I had three good reasons to drag Therese out to Flushing, Queens last Saturday: one, to support friends who were taking part in a workshop performance of Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo; two, to eat transcendent Chinese food in Flushing’s Chinatown; and three, to rediscover a neighborhood I called home for nearly ten years but also have not visited in 10 years.
My friends Christa Patton and Christine Bancroft took part in Queens College’s Baroque Opera Workshop last week, Christa as director, and Christine as a singer. The workshop performance at Queens College‘s LeFrak Concert Hall was wonderful. Christine along with 21 other talented young singers were accompanied by an ensemble of crack instrumentalists in bringing the opera to life. Christine portrayed Aristeo, a character that reminded me a lot of Cherubino from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. Like Cherubino, Aristeo is in love with a married woman, and he has no chance to woo her away from her husband, but Aristeo seems to be the only one who doesn’t know that. Christine did a wonderful job of conveying Aristeo’s youthful and earnest nature.
I was delighted, when I looked at the opera workshop’s website beforehand, to discover that there was a page of area restaurant recommendations put together by the workshop’s string instructor, Dongmyung Ahn. She listed many good suggestions, but we decided to have lunch somewhere that was not on her list – a new restaurant in Flushing called Biang! The exclamation point is part of the name, which apparently comes from the sound made when a cook slams noodles down on the counter while stretching them out.
For our lunch, we started with two skewers, boiled beef stomach and lamb. The texture of the former was a bit off-putting, but I enjoyed both. Following that, we shared a dish of lamb and longhorn peppers with wide hand-ripped noodles. The noodles were the star of the show: rustic, tender but chewy, they seemed to go on for ever! The flavor was peppery and delicious.
We finished our lunch with spicy pork sausages on toasted steamed bun slices topped with quail eggs. These were amazing. The sausage was juicy with a little heat, the toast light and crispy, and the egg perfectly cooked and a little runny (just the way I like eggs!).
Since I have lived in the Northeast my whole life, I am used to Chinese food including rice. Biang!’s cuisine is from the central Chinese province of Shaanxi. There is no rice to be seen, and the tastes are closer to that of the Middle East. For example, almost all of our dishes contained cumin.
Fully satisfied and feeling like we had already had a wonderful adventure for the day, we left Biang! to begin our walk around Flushing’s Chinatown. How much had it changed since the days when I called Flushing home? I will tell you about this in my next post.