Those of you who track me on Twitter or Facebook know that I hit Bar Americain on Friday, after getting recommendations from several readers and even people in the business who saw my note on Mesa Grill from April. At BA, the smoked shrimp salad sandwich was very much as promised. Served on a dark Pullman loaf with watercress inside, but the salad had a rich, sweet smoky flavor (I think hickory, but I’m no expert on smoking woods). I had never had or even heard of “smoked shrimp” before, and other than an excess of dressing (mayonnaise-based, but thinned out with vinegar), the sandwich was outstanding. It’s served with real French fries – no batter or coating, just potatoes, served with a remoulade dipping sauce – and all meals come with a bread basket that includes these amazing, savory cornbread sticks with black pepper.
The one new breakfast spot was Mon Petit CafÃ©, which does indeed strive for that Parisian-cafÃ© look and feel. I met BP’s Joe Sheehan for the meal, and I am pretty sure I ordered wrong: feeling the need for a big protein infusion, I went with the ol’ EMPT, scrambled with bacon and a baguette, although I ordered a croissant on the side. The bacon was ridiculously good – I could have eaten a half-pound of it, no problem – while the eggs were sort of overcooked on the inside so that some of the eggs’ liquid had leaked out. The croissant was amazing, as was the chocolate croissant that Joe Sheehan ordered (dessert for breakfast is a big thing over in France). Joe noticed on the restaurant’s Web site that they have good-quality bagged tea if you ask for it; the alternative is Lipton, which just makes dirty water. I’m giving a grade of “incomplete” here, because I need to go back and order something more appropriate.
Virgil’s BBQ was right across the street from my hotel, and though I’ve seen it fifty times I never managed to make it inside. Their pulled pork sandwich (ordered without sauce) was solid average, but not above it. The meat was extremely moist and I received plenty of burnt ends, but they apparently didn’t trim the meat at all, which meant first removing a huge portion of pork fat from my mouth, then lifting the lid performing surgery on the mound of meat to remove any other slimy bits. The meat had no clear smoke flavor or flavor from the dry rub used before smoking, but because it was smoked properly, it could rest somewhat on the laurels of the flavor that pork develops no matter what wood is used to smoke it. The side of barbecued baked beans was a waste of time, and the iced tea was too bitter. I wouldn’t mind trying their brisket, and the pork was good enough to go again since I’m usually staying in the vicinity. Incidentally, the sides that come with the sandwich are French fries or (cole slaw with potato salad). Not only is that weird (one side vs. two), but who the hell orders French fries in a BBQ joint?
Between doubleheader games on Sunday, I went to Flushing’s Chinatown and tried Sentosa, a refugee restaurant from Manhattan’s Chinatown, now on Prince Street a block away from the Main Street stop on the 7. I’ve had Malaysian food twice in my life, including this meal. I stuck to dishes that were obviously Malaysian, since the menu was sort of a pan-Asian thing with lots of Chinese or even Chinese-American options on it. The roti canai with chicken curry featured a large, thin, slightly sweet pancake that is meant to be dipped in the curry sauce. The dish got the obligatory one-pepper label for “spicy” (there were no degrees of spiciness, which is apparently a binary variable in Malay cuisine), but I’d give the coconut milk-based red curry about a one or two out of ten in terms of spiciness. The chicken was dark meat, of course, and there were two potato cubes in the tiny bowl. For an entrÃ©e, I went with nasi lemak, which I think is the most famous Malaysian dish out there, a sort of deconstructed fried rice that’s served with a giant mound of white rice that was cooked with coconut and cloves and is surrounded by accompaniments: curried chicken (more of a brown curry this time), a sweet/spicy mixture that apparently contained anchovies (whatever it was, it was very chewy), picked vegetables (mostly cabbage and carrot), sliced cucumber, a hard-boiled egg, and roasted peanuts. I mixed and matched haphazardly, skipping the hard-boiled egg entirely and trying to avoid the temptation to just eat all the rice, which was completely infused with coconut flavor. Everything but the anchovy mixture was excellent, and unlike the barbecue lunch, it didn’t push me into a meat coma afterwards.