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New York City for foodies - please help choose 8 or 9 out of 25 restaurants

New York City for foodies - please help choose 8 or 9 out of 25 restaurants

Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 01:06 PM
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New York City for foodies - please help choose 8 or 9 out of 25 restaurants

Friends of mine are travelling to NYC (first-timers); they're not overly internet savvy, but very serious foodies like myself, and thus, I'm trying to help them figuring out where to dine. My problem is that I haven't been to New York for about 350 years, so have no idea about current dining hot spots.
They like to do quick/light lunches, and their principal meal is dinner, so lunch/brunch is only a minor issue here (nonetheless, a few options also for this part of the day). They have nine evenings, so want to choose nine dinner restaurants, or perhaps just eight in order to go back to their favourite place the last evening. Well... we've assembled a list of 25 possible restaurants, and a few more for lunch/brunch, as I said; and also some out of the 25 might end up being chosen just for a quick lunch (your input, please!?). They don't mind traveling an hour by subway for a good meal, since as I said, they're serious foodies. On two or three evenings, they may want to splurge and go for something really expensive, but definitely not every day. They long for variety, and definitely want to include a steak house, Chinese, and Japanese (sushi and not) cuisine; Italian is not their first priority since they can get first-rate Italian food most of the time (they live in Italy for a good part of the year), so the few Italian places included in the list need particularly judicial examination.

Would you please help to narrow down the choice? In alphabetical order:
Aldea
Le Bernardin
Blue Hill
Café con Leche
Degustation
Fu Run
Grand Sichuan International
Hunan House (I understand there are two places of this name in Queens - here, we're talking about the one on Northern Boulevard)
Imperial Palace
Katsuno
Kyo Ya
Little Pepper
Meskerem
Momofuku Ssäm
Nan Shian Dumpling House
New Pasteur
Peter Luger Steak House
Ping’s (on Queens Boulevard, not in Chinatown)

Sachiko’s on Clinton
Sfoglia (included because the chef-owners both worked at Cibreo in Florence earlier in their career, and Cibreino is my friends' favourite Florence restaurant - anyone being able to compare Cibreo/Cibreino to Sfoglia??)
Spicy & Tasty
Tomoe Sushi
Ushiwakamaru
Vice Versa

And finally, the very short list for lunch/brunch/snack (any of these not even worth considering?):
Baoguette
Café Sabarsky
Doughnut Plant
Five Points
Gray's Papaya (just for fun - typical local fare anyway!)
Prune

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 01:49 PM
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First Congratualtions on picking places that are not usually chosen by tourists. That said where did you get the list?

I am not sure why you would go to Queens for your meals? It is fine if have you have time, but you will spending a lot of time on teh subway.

When we are Queens we eat at Jade Asia
http://maps.google.com/maps/place?hl...59124578413837

Cafe con Leche is an interesting entry. It is not Spanish food as from Spain but form the Caribbean and Central America.

For snacks
Donut Plant has fabulous donuts that taste and are made differently than others. No place to even stand let alone sit.

Five Points and Prune-excellent brunches long lines. Try going during the week. Not the same menu but a more pleasant atmosphere

Gray's Papaya-more fun than food
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 02:01 PM
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Thanks for your points... that's a list those friends and I assembled ourselves, based on their guidebooks and my internet research (as I said, they are not big on that, so I'm doing the internet part for them, or together with them). Queens, well, it just seemed as if the most interesting far-east (and particularly Chinese) restaurants, currently, are to be found in Queens. Wrong?
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 02:09 PM
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I'll pick only the ones I know anything about (& would recommend) - Le Bernardin, Peter Luger Steak House, Degustation & Café con Leche.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 03:05 PM
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Thank you... would you mind detailing also which ones you know and would NOT recommend? That would be interesting, too!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 03:49 PM
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Dined at Le Bernardin a couple weeks ago, very expensive but very good seafood cooked in the French way (emphasis on light sauces). Wife had the 7 course tasting menu, I had the 8 course tasting menu ... desserts were extra special there.

So for the 'special' meal I'd recommend Le Bernardin, or similar Michelin 3 star winners with a French accent like Daniel and Jean-Georges (which I realize are not on your list, but are similar in quality and not far from LB, in case they have problems getting reservations). Or Per Se if they can somehow get in (good luck!).
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 05:16 PM
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That's an incredibly varied list.

Le Barnardin is the best fish in the city and you will pay a major amount to dine there.

