For those who frequent Flushing Chinatown, there is a new restaurant, named “Corner 28” that just recently opened at the southwest corner of Main Street and 40th Road. The restaurant consists of two floors where the bottom floor is the standard Chinese takeout BBQ (hanging ducks, chickens, Char Chiu, ribs, pork stomachs, and roasted pig) and there is also a takeout food counter with assorted cooked foods including some Dim Sum, and Formica tables at the back for the takeout customers with the Styrofoam boxes. The restaurant is very high tech with computer screens everywhere. The second floor contains a sit-down service restaurant accessed by a narrow staircase at the back of the first floor of the takeout business. However, there is no English sign pointing out the upstairs sit down restaurant, except for a small Chinese sign. We missed the second floor restaurant ourselves on the first go around.
One interesting feature that is new to Flushing is that the “Corner 28” restaurant is selling single "Peking Duck" sandwiches at $0.75 a piece (a Cantonese bao with one or two pieces of faux Peking duck where the meat is cut with only a tiny sliver of skin attached and of course the typical strips of scallion and sweet plum sauce) at two open windows on Main Street. Apparently, the Peking Duck item is new to a lot of Flushing Asian shoppers, as there were always ten people on line for the Peking Duck sandwiches whenever we happened to walk past the restaurant, daytime or evening. The Peking Duck sandwiches even piqued the interest of some non-Asians, as there was a splattering of non-Asians on the long line for the Peking Duck sandwiches. We have not tried the Peking Duck sandwich yet, as it looked just like ordinary roast duck on a small Cantonese bao with scallions and sweet plum sauce, but will probably try it in the future once the novelty wears off and the lines are shorter. Since the demand for the sandwiches exceeds the supply, all of the Peking Duck sandwiches are essentially made to order while waiting for the meat and skin to be sliced from the duck. Hence in one respect, the Peking Duck sandwiches will probably taste better when there are long lines to ensure freshness, especially if the duck is hot out of the oven. And at the present time, a very lucrative idea for the “Corner 28” restaurant, since a whole roast duck normally sells for $15, and our guess is that they are easily selling each duck for $25 to $35 with all the single slices of the duck. Have also not tried their BBQ items, but like the Peking Duck sandwich, will try the BBQ items once the lines to the BBQ takeout items lessen.
The organization and design of the second floor restaurant waiting area is a little lacking. With the present large crowds trying out the new restaurant and the long line to get a table, one must go up a narrow set of stairs to get a wait number and than go back downstairs to wait at the Formica tables, since you are not allowed to wait on the stairs. After we and other diners went up to check on our wait numbers, the receptionist finally agreed to come downstairs to call out the wait numbers. Not sure how they will deal with this very unsatisfactory wait system in the future, if the long lines continue. Probably the receptionist will quit when her knees start hurting from all the stair climbing.
From the design of the restaurant sitting, you would almost think it was an American restaurant on Manhattan’s 3rd Avenue for romantic dating couples with most tables closely spaced together for two and four people (the restaurant had only two or three large 10 person tables typical to Chinese Chinatown restaurants). The only thing missing were the dim lights. However, in keeping with typical Chinese restaurants, the lights were bright, although muted more than most Chinese restaurants. One modern feature of the upstairs restaurant is the very large windows overlooking the street crowds on 40th Road and Main Street.
The menu is very non-Asian friendly as the menu is entirely made up of pictures. There were no menus available in Chinese. The menu is the size of a children's large picture book (half inch thick) with very thick cardboard pages and glossy pictures of every menu item. Although the menu is very thick, the number of menu items is fairly limited compared to most Chinese Cantonese restaurants. The menu does not appear to have any organization, with the pictures of the dishes just randomly shown and mixed up. This is to the restaurant's detriment, since every customer, at least in the beginning, has to take excessive time to look at all of the pictures of the various menu items. However, the pictures are professionally taken and all the dishes look appetizing. The restaurant has a takeout menu for use downstairs, but most of the dishes on the takeout menu cannot be ordered at the upstairs sit-down restaurant. There is congee available on the takeout menu, but is not available in the upstairs restaurant.
The restaurant upstairs is very small and cramped, and most of the tables consist of two person cocktail tables (meaning very small) where if you have a party of four, they push two tables together, and for parties of two people, they separate the tables by a mere 6 inches. Plus, if you order three dishes like we did, every square inch of the table is used and we are not joking about this. We luckily had a table next to the window, which has a small windowsill where we put the teapot. As we were finishing our free orange desert and preparing to leave, the couple next to us who were just seated on the aisle, understood the situation, and told the waiters that they wanted to switch tables to our table next to the window. Yes, you are very intimately close with the tables next to you, where you can listen to every word the people at the next table are saying. The tables at “Corner 28” appear to be even closer than the tables at “Sentosa,” a Malaysian restaurant on Prince Street in Flushing, which also has a similar small table situation and which we thought was too cozy already.
The dishes at “Corner 28” that we tried were all cooked with a very light hand and all three dishes were above average. We went for the first time on Friday evening and had beef with hollow spinach, clams with basil, and a seafood noodle. As expected for a new Chinese restaurant opening, the dishes were larger than normal, all had fresh and tasty ingredients, and from the dishes one could see that the cooks were experienced and trained and were not just off the boat. The pricing was moderate, where the total cost for the three dishes for two people, tax and tip included, was $44. And there was a doggy bag for the leftover beef with hollow spinach dish. There is an interesting menu item for a live black bass cooked two ways for $28.00, which is a possible dish to try the next time we go.
Our guess is that for "Corner 28" to survive, it has to continue to cook above average food, otherwise no one will put up with the cramped quarters, miniature tables, and the silly waiting situation. However, for the next several months, “Corner 28” should continue to provide dishes with fresh ingredients and larger than normal quantities, and the cooks should be stable for a while. Typically, new Chinese restaurants will begin to cut back on the quantity and sometimes even the quality of the dishes after a period of time.