Meet Pichet Ong’s Impossible to Pronounce Cocktail, the Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit

The Krungthep

Yes, this cocktail is for real, and it’s a delicious (and cheap!) one at that.

The Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit — known as the “Krungthep” for short — could even be considered the house cocktail at Qi, Pinchet Ong’s pristine new temple to Bangkok-style Thai, as that string of indecipherable words is a name for Old Bangkok, more than one server confirmed.

While sheer audacity of the name is what caught my attention — (“Really, five lines for the name of a cocktail in a bar menu? Is this some sort of gimmick?”) — in actuality, the Krungthep is a lovely cocktail composed of gin, vodka, star anise, ginger, yuzu, lime, Thai iced tea and guava juice. It’s fruit-forward without being too sweet, complex without being pretentious. When the heat of the spicy beef mango salad flared up, a sip of the Krungthep would set things right. Likewise, this cocktail has the backbone to withstand any heat it may receive for its name. (e.g. “Couldn’t it just be called “The Krungthep” from the start?“)

Qi Bangkok Eatery, 675 Eighth Ave., btwn 42nd and 43rd sts., 212-247-8991.

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Uh Oh, Here Comes Trouble (aka the “Argo Tea First Look” Post)

What’s this … Argo Tea, open? Oh sweet mother of tea, I’m in trouble now.

Here I was, just last Tuesday drinking in oversized photos of such luscious tea beverages as Earl Grey Vanilla Crème and Tea Sangria (check out the menu here, and see the photo below) and wondering how long I’d have to wait.

In fact, I needed only wait until Friday — the pictures came down to reveal an airy, modern tea shop; smiling baristas chat with customers about the rewards program (it’s one of those accumulate points for free tea deals) and rave about the seasonal ValenTea Passion — an herbal blend of passion fruit and hibiscus flowers that’s being rationed out in 2 oz. samples — or, perhaps, one of the tea time appropriate finger sandwiches.

Long tubes of loose tea along the back wall look to be arranged by color, when in fact it’s a gradation of tea type: black teas fade into green teas, which fade into herbal and other exotic tea types.

Up close, they’re beautiful: Giant, dried balls of jasmine tea (a personal favorite); a Masala chai flecked with dried ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla; a genmaicha — green tea blended with roasted brown rice — that, blended with some steamed milk and a caramel flavor shot “tastes just like caramel corn,” promises a barista.

(FYI: The staff is perhaps overly friendly here by New York standards — but they are also full of useful information.)

Free sample alert: Tea Sangria on ice

“Hmm… Two free hours of wifi with tea purchase, you say?”

There’s a spot at that oversized communal table that’s got my name on it — the only problem I foresee is once the word’s out it’ll be hard to get a seat. On Day Two, which also happens to be an early Saturday evening, the table was already covered in laptops and newspapers.

Argo Tea may have taken its sweet time getting here — after opening 15 locations in Chicago, the brand has finally expanded to New York — but it looks like it’s settling in quickly.

Argo Tea, 949 Broadway, at 22nd Street, 646-755-7262. Additional locations opening at NYU and Columbus circle presently.

The Brocton, NY Edition: Friday Night Fish Fry (aka the “Delcamp’s Take Back the Depot” Post)

Friday Night Fish Fry.

It means going out to dinner, for a change. It means starting with a salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, dressing, followed by heaping platters of crispy, golden-fried fish on top of french fries — and a couple of beers spread throughout. It means looking good and smelling better, and probably running into people you know. It means the weekend’s here.

IMG_0983 copyIMG_0975 copyUntil Western New York state came into my life at about age 10, I had never heard of Friday Night Fish Fry. But I quickly realized it’s not just dinner out. Sure, the restaurant changes, and people come and go. But no matter what, going out to fish fry with my grandparents is always, always an occasion.

This time, Friday night was an occasion for the venue, as well: the Nickel Plate Depot, owned by a local family by the name of the Delcamp’s, was celebrating its grand reopening night. Beers were flowing, the whole place was jovial: Mylar balloon bouquets, an electric train choo-chooing on its route suspended in the air, a full-sized shuffle board table in the bar room (!!) … all offset our wait for a table.

IMG_0970I get why they’re waiting. Everyone’s socializing, and when we were seated, the server played along. And then there was the food.

For a moment I almost went for the crab-stuffed walleye (one of the rules of fish fry is you can pretty much order whatever you want), but I decided I’m just not in fish fry territory regularly enough to get anything but the special of the house.

And here’s why it’s special: For $10.50, my regular-sized order of the NPD Fish Fry — “fried IMG_0979 copyIcelandic cod, dusted in flour, dipped in beer batter and fried golden brown,” and served with salad (family-style) and my choice of two sides — came with a hot, hulking, filet of fish, beautifully battered and fried.

So giant was this filet that although I sucked every morsel down that I could, I still couldn’t get it all down. And that’s after sharing tidbits with family members who I caught eying the meal that was clearly the pride of the table. I learned a long time ago that at some point you just have to acquiesce. And revel in your satisfied fullness.

