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Dec 21, 2011 01:25 PM

Asian Taste 86 in Elmhurst--Mostly Indonesian

I haven't posted on here in a long time, but the name of this restaurant made me want to call attention to it here on Chowhound because it is so unspecific and my food was so good.

A name like Asian Taste 86 would usually bring to mind to a horrendous pan-Asian restaurant in Chelsea serving sushi, Chinese food, and Thai dishes. But that wouldn't happen on Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst.

I was looking for Mi Jakarta, but it was closed, so I popped my head into this new place and saw that they sold juice boxes of iced tea, which to me is a sure sign that it's Indonesian. So I ordered spicy smashed fried chicken.

I've had this dish before somewhere else, but this version was really excellent. It was so tender it was served without a knife, and the sambal on top was indeed very spicy. The skin was the best part, I don't know what they coated it with but I could have eaten a whole plate of it.

I'm curious about the rest of the menu, which is kind of small and has the usual beef rendang, satay, nasi goreng and gado gado on it among other things.

The owner seemed proud of the kitchen, telling me that they broil the chicken a long time--I wonder if it's some kind of confit type situation. But she seemed worried about the lack of customers. I mean, calling a restaurant Asian Taste in Elmhurst is like naming your restaurant "Food" or "Place to Eat".

Asian Taste 86
86-10 Whitney Ave, Queens, NY 11373

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    1. Thanks for this post.

      Note: These guys took over the Minang Asli storefront. Not sure when that happened. It had to be pretty recently, as I'm in this neighborhood pretty much weekly.

      Grabbed a take-out menu today, which is limited, at this point, to about 20 items. Yes, it's at least two thirds Indonesian. Also featured is yaki udon, (spicy) chicken teriyaki, Vietnamese summer roll and seaweed salad. They also refer to their dumplings as "shumai." So it looks like they're trying, to an extent, to live up to the name.

      One item that grabbed my attention was the Soto Daging Special - a house beef soup with tendon, tripe and egg. Sounds good, as does that Smashed Fried Chicken.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Polecat

        Stopped in today after an early lunch nearby. The lady I spoke with said they'd been open two weeks, but except to confirm that they had no connection with Minang Asli, she didn't seem to want to discuss that earlier business.

        If one Indonesian-owned restaurant disappears, it's nice that another takes its place, albeit with a limited menu. Perhaps with the encouragement of customers -- a large family party entered just as I left -- they'll expand on the bill of fare.

      2. Came here today for a solo lunch.

        I had always found Minang Asli to be okay, though nothing spectacular. As I recall, they went through at least one renovation and a closing or two. On my last few visits, well over a year ago, I recall that, for some inexplicable reason, they had arranged the seating in a very awkward way and had also - I'm guessing to save money - kept the overhead lights off.

        With Asian Taste 86, the space got its' mojo back. The place was filled up with happy-seeming locals and the waitstaff was enthusiastic, friendly and eager to please. So, it seemed, was the kitchen staff.

        I had the Soto Daging special, a soup anchored by a wonderful, meaty beef broth and including tender and fatty chunks of tripe and tendon, as well as a perfectly hard-boiled, firm and halved egg, with some white rice on the side, a wedge of lime and a day-glo orange peppery hot sauce that goes right for the throat. Just a smidgen is enough of this stuff; the broth stands on its' own. At first, the portion seemed a little small to me but looks can be deceiving. Especially with the rice, this was a filling lunch-for-one. My dish and a Teh Kotak ran me just under ten bucks, which is more than fair.

        Other diners seemed to be going more for the fried fare, mostly chicken, gado gado or noodles. There are four or five black board specials and desserts as well.

        This is a good time to give this place a try. The vibe I got was a pleasant and enthusiastic one - sort of like Minang Asli used to be in the old days - and today's dish beat anything I ever had at Minang Asli, to be honest. I also think the small menu is a potential plus - they're sticking to a few solid items.


        4 Replies
          1. re: AubWah

            Yes, as I generally do unless there's a tarantula in my soup. That only happened once, though.

            1. re: Polecat

              I'm wondering what I should try first. Smashed fried chicken, Nasi lemak,,soup..? I'm getting so worked up about it

              1. re: AubWah

                Hey man, I know how you feel but just follow your craving/taste/desire when you get there and then, no matter what happens, don't look back. It will all be alright. For me, soup was the easy choice because of the weather - it was 20 degrees outside. I knew it would be either what I had or the mixed meatball soup. In the end, though, it was hard to say "no" to the tendon.

        1. I would love to see a photo of the smashed fried chicken, if someone happens to go between now and Friday, when I intend to go and try it for myself.

          10 Replies
          1. re: ForestHillsFresser

            FYI- Yelp has all the menu photos uploaded, including the smashed chicken.

            1. re: Polecat

              Thanks. Looks yummy. Can't wait for Friday night!

                1. re: AubWah

                  I stopped on my way home tonight and took a couple of dishes to go.

