Tag Archives: Zagat

Build-a-burger at Burger Bistro


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Bradley Hawks

BRADLEY HAWKS

Last month, the space next door to JJ’s Asian Fusion became a Burger Bistro, the company’s fourth location in the city.  The original is in Bay Ridge, with a sophomore effort in Park Slope, a third on the Upper East Side, and now our own outpost here in Astoria, sharing the same 31st Avenue restaurant corridor as Milkflower, Pachanga Patterson, Il Bambino, Enthaice, Zenon, Point Brazil, Brick Café, and Café Boulis—just to name a few in that 10-block stretch.

While the company achieved  status as the #2 burger in the city from Zagat, this location is also just a couple blocks from the Astoria based giant, Bareburger—which, if lines and wait times mean anything at all, is currently making one of the most popular patties in town.  Both Bareburger and the Burger Bistro feature a “build your own” selection of toppings, offering everything from tuna and kobe beef (at Burger Bistro) to ostrich and bison (at Bareburger).

Because we were anxious to see how this newcomer holds up to the competition, we stopped by after they’d been open a week, just to test things out.  Truth be told, we have already returned more than once.

While the burger is certainly one to drool over, I mostly loved that it could be served on toasted garlic bread–reminding me of my old college burger joint that sold GCB’s (garlic cheese burgers).  Other bread options, however, include potato, wheat, or brioche rolls, as well as sliders or lettuce wraps.

There are several side dishes to choose from, as well, from various tater tots to homemade chips, and fried onions to split pea salad.  The buffalo tots were kinda sorta outrageous. Crispy tater tots lightly tossed in a creamy buffalo sauce, then topped with diced celery and crumbled blue cheese.

Other side choices include deep-fried corn on the cob, fried artichoke hearts, and a few salad options, including one with Portobello mushrooms, pears and goat cheese.

The ice cream sandwich was probably one of the best I have ever tasted, with two sugar crystal-coated chocolate sugar cookies, sandwiching a cold, firm scoop of fresh peppermint ice cream.  They also have versions with snicker doodles and cinnamon ice cream, or oatmeal raisin with buttercream ice cream.

At lunch, you can order a cheeseburger with one topping and a side order for $10 —and they offer other specials throughout the week.

Funky burger toppings range from buffalo shrimp to pickled jalapeños, onion frizzles, wasabi mayo, and portobello mushrooms… just to name a few.

The selection of toppings, meat, breads, cheese, and sides is extremely generous, yet still fits on one page.  In fact, the menu is a dry erase board where you actually mark your choices before turning it in to the server.  And thank goodness it is dry erase.  Leave yourself plenty of time to play with the choices to create a burger and side combination that is just what you want.  The cooks execute everything perfectly–you just have to tell them what to do!

Burger Bistro
37-03 31st Ave., Astoria
347-808-8454

 

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From the basketball court to the ocean floor


| editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Bradley Hawks

A lunchtime crowd gathers amid a vibrant hum of conversation beneath the grapevine-draped awning outside Taverna Kyclades. There is even a waiting list on this rainy Tuesday afternoon. Kyclades doesn’t take reservations; this 95-seat restaurant does not need them. It is always buzzing, even as neighboring establishments along Ditmars Boulevard scramble for business.

The first Michelin-rated restaurant in Queens, which has also topped Zagat’s lists, has no gimmicks. When asked to reflect on the secret of his longterm success, chef and owner Ardian Skenderi lights up.

“I cook with my heart,” he said.

The former pro point guard from Athens stands six-and-a-half-feet tall, but wears a smile that could melt titanium. He knows several customers by name, many of whom dine at Kyclades multiple times a week, sometimes twice in the same day.

“When I give [someone] a dish, I can always say, ‘This is the very best I can do,’ and if they tell me I can do better, then I am going to learn,” Skenderi said.

Room for improvement would be difficult to find. The sole chef, Skenderi is in the restaurant daily. He also gathers seafood before sunrise at the Fulton Fish Market in Hunts Point two to five times a week.

“We have no specials on the menu,” boasts the beloved chef, “because everything here is special.”

Flame-kissed swordfish kebabs skewered with peppers and onions duet with glistening beets or Spanish-style saffron rice. Whole red snapper is prepared to juicy perfection, carved tableside and accompanied with a ramekin of warm lemon oil.

Challenging dishes like Spanish octopus served with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and even steamed horta (dandelion greens), are exceptionally tender at Kyclades in Astoria. Whole branzino is simply prepared in extra virgin olive oil and sea salt and filleted tableside.

In fact, Taverna Kyclades exhausts nearly 20 cases of olive oil each week. Portions are the size of Skenderi himself, but the price point, remarkably, is lower than his Manhattan competitors’.

Is the meal worth the inevitable wait time? You bet it is. The multiple generations of families who gather here regularly for special occasions — or just for some of the best selection and preparation of seafood in all five boroughs — would enthusiastically agree.

The complimentary galaktoboureko (syrup-soaked phyllo layered with warm Greek custard) is baked daily — and runs out daily, to0.

Taverna Kyclades
33-07 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria
718-545-8666
Open daily for lunch and dinner

BRADLEY HAWKS

 

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Record 117 Queens restaurants in Zagat guide


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photos

The newly released 2013 NYC Restaurant Survey lists 117 Queens restaurants, the highest number that has ever been included in the annual guidebook.

Overall, a record 2,120 restaurants made it into the guide, which went on sale this week.

Zagat also lists additional reviews online, which have been integrated with Google since the Internet company acquired it last year.

Though most of the guidebook’s top rated restaurants are in Manhattan or Brooklyn, two Queens establishments received honors.

