New York City has always had the reputation of being a cultural melting pot, which is evident by the combination of museums, art galleries and architectural diversity that takes up much of the city. This eclectic mix has always been one of the most fascinating and exciting parts of New York City travel, where one could spend an evening attending a sophisticated opera while later enjoying a night out at one of the city’s trendiest nightclubs.
However, the innovative atmosphere in New York has also extended to its dining establishments. Chefs have begun to incorporate a blend of flavours to their signature dishes, and New York has become a hub of fusion cuisine. Follow my guide to the best of the best and prepare to be amazed by the incorporation of several cuisines in a single dining experience. Both your stomach and your taste buds will thank you.
Created by Stephen Starr, this restaurant blends contemporary European and Chinese fare to create a tantalizing experience. Designed by updating an old Nabisco factory, the over 15,0000 square feet of space is decorated with Parisian tapestry, Cantonese paintings on the walls and massive chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The menu shows a similar synthesis, where the traditional Chinese dishes on the menu are reinvented and other unheard items are created solely by Executive Chef Michael Schulson. From the appetizers, try the steamed frog legs cooked in a tasteful Asian preparation of garlic and chives or the tuna tartare spring roll that combines the tang of sashimi with the crunchiness of the roll. The carrot dumplings are flavoured with European seasoning, while the taste of chilled udon noodles is further intensified with a relishing lime sorbet. The Five-Spice Chicken and Spiced Tofu combine sweet and sour spices from both regions to create an explosion of flavour and texture. Wash down your meal with one of Buddakan’s signature cocktails, which use various exotic ingredients such as lemongrass and passion fruit, and don’t forget their signature dessert – The Crying Chocolate uses Belgian chocolate ganache and is served with jasmine tea ice cream. This is truly a treat for the senses.
2. Sushi Samba
With two locations in New York, Sushi Samba’s loud décor is reflective of the cuisines it incorporates – Brazilian flavoring mixed with Japanese staples. Red, yellow and orange seats and tables decorate the restaurants, while the music is loud and, to quote the name, “Samba”-esque. The restaurant’s specialty sushi rolls include the El Topo Roll, a mouthwatering combination of melted mozzarella, smoked salmon and crispy onion, and the Neo Tokyo Roll, which is a twist on the traditional spicy tuna roll by adding tempura flakes and aji planca, a type of chili pepper used in Peruvian and Brazilian dishes. The coconut rice combines the sweetness of coconut to the stickiness of Japanese rice, and the shaved palmito salad is topped with a delicious jalapeno-shallot dressing and pink peppercorns. The Samba-Style Chicken Teriyaki spices up a traditional Japanese dish and is served with purple potato mash, while the Mushroom Toban-yaki uses Japanese mushrooms, Peruvian garlic chips and a Brazilian poached egg to tantalize your taste buds. Pair your meal with Samba Juice, a cocktail with raspberry and watermelon infused rum, guava and acai, a type of berry found exclusively in South America. The pungent flavors of Brazil and the understated ones of Japan will surely keep you coming back for more.
Long before opening Koh at the Intercontinental Mumbai, Ian Charlemkittichai opened his namesake at 60 Thompson Street, Soho. The restaurant puts a contemporary spin on both Thai and other Southeast Asian dishes, and the décor is nothing short of fabulous. Silk Thai curtains, bamboo frames, an orchid and lotus pool and a lucky coin taped under each table are only some of the elegant touches that makes you feel as if you are in an esteemed Thai royal’s backyard. The menu is as sophisticated, and some of the gems include a green papaya and mango salad with chili-basil dressing, pan-seared scallops with caviar and a coconut cream broth, and crispy taro root croquettes served with spicy sauce. The weekend brunch at Kittichai also blends a combination of Asian flavors to traditional breakfast specialties, such as Eggs Benedict with a spicy penang hollandaise, or Kaffir lime leaf pancakes with lemongrass butter. The drinks at Kittichai are equally addictive, such as the Bloody Mary infused with Thai spices, or the pear almond martini with pear puree and almond flavoured vodka. The best dessert on the menu is undoubtedly the Jasmine panna cotta with lychee and grape salad, where the subtlety of the jasmine is paired perfectly with the cream in the panna cotta. Kittichai’s appeal lies completely in its amalgamation of inventive cuisine and understated glamour.