Cafe con Leche is a very modest dominican neighborhood place that has great chicken with lime (it's a couple of blocks from my house) but is definitely very modest and simple - but a teeny bit different food. Great if you want fried plantains and a good selection of various beans. and caribbean food.

Somewhat of the same ilk, but a teen bit more upscale, is Pio Pio Salon - for great Peruvian chicken. Also good, but neighborhood and modest.

As for Per Se - if they can get reservations and are willing to pay for it - definitely do it. Have been 3 times (my beau has to entertain wealthy clients) and each time it was truly wonderful.

If they want very traditional French you can;t beat Grenouille for a fantastic meal in a beautiful setting.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 05:48 PM
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I'll just mention that one way to dine at some of the best restaurants in the city without taking out a mortgage is going for lunch. While I typically have my main meal for dinner, I often change that in order to go to a place like Le Bernardin which is a great lunch prix fixe as does Jean Georges and La Grenouille among others.

While I regularly recommend ViceVersa as one of the best Italians in the theater district, coming from Italy I'm not sure why it made the list when there are far better Italians elsewhere in the city.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 06:02 PM
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Sfoglia is very informal and because it's so small, it's not easy to get a reservation. I prefer Spigolo, also on Upper East Side and Il Buco in Noho.

I've been going to Peter Lugers for over 30 years - always enjoy the food and casual atmosphere.

My favorite special restaurant is currently Eleven Madison - wonderful food. I love Jean-Georges for a special lunch - the ribbons of tuna are spectacular.

imo, Vice Verse shouldn't be on a foodie's list.

Five Points is great for brunch - extremely noisy.

Consider DBGB - Daniel Buloud's new 'hip' downtown venture specializing in sausages and beer, but with many other options on the menu. They have a good brunch too.

Your friends should have reservations wherever possible.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2010, 07:05 PM
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Manhattan Chinatown has actually gotten better in the last few years bringing in the chefs and the restaurants from Queens.

I am only saying that you will be spending a lot of time on the subway schlepping back and forth from Queens.

Also can try Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches.

Try 2nd Ave Deli for food you cannot get elsewhere. Turkish Kitchen, Indian restaurants like Banjara and Haveli, and for seafood try Aquavit. http://www.aquavit.org/restaurant/newyork/index.asp
It is original and wonderful Scandavian seafood. Personally I think Le Bernandin is highly over rated.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 03:19 AM
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Franco I will weigh in now on the Chinese and then return with other comments later today.

I have to respectfully disagree vehemently with Aduchamp on this subject. If they are seriously interested in Chinese food, they absolutely and with no question must make the trip to Queens. In my opinion, Manhattan Chinatown has no restaurants that can equal the diversity and quality of offerings to be found in Flushing. (I have not yet visited the Manhattan Chinatown branch of the Xian noodle shop on East Broadway, but in any case this is more of a stand and not a dive and your friends can check out the original place on their foray to Flushing if they so choose. (It is located in a rather grotty basement mall on Main Street; there is much talk online about it).


To get there, they have the choice of the #7 subway or the Long Island RailRoad; the latter is more comfortable and a seat is almost guaranteed. Either way, the trip is an easy one of about 20-30 minutes and once they reach Flushing, the walk is less than 10 minutes, no matter where they choose to eat. One caveat is to try to take the train trip on a day when the baseball Mets are not playing at home; the trains are crowded on those nights.


Once they arrive, if they wish, they can spend some time wandering about the various indoor malls and just looking around, but I will not go into those details here until you confirm that they might like to do this.


Now, the next order of business is to decide which type of food they would like. I could ramble on and on about this, and no doubt lost everyone's attention en route, but I think that your choice of the Northern Blvd. Hunan House is a good one for beginners, but only if they can tolerate spicy food. (By the way, Franco, I heartily recommend Fuchsia Dunlop's book on the subject of Sichuan and Hunan food; this is exciting and informative reading for anyone with an interest in China and its food;

http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/books/s...ichuan-pepper/



Hunan House is a bit more upscale then some of my other favorites in Flushing and there are staff who speak English, which might be helpful to your friends. It is by no means "fancy" by any means, but it is not at all vaguely down-at-the heels like my other favorite, Little Pepper. If they do decide to go there, or someplace else, I would direct them to Chowhound where there are multiple reviews of all of the places that will be covered here.

