5 Star samosas in L.I.C.

Sunday, July 30th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, NYC History

Headed into Long Island City for the Summer Celebration at P.S. 1, and while in the neighborhood, I decided to check out Chowhound and taxi driver favorite, Five Star Punjabi.

The nearest subway station was Queensborough Plaza, and from there it was a several block walk, along an eerily deserted, depressing stretch of Long Island City marked by warehouses and taxi depots. When we finally came upon the spot, though, it was unmissable:

Five Star PunjabiUpon approaching the door, we saw a sign advising us that the diner was closed for renovations — which explains the industrial dumpster out front and the piles of garbage bags in the adjacent alley… I hope. Thankfully, given the fact that we had made the trip — and there didn’t seem to be any other options in the immediate area — the diner was operating temporarily out of the fancier “banquet hall” next door.

Five Star Punjabi

Once inside, we were seated next to the white-clothed steam tables and handed round wooden paddles on which the menus were printed. We decided upon the samosas, garlic naan and entrees of butter chicken and tikka masala, which it turned out was entirely too much food for the two of us.

The samosas arrived first: hot, crisp and remarkably ungreasy, stuffed with a tastily spiced mixture of peas and potatoes. I happily could have made a meal on those alone. The chicken entrees, despite looking disconcertingly similar, were in fact, different in texture. My chicken makhani was delicious: tender chunks of buttery meat in a wonderfully creamy, spice-flecked sauce spooned over fragrant basmati rice. And the naan was warm and pillowy, with a crunchy crust of garlic.

Great find. I’ll be back at least for those samosas — maybe after the intriguing little diner reopens in the Fall.

Butter Chicken et alJust a short stroll away, we detoured into the anachronistic block of 45th Avenue, between 21st and 23rd Streets, a.k.a. Hunters Point Historic District, or according to the National Register of Historic Places, Dominie’s Hook or Bennetts Point. This remarkably preserved row of brick and stone Italianate, French Empire, Neo-Grec and Queen Anne houses, dates from the 1870 and 1880s — 15 acres among 19 buildings.

The posted sign announces the landmark status, granted in 1973:

The houses on 45th Avenue (then called Twelfth Street) were built mostly in the 1880s when Hunters Point was part of the independent Long Island City. They represent, in frame and brick, a Victorian middle-class urban building type and remain almost untouched. The nicely articulated details of Neo-Grec style cornices, window frames, iron railings and stoops recall the days when uniform building design was a proud symbol of domestic respectability.

Hunters Point Historic District

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