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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the NY Chowhound community.

Burmese Home Cooking, for a Day, in Queens

Good Burmese food is hard to come by in New York, so chowhounds always look forward to the home cooking at the summer fair put on by a Burmese church in Queens. This year’s is August 12. (Read about last year’s fair.) “It’s a great time, and the food is equal to or better than anything I’ve had in Burma,” says el jefe.

Typically there are up to 10 tented booths, each with “a mom or grandmother busy making interesting food,” says MORE KASHA. Few booths, if any, have English signage, though the vendors are unfailingly friendly and helpful in answering questions. They may hold back on spicing for non-Burmese customers, so don’t be afraid to ask for more chiles, lime, and other seasonings. Pay for your food with tickets bought at a table near the entrance. Some things to look for based on last year’s lineup:

- Noodles are likely to appear in various forms. One winner is fish noodle soup–a substantial, intense yellow broth studded with fish cake and thick white noodles.

- Oily, flaky, hearty Burmese-style parathas, filled with mashed yellow beans, fried fresh to order and topped with fried onions.

- Fish salad, also made fresh to order, seasoned with spices and lime.

- Potato samosas, bean fritters, and other fried items, which you can doctor with hot sauce.

- For dessert: colorful, refreshing shaved ice topped with peanuts, dried fruits, and coconut milk. Also, faluda: a hot-pink, berry-flavored cold soup with agar, tapioca balls, vanilla ice cream, and bits of custard. “Surprising and addictive!” marvels Spoony Bard.

- And to take home, an intensely flavored, spicy-nutty condiment–in fish or pork flavors–that goes great with rice.

The event runs from noon to 6, but you don’t want to get there too late. Last year some highly praised bites–including chicken and yellow rice brought from a Burmese church in Boston–sold out early.

Myanmar Baptist Church Fun Fair [Briarwood]
Saturday, August 12, noon to 6 p.m.
143-55 84th Dr., between 143rd and Smedley Sts, Briarwood, Queens

Board Links
Burmese Food Fair–Agust 12

A Trio of Tantalizing Tiramisus

Tuscan trattoria Col Legno closes the deal with superior tiramisu, says Pan. Unlike lesser versions, it boasts deftly balanced flavors–not too much espresso, not too much sugar, cocoa, or rum, etc.

Others recommend the tiramisus at Da Umberto and Trattoria Trecolori, which is temporarily closed while it moves to new digs in the Theater District.

Col Legno [East Village]
231 E. 9th St., between 2nd and 3rd Aves, Manhattan

Da Umberto [Chelsea]
107 W. 17th St., between 6th and 7th Aves, Manhattan

Trattoria Trecolori [Theater District]
to open at … 254 W. 47th St., between Broadway and 8th Ave., Manhattan

Board Links: Best tiramisu in Manhattan

Ebb Tide: Fish Shack, Westchester Style, in Port Chester

The menu flows with the catch at Ebb Tide, a riverside seafood house in Port Chester. If soft shell crab sandwiches or monkfish in calamari red sauce are available, get them, advises Dim Sum Diva. cervisiam, while not blown away by the joint, recommends fish sandwiches and the lobster dinner (steamed lobster, corn, and chowder for under $20). They also have other fresh fish, steamers, crab cakes, and more. Kids might go for the foot-long hot dog.

Ebb Tide isn’t cheap–even a simple lunch might crack double figures–but the waterfront setting has its charms. “There is something about eating out on the deck in the sun,” notes Dim Sum Diva. “It’s peaceful. We’ve watched the duck family across the channel nest and hatch and grow. For Westchester, it’s as close as we can get to a seafood shack.”

