Dumplings & Things

Xi’an Famous Foods is probably my favorite Chinese restaurant ever. This seems to be the widely held sentiment among New Yorkers (and please God let Xi’an be a secret kept from tourists — for now anyway). At the Xi’an near my workplace, the line is typically out the door and down the block. Sure, it’s a hole-in-the-wall space, but the demand for high-quality Chinese foods has reached a fever pitch since Xi’an came on the scene in full force a few years ago.

There’s a Xi’an in Flushing, and I’ve even gone there with MDP for take-out to bring back to our home 30 minutes away — that’s how good Xi’an is.

dumplings & things pork and chive dumplings

pork and chive dumplings

But, now I don’t have to travel to Flushing for authentic noodles and dumplings because Dumplings & Things (see menu here) has opened up shop in Sunnyside. Yesterday was the opening day, and I’m fairly certain it will be the first and last time I ever actually eat there. The hungry crowds are coming, and I suspect they’re looking for Xi’an-level deliciousness. They’ll certainly find it at Dumplings & Things.

I wouldn’t call Dumplings & Things a chain, but there’s definitely another outpost in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, which has garnered rave reviews. It’s no wonder. Dumplings & Things serves up delectable Chinese (and sometimes Korean) fare for affordable prices — think $3.50 for a plate of five dumplings. Yeah, that cheap.

MDP and I were dead-set on sampling a wide variety of Dumpling & Things’ offerings, so we went about scanning the menu and choosing a food from just about every category: dumplings, noodles, baos, rice platters (we’ll try next time), and appetizers.

dumplings & things melt in your mouth pork belly noodles

melt in your mouth pork belly noodles

So, let’s start with the dumplings. We opted for the pork and chive (steamed) type. The filling was nearly bursting from the tightly wrapped skins, which goes to show the value you get when you order dumplings from this amazing place. And they weren’t just plump — they were delicious, too. Unlike some pork and chive dumplings that are typically “chive” in name only, these had a distinctly chive flavor that made the entire experience of biting into each dumpling feel fresh and clean.

We had to get noodles, and Dumplings & Things has a nice selection on their menu. You can either get your dish with rice or “regular” noodles (which, I think, are either ramen or la mien), and with broth if you choose. We got the braised beef noodles and melt in your mouth pork belly ones. Wow, both were just out of this world. While Xi’an’s wide hand-pulled noodles are pretty impressive, Dumplings & Things’ noodles are also up there on my list. They, like the dumplings, were bursting with flavor. Our respective meats were beautifully flavored and heaped aplenty on the top of our noodles, which cost a mere $6.50 and came out in a giant traditional bowl.

dumplings & things braised beef bao

braised beef bao

MDP wanted to try a bao, so he ordered the braised beef one. It’s two baos per order, so I was in luck. I bit into the bao, with sliced cucumber and carrot, as well as crushed peanuts on top, and was blown away. One of the best restaurants in Sunnyside, Salt & Fat, used to serve unique pork belly baos. I think Dumplings & Things is giving them a run for their money in the bao department.

I wanted to try the garlicky cucumber salad, to compare it to Xi’an’s version, so we got that, too. It was good — not great, like Xi’an’s — but MDP figured out that, if we doused the cucumber pieces in soy sauce, the dish would taste better. It did. Somehow the soy sauce brought out the garlic flavor more intensely, and I was a happy clam.

dumplings & things garlicky cucumber salad

garlicky cucumber salad

All this food cost about $29. Twenty-nine dollars! The seating arrangement inside is fairly utilitarian, with simple stools and small tables for patrons to dine at. It’s no sit-down and order through a waitress place, either, so snag a table before you put in your order at the counter. Getting your food could take upwards of 20 minutes because I think Dumplings & Things has a few kinks to iron out in the kitchen process yet, so grab a gourmet ginger ale and sit tight.

I highly recommend Dumplings & Things. If you’ve been looking for your local Xi’an, this is it.

Dumplings & Things
45-26 46th Street (between Queens Blvd. and Greenpoint Ave.)
Sunnyside, NY
Take the 7 train to 46th Street. Walk south for one block. It will be on your right.

P.J. Horgan’s

Any plans for St. Patrick’s Day? You may want to make them right about now. Sunnyside’s very own P.J. Horgan’s serves up delectable and authentic Irish cuisine that pairs nicely with a big ol’ pint of Guinness (or a finger or two of Jameson, depending on your taste).

p.j. horgan's shepherd's pie

shepherd’s pie

I walked into P.J. Horgan’s last night and a nice gentleman sitting at the bar suggested I find my own seat. “I’ll go right ahead,” I said, and he smiled with a twinkle in his eye–the beginnings of a magical experience at the small Irish pub on Queens Boulevard.

