Year of the Tiger

Whew, what a trip! I am wiped out. Well, let’s start at the beginning – Albany John and I left for NYC to celebrate Chinese New Year on Saturday night. We made it into Woodside and then drove around for about 20 minutes looking for some free street parking. Managed to find it at 52nd street, which also happens to be one of the 7 line’s stops. I took a picture to remind me when I had to be back to move my car on Monday.

However, before continuing on our trip to the UES, we took a quick pit stop at the taco truck located on Roosevelt at nights and ordered a chorizo &… some other kind of taco. They were $2 each. My chorizo was nicely spicy, and the other kind Albany John ordered was pork & beef. Really good stuff, too.

They even packed little hot sauce containers. Albany John liked the smoky red hot sauce, while I liked the milder tomatillo sauce better. Either way, I have got to try everything else at the taco truck the next time I can.

We even got some pickled radishes – pickley goodness.

After we spent an awesome night kicking it with Manhattan Maka and CVS, we made our way down to Manhattan Chinatown. But I had some covert ops planned along the way.

My little sister is a strict vegan and has been planning on going raw. She’s also gluten-free, sugar-free, and caffeine-free. While I don’t think raw is necessarily the most viable diet at times for the northeast, I still wanted to give her a meal to eat with everyone at Chinese New Year dinner since she’d mentioned before about how it was nice to be social, but kind of bummed that she wouldn’t consume anything.

So I searched on teh intarwebs and found a few viable restaurants that served raw food. I mean, it’s freaking New York City. They’ve got just about everything you can think of to eat there. A lot of places were closed on Sundays, yipes! And then I found One Lucky Duck – a smaller offshoot of Pure Food & Wine that served only raw food. And a good amount were also only open past 5 pm. But One Lucky Duck was open in the morning, so we hopped off the 6 train before we got to Chinatown and stopped in.

It’s small. Like, REALLY small. Since I’d already looked over the menus ad nauseum online, I knew what I wanted to order. I figured I’d order her two entrees since the serving sizes looked really small.
This was kind of harder than I’d thought, or maybe easier, depending on how you looked at it. I could really only order her two entrees anyway, since there were only two that were gluten-free on their menu. I’m just saying, if you’re vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, and stimulant-free, it’s really hard to find something to eat. My sister was also thinking of going nut-free, so I kept calling and asking her what her restrictions were all last week to double check, but she’d never get back to me, so I crossed my fingers and and ordered the lasagna, which had nut pestos in it.

She’s yelled at me in the past when I’ve asked her what her restrictions are and why. I’m just always curious about food and things I don’t understand, like self-imposed restrictions, but for some reason she always takes it negatively after I’d ask some cursory questions and then start screaming at me about being some expletive for not supporting her lifestyle. She’s mellowed out a little bit, but I was nervous that I’d screwed up again somehow.

I could tell this would be a good restaurant – the store was rife with hipsters. Unfortunately I wasn’t wearing a hat, multi-purpose bag, and looked for the most part Squeaky-Clean and polished, so I stuck out like a sore thumb. I am sure the stilletos didn’t help either.

It’s a nice little space, but wow, is it ever tiny. Still, the small space helped make it seem homey, and you got close to your neighbors.

Food in bag, we hopped back on the subway and made it to Chinatown. It was a complete mad house of people, bang snaps, and confetti poppers.

We visited a Buddhist temple and prayed a bit in front of this gigantic golden Buddha.

Then saw a lion. All of the really good lions always ended up being on the other side of the street, but isn’t that always how it goes?

Right before we went to dinner I gave my sister her CNY gifts. They got a little pushed around on the subway rides and in the crowds. Here are the tacos. Three per order, and I was not quite prepared for how tiny they would be, or why they would put them in such a large container. They could each have fit in my hand.

It was mostly guacamole (a whole LOT of guacamole. So I guess even tho it’s small, it’s still filling) placed in raw taco ‘shells’ that were made of sundried tomato. I liked the guac, but the shells reminded me of a savory fruit leather. The cashew ‘sour cream’ was awesome! It had the exact texture of sour cream, and while I wouldn’t confuse the flavor of the real stuff and raw stuff any time soon, I thought this was a really impressive alternative.

