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Mar 5, 2007 11:10 AM

"Corner 28" - New Flushing Chinatown Restaurant

For those who frequent Flushing Chinatown, there is a new restaurant, named “Corner 28” that just recently opened at the southwest corner of Main Street and 40th Road. The restaurant consists of two floors where the bottom floor is the standard Chinese takeout BBQ (hanging ducks, chickens, Char Chiu, ribs, pork stomachs, and roasted pig) and there is also a takeout food counter with assorted cooked foods including some Dim Sum, and Formica tables at the back for the takeout customers with the Styrofoam boxes. The restaurant is very high tech with computer screens everywhere. The second floor contains a sit-down service restaurant accessed by a narrow staircase at the back of the first floor of the takeout business. However, there is no English sign pointing out the upstairs sit down restaurant, except for a small Chinese sign. We missed the second floor restaurant ourselves on the first go around.

One interesting feature that is new to Flushing is that the “Corner 28” restaurant is selling single "Peking Duck" sandwiches at $0.75 a piece (a Cantonese bao with one or two pieces of faux Peking duck where the meat is cut with only a tiny sliver of skin attached and of course the typical strips of scallion and sweet plum sauce) at two open windows on Main Street. Apparently, the Peking Duck item is new to a lot of Flushing Asian shoppers, as there were always ten people on line for the Peking Duck sandwiches whenever we happened to walk past the restaurant, daytime or evening. The Peking Duck sandwiches even piqued the interest of some non-Asians, as there was a splattering of non-Asians on the long line for the Peking Duck sandwiches. We have not tried the Peking Duck sandwich yet, as it looked just like ordinary roast duck on a small Cantonese bao with scallions and sweet plum sauce, but will probably try it in the future once the novelty wears off and the lines are shorter. Since the demand for the sandwiches exceeds the supply, all of the Peking Duck sandwiches are essentially made to order while waiting for the meat and skin to be sliced from the duck. Hence in one respect, the Peking Duck sandwiches will probably taste better when there are long lines to ensure freshness, especially if the duck is hot out of the oven. And at the present time, a very lucrative idea for the “Corner 28” restaurant, since a whole roast duck normally sells for $15, and our guess is that they are easily selling each duck for $25 to $35 with all the single slices of the duck. Have also not tried their BBQ items, but like the Peking Duck sandwich, will try the BBQ items once the lines to the BBQ takeout items lessen.

The organization and design of the second floor restaurant waiting area is a little lacking. With the present large crowds trying out the new restaurant and the long line to get a table, one must go up a narrow set of stairs to get a wait number and than go back downstairs to wait at the Formica tables, since you are not allowed to wait on the stairs. After we and other diners went up to check on our wait numbers, the receptionist finally agreed to come downstairs to call out the wait numbers. Not sure how they will deal with this very unsatisfactory wait system in the future, if the long lines continue. Probably the receptionist will quit when her knees start hurting from all the stair climbing.

From the design of the restaurant sitting, you would almost think it was an American restaurant on Manhattan’s 3rd Avenue for romantic dating couples with most tables closely spaced together for two and four people (the restaurant had only two or three large 10 person tables typical to Chinese Chinatown restaurants). The only thing missing were the dim lights. However, in keeping with typical Chinese restaurants, the lights were bright, although muted more than most Chinese restaurants. One modern feature of the upstairs restaurant is the very large windows overlooking the street crowds on 40th Road and Main Street.

The menu is very non-Asian friendly as the menu is entirely made up of pictures. There were no menus available in Chinese. The menu is the size of a children's large picture book (half inch thick) with very thick cardboard pages and glossy pictures of every menu item. Although the menu is very thick, the number of menu items is fairly limited compared to most Chinese Cantonese restaurants. The menu does not appear to have any organization, with the pictures of the dishes just randomly shown and mixed up. This is to the restaurant's detriment, since every customer, at least in the beginning, has to take excessive time to look at all of the pictures of the various menu items. However, the pictures are professionally taken and all the dishes look appetizing. The restaurant has a takeout menu for use downstairs, but most of the dishes on the takeout menu cannot be ordered at the upstairs sit-down restaurant. There is congee available on the takeout menu, but is not available in the upstairs restaurant.