Sripraphai, in Woodside, won for best Thai food, and first time winner Il Bambino, in Astoria, was rated the best for sandwiches.

Along with reviewing restaurants, Zagat also surveyed New York City diners on their eating habits and tracked restaurant closings and openings.

For the first time surveyors said they cooked at home more than they ordered in or went out for food. But the difference was small: 6.7 meals per week versus 6.4.

Despite diners’ preference for staying in, with 60 closings, fewer restaurants shut down this year than last.

Another notable restaurant rater, Michelin, also released its New York City Restaurants 2013 guidebook this week.

It includes 896 eateries across the five boroughs, but only 66 were awarded Michelin stars.

The only Queens restaurant that is part of that group is Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen in Forest Hills. It received one star out of three, meaning that it’s a “very good restaurant in its category, offering cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard.”

Michelin also recently announced its New York City Bib Gourmands—good-value restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (not including tax or tip)—and 15 Queens establishments made the list.

Zagat 2013 New York City Restaurants in Queens:

Note: The 117 total includes restaurants with multiple locations.

5 Napkin Burger (Burgers)

Aegean Cove (Greek)

Afghan Kebab (House Afghan)

Agnanti (Greek)

Agora Taverna (Greek)

Alberto (Italian)

Arepas Café (Venezuelan)

Astor Room (American/Continental)

Ayada (Thai)

Bahari Estiatorio (Greek)

Baluchi’s (Indian)

Bann Thai (Thai)

BareBurger (Burgers)

Barosa (Italian)

Basil Brick Oven Pizza (Pizza)

Bella Via (Italian)

Ben’s Best (Deli/Kosher)

Ben’s Kosher Deli (Deli/Kosher)

Biang (Chinese/Noodle Shop)

Blue Smoke (BBQ)

Bobby Van’s Steakhouse (Steak)

BonChon Chicken (Chicken)

Bourbon Street Café (Cajun/Southern)

Brick Café (French/Italian)

Butcher Bar (BBQ)

Cabana (Nuevo Latino)

Café Henri (French)

Casa Enrique (Mexican)

Cávo (Greek)

Christos (Steak House)

Corner Bistro (Burgers)

Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen (European)

Dee’s (Mediterranean/Pizza)

Don Peppe (Italian)

Donovan’s (Pub Food)

East Buffet (Asian/Eclectic)

East Manor (Chinese)

Elias Corner (Greek/Seafood)

Erawan (Thai)

Fairway Café (American)

Grand Sichuan (Chinese)

Grimaldi’s (Pizza)

Il Bambino (Italian)

Jackson Diner (Indian)

Jackson Hole (Burgers)

Joe’s Shanghai (Chinese)

King Yum (Chinese/Polynesian)

Kum Gang San (Korean)

Kyochon Chicken (Chicken)

La Baraka (French)

La Vigna (Italian)

La Villa Pizzeria (Pizza)

Leo’s Latticini (Deli/Italian)

Locale  (Italian)

London Lennie’s (Seafood)

Loukoumi Taverna (Greek)

Malagueta (Brazilian)

Mamajuana Cafe (Dominican/Nuevo Latino)

Mama’s of Corona (Deli/Italian)

Manducatis (Italian)

Manducatis Rustica (Italian)

Manetta’s (Italian)

MexiBBQ (BBQ/Mex.)

Mojave (Southwestern)

Mundo (Argentinean/Turkish)

Nick’s (Pizza)

Omonia Café (Coffeehouse/Greek)

Ovelia (Greek)

Pachanga Patterson (Mexican)

Papaya King (Hot Dogs)

Park Side (Italian)

Pho Bang (Noodle Shop/Vietnamese)

Piccola Venezia (Italian)

Ping’s Seafood (Chinese/Seafood)

Pio Pio (Peruvian)

Ponticello (Italian)

Press 195 (Sandwiches)

Queens Kickshaw (Coffeehouse/Sandwiches)

Riverview (American)

Rizzo’s Pizza (Pizza)

Salt & Fat (American)

Sanford’s (American)

Sentosa (Malaysian)

Seva Indian Cuisine (Indian)

Shake Shack (Burgers)

Shi (Asian)

Shiro of Japan (Japanese)

Sidetracks (American)

Sik Gaek (Korean)

Spicy & Tasty (Chinese)

Sripraphai (Thai)

Stamatis (Greek)

Sugar Freak (Cajun/Creole)

Szechuan Gourmet (Chinese)

Taverna Kyclades (Greek/Seafood)

Telly’s Taverna (Greek/Seafood)

Testaccio (Italian)

Thai Pavilion (Thai)

Tortilleria Nixtamal (Mexican)

Tournesol (French)

Trattoria L’incontro (Italian)

Turkish Grill (Turkish)

Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse (Steak)

Uvarara (Italian)

Valentino’s on the Green (Italian)

Vesta (Italian)

Watawa (Japanese)

Water’s Edge (American/Seafood)

Xi’an Famous Foods (Chinese)

Zabb Elee (Thai)

Zum Stammtisch (German)

Michelin New York City Bib Gourmands in Queens:

Alobar (American New)

Andy’s Seafood & Grill (Chinese)

Ayada (Thai)

Basil Brick Oven Pizza (Pizza)

Bistro 33 (French-Japanese Fusion)

Casa Enrique (Mexican)

Hino Maru Ramen (Japanese)

Hunan House (Chinese)

Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan (Chinese)

Little Pepper (Chinese)

Lu Xiang Yuan (Chinese)

Ornella (Italian)

Salt & Fat (American New)

Uncle Zhou (Chinese)

Zabb Elee (Thai)