In the 42nd “Three Great Cheap” installment, critic Robert Sietsema recommends favorite inexpensive dishes from recent restaurant visits.
Wonton soup and bing at Kung Fu Kitchen: This Hell’s Kitchen branch of a mini-chain of three cafes offers some solid Chinese food, made to order in a glassed-in open kitchen. The kung fu spicy wonton is a modern take on a classic Cantonese soup, the gossamer-skinned dumplings in a broth accented with scallions and a modest squirt of chile oil. But the cooking comes from all over China, including bing stuffed with chives and eggs, sticky rice shu mai, pan fried pot stickers filled with pork or chicken, red bean puffs, entrees like curried chicken served with rice and vegetables, and soups galore — some hot and some not. The service is enthusiastic and the seating comfortable for a fast-food establishment. 805 Eighth Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen, 646-852-6941
Momos, masala wings, and choila roti at While in Kathmandu: This Ridgewood newcomer name-checks the capital of Nepal, and offers a slightly adapted version of the cuisine in a relaxed setting, with an interior like a thatched hut and a backyard that is a work in progress. There are several types of momos (steamed dumplings) offered in a thick soup or by themselves, spicy masala chicken wings, and choila roti — a sort of Nepalese taco wrapping a fiery chopped-chicken filling in a rich flatbread. It’s fantastic. For Himalayan food enthusiasts, the most interesting section will be that offering typical breakfasts, which make very nice suppers. One features sel roti: rice fashioned into a ring and fried, served with a potato curry and an optional egg. 758 Seneca Avenue, Ridgewood, 718-386-3416
Steam table delights at Lahori Chilli: The corner of Foster and Coney Island avenues on the edge of Brooklyn’s Kensington was once the gyro capital of New York, but now not so much. The former Gyro City has turned into Lahori Chilli, and, brightly decorated in shades of orange and blue and outfitted with padded booths, it’s one of the best Pakistani restaurants in town. A steam table pristinely maintained offers two dozen dishes, with samosas, patties made of beef or potatoes, and tandoori chicken and kebabs displayed on a shelf above.
Making selections from the steam table is a great pleasure: Choose from the vegetarian, chicken, or lamb signatures of Punjabi cuisine, or go for the specifically Pakistani standards. These include beef nihari, a braised boneless short rib in a gingery gravy; paya, a viscous stew of goat trotters; freshwater fish cooked in a tawa (a slightly concave griddle); keema, a savory dish of minced chicken; or, a special on a recent visit, goat karah — some of the tenderest goat you’ve ever tasted. Chickpea-studded rice and tossed salad with yogurt dressing served with every entrée. 1026 Coney Island Avenue, Kensington, 718-859-1400
Check out a couple of previous articles in the “Three Great Cheap” series: