Monday, July 21, 2014

Loverly Rolls at Pink Nori

After a long week, I was looking forward to some R&R with good friends in a chill setting.  Strolling along 30th Avenue last Friday, my friend Andrea and I had a hankering for some sushi and chose Pink Nori as our destination. Relaxing, enjoyable and filled with good eats, we walked out happy and full, with plenty of leftovers for later.

Even though Pink Nori is in the middle of the action on 30th Avenue, it's easy to miss, since the signage is unassuming and also because it's right next to the busy Antika Pizzeria.  The interior is simple and slightly devoid of character, as it lacks charming touches and feels slightly generic with its minimalist approach.  The most welcoming factor is the bar area, set in the front of the house, decked with colorful tiles and a backlit wall, displaying sake and wooden sushi boat containers.

Slightly overwhelmed by the menu, there was an immense amount of choice in the sushi rolls, sashimi and various Japanese specialties.  In the end, both Andrea and I combined a specialty roll with a simple sushi roll as our main course and shared Pink Nori's signature sushi pizza as our starter.

Sushi Pizza - Ever since Meg and Emily tried this dish when we got Pink Nori take-out, I've had food envy.  Consisting of a homemade scallion pancake that seemed to be layered, it was topped with a thin layer of guacamole and seafood goodness such as yellowtail, salmon and tuna.  Looking like an abstract painting on a plate, I'm happy to say that it tasted as colorful as it looked.

Hamachi Lover Roll + Salmon Roll - Attracted to this specialty roll because of the spice factor, it consisted of spicy yellowtail (my favorite), scallions, panko crunchies and a little sliver of jalapeno on top.  While the heat was distinctive in this roll, it wasn't overpowering and dissipated after a few seconds.  

The salmon roll provided a great complement to the Hamachi, mainly because it was simple and clean with a little bit of crunch as well for texture.

Pink Nori Roll + Tuna Roll - Andrea went with the namesake Pink Nori Roll, which looked beautiful as well, with seared salmon, cooked shrimp, avocado and tempura flakes. There was a lot going on in one bite, and while I appreciated its complexity, I think it lacked cohesion and would've been better with fewer ingredients.

The tuna roll was standard and simple and because it was wrapped in brown rice, I thought it to be a tad dry.

Service and Cost:
Impressed by the efficiency of the service, we were always paid attention to and never felt that we had to wait too long for anything.  Despite our severs being quick, we didn't feel that we had to rush out and were comfortable to stick around and chat. 

Costs are moderate setting us back about $37 each including tax and tip.

3 Mmmms

Pink Nori - 36-06 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103
N/Q Train to 30th Avenue

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Oyster Happy Hour in Astoria

Just last week, I spotted Thrillist's extensive list of 64 Amazing Oyster Happy Hours in NYC, which included some options in Astoria and LIC.  Although the choices were quite limited, I was happy to see both neighborhoods mentioned.  Posting the article on the We Heart Astoria Facebook page, I also noticed a few suggestions from people in the neighborhood that were omitted in this list and that I wanted to mention here.  What other Oyster Happy Hours do you enjoy nearby?

Off the Hook (pictured here) - Happy Hour runs Monday - Thursday from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to close as well as on Friday from noon to 7 p.m.  During this time, you can enjoy $1 Blue Point Oysters, $1 Little Neck Clams and $4 beers, wine and well drinks.  28-08 28th Avenue, Astoria. 718.721.2112

Ovelia - Hosting their Pink Oyster Raw Bar Happy Hour
every Sunday from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. you can take advantage of $1 Blue Point Oysters, buttermilk fried oysters ($12), and baked oysters ($14).  34-01 30th Avenue, Astoria. 718.721.7217

Psari - Boasting a generous Happy Hour each day from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. you can feast on everything from 1/2 dozen raw oysters for $8, 1/2 dozen raw clams for $5, fish and chips for $10 and other yummies. 32-10 36th Avenue, Astoria. 718.786.6015

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Chela & Garnacha Knocks it Out of the Park

On Thursday, after Dan and I spent an awesome evening at the Museum of Moving Image seeing the brand new Chuck Jones, What's Up Doc? exhibit we also headed to the new Chela & Garnacha Mexican joint for some eats.  The exhibit was a lot of fun and the overall evening a big success, but it left us feeling hungry, so we stopped in for some impromptu eats.