For example:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/624832


Little Pepper is a personal favorite. But it is located in a rather unattractive basement and there is virtually no English spoken by the (very pleasant and accommodating) staff. My own method there, and in other spots, is to take the paper menu home with me after the first visit, do my research, and circle the dishes I want to try. I then hand the menu to the wait person after making sure that the "real" menu does not have additional items to sample. The food there is Sichuan and although I think it is the best of that type in the city, I would recommend only for diners who want spicy food. In no way, however, is the spice level here or anywhere else that I have tried, comparable to that applied by Sichuan places in China, so it is NOT blisteringly, verging on the inedibly, hot. Spicy and Tasty is less good, but the premises are more appealing. I think tourists (me included) get the short shrift here at times.


Now, if they cannot tolerate spice, I would direct them to either Cantonese, strong on seafood (Imperial Palace) or Fu Run (NE Chinese). The latter is in the "fancy for Flushing" league and the other is unadorned but not at all scruffy. English is spoken well at Imperial Place and less so at Fu run.

You can read more about these two on Chowhound and return to let me know which type of food they might prefer before I cause the heads of readers throughout the country and lands beyond to tumble onto their laptops
and so remain for at least two hours, in the deepest sleep.

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/572...s;results_list


Do not be put off by the measly one star accorded by this reviewer; for food alone, the place is multi stellar. As at each of these place, they must do their research to note the best dishes at a particular restaurant.

http://events.nytimes.com/2009/10/28...ws/28rest.html

The Nan Shian Dumpling House (the place on Prince Street in Flushing, right?) looks great and I have it on my own list. But it is mainly for dumplings and noodles,, with very little meat or protein on the menu if I recall correctly.



I have time right now only to weigh in quickly about the places on your list that I have visited. Of these, I highly recommend Degustation and Aldea. Both are small, off the radar, and excelling in Iberian food. I am not a fan of Blue Hill but my last visit was some years ago. Le Bernadin is lovely but the atmosphere is a bit corporate. But the food is excellent. In that league, Jean Georges is also wonderful and the cafe there might be a good place to consider, too.

I love the Momofuko places although he has his detractors. Ssam is very loud, so be aware.
But they do need to try at least one Chang place so this is a good choice, maybe for an early dinner (??) If they want gooey, sweet desserts (I see Donut Plant on the list) they need to visit the adjacent Milk Bar, also a Chang place.

While I like the style of the chef, I thought Prune was a bit overrated and not a destination place. New Pasteur is decent but if they have been to Vietnam and are expecting food like they sampled in Saigon, forget it. We have no stellar Vn food here. They can find some in the DC area if their plans take them that way.

Ok, Franco, I will sign off now. See you later!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 04:43 AM
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Thank you all so much! All in all, it seems like either Le Bernardin or Jean-Georges should be on the final list! mclaurie, excellent point about lunch at the more expensive restaurants; my friends are now trying to convince themselves to follow your advice on perhaps one or two days.
As far as Vice Versa, I take the full responsibility that this place was (was!) on the list - blame my enormous confidence in Fodor's, where I saw several recommendations for Vice Versa. What had convinced my friends were their casunziei alla bergamasca, an interesting dish they have yet to sample (me, too, by the way). Whatever - Vice Versa has already been cancelled!
nytraveler, "incredibly varied list", they (or may I say we) take that as a compliment, that's what they wanted to achieve. And yes, there should be some modest neighbourhood places on it, as well. Café con Leche made it because my friends never had the chance so far to sample Dominican food, and are curious about it. From the three comments it got so far, it seems like a good choice.

Dear ek, a thousand thanks on my friends' behalf for your "brief" notes, and another thousand from myself. Great! They are certainly not among those who are going to nap on their laptops, nor am I!!! Keep those details coming, please. So we've cancelled Spicy & Tasty from the list; all the other places still sound great. Nan Shiang is actually on the list because they want to try those famous soup dumplings, and from my internet research, this place seemed far preferable to Joe's Shanghai. Yes, they tolerate spicy food, and even like it, though perhaps not every day. (They say they had only one meal so far that was definitely too hot for them, a dish from northern Thailand in an unadorned original preparation that was so hot they hardly knew how to finish it. But they did, with unusual lots of drinks to wash it down!) No, they've never been to Vietnam, but keep chasing a memorable Vietnamese meal since they always read this be one of the best cuisines on earth - their chase always failed so far. So it doesn't seem they would succeed in NYC, either... ek, we're looking forward to your next visit on this thread! And to everybody else's, too, of course.

Ah yes, and as for Prune: they absolutely want to have Eggs Benedict when in New York, that's why. Would it be preferable to choose Five Points?
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 05:19 AM
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I simply saying that the trip to Queens can be a schlep. The stop on the 7 is near the end of the line and and you have to wait for a LIRR train.

