A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Jun 12.

Dinner -

Tangra Masala - 87-09 Grand Ave., Elmhurst, Queens
Hot and sour soup, chicken pakoras, shrimp pakoras, Chili goat (dry), Tangra Masala fish (with gravy)

There’s always that concern. You rave about it to your friends, you use the megaphone of the internets to shout its praises, you even find yourself monumentalizing it in your head. Then you go back for a second taste and find out how wrong you were. The novelty of the experience fooled you. The outer borough address gave it a cachet of cool. Your critical judgment was temporarily malfunctioning.

As Vince and I hiked out to Elmhurst after a Mets game, this was my fleeting concern about Tangra Masala. But then I reminded myself of the spicy soul of their hot and sour soup, the fried craggy crunch of their pakoras, the sweet cilantro enlivening the Manchurian shrimp. My first visit (see Mar. 26) was one of my best meals of the year so far and I felt confident that Tangra would do it again.

Armed with bodega Sapporos, we arrived and took the last table left, the lone island of white faces in an ocean of Indians. Both times so far, the Indian-style Chinese restaurant has almost exclusively been packed with Indian people, not necessarily a promise of quality but certainly a good sign of it. Vince and I both ordered my beloved hot and sour soup and we split two orders of pakoras, one chicken, one shrimp. Branching out from the Manchurian preparation, we tried their other two saucings, getting the chili goat dry and the Tangra Masala fish with gravy.

From the first bite, I confirmed that my worry was all for naught. Tangra Masala’s soup was just as tangily beautiful as before and the shrimp pakoras may have even outdone the chicken. The chili goat was complexly spicy without burying the multitude of subtler flavors. At first glance, the fish coated in a bright orange sauce resembled Sweet and Sour Chicken, but the taste was anything but takeout. It was sharp but not overpowering, sweet but not saccharine. It was a taste so singular that’s hard to describe and probably even harder to replicate. But somehow, in its second round, Tangra Masala managed to remain just as excellent as ever. 9/10

Dessert -

Serependipity 3 - 225 E. 60th St., Upper East Side
Frrrozen Hot Chocolate

Do you enjoy Tiffany lamps and obscenely long lines? Are you thrilled by anonymous service and a dessert with as much depth as a sheet of paper? Do you take it as a good sign when a restaurant's entire clientele consists of twelve-year-old girls and tourists? Will you go anywhere people tell you just have to go? If so, please put down your name. We'll get back to you in about two-and-a-half hours.

It was clear from the outset that Serendipity 3 wasn't designed for me. My knowledge of the Britney Spears catalogue is embarrassingly nonexistent. The last season of The Real World I could stand to watch was Seattle. I'm far more likely to read Daily Kos than Daily Candy. Nonetheless, dessert is dessert and naively, I reasoned that the famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate had to be pretty amazing to gain such acclaim.

Suffice it to say that it's the Paris Hilton of desserts: needlessly rich and famous solely for being famous. Not inherently awful, it's still not nearly as special as it believes. Basically, it's just a giant cup of icy hot chocolate and whipped cream. No more, no less. If a regular-sized glass of hot chocolate in a less tacky setting doesn't do it for you, then by all means, start lining up now. If you enjoy the sensation of sugar shock and sweets with no sign of artistry in sight, feel free to enjoy. But for me, this is right up there with George W. Bush, Magnolia Bakery and Ben Affleck as popular phenomena that completely baffle me. 2/10

New York Magazine picks Serendipity 3 as Most Overrated


Blogger Robyn said...

One of my friends really wanted to go to Serendipity and since I had never gone before, I figured...okay. I didn't have a very strong urge to go. I liked the frozen hot chocolate but I think that was mainly due to its hugeness. My friends and I all got entrees and while they're not awful, they're not worth eating for the price and the setting (and I don't have high standards!). Oh well. :\

I like Magnolia Bakery though. Wouldn't wait in line to eat their stuff (never had to, woo) but that's where I'd go for a super sugar rush. ;)

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Roma said...

I just love Indian food!!
Have you ever checked out the blog by the name of "Words to Eat By"?? You might have something in common!

12:59 AM  
Blogger Lonesome Hero said...

Robyn - Yeah, I know a bunch of people who like Magnolia, but I bought two one day after walking crossotwn just to try them. I had one and thought it was disgustingly sweet. It was so bad in fact that I threw out the second one. So like I said, it's just one of those things that I don't get.

Roma - I haven't checked it out before but I'm on my way. Thanks for the tip.

2:55 PM  

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