In New York, you don’t need a passport to taste the vivid, complex flavors of the world. Nearly every corner of the globe is translated onto plates for food loyalists and eager reservation holders year-round, borough to borough. The diverse metropolis makes for a mosaic of restaurant options, from hearty Portuguese stews to Mexican fish abed smoky mole. These dishes are as much an ode to distant lands as they are fresh takes on traditional recipes for New York’s always forward thinking (and demanding) foodies. Spin the globe and take a stroll. Here are just a few places you should land.
Photo courtesy of Oiji
Co-chef and co-owners Brian Kim and Tae Kyung Ku embrace traditional Korean dishes with a modern aesthetic at the East Village’s Oiji. A DIY chil-jeol-pan represents the best of bibimbap—a stack of rice flour crepes and plate of toppings including eggs, beef shitake mushrooms, carrots and cucumbers. And for those who have traveled to Seoul and been lucky enough to taste the infamous butter chips, Oiji is serving up their own warm version with vanilla ice cream. So good, so savory and sweet, one could eat this alone and be satiated.
Bushwick may be full of casual hipsters and even more casual restaurants, but its real unassuming gem lies in a residential neighborhood in a former corner bodega. Amaranto serves “contemporary Mexican food,” but the vibe exudes a casual familiarity, where one might expect a grandmother to emerge from the kitchen. And she just might. The family run venture offers creations from chef Femin Teco, who’s native Puebla Mexico can be tasted in many dishes, including a fresh catch of the day atop creamy green rice, fresh corn, green peas, shrimp and a sumptuous mole poblano created by Teco’s mother, Paulina Luna.
Photo courtesy of Sandobe
Brooklyn’s got a new kid on the block, and it’s called Sandobe. The expansive restaurant features Japanese and Korean cuisine. In the kitchen, chefs Kenny Nam and Charlie Kim whip up everything from buttery sashimi to spicy tuna poke. They call it unpretentious comfort food, and that proves to be true with each dish. A steaming bowl of the bibimbap—mixed rice topped with sautéed vegetables, beef, fried egg and hot pepper paste—is perfect for a winter day. Another must-have dish? The “Ariana Grande” specialty roll, complete with soft shell crab, avocado and cucumber, topped with pepper tuna. When you’re done getting your fix of fresh seafood, head back to one of three immaculate karaoke rooms to sing your heart out, and burn some calories.
Photo courtesy of Lupulo
This favorite Chelsea restaurant is inspired by the notorious cervejarias (breweries) of Lisbon. At Lupulo, Michelin starred chef George Mendes serves rustic Portuguese fare, including a salt cod casserole and bacalhau croquettes with piri piri hot sauce. For dessert, the pasteis de nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts) are a memorable finish to an experience here. Just as impressive is the wine and draft beer selection—Lupulo is Portuguese for “hops.” Try Sagres, a crisp Portuguese brew.
Le Coq Rico
Photo courtesy of Le Coq Rico
Acclaimed chef Antoine Westermann brings a coveted piece of his Paris restaurant to Manhattan with Le Coq Rico (which translates to, the bistro of beautiful birds). Known for its elegantly simple poultry dishes made from responsibly raised chickens, Westermann also spotlights a new Plat du Jour each day—a French tradition. Star dishes have included a Veggie Baekeoffe with a Poached Egg. Gazing on the perfectly browned skin of Le Coq Rico’s chicken in a cast iron skillet, topped with creamy mashed potatoes or macaroni gratin, you will soon feel that all is right in the world.
Photo courtesy of Dinnertable
After a brief hiatus, this 19-seat eatery is back with Japanese dishes elevated by Caribbean and French flavors. Highlights include crispy uni paella balls (uni, risotto and kewpie creme), beef tartare and onion four ways, and the dinnertable dog (house miso sausage, potato bun, wasabi pea salt, sauces and market pickles). And don’t forget the sake or Japanese whiskey. Easily as hip as dinnertable’s interior (a secret room only made available with a ring of a bell and private door) is its chef, Ricardo Arias. The Puerto Rican native realized how much Japan and his homeland had in common, calling his inspirations “island cuisine.” Get a taste of his creations while you can.
Photo courtesy of Pearl’s
In Trinidad, partying is called limin’. At Pearl’s in Brooklyn, you’ll feel just that vibe. Walls are splashed with the island’s scenery and proud sayings. And the taste is reflected in native dishes like corn soup and of course, bake and shark. Try the plethora of sauces to douse over your sandwich—mango slaw, tamarind sauce and more. Wash it down with a rum punch. There’s also a stuffed crab back appetizer tossed with spiced breadcrumbs that is worth a trek. It may be bitter NYC, but at Pearl’s it’s easy to forget that.
This beloved West Village haunt is still going strong since it opened in 1915. Dante is well-known for its Negroni Sessions—an eclectic menu of variations on the classic drink, but it’s the food that many diners may be surprised by. Get lost in rustic Italian fare like pappardelle, wild boar ragu, red wine, tomato and parmigiano; or a roasted cod cioppino, spicy chorizo, manila clams and prawns.
Photo courtesy of Añejo
At Añejo, a sea bass on a bed of sweet corn is exquisite. So are the taco options, including corn tortillas topped with Berkshire pork with a chipotle-sour orange braise, shredded cabbage, chipotle crema, pico de gallo and cotija cheese. Chef Angelo Sosa brings modern Mexican dining to this lively Tribeca establishment. Añejo also offers some of the city’s most eclectic selections of tequilas, mezcals and Mexican distillations.
Kristin Braswell is a travel writer based in Brooklyn, New York. When she’s not traveling, she’s on Instagram and Twitter, and trying to catch up on sleep due to jetlag.