Usually I get my restaurant recommendations out of my fares. The time we spend together in the cab is perfect for my screening process. After weeding out (and occasionally kicking out) those who would send me to Applebees, I can judge a fare for ten or twenty minutes before deciding if we have similar taste buds and philosophies on life as well as, by extension, eating.
But a few weeks back, one of YOU, yes YOU, left a comment with a restaurant recommendation I couldn’t resist trying. No, I’m not talking about any of you Gothamist commenters (you know who you are). Someone with the handle of Polecat read through my The Hungry Cabbie Blog and found my very first post.
In that post, I describe an Indonesian durian shake that a Thai restaurant worker told me to try in Elmhurst. It was tasty and stinky just like I pictured it. But it wasn’t freshly made, and it didn’t come anywhere near to blowing my mind. So I’ve never taken anyone there on a Famous Fat Dave Five Borough Eating Tour.
Polecat politely suggested that I head to Sunset Park to try Ba Xuyen if I wanted a freshly made durian shake. All I had to go on was that comment (he claimed the shake is so cold that it "hurt my heart") and Polecat’s website (which doesn’t have much to do with food). For all I knew, Polecat might not know a durian shake from ham and cheese on a bagel.
Still, I hadn’t had a hungry Southeast Asian fare in a long while, so I was in the market for a great durian shake. In fact, I had just been talking about durian shakes that very day while discussing where I would take someone like Anthony Bourdain on eating tour if I were put to a challenge like that.
So I took Polecat’s advice, and I'm so glad I did. First of all, the Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwich was delicious. It was $3, it was LOADED with cilantro just the way I like it, and it was better than any Banh Mi I tasted during my tour in the Nam.
The durian shake, however, gave me one of those rare spiritual experiences during which my eyes open wide with joy and wonderment the moment the flavor lights up my tongue. It was cold, frosty, and icy exactly how I enjoy my fruit shakes. Plus, unlike the Sumatrans in Elmhurst, the Vietnamese at Ba Xuyen have managed to highlight the intense flavor of the durian while minimizing that stinky aspect of the fruit that usually takes some getting used to.
I guess I lucked out. To properly vet my fares, I talk with them openly, and I look them hard in the eyes. Occasionally, I can take the time to sit down and eat with them. I had no such luxury with Polecat. Nevertheless, I got a great recommendation out of him.
Ba Xuyen, 4222 8th Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-633-6601