Here comes Chinese Lunar New Year for
2019, which arrives on February 5. It’s the Year of the Pig. Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Sure, we love February ‘cause we have
two kids born this month. But we also like, that both Chinese New Year
and Valentine's Day happen during the second month of the year. And that
daylight hours are inching forward to the moment when baseball catchers
and pitchers will start reporting to camp.
We love celebrating Chinese New Year.
What a great opportunity for family, special
lovers and great meals surrounded by lots of friends & flowers.
And what a great day to be Chinese!
But if you are in New York, a great Chinese
meal, a moveable feast awaits around the clock 24/7/365.
It is apparent to almost anyone traveling
on business that there isn’t enough time to enjoy authentic local
Dinner that hasn’t been worked into
the business schedule becomes an after-thought, a quick twelve-dollar
burger served on a tray with a moist towelette in some forgotten hotel
We are so quick to let business travel spoil
the excitement that comes with going to a new place. The
town you’ve been zipping through for the past couple of days could
be the grist for your memory’s mill, and sometimes culture shock
can be cathartic.
At the very least, a side step journey into
town can afford a little life experience and a few polite conversations
with the locals.
Here in Flushing, Queens, New York near
both JFK and LGA Airports, you have to try really hard to find a bad Chinese
About a quarter century ago, Chinese and
Korean people came along and salvaged a truly run down area of New York
City called Flushing, turning it into a booming, glitzy, beautiful metropolis,
punctuated with great restaurants, theaters, office towers and residential
We have however decided after many years
that the best places to eat, in many instances, may not be very much to
look at from the street.
The message here is that “curb appeal”
can often be an illusion.
For the food, money and atmosphere, which
includes pre-colonial dark wood and mirrors and an irresistible sound
track of truly wonderful jazz that always seems to be playing faintly
as background, try Shanghai Yu Garden on Kissena Boulevard about a mile
from LaGuardia Airport.
We thought that the late Anthony Bourdain
who we used to see eating here all the time would wreck this joint when
he endorsed Yu Garden on his CNN show called “Parts Unknown,”
but thankfully that did not happen.
Yu Garden, located back from the sidewalk
is in a store front that might scare you off, although it gets a great
audience that knows the place, as all wait patiently for the chef at the
back of this smallish restaurant working non-stop, hand making the homemade
soup dumplings, that can only be described as food for the Gods . . .
Tales Of Nanking Road
I recall a Sunday alone at the downtown
Mandarin Hotel in Taipei, right near Nanking Road. The Mandarin is a crew
hotel. Pilots and cabin crew have a reputation of being tight with a buck.
Most pilots like to maintain a fairly high
profile life style, while cabin crew never has any money. Sometimes
I think cabin crew invented stew. They always seem to be planning potluck
The old joke: “Hey, this food tastes
different. Did somebody wash my bowl or something?” barely affords
a chuckle from these chowhounds.
Mandarin Hotel & Terry &
The Taipei Mandarin is always a good buy.
The place is clean, if a bit faded. The restaurant, which serves Chinese
and American breakfast around the clock, is always a good bet.
The Mandarin is also equipped with a staff
of husbands and wives who seem to live and tend to individual floors.
You can be sure a staff member will see
you to your door following check-in, and don’t be surprised when
your arrival is heralded with hot tea and cookies.
Once I stumbled into my room after a 19-hour
flight and dived straight into the shower, only to discover my disheveled
heap of clothes had been neatly pressed and hung.
Lots of ex-patriate fliers and business
types stay at the Mandarin.
Anytime, day or night, Sky King is meeting
under the gaze of Terry and the Pirates and Smilin’ Jack, all comic
book heroes of 1930-40’s aviation.
After arriving late one Saturday and working
all of the next day on a story, I decided it was time to get out. The
T.V. was rattling on in Chinese and English alternatively, about some
sporting event that no longer held my interest. I decided to take a walk
to find something to eat and maybe pick up some bottled water.
A Foodie Adventure & Good Laugh
It was drizzling lightly, a warm, early
spring evening. Sundays anywhere are the same.
It doesn’t really matter where you
are in the world. There will be more places open on the day after the
apocalypse than on any given Sunday.
I stopped at a small restaurant that looked
busy. Business in a restaurant is a good sign in any country. The first
thing I noticed was how the place smelled.
This joint smelled great.
A couple of beers and a plate of fried rice
later, I left my small side table completely satisfied.
Around the corner from the restaurant I
found a group of people laughing and joking in the staccato tics of quick
and easy Chinese conversation. For a moment I thought that I had missed
the place the cool crowd supped. I felt a need to get the name and address
of said cool place so that I could return at a later time. I began to
make my way to the group.
It was then that a familiar sign struck
me, a sign emblematic of gaudy, tacky Americana: the flashing red and
white striped logo of T.G.I. Fridays. I laughed, and wondered if my joke
was funnier than the joke shared by the cool crowd. I had not come halfway
around the world to eat burgers and fairy food.
Now, whenever it’s time to hit the
road again, I think of that damp Sunday in Taipei. It reminds me to get
out and experience more of the local scene.
Gotta Get Up-Get Out
I always wonder about people who come to
New York from other parts of the world insisting that the best restaurants
are in Manhattan, simply because they’ve read that somewhere.
Let’s set the record straight.
Any stiff can read a review and fork over
a lot of cash.
The idea is to get out, get fed, have some
fun and not get stuck paying through the teeth.
Try something new, even if it’s in
Live a little.
You may not pass this way again.