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Sietsema's 100 Best Asian Restaurants


Jinmyo
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The Voice has an online article by Robert Sietsema on the 100 "best" Asian restaurants. A quote: "Don't expect elegant dining rooms or fine china."

The sub-title is "A Five Borough Feast, From Afghanistan to Vietnam."

Afghanistan? Asia? :confused:

Clickit.

Discuss. :wink:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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What no Saka gura or Nha Trang?  How dare he?

Well its a list, I guess.  Please not another list thread!

I found a few Vietnamese rests I had not heard of, so I guess its useful.

Anyone care to guesstimate the number of "Asian" restaurants that exist in NYC?  

1000-2000?  

How many has the man tried?

"Asian" food is a rather big category too, since it is referencing the cuisine of the majority of the globe's inhabitants.

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Afghanistan? Asia?

Where else?

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Afghanistan? Asia?

Where else?

Bux, you know, I just don't think of Middle Eastern/former Soviet nations as being Asian. Just don't. India, Nepal and so on. But Afghanistan is just too up north in that region in my own skewed little mental atlas. Eurasia maybe. Or is it Oceania? Which one is and always has been our ally? I'll have to look it up on my Newspeak CD-ROM from Microsoft. :wink:

Nah, let us speak not of lists as such but rather of specific restaurants you agree or disagree with.

edit full disclosure: I typed the code for a wink and didn't get a smiley.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Afghanistan? Asia?

Where else?

Indeed, Turkey (except for the slight portion on the other side of the straits) and all of the other states in the "Middle East" are technically in Asia.

Are there any middle eastern restaurants on the list?

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edit full disclosure: I typed the code for a wink and didn't get a smiley.

The code for a wink is

 :wink: not  ;) 

on this website. It's that way cause we kept getting smilies in all these weird places, like within date/time, when you just use the : ) thing.

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Most of the Soviet Union was in Asia. My guess is that most of Russia is in Asia as well, but most of the population lives in Europe. Anyway, Asia is a big place.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Hey I had lunch at the number 5 place today. Dosa Hut in Flushing. Had a really good Dosa Masala. But would I give it #5 ranking? I don't think so. They also have moved to a new location around the corner from where they used to be and he should update his notes. Otherwise, besides the dozen or so places on the list I've been to, there's a lot of new places to try.

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From what I saw it actually covered the triangular area running from Afghanistan to Korea to the Philippines, though he failed to mention any Manchurian, Mongolian or South Siberian restuarants, which I found offensive.  How narrow minded.  Really.  I love Outer Mongolian food.  Maybe his next piece will offer a summary of the 100 best Occidental restaurants in New York City.

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A bunch of thoughts:

I like that Congee Village, one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Manhattan, is #6. Does anyone think that I should try Borobudur, at #8? It's a few blocks from me, but my friends on 3rd St. just think of it as their ordinary local takeout place, nothing special. I have to check out Natural Restaurant (#10) again and look for the handwritten scroll. The place is really cheap. I'm surprised that he rates a Thai restaurant above Sripraphai, but I haven't been to Arunee (#9). It's not far from a friend's house, so it could merit trying. Anyone been? Is Temduang (#11) really that good? If so, I should walk over to 10th Av. when I'm in that hood (hell's Kitchen). Any comments on Grameen (#37, the Bangladeshi place in Jackson Heights)? Is The Mill (#70) good again (for those of you who think it was ever good to begin with)? My folks and I went some time ago, had a rather poor meal, and were informed when we asked that there was a new chef. And is it better than all the Korean restaurants on 32 St.?! Or are they too expensive for Sietsema's list? Does Bali Nusa Indah belong on this list (it's at #89)? I stopped eating there after having a mediocre meal with surly service two or three years ago. Have they improved notably?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I imagine it's hard to come up with a 100, no?  And Sietsema seems like a decent guy, according to Trillin's portrayal of him in the Grub Streets New Yorker article.

Here are my thoughts for the mix.

I wonder why Grand Sichuan International, 24th Street isn't in?

#46 Banjara: As was discussed the other day, the food went downhill after Dutta left. This was a favorite Indian of mine, but after around 6 visits haven't been back.

#86 Vatan: One of the worst Indian meals I've had but this was around 18months -2 years ago. Watery, tasteless food. This restaurant looks like a miniature village and is pretty twee. To me, if feels like a tourist trap.  One can sit on the floor, but on the night we went the floor was sticky and greasy.

Havali and Mavalli Palace, both reasonably priced, I think, beat Banjara and Vatan. (Not very long ago I did think Banjara was tops--how quickly these things change.) Then there's the Bread Bar at Tabla. It's pretty cheap (but it's elegant with fine china).

#87 Guru: This also came up here the other day. Excellent dosas. Service poor.

#95 Republic: Went once or twice soon after it openend. It was a bit of a scene. Nice sparse interior. Communal tables. I remember a salmon dish with a cilantro broth that was good. Maybe I'll give it another go. In some ways, Republic reminds me of Spice Cafe, which is not on list. Spice Cafe (Village branch) can be inconsistent.

