Restaurant reviews: New Queens restaurants
Queens has long been known for cheap international food, but a recent wave of eateries signals fresh ambitions for the borough. We checked in on some of the buzziest newcomers and found varying results.
Tue May 17 2011
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl
Astoria's growing contingent of young families and tattooed hipsters join middle-aged couples at this vibrant cantina. The draw: locavore-friendly tacos and Mexican small plates and entres. Farther-flung parts of the borough (Elmhurst, Sunnyside) may be chockablock with authentic South of the Border eats, but the grub here draws on global influences, and is made with artisanal products from the Brooklyn Grange farm and Tortilleria Nixtamal. It's all the work of chef Michelle Vido, a River Caf vet who also helms the stove at nearby Vesta Trattoria. She's at her best when focusing on a few interesting flavors. Plump steamed mussels rest in a heady corn broth studded with chorizo and jalapeo bits, a delicate balance of sweet, smoke and spice. Among the six taco choices, the moo shu duck shines—the rich braised bird is laced with a hoisin-sriracha sauce and paired with crisp slivers of cucumber and radish. But things go awry when Vido raids the pantry, deploying too many contrasting ingredients at once: Her roasted pork-belly enchilada topped with a chocolate, fig and peanut sauce, as well as cumin crema, is a muddle of competing flavors. The roasted poblano pepper tastes bafflingly dull, despite its overwrought stuffing of quinoa, couscous, cranberry beans and walnut-cream sauce. The best move here: Grab a simple nibble at the bar, order one of the fine sipping tequilas (Ocho, Partida) or mescals (Ilegal, Del Maguey) and enjoy the hobnobbing scene. 33-17 31st Ave between 33rd and 34th Sts, Astoria (718-554-0525)