Ebb Tide Seafood [Westchester County]
1 Willett Ave., at the Byram River, Port Chester

Board Links: Ebb Tide Seafood and Lobster Shack, Port Chester—anyone been? Worth a trip?
Ebb Tide in Portchester

Hero Worship: Dominick’s Reigns Supreme

Dominick’s Deli is an East Side lunchtime destination and the go-to spot for Captain, who’s fallen hard for the Supremo. That’s a hefty hero of soppressata, prosciutto, pepperoni, provolone, sweet peppers, and lettuce on a semolina roll–a lunch and a half for $6. “It’s pretty filling but I get it down,” he confesses.

Chile heads might go for Dante’s Inferno (hot soppressata, pepperoni, smoked prosciutto, jalapeno cheese, hot peppers, tomato). Also on the menu: pastas, salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, hot heros (meatball, sausage and peppers, chicken parmigiana, francese or marsala, broccoli rabe-mozzarella, etc.), and more.

Dominick’s Deli [Lenox Hill]
1109 1st Ave., between E. 60th and 61st Sts, Manhattan

Board Links: Inexpensive lunch near Bloomies (59th)

Nha Trang Revisited, and Other Manhattan Vietnamese Picks

Manhattan may lack world-class Vietnamese chow, but many hounds happily get their fix at Chinatown’s dependable Nha Trang. The don’t-miss dish is smoky, sumptuous suon nuong (barbecued pork chops), insists jungirl, a fan for 16 years and counting. She likes it as a rice plate, with broken rice that soaks up the great meat juices; bun (rice vermicelli) can serve the same purpose.

A seasonal must-order–and the season is drawing to a close–is cua lot rang muoi (salt and pepper fried soft shell crabs). Also recommended: cha gio (spring rolls), ca chien chanh (whole fried fish), canh chua ga (hot and sour chicken soup), and rau muong xao toi (hollow-stem water spinach with garlic). Ech chien bo (frog legs fried in butter) is the equal of La Grenouille’s, swears guttergourmet (and Nha Trang, unlike La Grenouille, also makes frog legs with chile and lemongrass).

Not everyone is a fan–overall, Nha Trang is just OK, says Mike Lee. And even some of its partisans admit that pho isn’t among its strengths. The best in town for this Vietnamese noodle soup remains Cong Ly (see also ChowNews #189), which brews a deep, alluring beef broth that’s the key to superior pho. “It’s simple, straightforward, very cheap, and authentic,” writes surly, “the closest we have in Manhattan to the great Vietnamese food in California’s Orange County.” And, adds Mike Lee, they don’t skimp on the ngo gai, or sawleaf herb. Beyond pho, Cong Ly scores with its bun bo hue, a spicy, meaty noodle soup from central Vietnam–though others like the version at Thai Son (see also ChowNews #191).

Other neighborhood Vietnamese picks include Pho Grand, Nam Son, Pho Tu Do for bun rieu (rice noodle soup with crab), and Pho Viet Huong, where Peter Cherches recommends cha gio, spicy shrimp salad, bo la nho (grilled beef in grape leaves), and anything with lemongrass and hot pepper.

Nha Trang Restaurant [Chinatown]
87 Baxter St., between Walker and White, Manhattan

Nha Trang Restaurant [Chinatown]
148 Centre St., between Walker and White, Manhattan

Cong Ly Restaurant [Chinatown]
124 Hester St., at Chrystie, Manhattan

Thai Son [Chinatown]
89 Baxter St., between Walker and Bayard, Manhattan

Pho Grand [Chinatown]
277C Grand St., between Eldridge and Forsyth, Manhattan

Nam Son Vietnamese Restaurant [Chinatown]
245 Grand St., between Bowery and Chrystie, Manhattan

Pho Tu Do [Chinatown]
119 Bowery, between Grand and Hester Sts, Manhattan

Pho Viet Huong [Chinatown]
a.k.a. Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong
73 Mulberry St., between Canal and Bayard, Manhattan

Board Links: Vietnamese–What’s the best?
Nha Trang–what to order
Nha Trang —Centre or Baxter?

