Archive for the ‘restaurant reviews’ Category

You’ve Got To Ring Them Bells!

May 27, 2014

by Florence Ondré

For years on Long Island, New York, have been praying for some really good Thai restaurants to open.  There have been a few but they were pedestrian or too far away to pop into.  And being lovers of Thai food, my dear Tom and I like to pop in several times a week.

In Seattle, Washington, there are Thai restaurants on practically every block and they range from good to fantastic!  So, we got spoiled spending time there and coming back to Long Island to only wishes for that kind of taste bud wealth, left us hungry for that quick and fresh ingredients cuisine.

Since Superstorm Sandy decimated so much of Long Island and people are a year and a half later still not rebuilding or home, we figured the Thai food Angels would most likely wait to grace us with our palate’s desires.  After all, first things first, satisfy the hunger to be safe home and leave the wishful dining yearnings for a later date.

Then one day while in my acupuncturist’s office; chatting with the front desk staff, I heard there actually were two new Thai restaurants open and close by.

I ran to the one and got a look see (and smell) and took a menu home.  No aromas of cooking or much Thai ambiance but, hey, it was a short drive andI thought, ‘give it time to get on its feet and then check again.’

The second recommendation was a small corner place in the west end of Long Beach on the Island’s South shore.

This area had taken the hardest hurricane hit and had been literally crushed under sand as the Atlantic ocean met the bay.  The sleepy, little bungalow part of the City By The Sea, as it is known, had been buried and broken badly.  Before the devastation, this barrier island community had seen three other Thai restaurant tries; one of which failed with part Chinese food, another which served authentic Thai deliciously prepared dishes sort of faded away.  I expect that arising from the over long wait for the food to make it from ordering to eating.  I finally stopped going there because I called it ‘the ass breaker meal!’  I like to linger with friends over a good meal but the wait was interminable here and winding up with my head face-plant down in my food dish from exhaustion at day’s end, didn’t ring-a-ding for moi.

The last was a small place in the center of town, next to the busiest pizza parlor, across from the commute to the Big apple, train station .  The food here started out good.  There were a few bumps, and still are with getting the order right, but they had a salmon salad and a crispy duck salad to die for!  Decent Pad Thai and Massaman Curry, Kee Mao, Kao Soi and pretty good Thai iced teas kept us coming back to this tiny modern place with a quirky waterwheel in the window.

They, unfortunately, were flooded under, like every other business on the main drag and, in the new  hard times; trying to scrape together a rebuild, had to cut some corners like everyone else.  Though the duck and salmon salad stayed good but got smaller and the staff got a little short on accommodation and Thai smiles, it was the moldy water from the flood ravaged pipes which was served and tainted their former sweet tea, that pushed us to stop settling for a dream that had faded.  I suspect their still being in business aprés, storm of the century, has a lot to do with location, location, location!  And, yet, I still hope for their full recovery in the future.

After the new reco, off we went to the west end, with all it’s bungalows now being remediated like Katrina homes, put up in the air on stilts; looking for all the world like blocks of random Jenga games for adults.  And lo and behold, the Angels shone a light on the corner of Beech Street and Wyoming!  Yea, verily and forsooth, Ra-Kang, 895 W. Beech St, 516-442-1313, turned out to be manna from Heaven in a recovery from Hell.

The place is wonderfully appointed with walls full of Kangs (bells) of all shapes and sizes. The architecture is walls of wood cut out to create depth and texture; many sized bamboo fans covering the ceiling;  a wall waterfall shimmering down quietly and a wait area decorated with two round avant garde wicker work, black and red puffy pillowed chairs which look straight out of a museum or grand Royal house, awe and make the diner feel fortunate among men.  I didn’t know whether to sit in them or photograph them, so I did both!

The owner pleasantly greeted, sat us and the wait staff surrounded us in those famous smiles.  We felt like we were in a Thai house on the outskirts of Chang Mai.

The menu is well rounded and fresh ingredients abound. We ordered an appetizer which looked like the Koong Sarong we love so much from Marnee Thai in San Francisco.  Here on their menu they’re named Shrimp Basil Rolls.   Several big shrimp with fresh basil inside a fried wrapper was served in a large Martini glass with fresh greens and a sweet and sour sauce.  First bite, I thought I’d gone to Heaven or been transported on my tastebuds from the City By The Sea to the City By The Bay!  Divine!