While we all love our traditional Indian fare, there is something to be said about a restaurant that blends the spiciness of Indian food with the tanginess of Latin American cuisine. At ‘At Vermillion’, Executive Chef Maneet Chauhan attempts to do just that, with fiery results. The bi-level midtown establishment is quite plain, with glass walls and minimalist décor. However, this just goes to show you that the emphasis is placed solely on the food. Interesting menu choices include Duck Vindaloo Arepa, served with pomegranate molasses, and Artichoke Pakodas, where Spain’s favourite vegetable is prepared in a widely loved Indian fashion. The Amchar and Ancho crusted chicken breast combines spices from both continents, and is served with dhoklas as well as potato curls. The menu also has a special section called ‘Heat’, where spices meld together with breathtaking consequences. Be sure to try the Vermillion Hedonism, a sinful molten lava cake served with chilies and masala orange sorbet. Even their drinks have a hot twist to them – the Garam Masala Bloody Mary and the Clove Tamarind Sour being the most popular. Lovers of spice will flock to this wonderful establishment, and those with a lower tolerance will still find dishes that appeal to them. The restaurant truly has something to appeal to everybody.
Celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa has several locations of his fine-dining establishment all around the world, and has three in New York itself. Aside from the two Tribeca establishments ‘Nobu’ and ‘Nobu Next Door’, he also has an uptown location called ‘Nobu 57’. The décor for all three remains the same, with high ceilings, golden wooden tables, low light and a black and white ambience that is trendy and classy at the same time. The menu boasts of ingenious flavour combinations where the quality of food perfectly represents Nobu Matsuhisa’s culinary expertise. The dishes combine Japanese flavour with South American spices, and are served in small portions so that the restaurant patrons can savour a wide variety of tasty treats in a single meal. The signature dishes at Nobu include seafood tacos, a preparation of the fish of your choice in zesty lime sauce and a crunchy taco, shrimp with caviar that infuses the taste of the two with a creamy dressing, Tiradito, which is a Peruvian dish of raw fish in a spicy tangy sauce, and the chicken Anticucho, a type of skewer marinated in aji, garlic and other Peruvian spices. Don’t forget to also try Nobu’s most famous Black Cod with Miso, where the sweetness of the fish is combined with the tanginess of the miso; it melts like butter in your mouth. Nobu’s famous Bento Box is all you need in a dessert, with a flourless chocolate cake, shisho syrup and green tea ice cream creating an explosion of flavour in every bite. Although pricy, each item on the menu is flawlessly presented and unbelievably fresh. A true expert and the pioneer of fusion cuisine, Nobu gets it right every time.
Hip, trendy and famous for its celebrity clientele, The Stanton Social is an ideal spot for a fun night out. The menu is eclectic and fresh, and the best thing about the restaurant is that it adapts its menu according to the season, so one could find fresh mushroom risotto one month and sweet butternut squash ravioli another. The Stanton Social samples food from all around the globe, and puts a spin on even the most mundane dishes. Upon entering this establishment, one might be confused about whether the place is a nightclub or restaurant. Loud music, dim lights and mahogany tables are accompanied by a thirty foot wine wall that incorporates wines from all over the world, adding to the ethnic theme of the restaurant. The menu boasts several sharing plates that put a contemporary, fusion spin on normal dishes. Favourites include the Gruyere topped French onion soup dumplings, combining the best that France and Shanghai has to offer, the Nori Spiced Tuna Tartare roll that is served American-style, without soya sauce or other traditional Japanese condiments, and the grilled apple and brie quesadilla, drizzled in a maple sauce instead of sour cream. The cocktails are as inventive; the gin-lemon mojito turns a widely loved drink into a culinary masterpiece. End your dining experience with a 90 proof milkshake ‘shot’, which shows that children’s favourites can be altered for adults to enjoy too!
