It’s frustrating to wake up at 8:11 on Sunday morning, but my restlessness had its own reward in form of a trip to World Tong. We arrived just before 10am and were seated immediately. The place was about two-thirds full with several carts and trays circulating, and without tons of people milling around in the paths between tables the food got around quickly. We’ve sometimes had cold or soggy dishes in the past due to traffic jams, but this time things were perfect. In fact, it was perhaps the best experience we’ve had there to date. WT just plain outperforms every other place I’ve tried in terms of taste and creativity. Pacificana, I like you but there’s just no comparison. Some highlights:
– Butterflied shrimp garnished with roe, atop discs of egg custard
– Hollowed-out rounds of squash stuffed with chopped seafood
– Wedges of fried shrimp cake sandwiched in sliced eggplant, topped with a confetti of red pepper and chilis
– The famous miniature shrimp and pea shoot dumplings
– Garlicky beef balls with shards of spinach in a worcestershire-laced brown sauce
– Duck tongues (whoa) in a spicy/sweet ginger sauce
The last item came courtesy of our tablemates, an older Chinese couple. I thought that they had some kind of octopus dish and asked what it was. They told us that it was actually duck tongue and insisted that we try some. We did, and we liked it. The tongues are very small (duh), and they have a small stem of cartilege in the middle. You grasp the tongue at the base, puts the whole thing in your mouth, and strip the meat from the stem. They’re not chewy or spongy, just a meaty little treat. Who knew?
World Tong, 6202 18th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11204
I still stubbornly cling to World Tong as my favorite, but Pacificana has earned a place in my heart. Our last visit was basically a sampling of the dim sum hit parade: shiu mai, har gow, chicken feet, cheong fun, riblets, fried scallion dumplings, shrimp-stuffed peppers, and a scallion pancake. With the exception of the scallion pancake (not my choice), which might be the worst version I’ve ever had, it was all pretty much spot-on.
We also tried one dish, baby pig with jellyfish salad, that veered a bit from the standard offerings. This was where Pacificana put its stamp on a standby. The glossy, crackling-topped pork was served on a bed of jellyfish mixed with a julienne of pickled carrots and daikon so that you got a mix of tastes and textures: crispy, almost candied skin; tender and savory meat; chewy, sweet-sour strands of jellyfish; and the astringency of the pickled vegetables. If you’ve got more than a couple of people in your party, order two. You’ll need the extra.
Pacificana, 813 55th Street, Brooklyn NY 11220
Mark suggested that I post this and get it off my chest. Be kind.
I sometimes eat Heinz Ketchup by the spoonful. Only Heinz, and preferably Heinz Organic, mind you. Feel free to share your own dirty little (culinary) secrets via the Comments section.
Last night we finally got around to visiting Karczma, the Polish restaurant that opened this past October where my beloved Polska Restauracja (RIP) once stood. The dining room has been completely done over in a style best described as Polish Chalet, with a new layout that makes better use of the deep, somewhat narrow space. Most of the seating is in large, high-backed wooden booths that offer almost complete seclusion, although what was once a slightly dumpy service bar has been turned into a centerpiece with stools all around. The waitresses are kitted out in folk dress, complete with embroidered full skirts. It’s a matter of personal taste whether you find all of this cozy and quaint or oppressively kitschy, but I was pretty charmed by it.
Charming atmosphere only goes so far, though, and what’s really responsible for my tender feelings towards this place is the excellent meal we had. We split a blood sausage to start, which arrived beautifully charred with a rich, smoky flavor and great crispness to the casing. Someone in the kitchen really knows how to work the grill. The accompanying sauteed sauerkraut was tasty, too – tangy with lots of spices in the mix. Our mains were also winners, although perhaps not as flat-out perfect as the sausage. Al had the spicy beef goulash, which was sauced with a lighter gravy than the standard version. Loads of chopped, pickled sweet peppers mixed in amongst the meat provided a good contrast to the beefiness. My grilled trout was the whole fish, presented deboned with a lemon and a small tub of garlic butter. Very simple and fresh, and cooked with a sure hand. Karczma totally won us over.
Karczma, 136 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn NY 1122
PS – I should mention the very reasonably priced tap beers. Krusovice, Krusovice Dark, Czechvar, Okocim – $4.75 for a half-liter mug. Rah!
From the Diner’s Journal of the New York Times:
“Pies ‘n’ Thighs, home to the finest pulled pork sandwich in New York City and an estimable bastion of down home dessert goodness, is closing. Tomorrow.
The reason isn’t particularly dramatic — some kind of mess involving permits and the Department of Health that would take a mound of cash or a lot of bureaucratic wrangling to sort out, according to Sarah Buck, one of the restaurant’s owners.”
We had some tasty, if overstuffed, specimens this afternoon at Castro’s. The carnitas was outstanding – really juicy and smoky – and the chorizo was quite savory with a good level of heat. I also had one with lengua, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The meat was of the spongy, thickly cut variety, though, which grosses Al out. He passed on that one, choosing instead to have the second chicken taco that his mother was too full to eat. We washed it all down with a fantastic tamarind agua fresca and some real Coca-Cola. Thank you, Castro’s.
Castro’s, 511 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11205
New Yorkers really like to argue about what the best is in any given category, and perhaps nothing inflames tempers and rhetoric like the great pizza debate. Innocent queries about where to find the best slice on foodie sites like Chowhound will turn supposedly mature adults into screaming banshees, and god help you if you’ve never heard of DiFara. With that in mind, I’m finally going step into the fray (my public will no doubt breath a sigh of mingled relief and contentment at this exciting news) and throw down for Rosa’s in Kips Bay. I can’t comment on the bulk of their menu, but their grandma pie is my current favorite and one of the most delicious pizzas I’ve had. The crust is chewy and well-charred, the chunky sauce is more than respectable, there’s always a drift of fresh basil or oregano leaves, and though the cheese is standard food service junk, it’s sparingly applied so as not to overwhelm the other ingredients. There’s the occasional inconsistency, but even when not at their peak the pies are still quite good. And when they’re on, they’re ON. I’d put them up against many of the city’s big names with confidence.
Rosa’s Pizza, 629 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10016