Curried Shepherd's Pie at 'Passage' in Astoria

ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- Neighborhood Eats takes you to a passage to historic Ireland in Queens.

It's a modern take on a traditional Irish pub.

"Passage" is the kind of place the owner was looking for when he was craving comfort food. It's a throwback in some ways to the pubs in his hometown, with elevated fare to appeal to picky New Yorkers.

"Passage" is located at 40-11 30th Avenue in Astoria.

"The whole idea of 'Passage' is to come to an Irish restaurant and do something you haven't done before, taste something you haven't done before," said Michael Mansfield, owner of "Passage".

This is Mansfield's third restaurant in Queens. This time he opened it in his own neighborhood of Astoria, and "Passage" is a gastropub where food isn't second to the drink.

"There are real interesting things you can sink your teeth into and experience what Irish culture is and the food scene too," Mansfield said.

So there's the Irish breakfast flat bread or the Guinness mac n' cheese, bubble and squeak dumplings, or spring rolls with steak marinated in Jamison whiskey.

"I love the way they've done the interior, but the food is the best part no doubt," a customer said.

Another classic that gets a twist is the shepherd's pie. The chef sautees onions and carrots, he adds ground lamb, and curry, something that's unexpected. Some jus and a bay leaf for more flavor, peas go in at the end. That's then topped with mashed potatoes and finished under the broiler. It's hearty Irish fare with a kick.

"The shepherd's pie, I never had that one before, and I love that one, I have to eat that one," a customer said.

You can finish the meal with a 99, ice cream with a flake bar.

"Passage" gets its name for the village where Mansfield grew up.

Pubs there are community hubs, and he hopes "Passage" is as well.

"It's fun, it's warm, it's cozy, family, everyone's really friendly whether you know them or not," a customer said.

"It's nice too at the end of the day to come home to comfort food which is really what we are," Mansfield said.

Curried Shepherd's Pie Recipe
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Medium Onion Diced

2 Cloves Garlic Minced
1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Oregano
2 Celery Stalk
2 Carrots
1/4 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme
3 Fresh Bay Leaves
3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1 lb Ground Lamb
1/4 Cup Veal Demi Glaze
1 Teaspoon Worchestershire Sauce
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
4 Cups Mashed Potatoes
1 1/2 Tablespoons Curry Powder

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and cook 7 to 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Add the fresh herbs and tomato paste and mix evenly.
Add the ground lamb, curry powder and demi glaze and cook for ten minutes (until lamb is no longer pink).

Mashed Potatoes
1 1/2 lb Idaho Potatoes, Peeled and Quartered
2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
3/4 Cup Half and Half
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the salt.
Bring to simmer over medium heat uncovered for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender (not mushy).
At the same time combine the half and half and the butter in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until the butter is melted.
Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan.
Toss the potatoes over medium heat until dry.
Add the heated half and half mixture and mash the potatoes until just slightly chunky and season with salt and black pepper.

Assembly Directions
Place the meat in a high sided bowl and cover evenly with the mashed potatoes. Heat under a flame or in oven until the layer of mashed potatoes is golden brown. Garnish the top with parsley or diced chives.
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