The booths are wooden and aren’t very deep, prompting you to sit upright and forward more than a booth at, say, Sarabeth’s might. I liked the alertness I was forced to adopt as a result of the booth’s design. It made me ready to consume hearty Irish cooking.

MDP arrived shortly after I sat down, and we both ordered pints of McKenzie’s hard cider, which is on tap at the pub. An accommodating waitress (who, authentically, had an Irish accent) brought us a basket of soda bread, which bears an unusual hint of rye but has the same crumbly consistency of every other soda bread I’ve ever tried. I liked it.

Soon after the soda bread came, our appetizer followed. We ordered potato skins stuffed with bacon and cheddar off the spare, simple menu. To be honest, P.J. Horgan’s hardly innovates when it comes to appetizer selections; fried foods figure prominently on this list. But the pub delivered on the potato skins–the potato itself was baked perfectly and the bacon/cheddar combo saturated my taste buds with fatty goodness. We scarfed ’em down in no time.

p.j. horgan's curry chicken

curry chicken

For our entrees, we ordered off the Irish portion of the menu: I got the shepherd’s pie, while MDP tried the curry chicken, which is touted as P.J. Horgan’s very best dish. A word on non-Indian curries: I like to call them the “Queen’s curry” because they are unlike Indian curries, which tend to be simply spiced stews. British/Irish curries have a more robust curry powder flavor at the fore, and feature more vegetables (such as mushrooms, peppers and onion, as was present in the P.J. Horgan rendition). That’s not to say Indian curries do not contain curry powder or the aforementioned vegetables. But Indian curries do tend to have a more nuanced spice flavor–coriander, curry, cardamom, turmeric and cumin tend to make the cut of ingredients–and often contain coconut milk and/or yogurt. Personally, I like both the Queen’s curry and traditional Indian curry for their distinctive, very different flavors. P.J. Horgan’s serves up yellow rice and steak fries with their curry, further setting it apart from its distant Indian cousin. It was very good.

I loved my shepherd’s pie, which was filled with ground beef, peas and a delicious brown gravy. The ground beef was hidden by mashed potatoes that were elegantly piped and lightly baked on top. I highly recommend the shepherd’s pie. I’ve heard good things about the bangers and mash (and, admittedly, choosing between the shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash was a difficult decision), so, really, you can’t go wrong with your entree choice at P.J. Horgan’s.

This St. Patrick’s Day, take the 7 over to Sunnyside for some traditional Irish fare. If you don’t make it to P.J. Horgan’s, or it’s overflowing with people, you have a bevy of Irish pubs to choose from: Molly Blooms (has food), the Kettle (has food), The Courtyard, Maggie Mae’s, The Gaslight, Donovan’s (in Woodside, has food) and many others.

P.J. Horgan’s

4217 Queens Blvd. (between 42nd and 43rd streets)

Sunnyside, NY

Take the 7 to 40th Street. Walk east a few blocks. It’s on the north side of Queens Blvd.

Mario’s

Hidden from the main thoroughfare, Mario’s sits on a quiet corner just south of Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. Its simple blue awning belies the sophistication of the cuisine found within.

mario's mozzarella and roasted red peppers

mozzarella and roasted red peppers

My Dining Partner (MDP) and I decided to try Mario’s about a week ago, when we were on a brief run to donate school supplies to the local library. We realized Mario’s was one of the few restaurants we hadn’t tried in our neighborhood. Italian food is sparsely found in Sunnyside, so Mario’s was a must-try.

When we arrived, it looked like there weren’t many people inside, but, as we ate, more diners strolled in. We sat by the window at a small table for two and the waitress quickly came over to take our drink order (a half carafe of red sangria). Another waitress brought us some bread and our appetizer, which was a delicious plate of mozzarella and roasted red peppers. The mozzarella and peppers were drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

For our entrees, I ordered a special chicken dish with melted mozzarella and roasted asparagus with a sherry sauce, while MDP got a tortellini dish with mushrooms, peas and a cream sauce. My chicken was flavorful and perfectly cooked. The asparagus was crisp and the sherry sauce was slightly sweet. MDP’s tortellini were large rings filled with ricotta cheese, and the sauce was creamy and decadent.

So satisfied with our entrees, we opted for dessert, a warm brownie with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Chocolatey and dense, the brownie delighted our taste buds.

If you’re in the neighborhood, try Mario’s. Dazie’s, the other prominent Italian restaurant in Sunnyside, is pricier and satisfactory, but Mario’s definitely has a special edge.