The famous lasagna from Pure Food & Wine (they share a kitchen) is a teensy bit cheaper here, and consists of raw zucchini, tomatoes, and nut creams, pesto, and sundried tomato sauce blops. I tried a bite and also liked this. I would like to try and make something like this myself in the summer, when it’s hotter.

Both of the entrees were $19 each, so after tax it was a little over $41. Steep. I think it was worth it for a special treat for the new year. My sister really appreciated it, and hopefully she will keep an open mind about her diet. I had fun since I like trying new stuff, and maybe if I have a little extra scratch this summer I’ll give a recipe a try.

We went to Mellie’s in Flushing for Chinese New Year Dinner – it’s right on Northern Ave and also has a tea bar in the front. Cute. We were the first ones in, and had reservations, and for some reason they sat us at what might have been one of the crappier tables. It was way in the corner, had folding chairs, and our lazy susan had dish washer soap stains on it (you can see it a little above, next to the spilled tea).

I really never care about where I’m seated in a restaurant, but this just made no sense to me. They had lots of other tables with nice chairs that were already set… just… weird.

Started off dinner with the jellyfish + cold cuts appetizer. The jellyfish was seasoned well, and these were some of the best cold cuts I’ve eaten. They were very moist – not tough and chewy or anything.

Shrimp and snowpeas. The large shrimp pleasingly popped in my mouth, but didn’t really have much flavor. The white sauce was a little thick on the cornstarch making it gloppy, slippery, and not very flavorful. I thought it could have used some salt. A Chinese dish needing SALT.

Salt & Pepper pork! One of my faves, but unfortch this was not some of the best I’ve had. There were a LOT of bones in these small pieces, and several pieces were mostly bone. A little on the oily/greasy side too. They were kind of like salt and pepper pork poppers in size.

Lamb casserole. Yummy – the soupy liquid was thin but had lots of flavor. Impressive. I especially liked the bean curd skins that soaked up lots of lamby flavor. Yum, yum.

Fried tofu stuffed with shrimp. I really liked these. Super-soft tofu with a nice crispy edge and a shrimp on top. Yum. Sauce it with the stuff in the back and you’re good to go.

We also got snow pea tips, and a whole fried chicken. Lots of food and moving chopsticks here!

Whole fried chicken in some kind of sauce. The crispy skin was good.

Overall I liked all of the dishes, I just didn’t have a particular favorite. I’m not sure I’d jump to go back with all of the other great options in Flushing. I was most happy to spend time with my grandfather and the rest of my family. We had a great time talking and chatting, and at one point my dad and his best girlie got up and danced around a little bit. They were super cute.

The music they were playing was really random – Linkin Park, Chinese metal band, and then the Girl from Ipanema. Ecclectic, to say the least.
And, free red bean soup. My grandfather tried to make Albany John eat it (we only wanted a few bowls, not everyone wanted some), but I ate it for him. Albany John hates sweet red beans. I thought it was a little watery, but the tapioca pearls were quite nice.
Okay, I have loads more to tell you guys, but right now I need to go bang my head against a wall, so I’ll be back when I’m done with that.
  1. wear a helmet!!!

    Looks like a good time in NYC. mmmmm guac

  2. Oooh… the food looks so good. Even the vegan stuff sounds like I would enjoy it.

  3. Jennifer said:

    Oh man, your post really makes me miss home. I love going to Chinatown for Chinese NY! The tacos looked yummy, one day I want to do a Queens foodie tour, all cheap eats kinds of stuff.

    The red bean soup, that's a dessert?
    The fried chicken and pork popper things looked pretty good.

  4. grace said:

    sounds like a stellar trip to me! now, where can i find a taco truck around here… 🙂

  5. p – ooh, I can bust out my pink bike helmet!!

    lili – for real, I'd try it again if it weren't so $$$

    Jennifer – Same here! I always go out where family wants me to go. Next time I'm putting my foot down and going to all of the hole-in-the-walls.

    Red bean soup is a dessert, but it's not *that* sweet, just a little bit. It's made from adzuki beans (the stuff red bean paste is made from), and whatever else they want to throw in.

    grace – for real. a late night taco truck anywhere around here would be MUCH appreciated!

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