By Joe Anuta
Flushing is a food haven like no other in the city, and some of the neighborhood’s best restaurants gathered to form the ultimate feast Friday at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel.
Civic leaders schmoozed with lawmakers and food bloggers milled around a banquet room armed with pens, paper and forks to sample the quickly vanishing spread from 18 participating restaurants at the Flushing Food Festival. The eateries, mostly of Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Malaysian varieties, offered up snack-sized portions of signature dishes, although the plates quickly added up.
Dian Yu, executive director of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District, wisely kept the speeches to a minimum.
“In Chinese culture, eating is the first priority,” said City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who was later seen eating a mixture of shrimp, crunchy shrimp crackers and mango cubes wrapped in a fresh lettuce leaf from Taipei 101, a Taiwanese restaurant, on 40th Road. “If you like the taste, make a reservation.”
Curry Leaves, a Malaysian restaurant down the street from Taipei 101, cooked up a chicken coconut curry so perfectly spiced and velvety that it led one man to a dilemma expressed by many at the event: Should one go back for seconds or use limited stomach space to sample as many things as possible?
Ultimately, the torn diner decided to simply go for dinner.
But other restaurants seemed to make choosing exceedingly difficult. Pho Hoang, on 41st Avenue downtown, had three varieties of banh mi sandwiches — vegetable, roasted pork and lunch meat. Banh mi is Vietnam’s more refreshing version of the deli sandwich and is topped with cilantro, carrots and cucumbers.
As the noshing continued, people would pass each other and inquire about the contents of one another’s plates.
And even with all the political and civic leaders gathered in one place, city Comptroller John Liu knew the event was about promoting the culinary clout of the neighborhood.
“Flushing foodies are what we are here today,” said Liu, sporting a white polo shirt.
He later added, “Loosen the tie, enjoy the food.”
The fare ran the gamut between hearty and light.
Tianjin Pancakes, on Main Street, offered up the most savory item at the event: tender pork encased in Chinese dough.
Like many of the region’s dishes, it was an exercise in well-balanced simplicity but filling.
After finishing the savory pocket, a plate of Taiwanese-style cold noodles, pickled radish and cucumber from Ku-Shiang Restaurant, on 39th Avenue, provided a perfect balance.
It was impossible to eat everything, and in the end that may have been the point.
An endless trove of culinary treasures awaits anyone who ventures to Flushing, and many of the neighborhood’s top spots come recommended from the Flushing BID, which publishes a restaurant guide for the area.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.