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Jan 3, 2010 05:42 PM

M&T Stands for Marvelous and Tantalizing

This should be the last restaurant you ever go to. When you are old and decrepit, and your taste buds have all but disappeared, the socko intensity of this food will jolt you back to the days of your youth.

The cuisine of Qingdao is a presentation of strong flavors. In a sea of competing Chinese cuisines, it is unique. M&T Restaurant (44-09 Kissena Blvd., tel. 718-539-4100) steps up to the plate and hits a home run. It is a simple storefront 32-seater, and you are advised to go soon before the place is totally gridlocked with enthusiasts. Prediction: they will have to relocate to a larger site. The menu is enormous: 8 pages listing 161 items.

Our waitperson Donna was able to field our questions with adequate English, and was very attentive, helpful, and friendly, but be prepared for the occasional slight misunderstanding. One wall is decorated with menu photos and Chinese/English captions, and you can order right off the wall if you choose (prices are shown only on the menu, however).

Our first dish was Kidney & Red Jelly Fish in Chili Pepper ($10.99, photo 1), one of the standouts of the meal. The kidney was tender and very flavorful, beautifully scored in a mince pattern. The jellyfish was bland but slightly crunchy, a wonderful contrast. Do not miss this one. Next came Pork Chops with Shrimp Sauce ($9.99, photo 2). The pork chops were breaded and deep-fried, and the shrimp sauce was under the breading. In spite of this being an admired specialty of the region, we did not warm up to it. The shrimp sauce seemed to create a little bit of an “off” flavor, with no very discernable shrimp taste. Then we had Qindao Special Course ($7.99, photo 3), the other standout of the meal: julienned seaweed, bean sprouts, tofu, celery, diced pork, carrots, bamboo, and (if you can believe) potato (like boiled French fries). Loaded with flavor. Wow.

About that slight misunderstanding. The next dish came to our table with the announcement, “Here are your squid heads.” Wait a minute. We had ordered Fish with Cumin and Hot Chili ($10.99, photo 4). Turns out that the translation to English on the menu was a little bit mistaken: the dish is not fish but squid heads (photo 5), period. They offered to take it back and make us some fish with cumin. No, no, no, no, no. Not before we snapped up a test squid head and decided immediately they were for us. Now, finally, we found out what happens to all the heads of the headless, cleaned squid at the fish market. The answer, at last, was right there and it was delicious. The dish was medium spicy with cumin and peppercorns; the squid heads had a slight crunch and the flavor was intense.

Then we had Sea Shrimp with Chili ($11.99, photo 6). These were cooked whole; you are urged to eat the head, shell, and tail (I did; Joyce did not). They are spicy with Szechuan peppercorns, which leave a tingle in the mouth rather than a sensation of the high heat of chili peppers. I would say the head was the most flavorful part. The shrimps were cooked overlong, rendering them slightly tough and chewy. Very intensely tasty, though.

And now for something totally different. Ever hear of sea intestines? They were a bit pricey, but we tried Leeks with Sea Intestines ($16.99, photo 7). They have nothing to do with intestines except a physical resemblance. They tasted like a salty kind of shell-less clam, but are a totally different creature (urechis unicinctus, the marine spoon worm, which lives in sand and mud) – hollow 1-inch tubes that look like segments of a straw. I thought they were good, Joyce felt they were too salty.

We hadn’t planned to have dessert, especially since the two of us had ordered enough food for 4 or 5 people, and were getting ready to shlep home two bags of leftovers. But Donna explained that the Qingdao Pumpkin Pan Cake ($5.99, photo 8) was a match for any American pumpkin pie, and we really should try this specialty. It was a dish of six pancakes, deep fried and a little oily, but loaded with concentrated flavor. One was more than satisfying—and any time you are eating food with focused flavor, the satisfaction level is reached early, and you will tend to consume less. Which, in fact, I’m not at all sure was the case that evening!

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    1. M&T indeed stands for marvelous and tasty!

      We were very happy to join a congenial group of 15 total at M&T a week ago Sunday for a wonderful lunchtime banquet of the following specialties:

      Appetizers: Pork Skin Aspic, Lotus Root, Smoked Fish and Eggplant – the pork aspic was like a very tasty and firm headcheese, and included strips of ear along with some meat; the lotus root salad was simply dressed in vinegar and a bit of sesame oil; the smoked fish consisted of slices through the bone, seasoned and then smoked – it looked rather similar to some Russian smoked fish I have enjoyed in the past; and the eggplant was simply boiled and dressed in vinegar, soy, and sesame oil. All very appetite-inducing. Dishes:

      1.) Steamed Yata Fish 牙塔鱼 (Ya2 Ta3 Yu2) - the best dish of the meal, a beautiful fresh flounder perfectly steamed and sauced with shredded scallions, vinegar, and soy – I got one of the cheeks, super…