The restaurant upstairs is very small and cramped, and most of the tables consist of two person cocktail tables (meaning very small) where if you have a party of four, they push two tables together, and for parties of two people, they separate the tables by a mere 6 inches. Plus, if you order three dishes like we did, every square inch of the table is used and we are not joking about this. We luckily had a table next to the window, which has a small windowsill where we put the teapot. As we were finishing our free orange desert and preparing to leave, the couple next to us who were just seated on the aisle, understood the situation, and told the waiters that they wanted to switch tables to our table next to the window. Yes, you are very intimately close with the tables next to you, where you can listen to every word the people at the next table are saying. The tables at “Corner 28” appear to be even closer than the tables at “Sentosa,” a Malaysian restaurant on Prince Street in Flushing, which also has a similar small table situation and which we thought was too cozy already.

The dishes at “Corner 28” that we tried were all cooked with a very light hand and all three dishes were above average. We went for the first time on Friday evening and had beef with hollow spinach, clams with basil, and a seafood noodle. As expected for a new Chinese restaurant opening, the dishes were larger than normal, all had fresh and tasty ingredients, and from the dishes one could see that the cooks were experienced and trained and were not just off the boat. The pricing was moderate, where the total cost for the three dishes for two people, tax and tip included, was $44. And there was a doggy bag for the leftover beef with hollow spinach dish. There is an interesting menu item for a live black bass cooked two ways for $28.00, which is a possible dish to try the next time we go.

Our guess is that for "Corner 28" to survive, it has to continue to cook above average food, otherwise no one will put up with the cramped quarters, miniature tables, and the silly waiting situation. However, for the next several months, “Corner 28” should continue to provide dishes with fresh ingredients and larger than normal quantities, and the cooks should be stable for a while. Typically, new Chinese restaurants will begin to cut back on the quantity and sometimes even the quality of the dishes after a period of time.

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  1. Its a psuedo Beijing Duck sandwhich...but you get what you pay. However, not bad for a cheap thrill.

    7 Replies
    1. re: designerboy01

      True, Designerboy01, but for a cheap thrill, “Corner 28” is laughing all the way to the bank (LOL).

      You waited on line in the cold for the cheap thrill? (LOL) Assumingly, the duck for the Peking Duck sandwiches is the same roast duck that they sell for takeout, hence having tried the roast duck, is “Corner 28’s” roast duck worth buying separately as takeout?

      Since most Asians are aware that the Peking Duck sandwich sign is a misnomer and that it is just a plain roast duck sandwich, hence based upon the long lines, most people must agree with you that it is “not bad for a cheap thrill.” And people are buying more than one sandwich, as we typically saw people buy 4 or more sandwiches at a time.

      1. re: lwong

        I'm guilty of buying more than one too. Maybe its the size that makes them fun to White Castle. Yep they are laughing to the bank.

        I took the duck carcass home and made a really old style Canto soup.

        I haven't got the duck for take out yet.

        1. re: designerboy01

          You are an honest guy, Designerboy01. We also have a secret craving every once in a while for White Castle hamburgers.

          The duck carcass must have cost $2.00 as indicated by the erroneous sign on the window for “duck stones - $2.” Apparently someone at the restaurant mistranslated bones or carcasses as a “stone.” Understandable, since a bone is sort of like a stone. The non-Asians who pass the “Corner 28” restaurant must be wondering what exactly a “duck stone” is and why Asians would be willing to pay $2.00, almost three times the cost of the Peking Duck sandwich, to eat probably some duck organ called a “duck stone.” We will have to give the “duck stone” a try also and make some duck soup with it. Was there still a lot of duck meat on the carcass?

          1. re: lwong

            I was here on Sunday - It was a madhouse. Must of been 20 people in line for the duck sandwichs. I was wondering what duck stones meant - I assumed it was an organ - very funny.

            1. re: jmax

              Duck stone is all bones intacted but the skin and meat sliced off. Basically, the remains of the duck after all the meat is sliced off for the Peking Duck sandwiches. Cantonese people like to take it to make duck soup. It's quite tasty.

            2. re: lwong

              The duck stone is a big hit with people who cook. You can make some delicious soups and congee with it. Its not for eating it straight.

              1. re: designerboy01

                Thanks. I have an interest in making a cantonese soup from the bones. I started a thread a few weeks ago in the home cooking section asking the question - how I go about making a soup from leftover roast duck bones and what I should add to it. I got a few helpful responses, but not many. I would love to hear your thoughts or techniques.