Earthshaking Dessert Tip: Cafe Lafayette’s Chocolate Volcano

At Fort Greene’s Cafe Lafayette, you can top off with the Chocolate Volcano–high-quality chocolate, judiciously sweetened raspberry sauce, excellent vanilla ice cream. For devotees, the earth moves. “Perfection every time,” sighs realbreadplease, who declares this the best chocolate dessert in all of Brooklyn. Good robust coffee, too.

Cafe Lafayette [Fort Greene]
99 S Portland Ave., between Lafayette Ave and Fulton St., Brooklyn

Board Links: chow experiences in Fort Greene

You Want Fries with That? Ja, Oui, You Bet!

Loreley, the Lower East Side biergarten, makes near-faultless fries–crisp, super-thin, and seemingly greaseless, sighs pkallan. “Heavenly with some good German beer.”

Belgian mini-chain Petite Abeille also comes through with excellent fries, topped by a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

Other favorites: Florent, Balthazar, or the downtown Les Halles for top-notch frites, J.G. Melon for cottage fries, and Pommes Frites for Belgian-style fries with a boggling choice of sauces (Vietnamese pineapple mayo, anyone?).

Loreley Restaurant and Biergarten [Lower East Side]
7 Rivington St., between Bowery and Chrystie, Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Stuyvesant Town]
401 E. 20th St., at 1st Ave., Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Chelsea]
107 W. 18th St., at 6th Ave., Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Tribeca]
466 Hudson St., between Barrow and Grove, Manhattan

Petite Abeille [Tribeca]
134 W. Broadway, between Thomas and Duane Sts, Manhattan

Florent [West Village]
69 Gansevoort St., between Washington and Greenwich, Manhattan

Balthazar [Soho]
80 Spring St., at Crosby St., Manhattan

Les Halles [Financial District]
15 John St., between Broadway and Nassau St., Manhattan

J.G. Melon [Upper East Side]
1291 3rd Ave., at E 74th St., Manhattan

Pommes Frites [East Village]
123 2nd Ave., between E. 7th and 8th Sts, Manhattan

Board Links: Best French Fries currently?

Best of the West: Beef Tri-Tip at Trader Joe’s

Down at the bottom end of the sirloin is a smallish cut of beef called tri-tip, a.k.a. triangle or culotte. Cheap, lean, yet tender and flavorful, it’s revered by barbecue hounds out West. But in the East, it’s mostly overlooked–or just thoughtlessly ground up into hamburger. “Out here, I’ve never been able to find it. Ask a butcher and he’ll just look at you funny,” complains adamclyde.

So it falls to a West Coast grocery chain to spread the tri-tip gospel among East Coast meat lovers. adamclyde found it vacuum-packed at Trader Joe’s in Darien, CT, and TJ’s current newsletter suggests that other locations are likely to carry it as well. It was around $6 a pound, he adds, which is “just incredibly worth it. When grilled to medium rare, it truly is wonderful. Superb. Lovely. Splendid.” TJ’s tri-tip comes with or without “Santa Maria-style” marinade–adamclyde prefers to go without. As a lean cut, however, tri-tip takes well to marination, which you can easily do at home; Asian and Southwestern flavors work nicely.

In addition to Connecticut, Trader Joe’s has colonized Westchester, Long Island, New Jersey, and (most recently) Manhattan’s Union Square.

Trader Joe’s [Fairfield County]
436 Boston Post Rd., at Old Kings Hwy., Darien, CT

Board Links: Tri Tip in the NY Metro area: Trader Joe’s

At Perry Street, One Vegetarian Feels at Home

Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Perry Street has an unlikely convert. DavyTheFatBoy, who had dismissed the place as “too French, too fussy, too vegetarian-unfriendly, and more concerned with presentation than flavor,” has eaten his words–which went down easy after a recent dinner of surprising, inventive, well-conceived vegetarian dishes.

