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Moved to San Francisco, doing Istanbul-themed pop-ups every week with my wife at www.feastly.com/lauraandsayat
Taverna Kyclades, one of the best dining experiences you will have in NY. Very simple Greek seafood dishes, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Taverna Kyclades is probably one of the biggest reasons why I miss living in Astoria.
@laura_millan and I talked to the cooks on our way out. On a busy Saturday in the summer they'll do 1,000+ covers with three-four people in the kitchen including the dishwasher.
At Le Bernardin our cook to guest ratio is about 40 times that number.
And you cannot eat bone in Mediterranean red mullets for $15. But at Taverna Kyclades, everything is possible. Try Retsina wine, it's pine preserved ancient wine tradition. They infused pines into wines for the same reason as why hops were introduced to beer. Try their grilled and fried calamari. Also try their grilled fish items (e.g. swordfish, Med sea bass, octopus, etc), incredible. Oh, saganaki is Greek fried cheese and it's probably the best fried cheese there is.
New York City
Co-founder of RoundTable
I keep seeing Taverna pop up on RoundTable. You cited some pretty insane statistics with the number of cooks...as a greek food lover I'm pretty interested to check it out.
about 1 year ago
Cheap eats to fine dining and everything in between
Awesome spots you added to this list! Great discoveries!
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Joseph Michael Diaz
Growing up in Midwood, I watched the neighborhood change culture's over time. Now it is just as much Pakistani as it is with other mixes such as Jewish, Italian and Puerto Rican.
When people discuss going to Midwood, it's normally about Di Fara's. Though Di Fara's is beloved, especially by me because I grew up 3 blocks away, Bukhari on Coney Island Avenue in is great if you want Some great curry dishes and is a good reflection on the Pakistani culture now embedded in Midwood. Everything is made in house, their naan in particular is outstanding. It's also the only thing you'll be waiting for when ordering, but it's worthy.
Bukhari also has a great selection of their cultures desserts as well. It's the only place I know where you can find great curry dishes, but also have a taste of some the sweets they make.
I highly recommend this small place that will not break your wallet. Think $30 for 2 people kind of inexpensive. The only reason it will go higher is if you wanted to try all of their dishes, which would be highly likely. I binged the first time I went there almost 10 years ago.
Life is too short to skip dessert
I have to admit I have not experienced much Pakistani cuisine, but I loved your writeup of this place! Very cool!
Any time's a good time for a margarita
Love love love! Great post!
Coffee addict and world traveler
I am a huge fan of ethnic food and I haven't tried much Pakistani. This will definitely be on my list. Thank you!
Executive Chef, Freehold Brooklyn
My Brooklyn-Lebanese family has been going to Tanoreen for years where the proprietor Rawia has introduced Brooklynites to the incredible hospitality and brightly colored fresh foods of the levant. Oftentimes "ethnic" restaurants copy a fairly generic menu and you end up missing out on the real beauty that a culture can show through their food and hospitality, but not at Rawia's restaurant. Here, you get her very own style of cooking, inspired by the foods of her youth and brought to diners in bright and colorful arrangements- the food is not overly-spiced, as is the case with many other Middle-Eastern cuisines, but pops with lemon, garlic and fresh vibrant vegetables. Dining here doesn't feel like I'm in NYC, but back out on the town in Beirut- you won't be disappointed.
WOW the food looks gorgeous and sounds delicious. Tahnks for sharing this!
YES! When it comes to ethnic food I always want to know where the locals or people from that culure go. Really enjoyed your piece!
Thanks for the feedback- I don't get out often, but when I do, I like it to be worthwhile!
Freelance food writer, editor
I loved this. I hardly hear about places outside of Manhattan (sadly) but this looks right up my alley. Thanks!
Manager at Blue Ribbon Federal Grill
Khe-Yo is a staple among my go-to dinner spots. It's the only Laotian restaurant in NYC and the food is spectacular. You won't find Southeast Asian cuisine this good outside of Flushing. The sticky rice with Bang-Bang sauce that they serve in place of bread is so good I have dreams about it and I've never been let down by any of Phet's dishes. I recommend coming with 4 - 6 so you can order a bit of everything. Eat with your hands, take their suggestions and if they have the Pig's Head when you go in, don't miss out on it. My personal favorite dishes are the Pork Curry Noodles and the Ginger Quail.
This review was mouth wateringly good. Great descriptions!
Midwest girl, love to cook and dine out in NYC!
I've heard a few people say really good things about Khe-Yo I'm definitely intrigued!
