>> 11/5/15

67-21 Woodside Avenue
Woodside, NY 11377
(718) 458-8588

The thing about Queens, which you see bantered about every time a major publication talks about eating in Queens, is that whatever food you want, it's here. Literally. Every nation in the world has a restaurant here. Ema Datsi serves Bhutanese food. It's probably not the first thing you think of when you get an email from Seamless telling you that they'll give you 15% your next meal, but it probably should be.

Ema Datsi is the kind of place you'd walk past without giving a second glance to. It's nondescript and, looking inside, comes across as a low-rent joint. But here, looks can be deceiving. I picked up Mr. Dogz and Doc and we found our way to the corner table of this Woodside establishment. Above us, a television was playing untiss-untiss-untiss club scenes from a rave. Thousands of co-eds in tight t-shirts were dancing and screaming to the electronica. Behind us, a father of three stared in a trance while his kids scarfed down bowls of soup. By the window, a table of five received a plate of rice so big that you could carve a turkey on it. The menu all but topped out at $10 a plate.

Ema Datsi serves three kinds of food. Bhutanese, Indian, and Tibetan We came for the stuff we can't get on a thousand other streets, so we stuck with Bhutanese. You probably don't know where Bhutan is, so here's a Wikipedia link. It's basically right next to Nepal, north of India. If the entrees are cheap, the appetizers are all but free. We started with Cauliflower Dry (Ema Datsi isn't big on names), a plate of spiced, lightly fried cauliflower with sauteed scallions and onion, because Doc's a vegetarian. It was delicious. Each piece had a hint of crunch with a soft, smooth center. Dogz and I, wanting a bit of meat, ordered the Pepper Chicken Dry, diced chicken with onion, green pepper, and chili peppers in a very spiced (but not hot) sauce. Also very good, but somewhat lighter in flavor than the cauliflower. I never thought that cauliflower would have more taste than meat, even chicken, but there it is. Mind you, this changes once you load your fork with onion and pepper, which you should do.
The entrees began when the waiter brought us each a bowl of seaweed soup. Perhaps you like seaweed. I do not. I took a few sips to remind myself why I disliked seaweed soup, and that was it. Doc's entree was the Kewa Datsi, a potato and pepper dish in a cheese sauce. It was good, and I'm guessing it's authentic because literally, we were the only white people here. They weren't paying rent with Americanized versions of Bhutanese food. But it was like potatoes in a spicy Velveeta sauce. I'm not kidding. Throw in some macaroni and some breadcrumbs and we could see this on a hipster menu without thinking twice. My entree was the Nor Sha Paa Thali (Fresh Beef with String Beans). And that's what it was. Beef strips, with string beans, with some peppers. Along with the little bowl of protein came a bit of rice (the same rice that the other table ordered seven pounds of) a little dab of the herbal cheese, and a bowl of  a second kind of soup, this one far far far superior to the seaweed one. A rich potato chowder. Fantastic. I inhaled it in maybe three sips. Sha Kam Datsi Thali (Dry Beef with Cheese) was Dogz's entree. The best way to describe it would be to combine my beef dish with the sauce from Doc's potato cheese dish, swapping out the string beans for green pepper. This was better than mine. The regular "fresh" beef was kind of plain (would yak meat be better? Hmmmm...), but take that meat and smother it in a rich cheese sauce, and there's a Wisconsinite tourist bus heading over the Queensboro Bridge faster than you can say "Scott Walker". None of these dishes were particularly hot, even though we were told that they were and I specifically requested hot, so that was disappointing. But I'd go back. Maybe next time, they'll toss in a few more peppers.

When I say that Ema Datsi is cheap, you might think, yeah but in NYC, a cheap studio will cost six figures. $18 a person, with tax and tip.