Nickel Plate Diner (NPD), 131 Central Ave., Brocton, N.Y., 716-792-4400

A photo of the crab-stuffed walleye that I almost ordered after the jump: Continue reading “The Brocton, NY Edition: Friday Night Fish Fry (aka the “Delcamp’s Take Back the Depot” Post)”

Breakfast: Tim Horton’s, Back for More (aka the “Apple Cheese Danish” Post)

I generally have a sense of obligation to try the thing a place is known for on my first visit, something to do with establishing a baseline.

So on my first visit to Tim Horton’s, I ordered a half-order of Tim Horton’s doughnut holes, called Timbits (cute, right?), and an iced latte. (For the record, Timbits are the way to to go to taste all of Tim Horton’s doughnut options for about the same number of calories as one whole doughnut.)

photophoto(2)But even then, my first time ever staring into the case of Canada’s no. 1 doughnut purveyor, the apple cheese danish caught my eye. I went back for it today, and I’m so glad I did. Light, fluffy pastry dough, pretty lattice-work crossing over the a lightly-sweet cinnamon-apple filling and a tangy cream cheese baked inside. Beautifully complimentary flavors; but then again, it was gone so fast I never had a chance to second-guess.

Breakfast: Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Tim Horton’s. Tim Horton’s Who? (aka the “Tim Horton’s Discovery” Post)

photoSo I’m the butt of this knock-knock joke, because until yesterday, when I was deep in discussion about this Canadian doughnut chain’s “NYC invasion” — which consisted of transforming a dozen Dunkin Doughnuts locations from DD to T-whatchamacallit between Friday afternoon and Monday morning — well, I’m pretty sure I got Tim Horton’s name wrong, and had no idea that the chain was named after a pro hockey player, let alone a hockey-player-company-founder. (Watch this video, it’ll get you up to speed.)

photo-1Anyway, I made up for it with a doughnut exploratory adventure this morning. Apparently, NYC is digging on Tim Horton’s, because when I got to the TH shop (can we call it that?) in the LIRR wing of Penn Station at about 11 a.m., the doughnut case was looking pretty bare.

In essence of the tasting, I bought a bunch of “Timbits” — aka doughnut holes, aka DD munchkins — one of each respective flavor. Here are my translated-from-a-yellow-stickie impressions:

1. Original. I knew you were original. Nice and airy. Light glaze. Sure, I can see how you, as a whole, might give other doughnuts a run for their glazed money.

photo-42. Blueberry Cake. Really? Blueberry doughnuts? Excuse me, Timbit, but you sort of taste like a bad blueberry muffin. But that’s probably why people like you.

3. Honey Dipped. Whoa there. If I wanted cinnamon anywhere in my mouth, I’d be all over you. Because way more than honey, you taste like cinnamon (I get the honey part, too).

4. Chocolate. Smack, smack, so thick and cake-y! But I guess if chocolate for breakfast is your thing, then, hot damn, go for it.

5. Is it sour cream or old-fashioned? Either way, this lumpy, cantankerous Timbit reminded me of nothing so much as a super-sugary finger-dip into a crock of store-bought frosting.

Overall: Some are better than others, but then, I’d never eat all these flavors of doughnuts in one sitting, anyway. As a non-regular doughnut eater, I say: Bring it on!

Dinner: Bun Cha Gio (The “I’m Going To Try Something New at Pho Grand” Post)

Don’t get me wrong, I like pho. But sometimes, the quantity of rice noodles overwhelms me: They’re not enough, and too much, at exactly the same time.

photophoto(4)So, this time, “I am going to try something new,” I announced to my friend, as we photo(6)settled into our cozy, two-top right next to the window at Pho Grand in Chinatown. I was busy studying the photos on the backside of the take-away menu, and figuring out their corresponding menu numerals, when my friend pointed out to me: “I love that your idea of trying something new is picking something from the picture menu.”

photo(5)Hey, I sort of love that, too. Take the dish I chose, no. 45, the bun chao gio. Lovely photo, absolutely uninspired English translation: Bun Cha Gio, spring rolls with lettuce and rice vermicelli, $5.45. Who would read that and think a.) it’s enough for dinner and b.) oh, spring rolls, you mean dainty, delicious rolls stuffed with a savory mushroom-pork mix, wrapped in rice paper, and then deep-fried, but they’re miraculously not greasy? Yeah I wouldn’t have gotten that, either. But the picture was intriguing, and the bun chao gio were a hit.

Plus, as I pointed out to my friend, kind of cool that I picked the one dish that has a photo on the take-away menu and not on the regular in-house menu. Good thing I picked up that take-out menu at the start.

Pho Grand, 277 Grand St. (btwn. Eldridge and Forsyth), 212-965-5366

Gratuitous photo of table condiments, one of my favorite groupings to take pictures of, after the jump:

Continue reading “Dinner: Bun Cha Gio (The “I’m Going To Try Something New at Pho Grand” Post)”