One of our favorite things about Flushing is the proliferation of Northern Chinese restaurants and street carts specializing in lamb. One of the best out there is A Fan Ti. It's a spot that would make Fergus Henderson proud. Sometimes we're not sure whether this place's name should translate to "nose-to-tail eating" or "everything but the bleat." Like many Northern Chinese spots, A Fan Ti specializes in the cuisine of Xinjiang, particularly lamb. A Fan Ti takes it one step further by using every last part of the beast, including the head, heart and tripe as well as several cuts that are slightly more exotic. Let's just say that Gothamist almost overcame its aversion to round organ meats the other night. We promise to ease you into the more challenging photos.
The menu describes this beguiling bright salad of cilantro parsley, green onions, and mild green chiles, slicked with a mixture Chinese vinegar, a hint of sesame oil and a pinch of sugar as simply "Parsley with pepper." It's a great complement to many of the fattier lamb dishes on the menu. It also goes well with soju and kimchi that can be enjoyed at A Fan Ti. Gothamist is still at a loss as to why those two items are being served in a Northern Chinese joint. One thing is certain, those are not the Chinese words for those items. The other night a request for kimchi was met with a blank look and our waitress brought soft drinks when we requested soju. We eventually got our hands on a bottle of Jinro.
Speaking of the fattier, richer lamb dishes, we ordered "Lamb leg with pepper and salt," one of our favorites. If you've figured out that what you're looking at above is not a lamb leg, pat yourself on the back. If you've further deduced that what you're looking at may very well be some type of lamb rib you're on the right track. Normally this dish is a lamb shank of Flintstonian proportions that has been braised and then salt-baked and served with a small dish of salt mixed with Sichuan peppercorns. The rib version we ate the other night was even better. The ribs were salt-baked with just enough Sichuan peppercorn to generate a slight tingle and had a sinfully unctuous layer of fat beneath the meat. The whole thing was covered in slivers of fresh green chiles and ribbons of fried red peppers.
We also tried this cold side dish of sliced cucumber with long thin mushrooms and a hint of fresh garlic.
Since Xinjiang's neighbor to the West is Central Asia, there are plenty of lamb kebabs flavored with red pepper and cumin. The other night we went for a slightly more challenging kebab: grilled lamb testicle. Had Gothamist not known what this dish was we'd have pegged it for a not unpleasant beige mystery meat.
Keeping with the theme of organ meat, we ordered the lamb brain, but were disappointed to hear they were out of this specialty cut. So Gothamist got the next best thing, lamb eye in brown sauce. The eyes themselves had a pleasant goat flavor but were rather chewy. We spooned the mushroom-laden sauce over our rice.
Here's looking at you New York City. You'll forgive us if our hands shook while taking the grotesque snap (above right). Incidentally, we ate the rest of our leftover parsley salad while writing this post, but couldn't bring our selves to pop the eyes in the microwave.
A Fan Ti, 136-80 41st Avenue, Flushing, (718) 358-7925