If you have a short stay and travel to Queens every day for a meal, you would using up some times.

And yes, the food in Manhattan Chinatown has gotten better. As noted earlier,because they have brought in chefs and restaurants from Queens.
__________________________________________

I have eaten at David Chang's restaurants but not the expensive ones and they are over rated. They are fine but not worthy of all the adulation. The bakery is over priced and everything, once again, is good, not great. And now there are huge lines of the 20 somethings getting their coffee and whatever else they get there.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 06:09 AM
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Per Se, perhaps the finest restaurant in the city, is now serving a tasting menu for lunch in the salon on Fri/Sat/Sun for $175/person. Serious foodies might want to consider that.
http://www.perseny.com/ (look under information).

As for ViceVersa, I just wanted to be sure it wasn't on the list b/c of so many recos here without your understanding why. If there's a particular item on their menu they want to try, by all means, do, but maybe for lunch or at least don't expect anything extraordinary, just good.

As for eggs benedict, I'd go to Balthazar or Blue Ribbon Bakery and you don't have to wait for the weekend for Balthazar. Early (8 am) during the week is very civilized there. If they want to try some pancakes, Clinton St. Baking Co. is known for that. Here's a chowhound thread on brunch and who has what. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598414
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 06:55 AM
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I simply do not agree about the Chinese food in Manhattan Chinatown and I think most people who have explored both areas would agree. Believe you me, I would rather avoid the trek to Flushing from my home in midtown Manhattan but I simply cannot eat Chinese food of that caliber, and of that variety, in the downtown (Manhattan) Chinatown. For one thing, that area does not offer the breadth of cuisines that are evident in Flushing.

Having been to China several times, and having a perhaps more enthusiastic affection for the food of the country than is the norm on this forum, it certainly is possible that a trip I would undertake with anticipation would be considered by others to be a waste of time. But Franco has stated that his friends are quite interested in food and has specifically asked about places in Flushing. Flushing is not the ends of the earth. It is a trip of less than 10 miles and takes about 30 minutes or so on the subway from midtown, and in the OP, FRanco says that his friends do not mind traveling an hour by subway for good food.

I am not saying, by the way, that all the places in Manhattan C-Town are terrible. It is possible, with selective ordering, to have a pretty good seafood Cantonese meal at Cantoon Garden, to name one standby. But most of them are pretty mediocre. But even the best of that area does not compare with the bounty that Flushing offers, especially in the non-Cantonese cuisines..


Let's put it this way: Some people think nothing about trekking a half hour, or two hours, for a good meal. Others think it is waste of time. There is no single correct position.



It will be up to the OP's guests to decide if a trip of 30 minutes on the subway each way is "worth it." (There is also the option of taking a car service or taxi.)

I am an admirer of David Chang and I think that one of his places is more or less a must for anyone interested in the city's current food scene. And I think that the cookies at the Milk Bar adjacent to Ssam are actually reasonable. The price ($5 for 3 large cookies) is not excessive compared to other dessert places in the area, most notably City Bakery, which charges (I think) $2.50 per cookie. Note that you can also buy the cookies at the midtown Chang outpost, Ma Peche 56th Street west of 5th AVenue:


http://www.momofuku.com/ma-peche/



Having eaten at the Cibreo trattoria, I was surprised to read that the Sfoglia people have roots there. I've not eaten at Sfoglia principally because it is, or at least was in the past, very difficult to book a table and because I read some less than positive reviews. My guess is that being on the Upper East Side, they have to gear their place to the diners of the neighborhood even more so than might be true of other places in a more trafficked-by-outsiders location. Maybe I need to get there myself and give you my opinion before your friends come. As far as I know, the cuisine at the two places is not at all alike--thanks for letting us know about the ink.


The reference to sushi brings up a notable omission from the list: Sushi Yasuda in midtown. I am not all that knowledgeable about sushi but I have tried a number of the so-called to top places here and I think Yasuda wins hands down. My comments apply only to meals taken at the sushi bar and specified "omakase," of chef's choice. Diners can state an approximate price range and then let the chef decide what to serve. I've been seated next to people that devour an all-tuna, or all-salmon meal--there are at least several varieties of each of these on offer most days. Your friends probably know this, but to do justice to an omakase meal here or in another of the top-tier places, be prepared to spend about $100 per person on food. Do not, by any means, make the mistake of sitting at a table, here or at any of the other noted sushi places.