#100 Thai Cafe: If this is the large thai restaurant in Williamsberg, then it's a bit of a zoo on Saturday nights. Last year a large group of us had a resaonably good meal there--the dishes varied in quality.  If you have to wait for a table by the fountain, stay well clear of it. On this night anyway it smelled rather....and not in a pleasant way. I'll end on that cheery note.

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Yvonne--I was thinking along the same lines as you--why would the downstairs bread bar of Tabla be disqualified?  Could it be the authenticity quorum of sufficiently disheveled immigrants had not ever been reached?

He included Republic, didn't he, albeit with a sufficiently dismissive ranking? Nothing too authentic about that place except a slick industrial modernist decor scheme.

I guess he gets away with it by describing the list of 100 as both his "Best and Cheapest" and his "favorite inexpensive."  Well, which is it and what does that mean anyway?  They're not necessarily equivalent. I don't know why but I was drawn to this distinction more than trying to define "Asian."

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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He included Republic, didn't he, albeit with a sufficiently dismissive ranking? Nothing too authentic about that place except a slick industrial modernist decor scheme.

the only list that Republic appears on for me is the "top 100 places i hope my cheap and clueless friends don't insist on meeting me at for dinner".

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Steve, When I opened up the Village Voice page my eyes were doing flip-flops, too. "100 best and cheapest" is the header Later, as you say, "100 favorite inexpensive". In my view, these restaurants may be cheap, but they do not offer the best of Indian food.  

There seems to be an underlying belief (evident in the confusing headings) that cheap food beats the more expensive. I don't buy it. I'd rather forgo several of the Indian places Sietsema mentions and go only once to Tamarind. I'm now wondering if Mirchi was visited but rejected because the dining room is quite elegant (albeit table-cloth free). A shame, because Mirchi is unique. Yes, the main courses range from $10-$19, but half the menu is devoted to tawa, chats, tandoor dishes ($4-$9)

As for Sietsema's mentioning of mom and pop places, small batches, attention to ingredients, recent immigrants, I'm reminded of the contradictory mantra found elsewhere.  I don't want to direct this at Sietsema, as I'm not that familiar with his writing, but the topic as you raised it, Steve, did bring to mind the chowhound ideology. As far as I can make out, the logic is as follows: explicit statement=deliciousness is deliciousness, and it should be searched out wherever it may be. Of course it is found at both high end and low end places. Implicit statement=we romanticize all things cheap and "ethnic" (term used loosely) and disparage (though we'll deny it if pressed) most of the higher end restaurants. It strikes me as a very bizarre notion that the love of cooking, obsessing over ingredients and so forth are more evident in cheaper places.  In many cases I'm convinced that it's a romanticization, on the part of those who are wealthy, of those living in poverty. (I don't have it in front of me, but the best article in Gastronomica was one about what it takes to make tortillas from scratch. It takes a woman all day to make them.)  Added to this, this line of thinking detracts from the skill and knowledge of all the chefs working in more expensive restaurants.  I think we're beginning to stray from the original topic, but that ambivalent title "best and cheapest" raised interesting points.

Robert: here it is again

http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0220/ch...s02_display.php

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We got into this a bit on the Sugiyama thread.  It deserves wider consideration and it is intimately tied into the perception of Sietsema as a reviewer, his recommendations and how we come to understand and assess food, chefs and restaurants.

Clickety:

http://forums.egullet.org/ikonboa....;t=6369

I'm clearly in the anti-Sietsema camp when it comes to vision and outlook, though that wouldn't prevent me from trying any of his cheap eats places that were unfamiliar to me.  I wouldn't be prompted to wait for Mao's delciously ironic "100 Best Occidental list" from him, not that one would ever be forthcoming.  Steve Plotnicki's post on that other thread about a Cheap Eats guy carrying little weight for him, moral or otherwise, as far as being able to appreciate the higher end rings true for me.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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The Chowhound ideology is simple. It's the same one that people who love rock music have used for decades. New bands that are good are only good until they become popular. Then the effect of popularity is that history is rewritten to eliminate past plaudits. Only certain bands can survive the popularization process (like say REM) because the people dissenting can't afford to look that foolish while being critical. Sietsema's Sugiyama review is a perfect example of this being applied to food as it couldn't possibly be as bad as he makes it out to be. At $100 a head, the quality of the ingredients being offered can only make the experience so bad. And it is the same at the less than $10 level too. It can only be so good at that price point. I don't care how many interesting black curry combinations one can point to. Diversity and eclecticism do not make up for quality. While there are good choices on that list, there seem to be a bunch of skanky ones too.

