and he left as soon as the cops came.”

Shi officials said multiple people had already called 9-1-1.

The group first entered the restaurant for drinks, and not dinner, shortly after midnight, according to surveillance tapes. Jacob was led out about one hour later, and the rest of the party left on their own seconds before that, video shows.

The Vogels could not be reached at a phone number or an address listed for them.

“It’s upsetting,” said Shih’s brother and co-owner, Skinny Lee. “That’s not who we are.”

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who is openly gay, held his birthday party at Shi last week after the incident and said he knows Shih to be “a smart and community-minded business owner who I believe is incredibly supportive of the LGBT community and equality for all.”

Restaurant regular Michael H., who did not want his last name published, said the restaurant has donated food and gift cards many times to his charity, which benefits inner city children.

“I’ve seen Shih put his hand out to so many people he doesn’t even know,” he said. “He would not tolerate racism, even insensitivity, especially in Queens.”

Still, the business owners said the damage has been done. The family, they said, is having a hard time dealing with the backlash they say was unwarranted.

“What they have done is just cause so much pain and grief,” Skinny said. “The hell they put us through is unbelievable.”




‘New’ Mexican in Long Island City

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Steve Mosco

In the burgeoning community of Long Island City, it is not uncommon for two or three new restaurants to spring up, practically overnight. The western Queens neighborhood is the new trendy city spot for businesses to latch onto — whether or not these establishments last is up to the residents.

One of the newest eateries in the area, Skinny’s Cantina, comes from a successful restaurant lineage residing directly across the street — the Zagat-rated Shi. Shih Lee, owner of Shi, co-owns Skinny’s Cantina with his brother Skinny.

The result is an as-new-as-it-gets Mexican restaurant featuring a menu of enticing appetizers and entrees, along with plenty of inspired drinks for guests to ease into. A casual atmosphere welcomes patrons into the lively scene, a space with plenty of room for dining and hanging out at the bar. A talented bartender is ready to mix real margaritas and just about any other cocktail.

If you’re eating, start with crisp fried calamari. The appetizer favorite may not sound like it belongs in a Mexican restaurant, but it is prepared with a south of the border flair. The breading is fine and not overly dense like some other versions. The calamari is zesty even without the dipping sauce — however, the sauce is a welcomed addition. It’s loaded with flavors that light up the taste buds and keeps the eater coming back for more.

For an entree you can get burritos and tacos, but it would be wise to expand your Mexican cuisine horizon at Skinny’s. Chicken Milanese might not sound like an expansive gastro-horizon, but any apathy toward this dish would be a huge error. Skinny butterflies a whole chicken breast, pan-fries it and covers it with a velvety cream sauce. The sauce is not heavy whatsoever and the chicken retains it crisp exterior. This is good eating and you will clean the plate.

If you’re dining partner orders the seafood pasta dish, don’t be shy about sneaking a fork over. No, pasta isn’t very Mexican sounding — but Skinny’s is all about changing perceptions and having a good time. This dish works on both counts. Succulent and spicy, it’s loaded with shrimp, mussels, clams and scallops and tossed in gumbo-like menagerie of bold flavors.

Another can’t miss is Skinny’s perfectly cooked skirt steak served with a vegetable medley and a side of chimichurri sauce, which complements the steak and gives it a depth of flavor with chopped parsley and garlic.

For drinks or dinner, Skinny’s Cantina is a welcomed newcomer in L.I.C.

Skinny’s Cantina
47-05 Center Boulevard
L.I.C., NY 11101
Tel: 718-806-1068
Current Hours (Subject to change):
Monday – Thursday, 5 – 10:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Walk-Ins Welcome
Good for Groups
Take Out
Visa, American Express, Mastercard accepted
Full Bar

Skinny's Cantina on Urbanspoon