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Main Street Imperial Gourmet – There’s A lot More To Taiwanese Food Than Street Food

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**For full post and pics**: https://www.lauhound.com/2013/04/main...

Taiwanese food is definitely one of my favorite Chinese cuisines. It’s a delicious mix of southern Fujian food blended with regional cuisines from all over China that came about because the large influx of mainland Chinese immigrants to Taiwan during the Communist Revolution. However, I feel like people often tend to only associate Taiwanese food with street food and maybe beef noodle soup. While these are certainly great and delicious there is much more to Taiwanese food than these two types of food. Main Street Imperial is a Taiwanese restaurant whose strong points are not street food, but rather more home style type dishes.

The restaurant is not located in Downtown Flushing, but rather further down Main close to the LIE, in the 2nd area in Flushing that has many Chinese restaurants. It’s small and homey with some décor in that it has colorful pieces of paper that have various dishes written in Chinese on them. The servers are really nice and are pretty helpful although I’m not sure they really speak English very well. The other issue you’ll run into is that about half the menu is not translated into English and some dishes are listed only on the wall in Chinese. I’ve provided the characters of the dishes I ordered since some of them are not translated to English, so I’d suggest printing them out if you don’t read any Chinese.

Here’s what we got:

Sauteed Cabbage (Chao Gao Li Cai 炒高麗菜):
This is one of the house specialties. It’s a simple dish of cabbage sautéed with oil and garlic. While simple they do a nice job on this dish and it’s quite tasty. The cabbage retains some crispness and the oil and garlic compliment it well. It also has some wok hay (the smoky flavor you get from effectively smoking food by cooking it at a very high heat in a wok). Overall, this is a solid dish. 8/10

Oyster Omelette (Hao Zai Jian / Oh Ah Jian 蚵仔煎):
I almost never order this outside Taiwan because it’s so easy to screw up, but a friend wanted it and surprisingly it was much better than the 1st time I came here (so can’t tell you it wasn’t a fluke). The omelette was crispy and not overly gooey. The sauce was sweet, but not overpoweringly so and the oysters were decent tasting. Overall, I actually enjoyed eating this which is rare in the US. 7.5/10

Clams in Basil Sauce:
I didn’t order this dish, so I’m not actually sure what the exact Chinese name of it was on the menu. This was clams cooked in a slightly spicy light brown sauce with basil. This is a pretty common Taiwanese sauce. I thought the sauce was nice being slightly spicy, sweet and salty and I love basil so that was great as well. The clams were decent quality, but not amazing. 7.5/10 (could’ve been higher rating if they used better clams

)

Three Cup Tofu (San Bei Tofu 三杯豆腐):
“Three cup” is a famous style of preparation that involves one cup of soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil hence the name “three cup”. There is also sugar, ginger and basil in it as well. While three cup chicken is the most common it can also be cooked with other meats or tofu. This was fried cubes of tofu in the three cup sauce. The outside was perfectly crispy while the interior remained soft, which was great texture wise. The sauce was both sweet and salty as it should be with the basil being a nice compliment. Overall, this was one of the best dishes I’ve had here. 8.25/10

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji 三杯雞):
Oddly unlike the three cup tofu, this dish ended up being not sweet whatsoever and was a little overly oily. The chicken was very nicely tender, which was the best part about the dish. It was an alright rendition, but a little too oily and plain flavor wise. Gu Xiang’s version is much better than this and flavor wise Liang’s Kitchens’ version was better, but Main Street did a better job than Liang’s actually cooking the chicken (i.e. it was very tender here). 7.5/10 (could be a higher rating if they improved the sauce)

Sesame Oil Kidney (Ma You Yao Zi 麻油腰子):
This is one of the house specialties that I read about on a Chinese blog. Its slices of kidney sautéed in sesame oil based sauce. The kidneys are cooked very well so they are perfectly tender and they did a good job so the metallic flavor you can get in kidneys is only slightly present. The sauce has a slight flavor from the sesame oil and has some soy sauce flavor as well and because they seared the kidneys at a high heat in the wok you get a bit of the smoke-y slightly burnt taste which is nice. If you like kidneys this is a very good rendition of kidneys. 7.75/10 (I like kidneys, but don’t love them otherwise it’d get a higher rating)

