A summer of taxi adventures in New York City has led to some astoundingly delicious things to eat.
In the interest of exploiting remembered pleasures, here are my seven favorite cabbie-recommended dishes to date – in random order. If you’re anywhere near the Biggest Apple, I hope you have a chance to try them:
1. Chicken momos at Hanami: I can’t get these dumplings off my mind. Is it the delicacy of their skins? Is it because they swim in butter? Or is it their dipping sauce – made with tomatoes and Himalayan black pepper smuggled over from Nepal? Namaste to cabbie Nyima Tsering, who steered me to these steamy beauties. (Hanami Japanese and Nepali Restaurant, 39-11 Queens Blvd., Sunnyside, Tel. 718-361-8232, Open: 7 days)
2. Mofongo con camarones at Sofrito: Pork and green plantains are a magic combination, and there is no greater proof than the mofongo at Sofrito. Topped with giant prawns and a light tomato sauce, this dish is an Afro-Puerto Rican masterpiece worthy of super cabbie Iris Javed. (Sofrito, 400 E 57th St. – Midtown East, Tel. (212) 754-5999, Open 7 days)
3. Hot and sour soup at Tangra Masala: One of Mizanur the cabbie’s favorite dishes. Cilantro, black mushroom, cabbage, tofu, and chicken are turned up to full volume in this chili pepper-charged soup that no amount of cornstarch can tame. Every spoonful is a (happy) shout to the palate. (Tangra Masala, 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, Queens, Tel. 718-803-2298/718-803-2381, Open 7 days)
4. Agedashi tofu at Tokyo II Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar (across the street from Team Systems Taxi Garage): Imagine a gorgeously crunchy tempura batter encasing silky cubes of creamy tofu. Dipping these cubes in a reduction of soy sauce, ginger, scallions and vinegar – and biting into bursts of fresh ginger and green onion along the way – is to consume a rare communion of flavor and texture. (Tokyo II Japanese Kitchen & Sushi Bar, 38-01 31st St., Long Island City, Queens, Tel: 718-472-3778, Closed Sundays)
5. Grilled tilapia and jollof rice at Papaye: Godfred knew exactly what he was doing when he ordered this Ghanaian classic for me after our journey to the Bronx. The rice is loaded with palm oil, cayenne pepper and tomatoes and served with a smoky chili relish. The fish is grilled and served whole – head, tail, skin and bones – and so tender you can cut it with a plastic fork. (Papaye Restaurant, 2300 Grand Concourse (at 184th St.), Fordham, Bronx, Tel: 718-676-0771)
6. Masala dosa at Ganapati Temple: Ganapati Temple is cabbie cum astrologer Vinod Dogra’s favorite place for dosas, the rice flour and black lentil crepes beloved throughout India. The masala dosa is the mildest on the temple’s menu, but it still pushed sweat through my pores. Stuffed with potato-onion curry and dipped in coconut chutney and sambar, this is the next best thing to eating on the streets of the subcontinent. (Ganapati Temple Canteen, 45-57 Bowne St., Flushing, Queens, Tel. 718-460-8493, Open 7 days)
7. Shio Cha-Suya Tsuke-men at Ramen Setagaya: Cabbie/film editor Eric Rodriguez delivered us to this starch lover’s dream: a giant bowl of fresh ramen to dunk in a snappy broth with rice vinegar, pork and scallops. I envy the East Villagers who live near these noodles. (Ramen Setagaya, 141 First Ave., St. Mark’s, Tel: 212-529-2740, Open 7 days)
What about you? Did you discover any dishes that worked their way into your summer taste memories?
Update: Taxi Gourmet reader Craig K. (alias Superstar) was kind enough to create a map of all seven of these delicious spots. Click here to check it out