This week, I set out to try one dish from each restaurant in the great strip mall on Broadway in Elmhurst; it houses a Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, and two Vietnamese restaurants, an Asian grocery store, and Singa's Pizza. (Where else but Queens, right?)
To make the challenge harder, I vowed to do it with only $30.00. Here's Part One: a day that started with a Malaysian breakfast and ended with grass jelly tea. There's nothing like housing quite so many different places in a single strip mall.
Penang Malaysian Cuisine
Roti Telur: A traditional Indian pancake filled with egg, onion and green chiles. Served with curry chicken potato sauce. $4.95.
Starting with roti telur was a great choice, because it was like a savory breakfast to whet the appetite. A soft crepe encasing an omelette, studded with bright green slivers of chile and soft onion. Dipping the pancake into the rich, spicy gravy made it even better. The few pieces of chicken and potato floating in the curry were so tender, I could have eaten a large bowlful. (But I had to move on, so luckily it was just a small dish.)
82-84 Broadway, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 672-7380
Pho Bac Restaurant
Banh Mi Thit, Vietnamese Sandwich—Toasted French bread w.Vietnamese ham, black fungus, cucumber, pickle carrot, jalapenos, and mayonnaise. $3.25.
Of course, I would have loved to get a big bowl of pho, here or at Pho Bang, but I am saving them both for a big Queens pho round-up, which will be great once it gets a little colder out. Banh mi seemed like a great, cheap option for lunch that I could take out. So I ate my banh mi while sitting on the curb.
The roll was toasted and crunchy, but not on bread of a particularly high quality. Aside from the ingredients listed on the menu, the sandwich was filled with thin slices of roasted pork. My favorite part is always the pickled vegetables, which add such freshness to the sandwich; the sliced jalapeños were quite spicy. It was good, not excellent, and definitely not the best banh mi out there—but at $3.25, a most affordable and filling sandwich.
82-78 Broadway, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 639-0000
Pho Bang Restaurant
Goi Bo—Beef Salad—Slices of cooked beef, peanuts and cilantro on top of cabbage, celery, and carrots with a spicy and sour sauce. $4.25.
The small version of Goi Bo was light, and refreshing, but the small was not all that small. Yet so addictive that I couldn't stop eating it. The salad—crunchy cabbage, celery, daikon and carrots—was soaking in a light, sweet, slightly sour, salty, and spicy dressing, mixed with chopped cilantro, Thai basil and mint leaves, adding an herb-y freshness, the ground peanuts adding salt, more crunch, and earthiness, then the thinly sliced beef topping the whole thing. A good choice. (Perhaps too good, since I quickly became full.)
82-90 Broadway, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 205-1500
On such a full stomach, I opted for a sweet drink in New York Supermarket, which also sells baked goods, take-out food, and drinks. Black jelly with coconut for $2.75 was the perfect thing. Sweet, light, coconut liquid with chewy grass jelly floating around, to be slurped up with the straw. I could sip it slowly as I walked around the neighborhood, digesting my meals and formulating a plan to spend the $14.80 I still have left.
82-66 Broadway, Elmhurst Queens (map) (718) 803-1233
Stay tuned for Part II next week. Where else but Queens could you have so much fun eating your way through a strip mall?