They have Ping Yang, three mix and match, skewered meat (or satay) of pork, beef, shrimp, duck, chicken and lamb.  We tried the duck, lamb and chicken.  Delicious with hearty Peanut  and Tamarind sauces to complement.  Excellent!

Their Mussamun Curry (Massaman-different places spell it differently) was served in a graceful, brass curved-handled serving bowl and was sweet and fruity with Tamarind, carrots and chicken.  (one could have beef or tofu as another choice).

We went back three times in a week and a half.  Tried the Mee Krob appetizer of crunchy, sweet crispy noodles with shrimp.  Every bit as good as my favorite in San Jose, California; looking like an upturned bucket, forming a small mountain on a plate. Chang Mai noodles, (also known as Kao Soi) was a fragrant, yellow curry with chicken, sprouts, shallots, egg noodles and crunchy noodles on top.  Total Yum factor!  They will make it as spicy or mild as you like.  They also do a lovely, fresh, basilly Kee Mao wide-noodle dish with fresh vegetables (with or without meat or tofu) in a brown sauce with a little kick (again, you can ask for your own taste bud level).  Their duck salad was fragrant, crispy and  equal to the best I’ve ever enjoyed.

Each successive time we dined, the Shrimp Basil rolls were our first course and each time they were still divine and just as beautiful as the first encounter, in taste and presentation. Big drool factor just thinking of them as I write this.

The only drawback for this restaurant, is it ‘s a bit more expensive in pricing than some other really good Thai restaurants.  Still, we return because the food is worth it, one of the best restaurants in town…and we’re hoping they grace us with their presence and culinary gifts for a very long time to come.  The thing I love about this restaurant (other than it’s proximity to my house) is that it is one of the most gorgeously appointed restaurants and the food is equally as magnificent in both looks and taste!  I’d say Ra Kang rings all the right bells and is a Thai trifecta!!

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Posted From 30 Thou

December 15, 2010

“Would you like chicken with bbq sauce and corn or bow tie pasta?” she asked with a happy smile in her voice and on her face.

Now where do you think this eatery is?

Yup.

If you’ve ever flown Delta, this might sound familiar to you.

“Does the pasta have any red peppers in it?” I query. “I’m allergic to them.”

“No. No peppers just red cherry tomatoes.”

“I can survive that.”

We launch into a discussion of what kind of cheese is in the corn which comes with the chicken.  She and her colleagues have not been able to figure out the answer to that mystery.  She likes the bbq sauce on the chicken and says that she tried to replicate the recipe at home and couldn’t quite get it.

I share that I’ve loved the chicken stuffed with cheese and spinach.

She agrees and seconds the chicken love fest on that one.

I add that I tried to duplicate that version in my own kitchen and got close but no cigar.  The cheese they use in the airline version  eluded me too.

We pop  up our tray tables and dishes are whisked in front of us with a flourish.  On each is a green salad with grape tomatoes; a creamy caesar italian on the side and I quip, “Does this salad have arugula in it?”

My dear Tom replies as he digs in to his, “Yes it does.”

What?  I was joking.  It’s airline food for goodness sakes!

“Don’t forget to open the dressing away from you.  I learned that lesson the hard way.”

One taste and sure enough, arugula!

A hot buttered roll.  So far so good.

Bowties bland and a few buffer the acid in my stomach from the stress of having barely seconds of  preboarding before the hordes descended on our keisters;  closing in like bumper to bumper traffic in midtown Manhattan.

Tom’s chicken is rubbery and there are peppers in the q sauce. Blechh, for me.

There are, however, rosemary roasted  red potatoes which are quite nice and on both our trays, there is a mighty fine looking dessert which turns out to be pumpkin cheesecake with a struessel topping and caramel drizzle.

Divine.

I’m making this for the holidays!

I am the cheesecake making queen and now I will add this to this year’s goodie banquet.  I’m going to pick up the faboo caramel sauce from Whole Foods for the liberal drizzling.

Our flight attendant comes over to see what we thought and asks, “What flavor was that dessert?”

“Pumpkin cheesecake.”

“Ahhh. My colleague thought it was but wasn’t sure.”

Mmmmmmm we drool a bit together.

Outside our window, the sun is setting over the Rockies, all frosted with snow and I feel a nap coming on.  Full tummy. Food, some parts ho hum and some really delicious.

There is free WiFi on board and I’m sharing the restaurant review with you before I caramel crash.

