Eating Outside the Box

by Joanne on January 19, 2015

Friday night, we ate “inside the box”, meaning, we ate at one of our new favorite restaurants in Utica, New York.  Ancora’s

Ancora Haddock and scallop oreganato

A tasty dinner special: Haddock and Scallop Oreganato served with fresh tomato and pea risotto, and sautéed spinach.  A gourmet delight.

Moving on and out of town, to Queens, New York, more of a “business trip” than a weekend getaway, we stayed at the Hyatt in China town. There were no Italian restaurants within walking distance. Surprised? Well, we were in China town.   We made our way to the Oyster Cave but they didn’t serve wine so … moving on and into a place that was doing good business early on a Friday night.  Baidu Shabu Shabu  (no idea!???)

Shabu shabu

It seemed the one person who spoke a tad of English was the hostess, although everyone was smiling and extremely friendly. The service was excellent in every sense of the word (except understanding what we wanted…oh well?!) Since we wanted alcohol (sounding so harsh), we were seated at the bar, down below where we sat alone.  Fortunately, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon was well understood.   UNfortunately, the request for LESS SPICE was NOT understood.

bad peppers

Thai Chili Pepper:  They have a pungent flavor and a bright red color, which makes them popular as a garnish as well as a flavoring. Their taste as also been described as "woody" or "earthy." One unique feature of this pepper is that it contains hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, which produces a tingling, sometimes numbing sensation on the tongue. Thai chili peppers are usually ground for use in dishes. Less spicy varieties may be stuffed with meat or vegetables.

Typically, our meals are started with a fresh, green salad.  At Shabu Shabu, there were no salads.  We ordered spicy cucumbers as an appetizer, had about 3 bites and called it quits. Hot, hot, hot.

cucumber in spicy sauce

See all that red?  It’s ground up chili pepper.  Ouch! Flavorful but OUCH!

The hostess, who seemed to be the only person who could barely make out our language, asked if we wanted bar nuts.  Of course! Anything to help remove the cutting heat off our tongues.

bar nuts

The main entrees arrived. Mine in a very large silver bowl with a side of sticky white rice.

fish with vegetables 3 peppers spicy

Thank goodness for the rice because it helped calm the heat of the dish. The sauce wasn’t greasy, but light and flavorful.  The fish was steamed, delicate, soft and tender. The bok choy, sprouts and other vegetables sank to the bottom but were plentiful, fresh, and again spicy with flavor.

While I was making my way through the “hot pot”, Ted was enjoying his meal of sautéed smoked pork and snow peas, no heat added.

sauteed smokey pork with snow peas

See those thin strips that look like bacon? That is the smoked pork. If the menu had described his meal as bacon and snow peas, then the pork wouldn’t have seemed out of the ordinary to us.  I think Ted was expecting medallions of pork, not bacon strips.  Anyway, he enjoyed it as his plate was spot clean once finished.

We thought it would be insulting to ask for coffee over tea plus we didn’t dare as there was not telling what we’d get due to the language barrier.   We made our way 2 blocks back to the comforts of our hotel and had coffee with a warmed blueberry scone.

blueberry scone2

Soft, sweet, and a perfect closure to an adventurous meal.

Do you enjoy Chinese cuisine? What’s your favorite dish?

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