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Steve, When I opened up the Village Voice page my eyes were doing flip-flops, too. "100 best and cheapest" is the header
Is it the best of the cheapest, or the cheapest of the best? I suppose it's really a license to make your choices on a subjective basis. Nevertheless, the use of "cheapest" rather than "inexpensive" is interesting. Inexpensive might imply value. Cheap often implies worthless, just the opposite of value.
As for Sietsema's mentioning of mom and pop places, small batches, attention to ingredients, recent immigrants, I'm reminded of the contradictory mantra found elsewhere.  I don't want to direct this at Sietsema, as I'm not that familiar with his writing, but the topic as you raised it, Steve, did bring to mind the chowhound ideology. As far as I can make out, the logic is as follows: explicit statement=deliciousness is deliciousness, and it should be searched out wherever it may be. Of course it is found at both high end and low end places. Implicit statement=we romanticize all things cheap and "ethnic" (term used loosely) and disparage (though we'll deny it if pressed) most of the higher end restaurants. It strikes me as a very bizarre notion that the love of cooking, obsessing over ingredients and so forth are more evident in cheaper places.  In many cases I'm convinced that it's a romanticization, on the part of those who are wealthy, of those living in poverty.
I think not. First, it's bullshit as often as not, and second, it's often reverse snobbery stemming, perhaps, from a lack of expendable income and the need to convice oneself of not missing anything and already having access to the best of everything--the real and true best. Some of this, as Trillin exposed, is also a matter of preaching a gospel and attracting accolytes. Once you're respected in a limited arena, you have the option of staying put, increasing your scope, or attracting a greater audience to the arena. The greater hypocrisy, in my mind, is when you pretend to increase your scope by inviting an audience with a greater range of interest, while using subversive means to direct the focus to your own area of strength. I've seen this on "moderated" web sites and I suspect using "best" and "cheapest" sends a contradictory message of similar intent. It may be a subconscious message and not intentional.

Earlier you said:

 One can sit on the floor, but on the night we went the floor was sticky and greasy.
but authentic? Perhaps not authentic, but what often separates the men from the boys on Grub Street.
I think we're beginning to stray from the original topic, but that ambivalent title "best and cheapest" raised interesting points.
Ambivilent indeed. Nevertheless you're right when you say he seems like a nice guy earlier. I don't mean to get personal here. I probably have more than a little resentment for the whole shtick of Grub Street but plenty of respect for the interest of several of those who devote themselves to what might be called "outsider food" if food arts were taken as seriously as art arts. I suspect the thread on Sietsema's Sugiyama review is also on my mind if I appear to focus on the reverse snobbism aspect.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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The link to the other thread (discussing Sietsema's review of Sugiyama) posted by Steve (K) makes for an interesting accompaniment to this discussion.  There are many excellent points made on that thread. Is there someone advocating the "best is cheap" here to even out the debate?

I think an honest discussion of how "authentic" (whatever that means), cheap, ethnic, maybe peasant, foods are reviewed is a good thing.  At the same time, the post-modern, alternative paradigm, p-c debates feel so tired. I'd like a new vocabulary to talk about these things or even a new perspective to view these topics from. In its crude form the argument feels like pro-establishment versus anti-establishment. Dominant group versus minority, Eurocentirc versus diversity. Jinmyo (on the other thread) may be  right--at the core of "the best is cheap" view is a political view.

Funny that the "cheap is best" doesn't fly with me because it appears to be associated with a left-wing leaning. And if others were to place me somewhere it would be towards the very left wing. I think it may be the way the view is expounded that puts me off.

Bux: I've just seen your post. When you say "I think not", you refer to my point about romanticization of the poor? And when you say bullshit, are you referring to food or logic.  Sorry, I didn't follow.

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Interesting.  Reminds me of an old communist I used to know who would only listen to folk music (and I mean very unadorned acoustic folk music).  Real music of the people, you see.  I always thought this overlooked the fact that most of "the people" were quite keen to listen something else when they got the chance.  Similarly with the romanticization of cheap and auhentic, or "peasant" cooking.  I enjoy a plate of fried pig's intestines as much as the next person, but I have to remind myself from time to time that the people who are eating the intestines on a regular basis would probably prefer a nice pork chop.

There's a song about this, of course:  "A cheap holiday in other people's misery..."

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Bux: I've just seen your post. When you say "I think not", you refer to my point about romanticization of the poor? And when you say bullshit, are you referring to food or logic.  Sorry, I didn't follow.

Sorry I wasn't clear and probably responding too quickly. I think the "romanticization" is phony to a great extent, but I also argue with your concept which doesn't take into account the reverse snobbery designed to belittle the more costly haute cusine accomplsihments. The word "bullshit" however, was not directed at you, but at what's written to glorify the cheap at the expense of the fine. We disagree on the "why" this view exists, but agree on most of the rest I think. In any event I didn't find what you said unreasonable even when we disagree.

Funny that the "cheap is best" doesn't fly with me because it appears to be associated with a left-wing leaning. And if others were to place me somewhere it would be towards the very left wing. I think it may be the way the view is expounded that puts me off.

It may be more than the way it's expounded. Food can be politics, but sometimes it's just food. And you may believe the world's resources are not fairly distributed and that economic reform is long over due and even that rich people should all go to jail or worse, but that doesn't make the food they eat bad. You need not be a royalist or take sides in religious wars to lament the destruction of art and miss the heads on the figures in front of most gothic cathedrals in France.

One of the wonderful things about Shaw is that he can write as enthusiastically about barbeque as he can about Lespinasse and Gramercy Tavern. I admire that even where I can't espouse the same enthusiasm.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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