Brian Tsao grew up in Flushing, Queens, with a Chinese father and Korean mother, and he still lives there today; the great selection of food is just one reason. So it's no surprise to anyone who dines at Mira Sushi and Izakaya that the menu mirrors his multi-ethnic background. Tsao, who is 28 and worked for his family's restaurants and at Telepan, gives us his recommendations for eating in Flushing. The restaurants are as varied as his tastes.
Dumplings: My favorite type of dumpling is northern style [Chinese], but I haven't really found a place I really like yet. So I'll just have to go to Joe Shanghai for soup dumplings. Some people despise them but those were the first ones that I tasted. The soup in them is really hearty and gelatinous. It leaves that fatty residue in your mouth that I find comforting. It's really robust and not necessarily really pretty around the edges.
Hot pot: Shanghai Tide is like this all you can eat hot pot place, but they also give you all you can eat dim sum. It's another one of those old school looking Chinese restaurants where nothing has been changed for the past 20 years. They also have this sauce bar where you can make your own sauce for hot pot. Not only is the meat fresh but you can eat all you want, and it just has that very classic feel to it.
Dim Sum: Asian Jewel Seafood restaurant. They have these durian puff pastries; it's basically like durian and pastry cream wrapped in puff pastry, similar to those egg custard things. It's to die for, though, and I have it every time. I used to hate durian, but my wife is Malaysian and loves it. Now I do too.
Desserts: I don't go often for dessert. Actually, in the food court of the New World Mall, they have this Tawianese shaved ice place. The one we like, they have this machine that shaves mango shaved ice. You can get mango slices, mango balls, mango ice. It's called Sno Po.
Bubble Tea: I go to Quickly on Roosevelt. I always order the taro bubble tea with pudding. Their version of pudding is not what Westerners consider as pudding. It's more dense. It sinks straight to the bottom. So when you suck up the tapioca, you also get the pudding.
Tea: Ten Ren. They have been there for a long time on Roosevelt Avenue. That's where I first had bubble tea, but I would go there to buy tea because they've been in business for so long.
Food Court: I freakin' despise the New World food court. Customer service is rough around the edges. There are just so many people all the time. They don't clean up after themselves. They [vendors] all rushed in there to make money. They just learned a few things and opened up this joint. It's not always cooked with care. I'll stick to the original Golden Shopping Mall, where Han Song Ting and Xi'an Famous Foods originally opened.
Sichuan: My dad used to take me to Spicy and Tasty on Prince Street as a kid in elementary school when they were in a different, dingy location. I don't think the food is quite the same now in the new location, but I still go there for the nostalgia. There's a place called Little Pepper that opened in the old location of Spicy and Tasty. It's the same cuisine, but I think they maintained their rustic-ness. They're not nearly as busy. I like to order shui zhu yu or rou: they take slices of firm fish like catfish, boil it, and cook it halfway through. Then they put it through this ultra spicy, ultra oily mix with tons of spices, chili, cilantro. They cook it the rest of the way. It's basically twice cooked.
Korean: Ham Ji Bach just screams good Korean barbecue. They have all the classics. This place is straight out of a Korean joint. They're really just cutting meat and putting it on your table, but all the sides are done for you. No place beats it in my opinion. The food and atmosphere reminds me of Seoul.
Vietnamese: I'd go to Pho Bang. I don't really know what authentic is for Vietnamese but that place has never let me down. You know exactly what you're getting every time. I always order the summer rolls, beef pho, banh mi, and a Vietnamese coffee. I get all that stuff for myself. My wife watches me in disgust as I scarf everything down. I'll eat half of what she orders, too.
Taiwanese: I'm trying to think of another Taiwanese restaurants besides my dad's. If there is, it's at the corner of the block from my dad's restaurant. It's called 66 Lu's Seafood. To be honest, I'm just okay with the food. But the steamed pork belly bun is phenomenal. They call it a Taiwanese hamburger. The bun is like the size of a Five Guys hamburger with the biggest slab of pork belly you've ever seen. It's topped with peanuts and it has that sweet and savory thing going for it. This forgives all their other sins.
Noodles: This may be a bit bias, but it's my dad's restaurant's Liang's Kitchen. Liang is my grandma who started this Taiwanese noodle house. Now my uncle has a chain of 15 of them. He opened his first one with me and my dad in Flushing. I helped them set up the kitchen. I do legitimately love the beef noodle soup there. They still make it the same way. It brings back a lot of memories.