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Oct 19, 2008 07:32 PM

Trip report - DiFara, Xi'An Small Eats, dumpling place in Golden Shopping Mall, Akti

I'm embarrassed to say that in the 4 years I lived in Manhattan, I probably made it to Queens once, and Brooklyn twice. It is *hard* to make up for lost time once you move out... but I'm making an effort. Didn't break any new ground, but had some good food.

DIFARA (Brooklyn) – I had a near-perfect slice on this visit. Sometimes he goes overboard with the grana padano, and it dominates the flavor profile, but on this visit, it was the perfect amalgam of cheese, sauce and crust, with a more generous cutting of basil than usual. I ate the whole thing with my eyes closed. I say only near-perfect because the crust was a tad thicker than usual, but still… at the bottom of my food journal entry, after me waxing rhapsodic about the flavors lingering in my mouth long after the slice was gone, and the smoke clinging to my hair as a reminder of this One Great Slice, the words - “It was a staggering slice of heartbreaking genius.”
Of note: I thought Dom looked younger than before, and he seemed to be moving – could it be? Faster!

XI’AN SMALL EATS (or Famous Snacks)
OK, first of all, I give a lot of credit to the CH’ers who first started posting on this place. I’m used to the giant, clean, mall-like Asian food courts in California was disoriented to find myself in this tiny warren-like den of chow. I can speak Mandarin reasonably well and can read a little bit, and I was totally intimidated.

I wandered towards the back, confused as to where to order – luckily, one of the women (now probably used to people looking lost in search of lamb “burgers”) called out, “are you looking for the lamb jia mo?” It was good – heavy on the cumin, would have been better with more chile and cilantro, and less salt, though – very satisfying, at $2.50.

I’d passed a stall where a woman was rolling out dough for dumplings, so despite not being very hungry, I found myself drawn back to the stall, and ordered 12 small dumplings for $3. They were excellent – very flavorful pork, leek and shrimp filling – I inhaled the entire plate, then went back to my friend’s place on the UWS and slept for the rest of the afternoon. The stall name had the character for “Family” in it. That’s all I can say about it’s identifying features, other than the woman rolling out dough in front.

AKTI – I’d been eating a lot of meat on this trip, and was desperately craving vegetables. I met up with my (vegetarian) friend who lives in Astoria and we headed to Akti. I enjoyed it – everything we ordered had fresh, vibrant flavors. Portions were generous. I especially liked the eggplant dip and the salad with beets and hard-boiled eggs, but also enjoyed zucchini/potato fritters with yogurt/cucumber dip, Greek fries, and dandelion greens. I wouldn’t go out specifically to eat there, but it’s a good option if you’re in the neighborhood.

Golden Shopping Mall
41-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11355

Di Fara Pizza
1424 Avenue J, Brooklyn, NY 11230

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  1. Not exactly the Famous Ray's type of visitor, huh?

    I'm glad you had a good experience at Di Fara. I've soured a tad after some horrific customer service during my last visit. I've never actually had a slice there with too much grana padano for my taste. I'm not sure if it has to do with my preferences or with luck.

    1. what a great report, I felt like I was there with you!

      1. Thanks for the report. I think we would make good eating buddies, as I agree with pretty much everything you say. Sometimes there is too much grana padano on dom's pizza. And the lamb burger could use a touch less salt and cumin and a touch more chile and cilantro (and sometimes, fresher bread).
        I'm trying to figure out if the dumpling place you went to is the one right when you walk in off 41st. next to the xi'an place. (if you're facing the xi-an place, it's to the right, but not right next to it, slightly down the hall, so to speak, but there's no other food stall between them.)
        Anyway, if that's the place, i have to say i'm addicted to the dumplings there. I got ones that came on a plate of 8 for $2. they were pork and leek (I didn't detect any shrimp, but hey, it might have been in there) they come with this garlic vinegar sauce that is addictive. I bought some frozen to take home (they last well) and at the moment they are my family's favorite meal. We all love them!

        5 Replies
        1. re: missmasala

          Yes! That's the stall. I thought I'd eat 6 and bring the rest back to my friend's place... before I knew it, they were all gone. I don't know if they stand there rolling and wrapping all day (I read another Bay Area CHer's report of what I think is the same stand, but he reported pre-made dumplings), but I definitely appreciated they fact that mine were made minutes before before I ate them.

          1. re: daveena

            That was me with the dumpling report. Mine came so fast that they couldn't have been fully cooked to order, let alone made from scratch. The dumping assemblers appeared to be stockpiling, and if the dumplings weren't parboiled, there must have been some demand anticipation going on. That said, they came out just right and were tasty.

            The Shandong dumpking stall upstairs in the same building actually did make them to order when I had them there.

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              i think mine were pre-made (and the frozen ones i bought obviously were!) but definitely made that day. Not sure it makes a huge difference with dumplings if they are made to order or not. Perhaps you guys can chime in on that.
              But Xiao Yang, where is the shandong stall upstairs. I have only peeked upstairs and didn't think there were food stall up there.
              And how are the shandong dumplings different from the ones at this stall. you can just refer me to an old post if this has already been discussed.

              Also, do you think the dumplings from this stall (the downstairs one, not shandong) are as good as the ones at dumpling places like white bear or best north? I haven't tried those yet, but am curious if they are so much better and so worth seeking out.

              1. re: missmasala

                THe upstairs dumpling place, if it's still there, you can find by entering the same building from a second door on Main Street, just south of the one that takes you downstairs. I don't think there is any great difference in the dumpling styles, it's just that the upstairs place has "Shandong" in its name.

                I haven't been to White Bear or Best North, and probably won't get to NY again before next Spring. Right now I'm in Shanghai calibrating my dumpling sensors.

                The upstairs dumpling place at 41-28 Main St:


                1. re: missmasala

                  it's a great thing that no one can claim to have tried every freshly-made water dumpling (水餃 - Shui Jiao) in flushing, but it might be worth trying first the korean stand that is upstairs in the flushing mall (it is NOT in the food court, which is 1 level below). i'd enjoy finding a place that makes them better than these amazing dumplings.

                  39th st btwn prince & college point.

          2. Just made a four day eating trek from Boston to Queens - with a great Flushing stop before hauling all my goodies back on the Chinese bus to my loft in Boston (well, some of those goodies got eaten on the street, on the 7 train, and on the bus north!) My first lamb "burger", also got lamb on a stick from 41st Ave - great grilling and loved that "spice" the grillman asked me if I wanted (e.g. red pepper flakes and cumin) - and the heavenly Peking duck sandwich from the AA plaza window (I think) under the LIRR....Threw in some "ma la" dan dan noodles from Chegdu Heaven, and some fish "ma la" from Little Pepper - Whew! It was a bang-up ending to a bang-up chow journey!

            2 Replies
            1. re: fredid

              "and the heavenly Peking duck sandwich from the AA plaza window (I think) under the LIRR...."

              Are you sure you're not talking about Corner 28? I don't think they serve those up at AA Plaza.

              1. re: Polecat

                Yes! You're right - I was too madly buying up Flushing and rushing for my bus to Boston, to properly note the address...

            2. Yes, the Xian stall at the mall was very intimidating for me as well. I just pointed to things until the owner came back (who speaks English).

              Daveena, between this and your prolific Manhattan report, I'm not sure when you found time to do anything else!