This summer I finally got around to digging deeper into New York’s amazing food scene and didn’t just stick to my favorite pizza parlors. New York City is known to be a foodie paradise after all, with ethnic restaurants from almost every country in the world.
One of the many things I love about New York is that the choice of restaurants is so big that even if I tried I couldn’t try all of the city’s eateries (or I would have to make that my life quest). I ate my way around town this year, sampling restaurants in all boroughs except for Staten Island (I guess that’s next on my list!), ticking places off my seemingly endless ‘NYC restaurants I have to eat at’ list. I found so many excellent restaurants in 2014 that this list could easily have twenty restaurants on it, but I decided to narrow it down to one restaurant in each borough (but ended up with two Brooklyn picks, because I skipped Staten Island and Brooklyn is my favorite borough).
Join me for a culinary world tour of New York:
Middle Eastern: Bustan in Upper Manhattan
Bustan (which means orchard in Hebrew), is a new addition to Manhattan’s large number of Middle Eastern restaurants, but this one aims to be the most authentic one, and I have to say that they are doing a great job in convincing me that I don’t ever need to go to another place to get my hummus and shakshuka fix. The Israeli chef with Moroccan roots aims to combine flavors, ingredients and cooking techniques from Israel, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Greece and Turkey. The highlight for me was that Bustan does not just offer a classic shakshuka (the quintessential Israeli egg dish with eggs baked into a flavorful tomato sauce), but a number of shakshuka variations, including one in a spinach and artichoke sauce instead of the classic tomato sauce, a Greek version with shrimps and feta cheese, or one with chicken and foie gras. The homemade hummus melted in my mouth, and the flat bread, served fresh out of the oven, was to die for (see photo above) – my Israeli friend who joined me for brunch assured me that the hummus was just as good as in a restaurant in Tel Aviv and started calling some of her Israeli friends while we were still there to rave about Bustan which goes to show how authentic the food was. Even though we were bursting full, we couldn’t resist the Nutella pizza to finish off our meal. Another bonus of Bustan: It offers brunch on Fridays, not only the weekend – which is a rarity in New York.
Address: 487 Amsterdam Ave, Manhattan, 10024
It is a known fact that the real Little Italy is located in the Bronx, and not in Manhattan, and this year I finally made my way up there to check out some of the famed restaurants and pastry shops. Everyone recommended Zero Otto Nove (089) as the absolute best Italian restaurant and the restaurant lived up to the hype. I had a foodgasm when I took my first bite of the classic Italian-style wood fired pizza, which had a unique twist to it: a butternut squash puree as a base, instead of tomato sauce. Most of the ingredients, like the mozzarella, the tomatoes and the olive oil, are imported directly from Italy. The pastas and other dishes were just as good as the pizza, by the way, and the Parmigiana Di Melanzana is made to perfection, but I recommend ordering the La Ricardo or a Margarita in addition to anything else you might have.
Address: 2357 Arthur Avenue, Bronx, NY 10458
Bushwick, just a few years back an ill famed neighborhood in Brooklyn, has recently become quite a trendy neighborhood (and recently even got a shout-out in Vogue) and all sorts of trendy restaurants started popping up around the ‘hood in the past few years. The little Venezuelan restaurant Areperia Guacuco is the perfect example of the gentrification of Bushwick: while it seems to cater to the neighborhood’s Latin population, prices are definitely more on the Manhattan side ($7 – $8 for a tiny arepa). It is money well spent though – the arepas sold here can’t get any more authentic. The classic Venezuelan staple – basically pastries, made from cornmeal and water, fried in oil, are made fresh for each individual customer and fillings range from veggie options to the classic sweet & savory version with black beans, shredded beef and fried plantains. Accompanied by typical Venezuelan drinks like papelón con límon (lemonade with molasses) or a cocada (coconut milkshake). Not to be missed when you find yourself in Bushwick, but also well worth the trip out there.
Address: 44 Irving Ave, Brooklyn, NY11237
Australian: The Thirsty Koala in Queens
The Astoria neighborhood in northern Queens has long been known as the best neighborhood for Greek food and Middle Eastern cuisine, but surprisingly enough it is where I had my first taste of Australian food! My friend who took me to The Thirsty Koala assured me that the Aussie food served here was ‘the real deal’, and she would know after spending a year working her way around Australia.. The Thirsty Koala didn’t disappoint: the items on the menu could come straight from a menu from a restaurant Down Under and range from kangaroo steaks or kangaroo burgers to a number of fish dishes, lamb lollies, jaffles (savory sandwiches) and octopus tacos. If you’re looking for Aussie food in NYC, this is the most authentic restaurant you’ll find, and every Aussie expat will feel right at home here!
Address: 3512 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY
Japanese: Yamato in Brooklyn
I was introduced to Yamato while I was living in Brooklyn near Prospect Park, and felt like I won the Asian restaurant jackpot. It’s rare to find an Asian restaurant that satisfied all my different cravings equally as good – dumplings, sushi, and noodles, but Yamato does all of them exceptionally well. Between me and my companion, we sampled basically all the classic Japanese dishes and I wanted to go back the very next day while I was still daydreaming about the dinner from the night before. The vegetarian sushi was absolutely heavenly and I have yet to find another place that makes dumplings as good as Yamato. While Japanese restaurants tend to ‘overlook’ vegetarians when creating their menus, Yamato is a welcome exception and my pescatarian friend was raving about the fish dishes and her Bento Box. Yamato doesn’t only do food exceptionally well, by the way, but also the restaurant’s decor is absolutely superb – you wouldn’t expect such a chic interior from the unassuming outside. If you happen to visit during the warmer months, you can dine in the backyard patio.
Address: 168 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Indian: Junoon in Midtown Manhattan
Junoon is the Urdu word for passion, and passion is what describes best what Delhi-born restaurateur Rajesh Bhardwaj poured into this Indian fine dining establishment. This is not your ordinary Tikka Masala joint, but Michelin-star haute Indian cuisine at its best. Junoon is the perfect restaurant to celebrate a special occasion as well as Indian food, with impeccable service, phenomenal presentation and an award-winning wine list (a selection of 300 wines!) and dishes cooked to perfection, like the much-prasied lamb chops. Junoon is, in fact, one of only a handful restaurants in New York that are known for professionally pairing Asian dishes with Western wines, and if you decide to splurge on the tasting menu + wine pairing ($75 with meat/seafood, $65 for the vegetarian option, plus $45 for the wine pairing), rest assured that you are in for a real treat.
Address: 27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010
Got a favorite ethnic restaurant in New York that you think I need to try? Share it in the comments below!