This is awesome. Can't wait to go. Thanks for sharing.
Executive Chef, Sr. Director of Product Development at Fresh Direct
There are a lot of Brazilian restaurants in Astoria but Villa Brazil is the best. The unapologetic, home-cooked, no holds barred style of cooking here is truly reminiscent of eating in the country itself. It is ALWAYS packed, and these days, with way more than just Brazilians-in-the-know.
The concept is "por kilo", or in this case, "per pound", meaning you pay by weight- a typical concept found all over Brazil. The "steam table" aspect of this place may scare some, but look deeper.... 1) This is the type of food that actually benefits from holding and sitting long (lots of braises and slow-cooked items). The food turns over very fast anyway because they are so busy and the kitchen personnel are constantly coming to check, switch, replenish, etc. Nothing sits and hangs out and gets gross. 2) The "meat hole" window in the way back holds much beauty- it cannot be missed. Get in line if there is one and ask what is available- all who work there are very sweet, especially the bald guy who is almost always doing the meat. Typically: Salty, crackly, caramelized beef short ribs, charred pork sausages, things wrapped in bacon, picanha (ask for it rare!!!!)- to name a few; all sliced and taken from the spit a la minute 3) DESSERTS rock!!! You order them when you go to weigh and pay. There is dulce de leche EVERYTHING, bolo de brigadeiro (AND regular brigadeiro), pudim de leite condensado with or without chocolate, all kinds of yellow cake concoctions and coconut, coconut, coconut.
Personally I usually skip the salad bar. If I want salad, I have no business being in there. Or I make a salad at home if I am taking out. This is not food for the calorie counting set. It's food for those who can appreciate the dedication to extremely yummy, first and foremost.
Other items typically available, and just to name a few, are corn pudding, chicken or vegetable pies, Portuguese-style bacalao, braised brisket, okra, a variety of fish, pasta, chicken and other vegetables (the gamut from steamed broccoli to roasted roots); there is always rice, farofa and two kinds of beans.
The dining area is nothing to speak of but it is always lively, especially if there is a futebol match on the tube. Don't be dissuaded by a full dining room. Table turnover is quick. Or you can take out. I often go in and pick up a variety and eat for days :) Can you tell that I love this place? Weekends are mobbed but it always moves quickly. Don't miss this one.
I (somewhat sadly) don't venture out into the outer boroughs much but this honestly sounds like a trip worth making. Loved all the background...fantastic review!
This place sounds incredible. I know my boyfriend will be into it. Awesome!
Corporate Executive Chef of Paige Hospitality
Sripraipai in woodside queens for good Thai food. They have an outdoor area open in the summer time, cash only. Try their watercress and crispy pork belly salad.
When I find something new and unique just randomly walking down the street, I get so excited I cannot contain myself. One of the tiny restaurants we walked by had a dilapidated tandoor oven with pastries hanging off the walls. We walked into the tiny restaurant and we started watching them work the oven.
Uzbek food is so obscure that Tandir Rokhat, a primarily to-go operation, is listed most places as 'Indian' probably because 'Tandir' is in the name. Tandir is the Turkic (also Turkish) word for Tandoor. Both are essentially concave ovens with a bottom heat source, often coal.
Uzbekistan is in Central Asia. This restaurant is in Brooklyn among a couple other Uzbek restaurants. We've been to Nargis and were really happy with the food and the value.
This is not a restaurant in the traditional sense. It feeds the working people of the Uzbek community but if you want something unique that you cannot eat anywhere, it's a good place to venture.
Favorite thing I've read on RoundTable so far. I love these obscure hole in the wall kind of places.
about 1 year ago
Well, a tandir is technically a hole in the ground Anita (!)
Sorry I couldn't resist. And thank you for the kind words.
about 1 year ago
Life is uncertain, eat dessert first.
Awesome! This was an incredible find. Thanks for sharing it!~
Thanks for the kind words Dara.
This review was straight fire. Awesome.
Thank you Greg!
This is not a restaurant in the traditional sense. Pricing is arbitrary, wine is oxidized, no sign of any restaurant norms but still very hospitable, incredibly warm and very cozy. This place is famous among the Egyptian and Middle Eastern community in Astoria but it really became expensive after Bourdain featured him on an episode of his show many years ago.
He has one burner and serves a menu with brains, sweetbreads, kidney, cheeks, testicles and other cuts. Also, included on the menu are other less luxurious cuts of meat and fish. It's so tasty, a la minute home cooking in a 'restaurant'. The space comes with its challenges but the man can cook (and also talk).