The pilot, who taxied like he was on I 5 with semis chasing him for dear life; revving and passing other planes like a speedster; maneuvering around chop chop like the White Rabbit, late late late for a very important date and then jumped us from 0 to thousands of mph like a warp speed jump, has just announced that we will be landing at JFK an hour and a half earlier than planned. Whoopee!

Some restaurants have great food; some ambiance; some super views…This one’s food was hit and miss and still better than most in the friendly skies (tho, not much has ever come close to Air France) today we’re at Windows On The World and the view is spectacular!

….And the salad has arugula in it!

How It Began

March 26, 2010

Fresh Off The Palate by Florence Ondré 1/16/10

Food is so much more than just food.

No matter what is going on in our lives; no matter how well or ill we are; no matter our status, work or relationships; dreams or goals, wrecked or reached, we have to eat.

Several times a day, we have to tend to this thing which sustains our life force. And if we don’t, can’t or won’t, we will wind up consumed with the thought of nothing else. Our minds will shut off all auxiliary channels and narrow our focus to a pinpoint of seeking sustenance.

In disasters of cataclysmic proportions, everything we ever thought was important goes out the window with the hurricane, flood, earthquake or famine and all we can think of is food and water. How to feed ourselves, our children, our families; survival’s basics, push all else to the four winds.

What we do for a living, who said what to us, when we’ll get the latest whatever, evaporates in an instant the moment we are faced with catastrophic clearing; flattening us like pancakes. See this?  Even the words and phrases we use have many roots in food.

Nothing sates, softens, sharpens or soothes empty bellies, edges, senses or souls like a cool drink of clean, clear water and, since not many of us are on the level of existing on manna from the heavens or nectar from the gods yet, we do have to find and create foods from mother earth and out of human creativity several times a day… each day…every day of our lives. Seasoning one’s meals, seasons one’s life; one’s very essence of being.

They don’t call it Soul Food for nuthin.

Food.

We are addicted to it…we have to eat!

In this new year of 2010; this new decade, I want to do more of what gives me joy; what makes me smile, uplifts me and makes my heart sing. So I tuned in to see what popped as to what I like most.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed solid work completed, as well as good projects half to three quarters done. There are so many areas of endeavor in which I like participating, yet never enough time to do everything I like.

But “what do I love? what are my passions? what endeavor would hold me to the goal of completion and still feed my heart and soul?’ became the central questions preluding a choice of where I’d like to place my focus, time and energy.

I’m great at what I do, whether it’s my work doing a role on stage, writing assignments, preparing a meal or giving from my heart; loving and putting out good energy into the world and universe for highest good for all. And, when I add the secret ingredient of love, everything tastes and runs better on that fuel.

Also, I’m a real ‘putoffski.’ Probably a trait held over from another life in Russia that still runs through my veins with the essence of borscht or blinis. And, OK I admit it, since I’m a procrastinator (there I’ve said it out loud and in print) everywhere in my life but work, I thought doing what I love might get me the hat trick of accomplishment, discipline and joy in each day, if I could narrow down what, without doubt or hesitation, makes my river of happiness run full flowing.

Work with a specific end-goal time works best for getting me across the finish line. Even when writing and producing theatre, I’d get the gig date first and then pull the show together. The same with client deadlines and writing assignments. The day before or day of, you’ll likely find me doing some of my best work.

I’d like to change that pattern if possible, have some more ease and joy in my life. If there has to be any pressure or deadlines, why not make them in areas I most love and make the effort richer; fuller in enjoyment on that path of endeavor?

So the question is: “What do I love?” (besides my dear Tom & my family & friends of course)

I love food.

I’ve been afraid to admit that to anyone out loud for fear they will think I’m a glutton or call me fatso. Yes, I’m a bit plumper than I might like but, after being rail thin for most of my life; a dancer, model and performer; then being physically challenged in a wheel chair for the better part of the last 10 years from a spinal injury, who wouldn’t be?

I love to write.

And when I do write, my style is densely descriptive and experiences are word painted and stuffed with food analogies and metaphors.

Hmmmm….Why not combine the two loves and see where it leads?

And I love sharing.

Sharing what I enjoy with others and hearing what other people find delicious and enjoyable in life is such fun.

So, I’ve made a commitment to myself; set a goal to write for the next 365 days about this subject of food and its far-reaching effects on life and in our lives; one whole year of coming to this contraption; typing whatever comes up regarding and revolving around food; sharing with you each day, as close to experiencing and tasting as humanly possible, what goodies I’ve enjoyed or discovered.

In other word’s, what’s Fresh Off The Palate!

In Light & Love,

Florence


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