Salt and Pepper Shrimp (Jiao Yen Xia 椒盐虾):
This was on the wall and I saw a couple of tables order it, so I decided to try it. This is just typical salt and pepper shrimp, but they did a nice job on it. The batter wasn’t too heavy or oily and had good salty flavor. The shrimps were fresh and good sized. I don’t have too much more to add to this other that it was good and worth trying, probably one of the better versions I’ve had in NY. 8/10

Putz Fish (Bu Zi Yu 布子魚):
Putz is actually something I’ve never had and I’m not even sure I’d even heard of it until ScoopG on chowhound mentioned it. So I made it a point to try it this trip. I tried ordering the whole fish on two occasions, but both times on of the waitresses told me that the pieces were better quality and flavor so I should order those instead of the whole fish. The fish pieces were nicely cooked and tender. The sauce was a nicely light soy sauce based sauce that wasn’t overpowering. The thing that I ended up liking the best about this dish was the putz; it reminded me of a sweet olive. Overall, while not mind blowing this is a solid dish and I’d recommend giving it a try for something different. 7.75/10

Red Cooked Ribs (Hong Shao Pai Gu 紅燒排骨):
I was trying to order another dish, but the waitress told me that that dish was too similar to the Hakka stir fry (which I forgot to take a picture of), so she recommended this dish. These were ribs cooked in a style called “hong shao” which you braise meat in a sauce made up of ginger, garlic, chilli, sugar, soy sauce and rice wine. The sauce here was pretty thick, thicker than normal. The ribs were cooked decently although I’d have preferred them to be a little more tender. The sauce was just ok, I found it to be kind of bland. I probably wouldn’t order this again. 6.75/10

Can’t Taste Stinky Tofu (Chi Bu Dao Chou Dou Fu 吃不到臭豆腐 ):
This is another one of the house specialties. It literally translates to “can’t taste stinky tofu”, which I think it’s called because the way the chef cooks it he cooks out most of the stink, so it’s only faint. The stinky tofu is fried in a slightly spicy and salty red meat sauce with cabbage. It’s a bit hard to explain, but definitely order this dish it’s very good. 8.25/10

Fly Head (Cang Ying Tou 蒼蠅頭):
This is my favorite dish here. It translates to “fly head” (I have no idea why it’s called that) and its diced garlic chives, red chili, minced pork and fermented black beans all stir fried together. This dish is the type of dish you really need a hot wok for because the wok hay adds a whole new level to this dish. It’s spicy, salty, smoky and just delicious. This is the dish to come here for. 8.5/10

Overall, this is probably the best overall Taiwanese restaurant in New York and it’s worth your time to check out.

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  1. Is it walking distance at all from the Main St. Station?

    4 Replies
    1. re: swannee

      apparently it takes 20-25 mins to walk from the train and i think there is also a bus you can take. i just rent a zip car when i go to that part of flushing

      1. re: Lau

        Glad to hear it's still on top (an improvement from your 2009 review). It's an easy 20 minute walk from Roosevelt and Main Street. The bus is located across the street from the Flushing branch of the public library. The dish is called "fly's head" because the fermented black beans in the dish look like them!

        1. re: scoopG

          yah my recent meals here were better than when i first came although i think its a function of me ordering better as the cang ying tou tasted exactly the same

          re: fly's head - that would make sense!

      2. re: swannee

        Hop on the Q44 Ltd (it picks up in front of Biang), or the Q20 Local, and get off after the hospital.

      3. I always go for a squid or cuttlefish dish here, never misses. Recently had a pork with chives dish that was excellent. Strong 3rd on the Fly Head, and agree about the friendly staff. Fried chicken with basil is surprisingly good; always wish I had a beer when I order it.

