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Lourdess: Lourdess in Woodside offers nothing special

Lourdess promotes itself on its sign and menu as serving "Exotic Filipino Cuisine." How it is differentiated from the usual Filipino cuisine remains a mystery to me, although, had I checked Lourdess's Website beforehand, I would have realized how truly given to hyperbole this establishment is.

Their homepage touts "miracle Lingzhi coffee-the coffee that heals." According to the site, Lingzhi is good for an exhaustive list of conditions headed by cancer, and ranging from high blood pressure, impotency and gastric hyperacidity to varicose veins, sinusitis and aging, only to mention a few. What a panacea-something for everybody!

Lourdess is a large night-clubby sort of place with a well-maintained dance floor in the front. I realized, too late in the game, that the food is probably incidental to the entertainment that starts later in the evening. Their calendar is filled with special events and competitions like singing competitions, ballroom dancing, and the "Miss Cinderella Dance Championship." They have a full bar, but only expect to find the usual oddly flavored martinis and tropical resort drinks as exotica. No traditional Filipino alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages are served, which is a pity. With the exception of beer, indigenous Filipino alcoholic drinks seldom make it here, but many other Queens Filipino restaurants whip up some great concoctions with fruit or melon or coconut. Sago at gutaman, the Filipino version of bubble tea, was mentioned in their take out menu, but not offered during our visit.

We began with a sampling of so-called appetizers. I say "so-called" because of the generosity of the portions. Lourdess's version of lumpia sariwa, a vegetarian offering here, arrived as blanched vegetables wrapped burrito style, surrounded by a peanutty brown sauce. Not memorable, but not bad.

My gastronomical daredevil of a dining companion insisted that we order tokwa baboy. Not wanting to betray my wuss side, I assented. This dish combines fried tofu with pigs' ears. What's not to like about fried tofu, but the texture of the pigs' ears called to mind extra tough calamari. The sauce tasted generically Chinese.

Sisig is a fry-up of pork parts and organ meats with the pronounced vinegary flavor favored in Filipino cooking. Liver was the main organ meat distinguishable by taste. Some of the meat seemed toughened by overcooking.

Assuming you're able to disregard everything you know about healthful eating, the poster child of the appetizers comes in the form of crispy pata. Crispy pata is a rather large pig trotter that has been first boiled to render some (but not all) of the fat, and then deep fried. If you're a confirmed carnivore, you will enjoy this in the same primal way as a nice greasy barbecue. Crispy cracklings are separated by a layer of fat from succulent pork. It is served with a vinegary soy based sauce.

More than fully sated after picking at the appetizers, we gamely soldiered on to a pair of entrees. The meat in the chicken adobo, a famous Filipino dish, was tough and dry from overcooking. Similarly, daing na bangos, deep fried milkfish, revealed itself as a battered exterior, encasing a sorry husk of overcooked marine life waiting to be arduously picked from the bone.

Desserts turned out not to be Lourdess's forte either. We chose the two traditional ones-halo halo and flan. Halo halo is a mixture of fruit, sweet beans, coconut, sugar and cream over shaved ice. It was carelessly assembled here. The flan came in an oversized portion, and was unusually firm. The taste could have been fresher.

The Bottom Line

Queens has a large Filipino community and many places to sample its fare. This would be far from my first choice. The pleasure of being an adventurous diner is the possibility of a new and wonderful discovery. This is the flip side of that.

Lourdess

58-02 37 Avenue

Woodside

718-606-9061

www.lourdress.com

Cuisine: "Exotic" Filipino

Setting: Large, underdecorated night

club

Service: Efficient

Hours: Dinner seven days, lunch take

out only

Reservations: Optional

Alcohol: Full bar

Parking: Street

Dress: Casual

Children: Welcome

Music: Yes, call for schedule

Takeout: Yes

Credit cards: All major

Noise level: Quiet in early evening,

during shows is another matter

Handicap accessible: Yes

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