Pink Icing Bakery

The wait is finally over. Pink Icing Bakery has opened.

pink icing cupcakes

pink icing cupcakes

The long-awaited bakery has been teasing Sunnyside residents for more than two months now. First, Sunnyside Post said it would open the first week of March. Then, Pink Icing’s sign went up some time in April. Then, I saw a “we’re hiring” sign a few weeks later. As of yesterday, Pink Icing is in business.

Nestled between a fish market and Mr. Wonton Chinese food eatery, Pink Icing (which took over a failed Indian restaurant’s space) is just a few doors down from The Sugar Room baking supply store, which is owned by Juan Arache, the man at the helm of the much-anticipated bakery.

So, what exactly does Pink Icing offer?

Well, tons of stuff.

Today, when I visited, they had mini and full-size key lime pies for a few bucks. There was also a pecan pie and what looked like an apple crumb pie (both in mini and full-size form). But the real attraction here is the cupcakes.

Available in big and small portions, the beautifully decorated cupcakes–at a fair $2 price point–are delicious. Without a thick slather of icing (who can bear that?) but rather a delicate application of it, the small cupcake has the ideal balance of frosting and cake. Moist and not-too-sweet, the vanilla cake was just right. I can’t speak for the larger cupcake, but, based on what I saw, I believe it mirrors the perfection of the smaller cake–just more of it.

In addition to the decorated, vanilla cupcakes, Pink Icing serves up red velvet cupcakes, in both large and small sizes. The woman ahead of me ordered a red velvet small, and I envied her. I’ll have to go back and try it. But, then again, I want to try everything at Pink Icing.

pink icing cupcakeThough the space is cozy, there’s room for a handful of tables and a countertop with stools. Several customers milled around the bakery, talking over coffee and cupcakes and enjoying the morning. It seems as though Pink Icing has already become a hallmark of the neighborhood in the mere two days it’s been open.

I sincerely hope Sunnyside residents partake in the wonder that is Pink Icing. After all this time–the waiting, the hand-wringing at the closed door–Pink Icing has finally arrived. Hopefully, to stay for a long time.

Do I think Pink Icing is a destination bakery? We’ll have to see. The cupcake trend in New York has certainly died down (is it fried pizza that everyone’s fascinated with now?), but the cupcakes are so good–and so cheap!–that it just might attract the non-Sunnysiders. Pink Icing is open until 8 p.m., which gives the Manhattanites who frequent Salt and Fat just enough time to grab dessert (before a late dinner, perhaps?) prior to heading back to the city.

If you’re in the neighborhood, try Pink Icing. It’s the kind of cupcake that wholly satisfies the body and soul. You don’t want to miss out.

Pink Icing

44-12 Queens Blvd.

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 to 46th Street and walk west for two blocks on the north side of Queens Boulevard. Do check out The Sugar Room, too!

Yum Yum Queens, Sunnyside

You may have heard of Yum Yum. There’s about 25 in Hell’s Kitchen. Maybe you’ve seen them.

Yum Yum Queens, a distant relative of the aforementioned, serves up tasty Thai at cheap prices. With no frills, the restaurant delivers an inexpensive lunch special and a filling prix fixe dinner. If you’re in the neighborhood at mealtime with a bunch of change in your pocket, this is the place to go.

Yum Yum Queens Fried Tofu

fried tofu

Last night, my dining partner and I ordered in. As an appetizer, we got the fried tofu. Cardboard-like and triangular, the fried tofu wasn’t exactly disappointing but not flavorful either. I mean, it’s tofu. What can you do with it? A special sauce accompanied the dish. We drizzled it all over the tofu, in hopes to make a more delectable offering. It helped slightly. Another appetizer we typically try is the curry puffs, which are small, empanada-like pastries filled with chicken and spices. They are quite good and I highly recommend them.

For an entree, I ordered the green curry with chicken. I’m fond of Yum Yum’s curries. I usually order the red curry, but fancied something spicier last night. It is chock full of bamboo shoots, green beans, and other vegetables, including something that resembled a type of eggplant. I was very satisfied with my dish.

Yum Yum Queens Pad Kie Mow

pad kie mow

My dining partner got the Pad Kie Mow with tofu, which was greasy and delicious. The tofu was tough, but had absorbed all the grease and juices oozing from the flat noodles. It was wonderful.

Don’t forget to try the Thai iced tea and coffee. They are expertly served at Yum Yum.

Overall, you get the bang for your buck at Yum Yum Queens. It’s not worth traveling to Sunnyside for this restaurant, but if you’re in the ‘hood, you definitely want to try this Thai.

Yum Yum Queens

43-01 Queens Boulevard (at the corner of 43rd Street)

Sunnyside, Queens

Take the 7 train to 40th street and walk three blocks.