Highlights included green pea ravioli with morels, fried fingerling potatoes with aioli, cherry tomato salad with red onion and herbs, braised artichokes with peas and onions, house-made mozzarella with champagne mango and red peppercorns, and fresh corn and scallions, liberally buttered. Also delicious: spinach with a touch of olive oil and slivers of jalapeno (“who knew jalapenos could do that to spinach?”). “Not a dud in the bunch,” Davy marvels.

Just as impressive, Perry Street’s menu features few vegetarian dishes; much of this knockout dinner was assembled on the fly from sides that usually come with non-vegetarian entrees. Yet each, Davy adds, “was a completely thought-through dish, not a buttered side vegetable. The whole experience totally surprised us–the lack of attitude, the ingredients, the flavors and textures, and the $121 bill for two (including four glasses of wine, before tip). It’s clear that this is a serious restaurateur at the top of his game.”

Perry Street [Greenwich Village]
176 Perry St., at West St., Manhattan

Board Links: Amazed by Perry Street

Coffee Break: Best Beans in Brooklyn and Beyond

Brooklyn coffee lovers have come to depend on D’Amico in Carroll Gardens for its wide selection of fresh roasted beans, fairly priced. “I can’t live without the dark roast Colombian Supremo,” confesses lisa, “a little more expensive, but sooooooo good.”

Self-described coffee obsessive Ann is hooked on the extra-strong Thunder Road blend at Park Slope’s Java Joe. “Truly great coffee,” she declares. “Not cheap, but not outrageous, and they really know their coffee.”

Dallis Coffee, which has been roasting coffee since 1913, is another go-to spot for fresh beans. “The coffee is excellent, and the prices are as well,” writes mshpook. It no longer has a retail shop but fills orders online or by phone or fax. If you can’t wait for shipping, you can pick up your order at Dallis’s office in Ozone Park.

redgirl swears by the whole bean French roast at Blue Apron–strong and full bodied, not overly acidic, and well priced. It’s from the same roaster used by hound-endorsed coffee source Zabar’s.

Also recommended by java hounds: Park Slope’s Leaf and Bean, Gorilla, and Union Market, Brooklyn Heights hound hangout Sahadi, and in Queens, old-world shop Baruir in Sunnyside for Turkish- and Armenian-style roasts and blends.

And for an uncommonly good online source, BGRose recommends Massachusetts’ Barrington Coffee Roasting Co., which provides lightly roasted espresso beans for Village favorite Joe. Drop by either of Joe’s two shops and they’ll sell you Barrington’s beans in small batches.

D’Amico Foods [Carroll Gardens]
309 Court St., between Degraw and Sackett, Brooklyn

Java Joe Coffee and Tea [Park Slope]
414 8th St., between 7th and 8th Aves, Brooklyn

Dallis Coffee [Ozone Park]
100-30 Atlantic Ave., near 100th St., Ozone Park, Queens

Blue Apron Foods [Park Slope]
814 Union St., at 7th Ave., Brooklyn

Blue Apron Foods [Park Slope]
438 7th Ave., near 15th St., Brooklyn

Zabar’s [Upper West Side]
2245 Broadway, at 80th St., Manhattan

Leaf and Bean of Park Slope [Park Slope]
83 7th Ave., between Berkeley Pl. and Union St., Brooklyn

Gorilla Coffee [Park Slope]
97 5th Ave., at Park Pl., Brooklyn

Union Market [Park Slope]
754 Union St., at 6th Ave., Brooklyn

Sahadi Importing Co. [Brooklyn Heights]
187 Atlantic Ave., between Clinton and Court Sts, Brooklyn

Baruir [Sunnyside]
40-07 Queens Blvd., at 40th St., Sunnyside, Queens

Barrington Coffee Roasting Co.
Lee, MA

Joe [Greenwich Village]
141 Waverly Pl., between 6th Ave. and Gay St., Manhattan

Joe [East Village]
9 E. 13th St., between 5th Ave. and University Pl., Manhattan

Board Links: Web Source For Coffee [Split from thread on Outer Boroughs]
Whole-bean coffee retail. Help!