      2. i went here a couple of weekends ago. i thought the peking duck sandwiches were the best thing from the take-out section, as the duck was very hot and fresh, although i did feel a little cheated by the super thin slices in each bao. at times i felt i was eating an empty bao with scallions and plum sauce. but the duck itself was of solid quality - i just wish there was more of it.

        i did not sit in the upstairs dining area, but instead ordered some stuff from the street level steam table area. it was an absolute madhouse; people pushing, yelling, no semblance of order whatsoever. i got the congee, some tofu, and pieces of deep-fried battered fish; all were decent but none were really memorable. i will say that the ribs in the window looked really good and fresh, but i didn't get a chance to order since i was in a rush and had been waiting for a while for the duck sandwiches.

        also, the ordering/payment system downstairs is a complete mess. they're supposed to give you a receipt, which you then take to the register to pay; after payment, the receipt is to be stamped and you give it back to the lady at the take-out area to get your food. but in my case, confusion reigned supreme on both sides as i was asked to give money directly to the food lady, then they gave it back to me, then i was asked again before finally getting a receipt. in the end it all worked out, but they had better figure out a more efficient way of doing this.

        i agree with lwong that the crowds right now are due to the novelty of the place and that it really needs to be consistently above average or better if it wants to succeed long-term. i definitely plan on coming back and eating in the upstairs area to better assess the food here.

        3 Replies
        1. re: surly

          Well, from your comments, we see that “Corner 28’s” organization is consistent with both upstairs and downstairs being chaotic, but the important thing is that money finally does go from your hands to “Corner 28’s” hands. And so much for high tech computer screens. It still takes smart people to operate them efficiently. Hopefully, “Corner 28” will get their act together in the future.

          Your comment that you enjoyed the roast duck in the Peking Duck sandwiches, however thin or non-existent, is a good recommendation that the takeout hanging roast duck is worth buying once the lines thin out. Probably that is what you should do in the future, buy a whole or half roast duck from “Corner 28” and make your own faux Peking Duck sandwiches with triple or quadruple duck slices. (LOL)

          1. re: surly

            maybe this is slightly off-topic, but I would go there just for the thrill of getting the duck with the bao. Most of the peking duck places i have been to in NYC give pancakes instead of bao, and I vastly prefer the bao (good ones, anyway)

            So, any of you knowledgeable chinese food posters--where can one get good peking duck served with buns instead of pancakes?

            1. re: missmasala

              For Peking Ducks served with the Cantonese bao, rather than pancakes, you just need to go to Cantonese restaurants that serve Peking Duck. But it is more authentic to serve Peking Duck with the pancakes. However, it is a more problematic issue to find a good restaurant that consistently serves good Peking Duck, either with pancakes or bao. The problem is that in most restaurants, the Peking Duck is pre-cooked first and than is finished cooking once the order is placed for a Peking Duck dish. This would not be too bad if the duck is only pre-cooked earlier in the day, but because restaurants hate to lose money, sometimes the duck served to you has been pre-cooked much earlier or possibly even frozen. There are also restaurants that take short-cuts in the preparation and cooking of the Peking Duck.

              The “Imperial Palace” restaurant in Flushing Chinatown serves Peking Duck with bao, but we have gotten good Peking Duck dishes and also bad Peking Duck dishes there. According to posts on the Manhattan Board, the “Nice” restaurant also serves Peking Duck with bao with good results, and although we have not tried the Peking Duck there, we would expect that the results would probably be the same as at the “Imperial Palace” in Flushing. Sometimes it is good, and sometimes it is not good. One has to be lucky that a Peking Duck has not been pre-cooked too long prior to being cooked the last stages and served to you. There used to be a Shanghai restaurant on Division Street in Manhattan that served good Peking Ducks, but with the pancakes that you do not like. But we also encountered bad results the last time we ordered Peking Duck there and have not been back for many years. We have been looking for a restaurant that serves good consistent Peking Ducks for many years, but have yet to find one. For Peking Ducks to be very good, the restaurant has to have sufficient customers that orders a steady stream of Peking Duck dishes, to ensure that the Peking Ducks do not have to be precooked and a steady stream of Peking Ducks in the pipeline, however, there are just an insufficient number of customers in NYC who enjoy Peking Duck enough to support a steady stream of Peking Ducks being cooked at the many restaurants that serve Peking Duck. In this respect, the restaurants are really not to blame for the less than stellar Peking Ducks, but just the reality of the situation. The “Peking Duck” restaurant on Mott Street (served with pancakes) probably has the most daily orders of Peking Duck, but the last time we tried them, the Peking Duck skin could have been crisper and tastier. Probably the best thing would be to build up a relationship with a restaurant that serves good Peking Duck and pre-order the Peking Duck to ensure that the Peking Duck dish is fresh from the oven, otherwise, there are compromises in the serving of the dish. The best restaurants will carve the Duck piping steaming hot in front of you with the chef cutting the Duck almost unable to hold the Duck even with a towel because it is too hot. We have encountered too many occasions where the Duck is not even hot and of course would not be carved in front of your table, since it would be too obvious that the Duck is not hot.