Known for being the restaurant location of the popular Mexico Blvd food truck, Chela & Garnacha is situated on 36th Avenue and 34th St right next to Arepas Cafe.  In truth, we were actually headed to the latter but spotted Chela quicker and it drew us in.  The colors and the cheery decor is in itself attractive, as it consists of rustic touches such as a reclaimed wooden wall, little cupboards with greenery inside and the bright green tables you can see bits of above. Menus are printed on recycled paper and the place has an overall eco-friendly vibe that goes well with the simple, rustic yet authentic food from their kitchen.

Although the menu is limited, it makes your decision an easy one.  The few items to choose from include tacos, quesadillas, flautas and various appetizers.  Dan zeroed in on the tacos immediately while I went with the more inventive route and got the intrincadas.

Intrincadas - Even though I was unfamiliar with these, I was drawn to the ingredients, which included crispy massa patties with guacamole, chipotle sauce, crema and shredded chicken.  They reminded me of the huaraches from La Condesa I had in Austin back in the winter.  Not only were these hearty and a little bit indulgent because they were fried, the ingredients on top, including the shredded white meat chicken felt light and fresh.  Since the portion is quite big, it's great to share with your dining compadre.

Tacos -Dan went with the Al Pastor and the fish tacos, which are his favorites in any taqueria.  We compared them with the tacos we had just the night before from the Tacos Jalisco truck and while the Al Pastor was super flavorful -the pork tender and a little smoky - the fish tacos weren't as tasty as from the food truck.  I personally wished there was more fish vs. some of the fixins such as the slaw. 

Service and Cost:
The service at Chela & Garnacha couldn't be better.  Our waitress was friendly and struck up a genuine conversation with us.  She quickly informed us about the BYOB factor, which we loved and even offered us some limes for the Coronas we brought in.

Costs are reasonable, especially due to the BYOB option and set us back about $24 total, including tax and tip.

3 Mmmms

Chela & Garnacha - 33-09 36th Avenue, Astoria NY 11106
N/Q Train to 36th Avenue

Friday, July 18, 2014

Veggie Dinner - Grilled Eggplant with Peanut Sauce

In the mood to make something hearty and healthy, I spotted some nice looking eggplant at the supermarket so I grabbed it in hopes of getting inspired.  After a quick recipe search, I found an easy method for a grilled eggplant with cilantro and peanut sauce.  It's funny because I used to absolutely abhor peanut sauce on anything, but my tastebuds have changed and I now love everything from peanut butter to my once loathsome peanut sauce.

I love this recipe because you only need a few simple ingredients including peanut butter, olive oil, garlic and lemon.  Being pretty generous with the garlic, it was distinctly felt in the sauce but that's exactly what I loved about it - the more garlicky the better.  You can adjust it to your own taste or pair the eggplant with something else altogether such as this homemade avocado hummus you see above.

Eggplant with Peanut Dressing Recipe

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Astoria Taco Greatness at Tacos Jalisco

On my way home from an awesome Queens Salon networking event hosted by Mackenzi, I was in the mood for something hearty that would satisfy my dinner craving.  Immediately thinking to visit the King of Falafel, I was sadly discouraged after seeing the long line.

Saved by a friendly taco truck called Tacos Jalisco, an awesomely serendipitous experience followed.  

About Tacos Jalisco:

On most days, this cheery red taco truck is located on the corner of 31st Street and Broadway.  Headed up by a two person team, it's great to see that food is made to order, exemplifying also that they use fresh, quality ingredients.  I was pleasantly surprised that you can order from them on Seamless and that unlike at other food trucks, you can also pay with your credit card.

- Aside from all the taco options, there were tons of other enticing things on the menu such as enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos, tortas, cemitas and various platters.  However, I still chose to go with the truck's namesake specialty and got two tacos, including the pescado with fried tilapia and the carbon with beef.  Both were awesome and very different, the fish taco enveloped in two soft corn tortillas, while the carbon was served on a white flour tortilla.

In terms of flavor, both of these delivered but in very different ways.  The carbon was more hearty, evoking a comfort food quality while the fish tacos were light, fresh and also packed generously with lots of fish.  They smelled absolutely delicious on my ride home, making it hard to resist devouring them then and there on the subway.

