Holiday in Flushing
Word of Mouth comes to you from Flushing, Queens this weekend, where I'm taking a mini-vacation. A vacation in Flushing? you ask.
Flushing is New York City's largest Chinese neighborhood, with an amazing array of eateries from formal restaurants to little stalls in rabbit-warren food courts. And the regional varieties just keep expanding. But Flushing is also a pain to get to from Brooklyn without a car, especially on the weekends, when the 7 train runs local only. It can take about 90 minutes each way from Park Slope, a major commitment.
Flushing has a number of chain hotels: Sheraton, Best Western, Howard Johnson, Comfort Inn. The neighborhood is pretty close to La Guardia airport, and some of the hotels have shuttles. I'm guessing they cater to both airport transients and Asian visitors. For some time I've thought about booking a night or two at a hotel in Flushing, to maximize my eating time in the neighborhood without all those annoying subway rides. Well, last weekend I decided that a weekend in Flushing would be my birthday present to myself (my birthday's Monday the 8th). I checked hotel rates and decided on the Comfort Inn, right at the edge of the main Chinese restaurant drag, at $85 for the night. I'm writing now from the Comfort Inn.
I sent out an email to all my foodie friends announcing that I'd be available for meals in Flushing this weekend. Several friends are coming by for dinner in about a half hour. This morning I came with a couple of friends with that rarest of commodities in New York, a car.
We started at Nan Xiang Xiaolongbao (38-12 Prince Street), a Shanghai place with a specialty in soup dumplings. The dumplings had received rave reviews on Chowhound, and I'm a sucker for soup dumplings, literally as well as figuratively. The ones at Nan Xiang were indeed most distinguished, with the cleanest, freshest tasting, most ample soup filling I've tasted in New York, skins that aren't too stiff or doughy (as many are), and an excellent pork and crabmeat filling. Equally memorable was the scallion pancake stuffed with beef. The pancake was admirably non-greasy, and the stuffing included a perfect amount of hoisin sauce (I've had the same item with hoisin overkill).
After our two (or three) brunches, my friends dropped me off at Flushing Town Hall, where I enjoyed an afternoon concert by Chinese pipa virtuoso Min Xiao Fen, who played some traditional pieces solo and then did a set with her jazz trio.
Food! Culture! Flushing! And no jet lag!