      2.) Stir Fried Mullet Flowers 爆炒乌鱼花 (Bao4 Chao3 Wu1 Yu2 Hua1)- white fish scored as for squid and stir fried with red peppers and celery for color, among other vegetables, lightly sauced with natural juices

      3.) Stir Fried Shrimp 炒虾仁 (Chao3 Xia1 Ren2) - self-explanatory, nice fresh shrimp

      4.) Baby Squid with Chives 比管魚炒韭菜 (Bi3 Guan3 Yu2 Chao3 Jiu3 Cai4) – excellent combination of tastes, excellent squid (we were informed it was from China, very tender and sweet), a stir-fry

      5.) Clams with Scrambled Eggs 蛤蜊肉炒蛋 (Ge2 Li2 Rou4 Chao3 Dan4) Listed on the menu as “Clam Meat with Egg.” – lots of clams; apparently this is a very typical Qingdao home cooking dish

      6.) Chicken and Jellyfish Threads 蜇丝炒鸡丝 (Zhe2 Si1 Chao3 Ji1 Si1) – thin strips of chicken in a light sauce with similarly-cut jellyfish (of the type used in jellyfish salad) – nice contrast of tender/bitey textures

      7.) Shrimp with Chinese Cabbage 炒虾仁 (Da4 Xia1 Chao3 Bai2 Cai4) – smallish shrimp, bodies shelled but heads and tails intact, in a very shrimpy red oil sauce (not spicy) – the sweetness of the shrimp went well with the cabbage, which soaked up their flavor

      8.) Boiled Dumplings – Shrimp, Pork and Chives + Pork and Celery – homestyle dumplings with thickish but tender skins, very enjoyable

      9.) Braised Sea Cucumber 葱烧海参 (Cong1 Shao1 Hai3 Shen1) – sea cucumber is, I’m sorry to say, one of the few Chinese delicacies that I just do not like, but this was well done, very tender and savory, in a brown sauce, the dish ringed with broccoli florets. It was less distinctively sea cucumber-flavored than some preparations I’ve had of sea cucumber.

      10.) Boss Fish Soup with Tofu 老板鱼豆腐汤 (Lao3 Ban3 Yu2 Dou4 Fu Tang1) – homestyle slightly tart milky fish broth with slices of very fresh fish and pieces of doufu, a very good soup, tangy with vinegar and a good dose of white pepper.

      11.) Mixed Conch 拌螺肉 (Ban4 Luo2 Rou4) – thickish pieces of conch in a tart dressing – the thicker pieces reflecting Qingdao residents’ preferences. The conch meat was mild-flavored and very firm, somewhat difficult to bite through.

      12.) Rainbow Fish with Lamb 彩虹魚和羊肉 (Cai3 Hong2 Yu2 Yang2 Rou4) – a distinctively Dongbei preparation, I’ve never seen lamb combined with fish anywhere else. Basically the same preparation as the mullet above, but the fish and lamb were in thin slices about 1x2” each.

      13.) Sea Intestines with Clenched Fist Vegetable 拳头菜炒海肠 Quan2 Tou Cai4 Chao3 Hai3 Chang2) – a dish of tubular lengths of sea intestines and lengths of fern which I think was reconstituted from . Like nothing I had ever had before. Others at the table were more impressed with it than I.

      14.) Purple Yam Fritters 巴斯地瓜 (Ba1 Si1 Di4 Gua1) – deepfried pieces of Japanese sweet potato, coated in a (maltose?) clear syrup cooked to the hard-crack phase, to be dipped in cold water and eaten hot (the typical northern-style crystal fruit treatment). It throws threads of syrup when you pull it apart and must be eaten quickly or it sticks all together. Quite delicious and very surprising to see a natural foodstuff that gorgeous shade of purple.

      15.) Pumpkin Pancakes 南瓜饼 (Nan2 Gua1 Bing3) – boiled and mashed pumpkin sweetened and made into patties, crumbed, and fried. One of the only ways I really like pumpkin.

      Meal cost before tip: $247.00, or $15.43 per person! An astonishing value for exciting and unusual food. We are so lucky to have this restaurant in our city.

      Pics to follow this post.

      SN New Restaurant
      44-09 Kissena Blvd, Queens, NY 11355

      20 Replies
      1. re: buttertart

        sounds like a proper tasting; was this your first time? you gotta get the shrimp-covered pork chops, or however it is that they describe it.

        1. re: bigjeff

          Nope, I posted on scoopG's thread on the restaurant about the first time. Have had the shrimp-pork thing and the fried ginseng and loved them. Posted this here because I like the thread title!

          1. re: bigjeff

            In anticipation of a my first visit, does anyone know how the shrimp-covered pork chops are listed on the menu? This sounds too tasty to overlook...

            Love the idea of egg with clams..

            How big a group can be seated comfortably here--are there tables for 8, for example?

            1. re: erica

              just find that original M&T thread by ScoopG, I think it has a bunch of translations on it. table for 8 is possible, they have 2 of those I think but the place does get crowded; not sure if they do res but, just go for it!