Pictured is his lamb cheek ragu with ecoutrement and kidneys in a red wine and dill sauce. The first time I went there he fed me the lamb cheek ragu in a fried crispy lettuce with his hands. I think that was a food memory that will never leave me -- that's from before I turned from an analytics manager into a cook.
This place sounds amazing. This has bene my favorite topic on RoundTable, haven't heard of any of these.
I was so skeptical even after I saw the 45 min wait; heard the Armenian, Georgian, Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Urdu spoken in the restaurant; examined the plates, witnessed the diners' faces. The space gave me a glimpse at the cosmopolitan city Istanbul could have been.
I stood by the kitchen, waiting and pretending to be waiting in line for the bathroom. There were a lot of Turks in the kitchen but also many Hispanics, which is to be expected. But the atmosphere looked nothing like the kitchens I worked in.
Then the plates started coming to the table and I turned into a believer. It was a humbling experience.
Especially speaking for the kebobs, everything was robust in flavor but not aggressive, well seasoned, delicious and hot. Our beyti was medium rare, you never see that. The doner (i.e. gyro) was thin, perfectly seared, and beautifully sliced. Again was well seasoned, Maillard-loaded (umami) yet delicate (mainly by virtue of the texture). The lahmacun (a Turkish / Lebanese flatbread, also referred to as Turkish pizza) is not only an excellent value but also crispy and incredibly flavorful.
I want to draw your attention to the temperature of the food. This is something you hardly ever see in fine dining. The food is rarely warm if ever hot.
Though the apps were good, you won't miss much if you go straight to the kebobs and entrees in general.
Last but not least, try one of the dishes with hot yogurt sauces, it'll give you a perspective (if you dont' already have it) on the savory use of yogurt. Before Danone invented 'sweet yogurt', 95% of yogurt consumption was savory (needs citation).
My friend took me here when I had never heard anything about it, and had an equally amazing meal. Makes me hungry reading about it!
Wish I could work as an ice cream tester for Ben & Jerry's
Thank you Sayat I loved reading this!
Really digging this question and responses on it so far! hard to find good intel on ethnic restaurants in the outer boroughs
Sommelier at Colicchio and Sons.
When I first moved to Astoria a little over five years ago, The King of Falafel and Shawarma was, unbeknownst to me, already a long-standing monument in Queens. When I finished unpacking my car and everything I owned was strewn about my still relatively empty apartment, I predictably wandered the streets for something to eat. I didn't want to sit down in a restaurant alone for my first meal, so I decided on street food. Earlier, I noticed a small cart about half a block from me with three guys in colorful chef pants. This was the place I'd have my first meal as a resident of Astoria. Now, I've had plenty of street food in my life, but even the least discerning palate in NYC could tell right away that this was not ordinary street food. They greeted me with a free sample of their falafel and I've been hooked ever since. To this day I've never had anything quite like it, and it still serves as a realization moment for me that common foods can sometimes be surprisingly uncommon. Most falafel you find in carts (or even at well established "it" spots like Mamoun's) tends to always be a bit dry. Fast forward to now and I've probably eaten close to 1,500 falafel and never once had one that even approached dry. Consistently spiced to perfection, they're always crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. A true culinary marvel. They'd had plans for a restaurant in the works for close to a year, but it finally opened a couple months ago directly across the street from where their cart was for close to 15 years (the cart moved to Ditmars). At first I was nervous, because with growth can sometimes come a watered-down product. This has not been the case. The food is as good as ever, and even with the slight increase in price (understandably so, considering they now have rent and other overhead to pay for), you still feel like you are getting way more than you should for the cost. The expanded space has also given them the opportunity to offer an expanded menu, and it doesn't disappoint. The hummus and baba ganouj are some of the finest I've tried. Their version of a spinach pie is a welcome rendition to the traditional greek variety. And now they even bake their own bread. I do, however, miss the original cast of characters working the cart. The food is always good, but they made the experience special. You should definitely go to the restaurant for the food, but if you want to experience the King of Falafel as it once was, then head up to Ditmars Blvd where they moved the original cart to because the gang's all there. The King of Falafel is the place I had my first meal in Astoria, and if I ever decide to move, it's the place I'll have my last meal.
Loved reading your story behidn this place!
Finding great falafel is something of a personal mission of mine, so this will definitely be going on my bucket list!
Been finding a ton of great Queens spots on RoundTable lately. I'm going to have to make a day trip out there...this will definitely be on my list of targets
King Of Falafel & Shawarma
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