Service and Cost

Loving the simplicity and transparency of the service, I was once again impressed.  As mentioned, everything is cooked on the spot, which helps to instill confidence in the food.

Prices are competitive at just $2.50-$3 per taco, and for quite a generous portion too.  I was full after polishing two off.

3 Mmmms

Tacos Jalisco - 31st Street and Broadway, Astoria.

N/Q Train to Broadway

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fun World Cup Experience at Marketa

Yesterday's big World Cup final warranted enjoying it and celebrating in public.  There's a few places I had in mind to get that true spirit and atmosphere that only a diverse crowd in Astoria can bring, Studio Square Beer Garden being one of them. In the end, Dan and I found ourselves strolling down 30th Avenue and settled comfortably at Marketa.

Never actually having been to Marketa, I've observed it from the outside a bit as well as kept my eye on their social media presence.  I have to be honest in that what actually got us through the door is that it wasn't completely packed yesterday, unlike some of its neighbors.

Following suit with other popular eateries and bars on this heavily trafficked block, Marketa offers everything they do, plus convenience and hospitality to boot.  I like the varied set-up of the main dining room including different sized tables up front, in the back and also in their charming backyard.  The entire space has very much of a loft vibe, as there's more room upstairs, with a bar presumably, but I didn't go and check it out myself.

Since we were there to just cheer on the teams and have mostly cocktails, we situated ourselves at the spacious bar, which also had access to a big screen TV.  We liked this spot since it didn't feel cramped and was conducive to being chatty and social.

Food and Drinks:
During our visit, Marketa was still serving brunch, which is in effect til about 4 p.m. on weekends.  We weren't much in the mood for it, as we hosted brunch at our place earlier that day, but wanted something smallish to nibble on.

Short Rib Hash - Dan selected this little side, which was actually pretty hefty in size and just as filling.  Topped with braised short rib that was juicy, succulent and full of flavor, it was a perfect way to keep us satiated and also at attention in between cocktails.  The hash that sat underneath the short ribs was also flavorful - on the well done side and sautéed with veggies such as onions and red peppers.

White Sangria - A tall glass of white sangria was the perfect refreshment during yesterday's humid weather.  I liked that it was fruity but not overly sweet and also topped with plenty of fresh fruit such as sliced apples and oranges.  Our bartender served it up with a little wooden spear that allowed you to neatly fish out all the fruity goodness - instead of just relying on your fingers.

Other Drinks - I noticed a few other interesting non-alcoholic drink options that I didn't have the pleasure of trying yet but that I'd be back for.  Including items such as a Nutella latte (frozen or iced), frozen hot chocolate, a java chip frappe and various smoothie options, consider it when you need a little refreshment.

Service and Cost:
I'm happy to say we enjoyed great service at Marketa, as our bartender was attentive, thoughtful but also knew when to leave us be.  She mixed a mean cocktail and did a great job of juggling different requests during this very busy sporting event.

Costs are moderate to almost reasonable for the progressively more expensive 30th Avenue cafes.  Our drinks (three in total) and our hash set us back about $24 ($28 with tax and tip).

3 Mmmms

Marketa - 37-17 30th Avenue, Astoria NY 11103
N/Q Train to 30th Avenue

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Alobar's New Cocktail Menu

Always impressed by the seasonally relevant offering at Alobar, I recently found out they've rolled out a new summer cocktail menu.  Featuring a selective but thoughtful offering of refreshing cocktails with both brown and clear liquor, you'll want to come back several times and try each one.  Take a look at the below menu and see what strikes your fancy.

The Neighbor...$13
Four Roses bourbon, Dolin Dry, Averna, maraschino liqueur

Rye Not? (pictured above)...$12
Rye, Fernet Branca, mint, lemon

The Wright Stuff...$13
Greenhook Gin, creme de violette, maraschino liqueur, lemon

Drink with No Name...$13
Del Maguey mezcal, Sorel, Velvet Falarnum, lime 

The Bitter Truth...$13
Greenhook Beach Plum, Campari, Dolin Dry, Cocchi Americano

Chauvinist Pig...$12
Pig's Nose scotch, chartreuse, Romazzatti, douglas fir

Gin & Juice...$12
Greenhook Gin, orange, sage, Cocchi Americano, Cointreau

Alobar - 46-42 Vernon Blvd, LIC NY 11101
7 Train to Vernon Blvd/Jackson Avenue 


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