7. Spice Market
Located in the heart of the meatpacking district, the name says it all – Spice Market aims to be a collection of Asian spices and flavours. French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten was inspired by his visits to Asia, and particularly by street vendor food, which he believed was the most authentic way to enjoy the cuisine of a country. The restaurant itself aims to transport you to an energizing, bustling street market. Wooden walls, straw chairs and a buzzing atmosphere pave the way for a menu that both shocks and delights. The spiced chicken samosas are a delicious combination of spices and moistness, with tart cilantro yoghurt on the side – a creamier, breezier alternative to chutney. Other winners include ginger fried rice, that envelopes the senses with a freshness that is usually not associated with fried dishes, and the shrimp in black pepper sauce, where tangy, hot notes blend perfectly with the sweeter ones of the fresh pineapple that tops the dish. The dessert menu tantalizes the appetite, and the Ovaltine kulfi is a clear winner – served with caramelized banana and a spiced chocolate sauce, the dessert combines both the sweetness of kulfi with the malt flavouring of Ovaltine. A peach sake-tini is perfect when paired with the meal, as dried plum and peach tinge the vodka and sake mix to create a buzz that will stay with you long after the alcohol has worn off.
Celebrity spotting is inevitable at this chic, upscale restaurant on the Upper East Side, which looks like it’s right out of a scene from Gossip Girl. A koi pool, fashionable color combinations of black and gold, and a sixteen-foot giant Buddha complete the look, where Asian cuisine meets American allure. Get ready to be bombarded with choices from all over East Asia, where each dish has Thai, Japanese, Korean and Chinese influences. The spicy tuna tartare on top of crispy rice is a divine mix of Japanese flavour with Poland charm, where Tartare is a staple. The roasted shishito peppers with yuzu combine citrus and spice, while the yellowtail sashimi merges jalapeno and ponzu sauce, using both Mexican chili peppers and Japanese vinegar based sauces to create an emission of flavour. Other brilliant choices are the spicy Hoi-Yin eggplant that uses Thai influences to spice up a usually bland vegetable, and the Hong Kong XO shrimp, a titillating synthesis of garlic, soya and basil. Finish up with a giant fortune cookie stuffed with three types of European chocolate, and let your taste buds take over.
With three locations in Manhattan itself, Gyu-Kaku is the ultimate combination of American barbecue and Japanese delicateness. Each polished, wood-stained table has a built-in gas-powered, smokeless grill where you can grill your own fare, so that each dish comes out cooked exactly the way you like it. The concept may seem strange – after all, why go out to eat if you have to cook your own food? However, each item need only be grilled for a few minutes, and it is quite fun to smell the delicious aroma of the food before you wolf it down. Appetizers need not be grilled, and two lovely choices are the Hawaiian style Ahi Tuna Poke, a rich combination of raw tuna, seaweed and ginger and the spicy cold tofu with spring onions and chili paste. Main courses include duck with yuzu pepper, sweet potatoes that come wrapped in foil to steam on the grill, and the Bibimba, a Japanese rice dish that arrives in a steaming stone pot. Your server puts the amount of chili sauce you ask and mixes it in the pot, so that the rice comes out flavourful and crispy. Gyu-kaku also serves several dipping sauces on the side, where the regional diversity is apparent. Some of these sauces are the Shio White Soy, Basil and Miso. One even grills the desserts, and the American s’mores and Japanese waffles are both excellent endings to what can only be called a unique experience.
A Michelin starred gem, Vikas Khanna’s Junoon is a treat for any lover of gourmet cuisine. The décor is stunning, and screams luxury. Enter into dim lighting, glowing amber tables and elegantly carved limestone sculptures, and prepare to be dazzled by a regional variety of dishes that truly reflects the diversity of Indian cuisine. Items on the menu are divided not by region, but by cooking style – Handi, Sigri, Pathar, Tawa and Tandoor. The Pathar Paneer is a Hyderabadi twist on normal paneer tikka, and envelopes it in a delightful combination of turmeric and lime. The Kakori Kabab is delicious and spicy, tinged with cardamom and green papaya. Definitely don’t miss the Konkan inspired Chicken Malwan, where coconut and green chilies merge with cilantro and bay leaf to create a creamy, decadent dish. The Bagarey Baingan is an imli based treat, and the special naan adds prunes and walnuts to an Indian staple. Finish off with the seasonal Kulfi trio, where the flavours spread from fruit-based to cardamom. Indian inspired cocktails like the Tandoori Tequila and the Sparkling Saffron assure that in every bit of your meal, you are escorted on a journey through India’s cultural heritage and multiplicity.