The U.S. Open Food Tasting Preview 2015

>> 8/28/15

The U.S. Open Food Tasting Preview 2015

If you plan to be at the U.S. Open this week, you should know what you're putting in your stomach. To help you with that, the fine people at the open invited me over to Arthur Ashe Stadium,  had me listen to a short, yet interminably long Q&A with celebrity chefs, and then sat me down and stuffed me with food, sampling the fare that you and all of the other high rollers in the club box will get to eat. No Auntie Anne's for us.

Tony Mantuano churned out Avocado Toast with pistachio and pepper alongside Tomato Bread with serrano ham and manchego cheese. There was Lobster Burrata with pickled eggplant and basil, Beef Tartare with capers, and Cassarecci, a squid ink pasta with shimp and scallops courtesy of Champions Restaurant. Chef Morimoto, as per tradition, made the sushi. Aces Restaurant provided Portobella Fries with a ponzo dipping sauce, Salmon Crudo with watercress and cucumber, and Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes. Richard Sandoval made Baja Fish Tacos and Shredded Chicken Tacos along with his Maya Chopped Salad, a lettuce, tomato, and corn salad topped with grilled marinated steak. There was steak by Pat LaFrieda, brisket by Hill Country Barbecue. Food Trucks are in vogue these days, and the Sweet Chili food truck gave us a nicely spicy Honey Chili Pork while the Morris Grilled Cheese Truck showcased a Cheddar grilled cheese sandwich and a Gouda with Herb Butter and Bacon grilled cheese sandwich. Un-named heroes made Lobster Rolls and Banana Nutella Crepes.



>> 8/25/15

152-12 Northern Boulevard
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 886-8645

Mr. Dogz and I were debating dinner. His vegetarian girlfriend was out of town, so he was finally allowed to go to a restaurant without having to pour over the menu in advance to see if there was anything she could eat except a side salad (hold the Bacos). We could go get seafood. What about that Peruvian roast chicken place? Steakhouse! Barbecue! "I have an idea," I said slowly. "How about we go to Flushing and get Korean barbecue. It'll be steakhouse and barbecue and be fuckin' awesome."  "Let's do it." Korean barbecue, for the uninitiated (which is really who I'm writing this for), is not American barbecue. It's not even close. There's no hickory smoked, brown sugar glaze or beef ribs cooked in a smoker for fourteen hours or the ridiculous debate between dry rub or sauce (both taste great, so grow the fuck up). Korean barbecue is like a cross between a more refined meal, a party, and a family style dinner a la Mama Lucia's Trattoria.

Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, which I will call KHDB because I'll become arthritic if I continue to type that long name at every paragraph, is the kind of place you get to early. Like before 7pm. Dogz and I arrived at 6ish, got a table and my the time we left the sidewalk was crowded with people waiting to get dinner. "We're the only white people here," Dogz said, surveying the large, open dining space. "That's a good sign." And so it was. KHDB is awash in communal tables. Families and groups of friends sat eating vast quantities of food to their hearts content. KHDJ is spotless and gleaming and almost, but not quite, trendy. Stainless steel, smooth concrete, high ceilings, bright lights. It's like eating in the love child of a kitchen and a Tesla factory.

Every table at KHDB, as with most Korean barbecue spots, gets its own grill. The menu consisted of a handful of options, but mostly it boiled down to pork or beef. We ordered the Beef Combo which would be perfect for two or three people. We left stuffed to the gills. Of course, first things first. The Kimchi Soup. Gotta have some kimchi soup. A large bowl arrived and our waitress divided it into two bowls (actually, our waitress did everything. I kinda wanted to grill my own meat, but she did that for us, too) and we dove in. The soup is rich and spicy with the classic bit our vinegary sour that comes from the kimchi. Dogz and I wolfed it down, though Dogz did make sure to say that he thinks that his own is a bit better.

As I said, we ordered the Beef Combo. This came with a full table's worth of fixings and three waves of beef: brisket, prime rib, and rib eye. Our waitress took a few seconds to explain how everything gets mingled together to create the customized flavor you want, from a bowl to a lettuce wrap, mild to spicy, sour to sweet. At the base of the grill you will see a yellow liquid. That's egg. Toss some egg into your wrap, too. Egg, radish, potato, corn, some sauce, a little bit of kimchi, onion... go nuts. You might get a weird look from the waitress, but it's your mouth.

I'm not going to discuss which of the cuts of meat was best because to do so is pointless. They were all good. I'd like to return and try the pork options, though part of me feels that the beef would triumph. Dogz and I valiantly made our way through the three rounds of our entree and left so full that it was hard to breathe. Meanwhile, next to us was this table of model-thin girls who I swear ordered twice as much as we did, seemingly to no effect.

Korean barbecue is as much a show, an experience, as it is a meal. People weren't there to have an intimate conversation over a glass of wine and a quiche. They were there to have fun with friends and be loud and drink from huge bottles of beer. It's not a cheap experience, at around $50 per person with tax and tip, but then again few experiences are.

KHDB has a midtown Manhattan location for those too lazy to travel.

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