              In our reply to “Brian S,” at the bottom of this thread, we mention eating at “6 Chatham Square” last night with good results, but the waitress placed sweet plum sauce and scallions on our table by mistake and when we asked the purpose of those condiments, the wait staff stated that it was for the Peking Duck dish, and took them away after we told them that we had not ordered Peking Duck. Based upon our good results with the dishes that we did order, you might want to try the Peking Duck at “6 Chatham Square,” and since “6 Chatham Square’ is a Cantonese restaurant, the Peking Duck should be served with the bao rather than the pancakes. And of course, we would enjoy hearing from you about the quality of the Peking Duck, since we very much enjoy Peking Duck also.

              As stated in the several posts and replies with Designerboy01 regarding the Peking Duck sandwiches at “Corner 28,” you are aware that the Peking Duck sandwiches being sold there are not true Peking Duck sandwiches, but simply roast duck sandwiches, but which according to Designerboy01, are good “cheap thrills,” and the lines appear to attest to that verdict.

          2. lwong:
            you seem quite a character!
            your report is a very enjoyable and informative read.
            I also missed the upstairs even though I went inside to do a fuller inspection.

            1 Reply
            1. re: micheal

              Glad you enjoyed and received useful information from the post. We are still amazed at what turns up in the many Chinatowns in NYC and very surprised at the large crowds at “Corner 28” for the BBQ items and the takeout food after being opened for several weeks now. Typically, the crowds die down after the first week for something like the takeout steam table food, since the takeout food items are available at many stores in Flushing. Although we can understand the long lines for the Peking Duck sandwiches, since this is the first time that the duck sandwiches are available as a takeout item in Flushing.

            2. I went by there this morning at about 10:00 and it was doing a booming breakfast business. I was hoping to get a Peking Duck bun but they don't start selling them until 11:00. I had just had congee down the street, so I didn't order anything, but there was a wide variety of dumplings and some congee, all cafeteria style. It looks like a pretty good (and popular) breakfast location.

              1. I hit this place today for a late lunch/early dinner, around 4pm.

                The original poster is not kidding about "chaotic"; I almost turned around and gave up after walking in through the Main Street entrance. People knocking into each left and right, seemingly no rhyme or reason; I didn't know whether I was the pinball or the bumper. The gigantic coats and bags only served to clog further the narrow aisle between buffet and take-out counter. The street line for duckwiches was inordinately long and stagnant for a take-out window; I've seen DMV queues move faster. While waiting, I struck up a conversation with a young woman from mainland China, who, giddy like a school girl, told me that she's been looking forward to having these treats since coming to the states. Giving up on the duck line, only to return on a warmer day, I snuck into the 40th street entrance to the upstairs restaurant.

                I don't know why, but the upstairs kind of reminded me of an airport, perhaps because of the hostess' dark blue uniform, or the huge picture windows that afford far more generous views of Old Navy, Foot Locker and an LIRR train trestle than one could ever ask for in a single lifetime. The service, though gracious, was somewhat disorganized, the servers looking alternately put-upon and confused.

                Still, in all, the food's the thing: I like this place.
                Ordered the small quarter-duck and the Squid in XO sauce, the former being tender, succulent and loaded with flavor, the latter fresh and tasty as well, and on a par with XO dishes I've had at such Manhattan stalwarts as Cantoon Gardens.
                Plus, as the OP mentioned, the menu photos are of a very high quality, and helpful.

                Thanks, lwong, for this post.
                Next time I go, I want to sit closer to the window, so I can gaze straight down onto Main Street and count heads as they emerge and descend from the 7 train.