46-10 Skillman Avenue
Sunnyside, NY 11104
(917) 779-9220

Quaint, the winner of Time Out New York's coveted "Eat Out 2007: Best New Restaurant In Queens" award, sits literally half a block away from Bliss Bistro, which I had reviewed only a few months back. Quaint is an upscale, but casual, New American restaurant that sits serenley on a tree lined block of pre-war buildings north of Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside. Its nondescript entrance is made all the more so since there's neither a sign nor an awning, and the name on the window is teeny-tiny and can't be seen at night. If not for the chalkboard out front, you'd probably walk right by. In a sense, that gives it a certain those-in-the-know feeling.

Sunnyside has two faces. One face is the chainy commercial face; replete with gas stations, fast food joints, Rite Aids, and 99 cent stores. The other face is the restaurant face. While this certainly isn't Park Slope or the West Village, Sunnyside had far more restaurants than you'd think it would. There are dozens of places to eat here, with ethnicities ranging from French to Nepalese. While most of these restaurants are on one side or the other of super-busy Queens Boulevard,Quaint sits two blocks north on Skillman Avenue, which is far more relaxed. Almost like West End Avenue compared to Broadway.

Bro and I went pretty much on a last-minute whim, which worked out fine since Quaint doesn't take reservations for groups of less than six. When we arrived at around 8, the only table available was the one by the door. A helpful tip: don't sit here in the winter. Every time someone enters or leaves, an icy gust of wind rushes in, and Bro took the brunt of it. There's a heavy winter curtain, but it's just not that effective.

Let's get the criticism out of the way first, because overall I like Quaint and would be a regular if I could walk there from home. The biggest problem I had with the restaurant lay not in a lack of warmth, so much as a lack of service. Our food, when ordered, arrived without delay or problems of any kind. But getting to place the order was a challenge, as our waiter vanished right after giving us our drinks. The same thing happened at the end when trying to get the check. He simply went missing again. In between, Bro ordered a specialty drink from the menu and he got the wrong one. It tasted fine so Bro kept his mouth shut, but that's not really the point. Finally, Quaint uses paper nakins instead of cloth ones. I recognize that this is an inexpensive upscale restaurant, but paper napkins make it feel cheap.

Anyway, what about the food?

To start, Bro ordered the Macaroni and Cheese appetizer, which was served with crumpled bacon tossed in. Yeah yeah, mac and cheese. Don't knock it till you try it. I tried it and liked it, but Bro was less impressed. First, he wanted me to point out that the macaroni noodles were, in fact, shell noodles and that this gives it a different texture. As for me, I think they taste the same, so I could care less. He also thought that there was too little cheese and didn't like that it was baked. See, he and I were raised with a completely different mac and cheese recipe. For us, you boil the noodles, drain them, and then pour the cheese sauce (which has been made separately in a small pot on the next burner) over then noodles. Ours is admittedly different than most, but it prevents the noodles from getting dry, which is what often happens, and happened here, when the dish is baked.

As for me, I ordered the Herb Braised Mussels, which sat in a soup of red curry and coconut broth. I'd certainly order it again, since it was delicious. They were neither dry nor gritty, something I find can be a common risk when ordering mussels. I did find myself somewhat embarrassed when the waiter caught me using one of the shells like a spoon to drink the broth with. Speaking of mussels, Monday is all-you-can-eat mussel night. Bring fifteen bucks and go hog wild.

My entree was the Grilled NY Shell Steak, served with spinach, mashed potatoes and Bordelaise sauce. Order this if you like red meat. It was tender with just the right amount of searing and fat. It was bloody enough to add that extra oomph the the Bordelaise sauce but not so much as to drown the potatoes. The last steak I had was at Wollensky's for close to $50 and this one was probably better. Mind you, it was a completely different style and maybe I shouldn't compare the two... but then again, this was less than half the price and came with sides. So TFB. Bro ordered Pan Fried Tilapia with organic quinoa and pine nuts. Bro and I both liked this dish, but myself less so. It seemed somewhat bland, as did the quinoa, which tastes like a cross between potato and grits. Bro recommends it, and I won't go that far. My compromise suggestion is this: if you're a fish person, order it yourself to decide; if you're not, then go with the steak.

We also ordered a side of French Fries. They were good, but a complete waste of money. Quaint is certainly not guilty of being stingy with the grub, so most of the fries went to waste (only a culinary heathen takes home leftover fries to nuke).

I really, really like Quaint. If I lived in Manhattan near the 7 train, it would absolutely be worth a trip into Queens. Hell, take another train and transfer. It's perfect for that neighborhoody atmosphere when you want to feel like a regular even though you've never been there. At least twice during the meal, people came in and other guests knew who they were and started up conversations. Despite what might be read as criticism about the food, it was seriously very good. Quaint also manages to straddle the border of romantic without becoming awkward. It's dark. Like pitch black dark. Every light is on the dim setting and most of the light comes from the tealight on the table or the lights over the bar. Dark can be interpreted as either romantic or cool and I choose cool. When I bring a girl I like, I'll choose romantic.

Two beers, a soda, two appetizers, two entrees, and a coffee, came to $70 before tax and tip.

UPDATE: 3/12/11:
Last night, Speeds and I finally found parking vaguely near Quaint and grabbed a table. We then began our feast. And a feast it was. Everything was delicious and underlines the fact that there are indeed great restaurants outside of Manhattan that aren't in Brooklyn. Speeds added Quaint to her list of favorite restaurants and she rarely ventures over the East River for anything but doctor's visits. Getting here was like pulling teeth, but once again, I was able to provide evidence of the glories of venturing beyond your comfort zone. Quaint's open kitchen, with flames bursting across the faces of our chefs was a particularly smile-inducing effect.

First up, the Crispy Calamari, lightly fried calamari with a sweet tomato chipotle glaze for dipping. Sweet here is the operative word. The sauce is like a tangy jam, not the standard tomato dipping sauce you get at so many other places. Next, Steamed Mussels in a red curry and coconut broth. The mussels were large, the broth spicy, but not overwhelming. With a few pieces of thick toast to sponge up the sauce from this rather large appetizer, we were already full but had two entrees to gorge ourselves in.

Speeds ordered the fish special, a crusted Mahi Mahi steak with a brown rice tapenade. I thought it was somewhat on the bland side, as did a customer at the the table next to us. His girlfriend loved it though, as did Speeds. Maybe it's a female thing. The tapenade was fantastic though. My dinner was the Roast Chicken Breast, covered in rosemary, served in a red wine glaze, and with Quaint's version of au gratin potatoes. This was noticeably not bland. I recommend the chicken highly. I actually demand that you order it.

Dessert was coffee times each plus the Profiteroles for her and a Root Beer Float for me.

This updated dinner with tax and tip came to $101.

Quaint on Urbanspoon

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