                  Fried Rice 86 - nasi goreng jawa
                  This was one of the best fried rice dishes I've ever had. I asked for it "spicy" and they obliged. My wife is from the Philippines and she's traveled extensively throughout S.E. Asia. She loves Indonesian food and she thought this was oustanding.

                  Smashed Fried Chicken - ayam penyet
                  It wasn't really fried chicken as you might expect. It wasn't battered. It was very tender, almost like it had been braised for a bit, but not too soft. Very very flavorful and also spicy. It was coated with a brown mixture of spices that gave it a nice kick.

                  My wife wants to go back. So do I.

                  1. re: ForestHillsFresser

                    I'm with you on the fried rice. Tried it today and loved it. Spooning it into the fish crackers was a singular pleasure. The pickled cucumbers on the side were also nice touch - good pallette cleanser.

                    What are the chances that two guys from Forest Hills like Nasi Goreng? It's time to take Austin Street by storm and open up a joint like this on the main drag.

                    Or at least an authentic kopitiam....


                    1. re: Polecat

                      Judging from the faces on the train at 67th Ave in the morning, I think it will not be long before you don't have to leave Forest Hills to get good Asian cuisines. It hasn't really even started yet, but I will bet that in 10 years, things will look much less Russian.

                    2. re: ForestHillsFresser

                      Have been here a few times and while the food was mostly fine and the people particularly nice, I can't really say it was anything at all out of the ordinary. Smashed catfish and smashed chicken each was somewhat tasty if uninteresting; nasi goreng nice,simple; beef rendang dry and tough (fairly typical I know but not inevitably the case); chicken satay excellent; coconut cake outstanding (green tea version also delicious). Forget what else we had...but that's my point I guess. Am happy to return but would not go at all out of my way. Hope they survive as we can always use more Indonesian options. However I would give Mie Jakarta and Java Village the edge (though the latter seems to have slipped a bit of late). Not a big fan of Upi Jaya. Sigh.

                      1. re: burton

                        Why don't you like Upi Jaya? It's my fave of the bunch.

                      2. re: ForestHillsFresser

                        But the consistency of the ayam penyet wasn't like rendang daging, hey?

                  2. re: Polecat

                    But you didn't post the picture of the tarantula in your soup...? ;)

                2. I'm bumping this up. I've been going here a lot and I think other people should know that they're putting out some of the best Indonesian food in NYC. Java Village has gone way downhill in the last couple of years, leaving this place, Upi Jaya, Sky Cafe and OK Indo (packaged food) as true representations of quality, authentic Indonesian food in New York City.

                  They added the pan-Asian stuff in a misguided attempt to appeal to a broader audience and young people, but stick to the Indonesian food.

                  I usually order the daily specials, but the regular dishes are no slouch either. They like their lamb here and recently I've tried their stellar nasi goreng kambing (lamb fried rice), gulai kambing (lamb curry), and satay kambing (the best in the city - the chicken is amazing as well).

                  I've also sampled a wide array of other dishes but lately it's been all soupy stuff due to the weather including sop buntut (oxtail soup) and soto daging (beef rice soup). Oh, and their sambal (chili paste) rules the world, especially as Polecat mentioned, the dayglo orange one - fiery and delicious.

                  They make a simple Surabayan dessert there that I love called jongkong, which layers rice flour, pandan, and brown sugar into something of a yogurty consistency that isn't very sweet. They also have tape singkong (fermented cassava), which tastes something like pear.

                  7 Replies
                    1. re: Peter Cuce

                      I haven't had tapai (Malaysian spelling) since the 70s! That's Hari Raya (Eid el-Fitri) food in northeastern Peninsular Malaysia!

                      How hot-peppery/black-peppery is the food at this place?

                      1. re: Peter Cuce

                        Just after sampling Asian Taste 86, we stopped by Java Village and the steam table offerings didn't look that great. To be honest, nothing looks appetizing when you are half-full but we decided to go somewhere else.

                        1. re: tatsu

                          Java Village always had the steam table, but if you caught it fresh or ordered off the menu, you could get a good meal. But they've gotten lazy and cut corners and after having several mostly or entirely bad meals in succession I gave up on the place - my Indonesian pals have returned from time to time since then and report the same.

                          1. re: Peter Cuce

                            Then Java Village rented the front of their shop to that horrid Chinese snack stand and the inside became claustrophobic. I agree with your downhill report on the food too. I stopped going about a year ago. There are just too many other good-to-great places within a few blocks of there.

                            1. re: el jefe

                              Can't say I fully agree. Although my last visit was in summer of 2014, the Kwey Tiao Jakarta I had at JV was very good.

                              Agree completely about Asian Taste. Have had some good dishes there. Have also not been since last year.


                        2. re: Peter Cuce

                          Hard to say enough good things about my lunch yesterday lamb satay, grilled chicken with the fantastic chili sambal, and beef rendang (weak beef but accompanied by a great green cooked in coconut milk). If not for the weather I would return today for the lamb curry and a fish from the specials menu.
                          Thank you Pal, Polecat, and Peter Cuce.