              SN New Restaurant
              44-09 Kissena Blvd, Queens, NY 11355

              1. re: bigjeff

                Call and speak to Mei, a very nice lady. (the M of M&T)

                SN New Restaurant
                44-09 Kissena Blvd, Queens, NY 11355

                1. re: buttertart

                  haha, is her name really Mei? or is she just beautiful? Who's T, the middle-aged guy?

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    Thanks! I now have a list of dishes inscribed in my special Chinese-dinner notebook and will plan to phone before I go with a small group..please chime in with further recs if and when you return..

                    1. re: erica

                      Erica, I would love to hear the list of dishes that made your notebook! I've been sifting through that thread myself, but inevitably I end up overwhelmed.

                      1. re: bworm42

                        This is what I have so far; maybe others will comment on any errors in the English spellings.

                        Pork Head and Cucumbers aka "pig face" salad
                        *Lotus Root Sandwiches
                        *Tofu Skin with Peppers

                        Salt and Pepper Flounder
                        Sweet and Sour yellowfish
                        *Squid Heads with Cumin and Hot Pepper
                        *Clams Sauteed in Cabbage, or any clam dish (egg with clams)
                        Sea Shrimp with Chili
                        Steamed Yata Fish

                        *Fried "Beacon," Zha Wu Hua Rou, #18 on specials menu
                        Pork Belly Stewed in Kelp (soup)
                        *Shrimp-battered Pork--is this the same as pork in shrimp sauce?

                        Clenched Fist Fern Sauteed with Pork
                        *Special Qingdao Stir Fry Vegetables
                        *Fried Salt and Pepper Ginseng

                        Fried Pumpkin Cakes
                        Mountain Yam (Naigamo) Fried and dipped in Honey

                        *=Not to be Missed dish, based on unsubstantiated and cursory random research

                        1. re: erica

                          Skip the Sweet and Sour Flounder and ask for their fresh fish of the day with their Qingdao presentation. Not on the menu. Will be lovingly steamed and showered with scallions and hot oil.

                          Get the Fei Hong Fish Sticks - #32 on their takeout menu. Can also get this in chicken instead. A funky Qingdao version of "Kung Pao" light. The elements of a popular, spicy after-school snack mixed with a lightly battered fish (or chicken.)

                          Why not consider Clenched Fist Vegetables with Sea Intestines for a double whammy of unique deliciousness?

                          IMO no need for two pork belly dishes nor two Salt and Pepper dishes - assuming you are with your usual posse of 10!

                          Also, if you have never tried, consider the "Qingdao Pasta w/Special Sauce" #35 on their take-out menu under appetizers. A signature Qingdao dish.

                          But in the end erica, you know what to order!

                          1. re: scoopG

                            Scoop you are the best..thanks so much for the assist. Definitely want the Qingdao fresh fish as you describe. And the fish sticks! The sea intestines, not so much!

                            1. re: erica

                              Scoop thanks so much your specific dish reccomendations are what make me want to try a new restaurant. I consider myself an adventurous eater but the sea intestines just by the way they look I would have to be very brave on a particular day to order them. The fresh fish and Quingdao pasta with sauce look very appealing. what is the best dish they do with meat? If i went it would only be in a group of 2 so hard to try more than 3 dishes

                              1. re: AubWah

                                AubWah - they have changed the menu a bit since my original review:

                                Their menu is huge - I say just dig in!

                              2. re: erica

                                erica, you gotta get the sea intestines, seriously! a unique thing, and really good. and, not really intestines but that's the easiest translation. mandarin pronunciation is "hai chang" or I guess "hai tsang". good stuff.

                                and yup, shrimp-battered pork. I like the mountain yam too that was good. and a lot of other goodies, I think you're on the right path. I had a shrimp with kimchi dish of some sort, it wasnt that good though.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    critter. think squid but, much better. good texture, great flavor. hard to find in NYC. kind of like ziti I suppose.

                                    1. re: bigjeff

                                      It looks like ziti in the photos but something about it--maybe the color--reminds me of the penis-like critters that I saw in the fish market in Seoul. I just posted a photo of those on the thread about live octopus..

                                      1. re: bigjeff

                                        I ate them, seem to be more of a texture thing than flavor, no? I wasn't at the top of my gane that day - have been sick, better now, thank goodness - so my sense of taste was not totally up to snuff.

                                1. re: scoopG

                                  I'm still dreaming of that steamed flounder in Qingdao style.

                          2. re: bigjeff

                            bigjeff...It's owned by Mr and Mrs Tang, and I understand her name is Mei. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

                2. Appetizers, jellied pork, whole fish (yum), shrimp

                  1. Squid, egg with clams, chicken with jellyfish, shrimp with Chinese cabbage.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: buttertart

                      oh yeah, I had that shrimp with chinese cabbage dish. it wasn't fully fermented yet and not that good I thought.

                    2. Dumplings, sea cucumber, boss's fish soup, fish with lamb.