        This area has really picked up in the past year or two. This joint anchors a mini-scene that now includes Lake Pavillion and two new Shanghai eateries. There's also Tasty Roast House (which I've found to be hit or miss) and a Malaysian place (one visit has inspired no more). I'm lucky enough to have wheels and live/work nearby, but it's fast becoming an expanded scene on it's own and is definitely worth checking out.
        P

        3 Replies
        1. re: Polecat

          which squid / cuttlefish dishes do you like there?

          yah that area is definitely picked up, i want to try happy garden which is a little closer to the LIE, supposedly the cantonese food is good there according to someone on a boards.

          Yeh's bakery is close by which im about to write a post on, its one of the best bakeries in Flushing albeit it with a very limited selection

          1. re: Lau

            Either with chives (I love chive dishes, I admit). They also do a spicy squid dish which I've liked. Looking forward to trying the putz fish and re- trying the oyster pancake. It's been years since I first had it here.

            Haven't been thrilled with Yeh the few times I tried it but should have included it in my prior list, as it's very popular with the locals. Look forward to your recommendations.
            P

            1. re: Polecat

              look forward to trying those dishes; check out some of the dishes i wrote up, i actually wouldn't haven known about some of them or at least might not have ordered them, but my friend's mom sent me some chinese blog links and also gave me some recs

              re: Yeh's - yah there are some very specific things to get at Yeh's

        2. By the way, that house cabbage is a special cabbage from Taiwan!

          3 Replies
          1. re: scoopG

            oh yah? its very tasty cabbage

            1. re: Lau

              You can buy this Taiwan cabbage across the street at the large gorcery store there...

          2. On a previous trip here I had what seemed like the most chicken chicken dish I've ever loved, something like Three Cups minus the basil and the sugar - just dark meat red sauce and lots of ginger which melded into the sauce. the dish included bamboo shoots. I had it again Tuesday and it was as good as I remembered it. A server told me that this was a winter dish. This was strange because I had never found an english speaking server here before.

            3 Replies
            1. re: wewwew

              do you know what the dish was called?

              1. re: Lau

                The sign towards the back, something like red cooked chicken with bamboo shoots, simple characters.- $12 - $16. Good complement to Fly Head (Cang Ying Tou 蒼蠅頭):

                1. re: wewwew

                  ahh i think i know what dish you're talking about although im not sure ive ever eaten it in the US...ill give it a try next time

            2. The supermarket across the street is pretty good as well.

              10 Replies
              1. re: MOREKASHA

                for anything in particular? or just to buy general stuff?

                1. re: Lau

                  I like their veggie assortment, also good on sauces in jars etc. Havent tried their fish though.

                    1. re: Lau

                      It's Taiwanese. Both selection and freshness of fruit and vegetables is spectacular, and Western ones too. A-choy is prominently there and is a of good quality. The quality control in general is way above your average Chinese supermarket. Eel is fresh and and field chickens are croaking behind the glass. Roast meats are not interesting, and everything is a few pennies more expensive than in other Chinese supermarkets.

                      I do shop there all the time but I am not sure it's worth a detour. Flushing Chinese supermarkets are regional: you have to plan what you are after.

                      1. re: diprey11

                        interesting, i dont cook that much, but ill take a look next time im there

                        1. re: diprey11

                          Yeah, interesting. If you have time and don't mind, can you share a primer on which market with which region?

                          Haha, from a selfish standpoint, I've been trying to find where they sell Master brand chili radish.

                  1. re: MOREKASHA

                    I usually stop by the supermarket after lunch to pick up a few things. I stick to the vegetables and dry goods. The meat and fish look terrible so I have never purchased those things there. As a general rule, I am pretty suspect of the meat purchased at Chinese shops. Always double check expirations dates on the dry goods--I have found a few things that that were either expired or near expiration. I purchased a package of cold bean jelly that ended up being moldy on the underside. I was really pissed. Buyer beware.

                    1. re: mielimato

                      Are you sure it wasn't Gristedes you were shopping at?

                      1. re: MOREKASHA

                        Ha! Based on the meat and fish quality I don't think most chinese grocery store rank much better than G. I'd welcome the day G starts carrying water spinach and laoganma chili oil. Would make my life easier.

                        1. re: mielimato

                          bayard meat market in chinatown is good, thats the only one i really go to now