Friday, October 3, 2008

Urbane Adventure - Part 2

Our next stops were no more than a block away from each other, but couldn’t have been any more divergent in offering. Delhi Heights is a full fledged restaurant, complete with a stocked liquor bar and a tuxedo shirt wearing wait staff. In contrast, Delhi Palace, despite its name, was actually a small bakery, manned by two ladies and offering only to-go meals in small plastic containers. Both offered North Indian cuisine, which consists of the better known naan and paneer dishes most of us have sampled at one point in our lives.

Delhi Heights is fabled for its roti rolls, the offspring of a one-night stand between the teenaged burrito and the older, more experienced naan. The result – a sand-burrito-roll of lettuce, uniquely seasoned meats, and red onions.
Needless to say, the UE tossed half of his out ($10 / ea).

Delhi Palace was a little more eventful. I walked in and read through the menu, generally knowing I wanted to order samosas, but not sure which to get. The listings suggested a Samosa Maat, which I personally had never had, so I ordered those for the group. I returned to the troop with two plastic bowls filled with crumbled crispy samosa covered in a pepper and chole sauce, which gave a special contrast to the potato and vegetable filled crunchy base. If you rarely eat spicy foods, this would be a challenge. The sauce included bits of fresh jalepeno, minced into a puree of garlic, onions and several other dry powder spices. The resulting blend, though not the most aesthetically pleasing, turned out to be an enchantingly stimulating roux. For those spice-impaired, I picked up a mango lassi, a yogurt based fruit drink. The base dairy helped to calm the acidic spicy food in everyone’s stomach, and would later help with its departure ($12.81).

One of the most felicitous effects of food continues to be its ability to connect us with our past. A certain smell, a favorite dish, familiar sounds, and even just the sight of a chef (read: mother in the kitchen) can slingshot the eater back into his pre-adolescent state, when the only things we worried about were Saturday morning cartoons and beating the newest Nintendo game. Dining at Ihawan, the UE pleasantly experienced all of the above.

Ihawan is a Filipino restaurant near 70th and Roosevelt Avenue. Be alert when searching as the restaurant is located on the 2nd floor of an unspectacular building. But as we all learned as impressionable kindergarteners, never judge a book by its cover. My group of food-weary companions mustered enough courage and strength to attentively man the utensils at a table. My half-and-half brother and I debated the potential menu selections, and settled on an array of palobok and pancit (noodles), some lumpia (Filipino egg rolls), and lechon (roasted suckling pig). Excitedly, we tossed aside our utensil in favor of Filipino chopsticks, and dug in. The pancit immediately reminded me of days when my mother didn’t feel like cooking and would toss all she could into a wok with a bit of soy sauce and some rice noodles in hopes of satisfying a starving child. The lumpia rekindled images of the days when my Filipino family would sit around a dining table with wrappers, sautéed pork, vegetables and a water bowl, slowly stuffing and rolling small egg rolls for a party. The rice was the highlight, reminiscent of the days when I would grab a bowl only just rice and Filipino chopsticks to accompany my video game marathons (rice isn’t greasy, better for the controls). All in, I think this was the personal highlight of the trip. We ordered 3 plates of lumpia, and finished every bit of food to the last morsel ($60 total). Stuffed to the point of borderline sedation, we had only 1 stop left to make on the trip for which everyone found a small pocket of room in their stomachs.

Bohemian Beer Hall and Garden is technically located in Astoria, but given I could only muster support for one day, I decided that it was the perfect end to an already memorable round of food, fun and laughs. Beer gardens in New York are unique entities, habitually offering an array of specialty brews as well as Belgium and German favorites in a pseudo-outdoor environment. As the group approached the entrance way, we were hastily cut by some other people anxious to get in. We figured this must be the greatest treasure in all the land to coax rational people into irrational behavior. Stepping through the first door proved to be less than expected, as it was a totally empty bar room with a few benches and some people in line for pitchers. Over the loud groans from my compatriots, I urged them to remember this was a beer GARDEN, and there must be some outdoor space to enjoy. How little we were prepared for what we saw next.

Through the next door, we found an enormous outdoor seating area, complete with picnic tables and a stage area for performances. This place was packed full of everyone from the coolest hipsters discussing the latest strategies of fitting into the next size down of jeans, to the oldest of Yankees celebrating their milestone birthdays. We luckily found a table that could fit all 8 of us, and swarmed to claim it. One amongst us had been so kind to provide us with homemade s’more brownies. The chocolate, creamy filling and crunchy coatings provided a perfect pair with the dark, malty German beers we sampled ($45 / $15 per pitcher).


Total Spent: $188.61 / ~$24 per person

At one point during this trip, I reflected on the deeper meaning of what we were doing. Within our group alone, we had almost every race possible represented. The last 2 hours we spent time laughing, sharing our hopes and dreams, and eating great food with no quarrels. The beauty of the American dream shone through on our excursion, not only just in the group dynamics, but also in the wonder that within 20 blocks we managed to personally experience 5 distinct cultures, and observe countless others represented (on one block there was actually a Peruvian restaurant on one side of the street, and a Citibank with Chinese lettering on the other). How wonderful a country we live in where people, the real people, see past each others differences and pasts, and warm to each other’s truest self-worth. This trip was not just a successful food experiment, but an impactful social study as well.

The day ended with sunshine, blue skies, and full stomachs. Thank you to those who attended, without you, none of this would have been possible.

1 comment:

SweetHeart said...

nice post superman:)