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I took a solo trip to Flushing, NY last week to meet a friend, who expressed a desire to remain totally anonymous, but she is Chinese and speaks the language fluently, and is a foodie too. My kind of friend. I showed her the list of all the Chinese restaurants that I have eaten at and asked her to select one that I have never been to. And this was one, that I could have walked, or driven past, and never realized it was a Chinese restaurant. It goes by the ominous name, Alley 41.
True, that it has pictures of Chinese dishes, and a Restaurant Rating (“A” as of this date), but if you are looking for “Alley 41”, and you don’t read English, or have bad vision or left your telescope home, you would walk right past. Which I did. And I knew the address. It is surrounded by apartment buildings, it’s not on an alley, but it’s located at 136-45 41st Ave, Queens, NY 11355.
To the right (==>) is a close-up, taken with an electron microscope, of the only tell-tale sign, that this indeed, is Alley 41, the Chinese restaurant of my immediate future. If you look at the upper right-hand side of the full frontal view, you can see where this jigsaw piece fits into the big picture.
Alley 41, calls itself, a Chinese restaurant specializing in Sichuan cuisine in a hip, intimate space with banquette seating.
Appetizers: The Ambiance
And when you walk in, you are pleasantly surprised, to say the least. It is hip! We had one of the only two tables for two in the back, so they wouldn’t make fun of me taking pictures!
The other sensation that hits you when you walk in is the aroma of some mighty fine Szechuan cuisine! It was time to order. I asked my friend to order for us and asked her to be mindful of the number of chili peppers, up to a maximum of three, next to each item on the menu (which is on an iPad… which, I thought you could keep as a souvenir. Just kidding. Sorry guys!)
We ended up playing a version of Ping Pong over the table but without a net, paddles, or balls. In the end, I conceded, and I ordered for us. I kept it in the one to two (the maximum was three) chili pepper range.
Enter the Entrees!
Flounder with Spicy Garlic Sauce – Reassured that the flounder was fresh, not frozen, it was DELICIOUS!!! But it started to light a fire on my tongue. Gasping for air at times, with tears running down my cheeks, I scooped up some white rice and was grateful when the Scallion Pancakes arrived to soak up the flames that were now terminating out of my ears.
Szechuan Style Sauteed Sliced Pork – The pork was very thinly sliced and smelled, and tasted a bit like bacon. Served with Red and Green Bell Peppers, it gave me a false sense of security. Bell Peppers aren’t hot, right? WRONGO!! Thank goodness this was the second dish, and it became my go-to dish to contain the fire that was raging on my tongue. I can NOT imagine how hot the three Chili Pepper dishes are!
But I would be remiss if I sound like I am complaining. Sure the food was HOT, but it was so good and so delicious. If you’re a fan of Szechuan cuisine, Alley 41 is going to be right up your, um, alley!
Homemade 1000-Layer Pancake – Apparently, the language barrier exceeded the commonality of the Chinese that was spoken in regard to this most highly anticipated dish.
This dish sure doesn’t look like it has 1000 layers, heck, it kind of looks like Scallion Pancakes. If it looks like Scallion Pancakes, smells like Scallion Pancakes, and tastes like Scallion Pancakes, then it probably is. And it tastes like the best Scallion Pancakes I ever had. Probably because it is Scallion Pancakes. Despite the utter disappointment over the miscommunication regarding Homemade 1000-Layer Pancakes, I would stake my reputation on that claim. I’m glad we ended up with this dish. Especially since I didn’t see any maple syrup, let alone enough for each layer!
The Bottom Line
All in all a splendid dinner was enjoyed, and there was so much food left over, that my son and I enjoyed the pork and pancakes, and my friend enjoyed the flounder, we took home.
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)