The departure of a Sleepy's mattress store and renovations for an incoming urgent-care center exposed these traceries of the famed kosher dairy restaurant (est. 1905, moved here 1918, closed 2004). What looks like lettering, however, may never have been visible during the restaurant's long run. More likely this is the silhouette, highlighted by subsequent touch-up paint jobs, of the boxy metal trays that held the letters of Ratner's neon sign.
See also this menu, from 1987, and tell me you wouldn't like a little nesselrode pie.
Ratner's Surviving signage, 138 Delancey St. (Norfork-Suffolk Sts.), Manhattan (As of April 2015, no longer extant)
It occupies a middle ground between gelati on brioche and sangkhaya with soldiers. Morgenstern's avocado toast ($6) is in fact avocado ice cream toast — a firm shmear on a stalwart, lightly browned slice, dressed with pepper, sea salt, olive oil, and condensed milk that's been thinned out so it drizzles better, and so it isn't overly sweet. This is a breakfast toast, after all. Available as part of a strange and beautiful morning-only menu (February 2015 only) to help fund the second issue of Brutal magazine.
Previously: In a two-scoop cup of jaggery atop durian-banana ($6), you'd expect the latter — which features the infamous "king of fruits" — to have the stronger flavor. Jaggery, you may know, is an unrefined sugar usually made from palm sap. Often it has a golden brown color and molasses-like undertones, both of which were nearly absent in the scoop on top.
The paleness of its company, however, didn't diminish the durian-banana. To my delight that scoop tasted very little of banana, which is employed more to temper the durian pungency and to help smooth the texture. What comes through is the lush and fragrant flavor of the best durian ice cream in the city.
The current, Chinese-owned grocery looks out on a high school and on Sara D. Roosevelt Park. It's a good bet that if you step inside (I didn't), you'll still find chocolate, java, and pop, and many more packaged snacks and soft drinks, too. The grocery's much older predecessor, whose surviving signage can also be glimpsed at the far left of the first photo, may well have been a pizzeria. The curve, below and to the left of the "big cans" sticker, turns out to be a capital "C" when the deteriorating facing is bent back (it doesn't bend far). C-a-l-z ... "calzone".
(This venue closed in 2014 after 35 years.) Two fried with potatoes ($4.25), part of a breakfast combo with juice, coffee, and rye toast, or "whiskey down," as my waitress called out to the short-order cook. In a quieter moment the two of them conversed in Spanish, but at busy times it seemed only diner-speak would do.
Olympic Restaurant 115 Delancey St. (at Essex St.), Manhattan 212-420-8153
Bánh cuốn can be found throughout Vietnam and in Vietnamese restaurants throughout New York, but they are particularly associated with the North, and Hanoi, first home of Tonkin Kitchen's owner. She employs a wooden dowel, I noted with delight, much like the proprietor of the old December 19 Market, with similar silky-textured results.
Tonkin Kitchen specializes in a style called bánh cuốn trứng (about $8 each); "trứng" denotes the addition of an egg, in this case poached. Mine featured sauteed ground pork, with wood ear and shiitake mushrooms; you can also swap in shrimp for pork or enjoy mushrooms alone. The house fish sauce (in the second photo, it's pooled at the bottom) is relatively mild; indeed, it's an essential complement to the bánh cuốn. Don't pass it up.
Dondourma, Turkish-style ice cream, is more chewy than creamy. The elastic consistency is traditionally provided by sahlep, the powdered tuber of a Middle Eastern orchid, but in recent years the orchid has become increasingly endangered and Turkish sahlep has been barred from export.
A common substitute is konjac powder, derived from the corm of a plant that grows abundantly in East and Southeast Asia. Even if you spent your formative years chewing on dondourma in Istanbul, you might find it difficult to detect the difference. Here konjac adds its distinctive texture to a cup ($4) of spiced date ice cream.
No doubt you can name a pizzeria or two that deals only in whole pies, "no slices." For years this purveyor of bespoke wedding cakes and specialty cakes, many with Asian-inspired flavors, has operated on a similar basis; its Lower East Side shop, as you might imagine, is open by appointment only.
At long last, Silk Cakes has opened up a slice joint, albeit with limitations. Walk-ins are welcome, when you find yourself withing walking distance of Forest Hills; seats are unavailable, so you must take your order to go. And there's no option of a "plain slice," only the likes of black sesame cake, yuzu buttercream, and green tea truffle ($5.50).
Silk Cakes 98-14 Metropolitan Ave. (69th Rd.-70th Ave.), Forest Hills, Queens 718-830-3838 Closed Monday Also by appointment only at 53 Ludlow St. (Grand-Hester Sts.), Manhattan 917-892-5851 www.SilkCakes.com