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Rock ‘n’ rollin’ with the Wasabi Arctic Surf Clams
The dog days of summer started barking prematurely this year, as heat and pollution settled on the city last Friday like a filthy shag carpet. What to eat during this difficult period? A thick steak is probably the last thing you want, the warm red juices trickling down your chin, nor do you crave a big plate of scrambled eggs and grits with a side of thick gravy.
No, summer is the time to eat foods that, if not actually served cold, have cooling properties. And not just the obvious ones, like Caesar salads, either, because ultimately salads are unsatisfying when front and center for too many meals. Here, then, are Fork in the Road’s top 10 things to eat during the hottest days of the year, and where to find them.
10. Wasabi Arctic Surf Clams at Yi Lan Halal — The name of this dish would make a great band name, right? Served chilled at the city’s first northern Chinese Islamic restaurant, it’s also great summer fare, the chewiness and lobster-like richness of the bivalves set off with skin-on cuke shreds and a wasabi dressing the climbs right up your nose, the result of Japanese influence in that part of China. 42-79A Main Street, Flushing, Queens, 718-886-3622
9. Chicken Larb at Qi Bangkok — Pichet Ong’s newest restaurant concentrates on the way Siamese food is served in the capital, including this elegant light version of an Isaan standard. The flavor is vegetal and refreshing, and in the summer, ground chicken proves to be preferable to ground pork in Thai meat salads. 675 Eighth Avenue, 212-247-8991
8. Sardines at St. Anselm — This trio of grilled sardines (an entirely sustainable fish) lie on the plate like flavor torpedoes about to explode. The flesh rakes away easily from the bones, transporting you to a sunny seaside location in, say, Portugal or Tunisia, and the oddball accompaniment of sweet-pickled lotus root provides a perfect contrast. 355 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 718-384-5054
7. Cacik at AY Kitchen — What could be simpler? A bowl of all-natural yogurt filled with cubed cukes and flavored with fresh herbs and paprika oil. You can spoon it up for cooling effect, or dip fresh pide into it — the freshly baked, turban-shaped loaves favored by Turks. 115 Lexington Avenue, 212-213-0200
6. Cold Skin Noodles at Beijing Cuisine — This stall at Flushing’s New World Mall Food Court looks like a salad bar, till the cook gets to work, assembling your luscious bowl of floppy translucent noodles, shredded vegetables (you get to pick!), and wads of gluten, sluicing it with a potent and tart sesame dressing. New World Mall, 40-21 Main Street, Flushing, Queens
5. Beef Vermicelli Rice Noodles at V-Nam Café — Soy-lacquered grilled beef sits atop a nest of vegetables and delicated rice noodles in this bun variation whipped up at a small Vietnamese café in the East Village. And crushed peanuts ramp up the summery flavors. Squirt on the sriracha if you dare! 20 First Avenue, 212-780-6020
4. Lobster Roll at Pier I Café — Redolent of summers spent in Maine, and symbolic of the resurgent abundance of the red crustacean in Atlantic waters, the lobster roll has been a NYC fad that won’t go away. But then why should it? Enjoy one of the best at Café I, on the city’s Cote d’Azur. Pier I (70th Street at the Hudson River), 212-362-4450
3. Steak Tartare at M. Wells — If beef is of the highest quality, why bother cooking it? At M. Wells, the meat is coarsely ground, tossed with a mustardy dressing, and shaped into an ocarina. Served with a split baguette, it’s delightfully refreshing. 21-17 49th Avenue, Long Island City, Queens, 718-425-6917
2. Octopus Salad at Lievito — This West Village northern-Italian pizzeria also does lots of apps that make brilliant summery snacks, among them a warm octopus salad with potatoes and little gobs of chunky, nutty pesto, the entire thing seasoned with very fruity olive oil. 581 Hudson Street, 212-645-5811
1. Hiyushi Chuka at Ramen Setagaya — The ice-cold assortment of julienned ingredients looks so pretty in the bowl that you won’t want to disturb it. Yet tossed with its light brown dressing and seasoned with yellow mustard, there’s no better or more refreshing summer dish in town. 34 St. Marks Place, 212-387-7959