http://www.sushiyasuda.com/restaurant.html
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 07:22 AM
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As far Chinese food is concerned, I have good friends who are Chinese whose parents were born in China, so I just go where I am told.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 08:32 AM
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No qualms about the trek to Flushing. They are aware it will cost some time, but they've been known to do crazier (and more time-consuming) things to get a good meal, or some good produce. They won't certainly travel to Queens every night, but perhaps every second night

mclaurie, the brunch link is great, thanks. As far as Per Se, they will have to forego that, unfortunately - that's yet another price range than the other expensive places here discussed, and simply too pricey for my friends. Price issues are also the reason, ek, why Sushi Yasuda hasn't been on the list so far... Tomoe and Sachiko's seemed (reading instead of sampling, of course) like serious alternatives in a somewhat less pricey range, and as I said, they are willing to splurge on some but not all evenings. If you assure me, however, that the two other sushi places are not worth considering as compared to Yasuda, then this may of course be one of those few splurge dinners.
Two more questions my friends ask me to ask you about Flushing: do they need reservations there, as well, or would it be possible to decide after strolling around the neighbourhood which of the several Chinese options to choose? And ek, as for your favourite, Little Pepper: the dish-circling method seems perfectly fine for a New Yorker, but perhaps less practicable for tourists (they won't probably have two dinners there). Can you perhaps recommend some specific dishes worth ordering there (i.e. circle them on Fodor's instead of the paper menu, so to speak)?
If you really plan to check Sfoglia before they travel (which would be incredibly nice, of course), they'll go about the time you are going to Puglia. (I've translated your second email to Puglia, btw, just in case you didn't notice.)

(Short digression: it's rather tough for a food addict like me to do all the mouth-watering conversation on this thread without having a chance to reap the gastronomic profits myself... I had to compensate by preparing a thick cicerchie soup for myself today - cicerchie are a variety of chickpeas, but way more delicious. End of digression.)

As far as Vice Versa, ok, they'll keep it in mind as a lunch option. No priority, though; if they really want to sample casunziei alla bergamasca, there's no reason why they shouldn't go to Bergamo (which is a beautiful town anyway, and they don't know it yet).
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 09:16 AM
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I have many American friends whose parents were born in America, but that doesn't mean I'd go to American restaurants they suggest. And just because a person is from France, doesn't mean he is a better judge of good French food (there are plenty of mothers in France, believe it or not, who are lousy cooks). I'm sure it is the same with Chinese as any other nationality.

I agree with ekscrunchy. There is Chinese and there is Chinese. If these people want a particular style of Chinese cuisine or a particular dish and don't mind a half hour trip then by all means go for it. I'd say the same thing about a place like Peter Luger's for steak. You can get steak at hundreds of places closer, but if you want that particular experience, then what's a half hour (or more) in each direction to get it?
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 09:21 AM
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There are certain nationalities who much more particular with their food. My favorite is Italian-Americans of my generation. They would eat whatever Mama prepared goat's eyes, blood sausage, etc but they would faint if they ate pastrami out.

The Chinese I know and fortunately I have been to many banquets and different social occasions, food and how the food is prepared and what the ingredients are essential. It is not related their individual skills but the way they were raised.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2010, 09:30 AM
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Franco: They do not need reservations. Granted, I am usually in Flushing on a weeknight and I also usually arrive by 7pm. But even if they go later, the worst they will face is a short wait for a table and I doubt if that will happen at any of these places. But please remember that the trains will be crowded when the Met baseball team is home at the stadium close to Flushing. If you let me know their dates, I will give you the days to avoid, or at least the dates on which they should try to time their travel to avoid the hordes of fans that pile onto the Flushing "#7" train.

I am going to list the dishes I like at Little Pepper, and also at Hunan House--later today. There are reams of information about these spots on Chowhound, too; there are posters there who appear to eat in Flushing every night and if you venture into those waters, you may find yourself learning far more than you ever want to know about various dishes, their origins, who prepares them "the best" and on and on.

I don't know the other two sushi places so cannot compare. I think that there are so many options for other cuisines in the more moderate price range that they can easily leave out those high-end spots like Yasuda. I only eat sushi about once a year. I used take myself alone (no one else was remotely interested in going along!) to sit at the bar and have the chef prepare what he thinks is best, as I described above. But no question, this is pricey and as a matter of fact, I've not done it in a couple of years.

I noticed that there is no Thai and no Indian on the list. If they want to sample Thai, they would also need to head for Queens (in my opinion, anyway). But we do not really excell in either of those cuisines (although there are plenty of good places) so perhaps they can leave those for another time, another place.
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