Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Woodside Cafe - A True Diamond in the Rough
Not long ago, I had the pleasure of joining a fabulous group of foodie-inclined women (hi Meg, hi Sue!), for a very delicious culinary adventure in Woodside. We tried an under-the-radar ethnic gem called Woodside Cafe, suggested by my friend Anne from City Spoonful blog. I trust her entirely as far as food is concerned, and ethnic food especially, as she has a great knowledge of South Asian cuisine.
With a generic name like Woodside Cafe, you must be wondering where its ethnic roots lie. I did too - but rest assured this is no generic eatery, as it boasts a fusion of Nepalese and Italian food. How's that for originality?!
Although the food is anything but boring, the atmosphere leaves something left to be desired. The interior feels a bit barren and not efficiently spaced out - there's large gaps between tables, which are awkwardly assembled. Also what was once a functioning bar is just another place to sit, and instead patrons can bring their own spiked beverage of choice, as Woodside Cafe is BYOB - a big plus in my book!
Now this is where things got really interesting, as we took a look at the exotic menu, filled with Nepali specialties, which catered to both vegetarians and carnivores. I loved the freedom of choice here, and as we ordered a bunch of things to share - we omnivores getting to experience two sides to the same dish.
There were so many things we opted to try, that the appetizers alone could've done the job of filling me up. Collectively, we ordered samay baji (an arrangement of items such as a fried pancake with beaten rice and meat; veggies such as black soybeans; diced ginger; greens and more), chatamari (a Nepali-style pizza or dosa), momos (or dumplings), curried soybeans, and achar (potatoes with a spicy pickled relish). Even though everything was visually and tastefully stimulating, I had a couple of favorites I wanted to call out:
Chatamari - Hands down my favorite dish of the night, it resembled a pizza but tasted nothing like it. The dough consists of rice flour flat bread, which makes it almost pancake like, instead of having a pizza texture, which is a lot thicker and breadier. The toppings of ground chicken, veggies and a fried egg on top made it extremely hearty and wonderful, filling me up pretty quickly (almost without me noticing). Even though my tummy was quite full after a few bites, I had to continue eating it, as it was delectable and something I'd recommend to everyone. A veggie option is also available, and is as equally delicious.
Samay Baji - I really enjoyed trying this typical Nepali appetizer, which was like a true guest offering - it had a little bit of everything. The main event was the fried pancake of beaten rice, which reminded me a lot of a latke (similar texture and taste). But the pancake was just a canvas for all the interesting things that surrounded it such as black soybeans, black eyed peas, braised greens and pickled ginger. It was nice to pair these sides with the pancake and watch its more neutral taste transform into something lively and sensational.
Curried Soybeans - Even though this was a simple little app, it went a long way. It again did the trick of filling you up quite quickly, but because the soybeans are so tiny and poppable, they're pretty addicting. I really couldn't stop eating them, as the spice from the curried seasoning completely tantalized my senses. My dining companions agreed that this was a standout.
Service and Cost:
Because this place is pretty small and under the radar, the wait staff is limited and not overly interested in being attentive. They're perfectly nice and are happy to welcome outsiders, but just know that you'll most likely have to approach them for a recommendation, a refill on your water, an extra plate for sharing or what have you.
Costs are incredibly affordable and the value you get for the amount of delicious food can't be beat. For about 4 sharing plates each, we paid roughly $13/person including tax and tip. Oooops, looks like the cat's out of the bag!
Woodside Cafe - 64-23 Broadway, Woodside NY 11377
M/R Trains to 65th Street