Friday, September 23, 2011

(Spicy Totto Ramen)

Comfort is important to me when dining out. Reservations make me comfortable as I can't let extreme hunger influence my judgement on the food after waiting an hour for a table. Elbow room makes me comfortable. A place to put my jacket and purse makes me comfortable. Regulated temperatures make me comfortable. Not having patrons hover over me while I eat makes me comfortable.

So what was I doing in this teenie ramen house that doesn't take reservations? Well, a girl needs to get her ramen fix every now and then. Although it was a wet summer afternoon, the timing was right, as a friend and I arrived at Totto after the lunch rush and even still on a warm, muggy day, there was still a short wait to get into this little place.

(Avo Tuna - Torched Tuna Sashimi with Avocados)

We sat at the bar closest to the door and while I could feel the scorning eyes behind me of those still waiting to be seated, I was excited to witness the cooks in action. With my jacket and purse in lap, I watched the cooks, torch my tuna sashimi and squid skewers. Good predictable appetizers but I really just wanted the ramen.. and then it came, piping hot, spewing steam into the already hot, muggy air inside. This was the first time I've had a chicken and soy sauce based broth and while I missed the feeling of having oil slicked lips after sucking down collagen loaded pork broths, this was a nice lighter alternative in the warm weather. However the
peppery, spicy sesame oil that's added to the spicy ramen succeeded in making my eyelids sweat anyway.

(Ika-Yaki - Torched Squid Skewers)

Complete with bouncy noodles, torched pork pieces, scallions, bean sprouts, and the obligatory nori piece, this was quite a satisfying bowl and at a wallet friendly price of $10.50. Nice to know that ramen can be found without having to trek downtown as I do enjoy a good bowl every now and then. The 30 minutes I did spend inside being totally uncomfortable was sure worth it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Who run? You run! We all run.. to Fu Run! "

(Conch w. Chili Oil)

Thankfully I did not try out for my high school's cheer leading squad, as cheers like the one above would just add to the list of rejections I had to endure during that tender young age. Since I went to a predominantly Asian high school, I obtained many friends who introduced me to Chinese food. Born was my love for Cantonese comfort foods such as roast duck, beef with oyster sauce over rice, salt &pepper squid, and wonton noodle soups. Back then, Flushing was overrun by Cantonese noodle shops, BBQ roast houses, and banquet halls and that's what I knew as Chinese food.

Fast forward X years later with more restaurants now offering tastes from the Northern regions of China. These "new" flavors quickly gained popularity (thanks to places such as Xi'an Famous Foods) with diners in search of a fresh take on a loved-well cuisine. The bold, Northeast Chinese flavors offered at Fu Run did not fail to impress my taste buds.

(Muslim Lamb Chops)

If you love lamb with copious amounts of cumin, dried chilis, sesame seeds, and other robust spices, you will seriously love the Muslim Lamb Chops. The cracker like crust of spices that coat the tender meat underneath are fun little bits to nibble on or mix in with warm rice. The lamb meat falls off the bone with the slightest touch so a knife or sharp canines are not required. If you've ever tasted the lamb ribs at A Fan Ti (R.I.P.), these are a big step above - more intense flavor, less fat, and a textural treat.

(Crispy Fried Fish w. Cumin)

As if there wasn't enough cumin on the table, we had also ordered the Crispy Fried Fish w. Cumin. These perfectly fried little fish nuggets were a bit on the salty side but perfect to eat with a beer in hand. Also great paired with beer is the cold conch dish. Large crunchy pieces of conch are mixed with shredded scallions, peppers, and cilantro and tossed in chili oil. The scallions are quite strong here, but in a good way to balance the heat and oil as well as add more crunch. The flavor profiles in the Mixed Vegetables w. Green Bean Sheet Jelly dish is very similar to the conch dish but with shredded cabbage and those chewy jelly sheets it was more of a soft salad as opposed to the crispier dish preceding it. If all the chili oil starts to make you sweat, guzzle some more beer.

(Mixed Vegetables w. Green Bean Sheet Jelly)

The Sour Cabbage and Lamb Dumplings were the most neglected items on the table. Although I didn't find the filling as gamy or off-putting as others have noted, the wrapping was a tad mushy and the flavors not as exciting as other things. Sadly, the dumplings were mainly left untouched. I wasn't a big fan of the Triple Delight Vegetables either since I'm not a fan of soft eggplant dishes nor gloppy sauced vegetables however I did pick at some of the potatoes mixed in.

(Triple Delight Vegetables)

Now that my adult eyes (and mouth) have opened itself to other kinds of Chinese food, I will gladly give Fu Run a second, and third, and fourth visit. It's one of the hottest places in Flushing as you can always find groups of hungry customers hovering outside, waiting to be seated. Go with a group and try as many dishes as you can until you find your favorites. Although the booklet of a menu offers a ton of dishes, once you find your favorites, it will be quite hard to deviate from them.

- Some days they take credit cards and some days the "machine is broken". You're better off prepared with cash