Bhutanese Ema Datsi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



>> 10/19/15

It's come to my attention that The Smith has a role in the documentary, The Missing Ingredient, coming soon to the IFC Film Center. Click here for details.
55 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 420-9800

"It's where the cool people brunch" someone once told me about The Smith. Well, I explained to her, I don't blog about brunch. That's for the restaurant blogs written by the high heel set. I do dinner, drinks, the occasional sandwich. "It's too far away." You live in Manhattan, I said. You even have a car. "I don't wanna go. Let's get dinner in Meatpacking." I hate Meatpacking. It's filled with transient vermin. "How about Chelsea?" In the end, we went somewhere near Madison Square Park and I wound up going to The Smith with Bro and his girlfriend, Nunu.

Bro was in a foul mood. It seems that the friends he was planning to see before meeting me pulled a few too many schedule changes at the last minute and, good friend that he is, held in his rage rather than throwing up his hands with a great big "to hell with this!". Luckily, one of the things that The Smith does well is cocktails and once he'd sucked one down, calmness ensued.

The Smith is one of the more popular of the generation of NYC restaurants that evolved out of the speakeasy scene. Lots of cocktails and lots of wood contrast with the industrial lamps and white tile walls. It's like eating on a renovated subway platform from the 1940s. The place, at 7 on a weekend, was crowded, but not such that I wasn't able to get a reservation or find a spot at the bar to wait for Bro and Nunu. It's a little loud and the food is standard American comfort food, by and large. Burgers, pot pie, mac and cheese - standard gastropub; no groundbreaking menus here - so maybe it shouldn't be a shock that there were a fair number of kids. I guess that if mom and dad want a drink, and the kids want a burger, and nobody wants boring, The Smith is a pretty good choice.

Nunu and I split a quick starter, sharing a half dozen Oysters. The selection varies by what's available and they basically had three to choose from. Small, medium, and large. That's literally the extent of my oyster knowledge. I should take a tasting class. We went with for the Goldilocks option and neither complained. I also ordered an appetizer. A nice healthy Kale and Quinoa salad, topped with dried cherry, ricotta, and almonds. In a few months, scientists will discover that kale and quinoa is somehow deadly, but for the moment, I basked in my seemingly healthy decision. It was a good salad. Hipsters, for as much as people love to denigrate them, hit this one on the head. 

Nunu ordered the Seared Tuna, served over sunchokes, mushroom, and spinach. I didn't end up trying it, but she said it was very very good and I'll take her word for it. Bro ordered the Tagliatelle, made with black pasta, shrimp, and scallion. This entree I did get to try and it was delicious. So filled with flavor. So smooth. I've been a big one for shrimp and pasta, but this really was incredibly good. Bro was the winner this night. He was also the loser, having ordered a side of Sicilian Cauliflower, which was all but inedible. I don't know who decided that drowning cauliflower in vinegar was a good idea, but he needs a stern talking to. My entree was the Chicken Pot Pie, a favorite dating back to colonial days when road weary travelers would come arrive at the inn in need of a warm meal, a pint of stout, and sturdy chair upon which to sit. This one came with a cheesy crust. Cheddar, specifically. I don't know that making the crust with cheese did anything other than differentiate it slightly from your average Joe pot pie, but it was indeed a fine pot pie with lots of thick vegetables, big hunks of chicken, but eat it slowly. It's boiling hot inside that shell. I learned that the hard way. Or maybe it was the very easy way.

We couldn't really get interested in the dessert list, which was exactly what you'd expect it to be. Ice creams, chocolate cake, some sort of apple pie/crumble/strudel... So we decided to get that someplace else (although in the end we actually just walked into a supermarket to get coffee beans for the morning and completely forgot about dessert). 

The Smith was fun. It wasn't too crowded. Entrees average $25 so while it's not cheap, it's not too badly priced. The service was very good. The was no age group that it seemed to cater to specifically. The food and drinks were good. If I was meeting someone who was a picky, not-very-adventurous eater who wanted to go someplace that was hip without being pretentious, or if you're just in the mood for comfort food, The Smith would be a good, safe choice.

Two appetizers, three entrees, a side, and a couple rounds of drinks came to about $180 before tax and tip. So $60 per person on average. There are two other locations. One is in Midtown East, and the other is near Lincoln Center.

The Smith Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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