Before I hop into the questions, a special thanks to my colleague Becky Hughes for filling in last week. I feel well rested and energized to answer another round of reader questions. Today we have a newbie looking to try different cuisines, a visitor seeking great Cantonese and a diner who wants to eat in a beautiful space.
As always, if you have your own recommendations or questions, shoot me an email at [email protected].
Broadening One’s Dining Horizons
I want to become more “adventurous” and order different plates instead of the common ones I always do. (I’ve had enough salads and pasta for life!) As I just moved to NYC, this is my perfect excuse to do so. Here’s the catch: I am vegetarian. I’m dying to try Korean, Ethiopian, Indian food, for instance, but I think some restaurants don’t offer vegetarian plates at all. Do you have any tips? — Yohana D.
I’m glad you put adventurous in quotes because what’s “adventurous” to you may be run-of-the-mill to someone else. And even better, all three of the cuisines you mentioned have plenty of entry points for vegetarian diners. With that in mind, here’s a bit of a starter kit: As I mentioned in my newsletter on vegan dining, vegetarians can have a ball at Ras Plant Based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, or Bunna Cafe in Bushwick, which both specialize in vegan Ethiopian food. As for Korean, check out Haenyeo in Park Slope. Go for the japchae, yache pajun and the bibimbap with tofu. And Indian cuisine is overflowing with vegetarian options: Start with the chili paneer tikka at Adda in Long Island City, Queens.
Old-School Cantonese, Two Ways
I will be in Manhattan in early July and am interested in going to a Cantonese restaurant. Sadly, there are no good ones in Houston, where I live. Would you possibly be able to recommend any? — Ellen S.
I have two options for you: If you want to lean into history, you have to visit the new location of the legendary Jing Fong, at 202 Centre Street, which is not housed in a grand dining hall, as its older downtown location was, but is still churning out top-tier dim sum like pork buns and tender shrimp and chive dumplings. Then there’s Uncle Lou, which is less than a year old, but is already something of a Chinatown darling, leaning into old school Cantonese dining. Pete Wells put together an ideal menu in his March 2022 review, including won tons in chile oil, and a home-style seafood stir-fry.
In It for the Aesthetics
I’m not a foodie, I’m an art historian and art critic, or a connoisseur of beauty. Where in Manhattan or nearby are the restaurants with beautiful rooms — architecturally, furnishings, lighting, spaciousness, comfort. If they are affordable, so much the better. If not, I’ll do an occasional splurge to have an evening a deux in a fabulous environment. The view out any window is not important; I want to be ensconced in a beautiful atmosphere. — Suzaan B.
I love your unabashed commitment to beauty. But that doesn’t mean you have to, as they say on “The Great British Bake-Off,” sacrifice substance for style. The first dining room that comes to mind is the natural light-filled La Mercerie in SoHo. Try a lunch of anchovies with vanilla butter and haricots verts if you’re dining on a budget. Bar Tulix on Houston Street is also easy on the eyes, with comfortable booths and a sultry ambience. The spicy tuna tostaditos and masa-encrusted branzino tacos are not to be missed.
And though I haven’t had the opportunity to visit the recently opened Oiji Mi in Flatiron — from the team behind the Korean restaurant Oiji, which got two stars from Pete Wells in 2015 — the interior is outfitted in a gorgeous mixture of velvet, leather, wood and glass.
In Other News …
This week, Pete Wells awarded two stars to Saigon Social on the Lower East Side, where “a celebration of Vietnamese food made the traditional way” is on full display from the chef and owner Helen Nguyen.
Kossar’s Bagels & Bialy, the nearly 90-year-old Lower East Side fixture, will expand its reach to Hudson Yards this week and the Upper East Side this fall, Florence Fabricant reports.
Tejal Rao turned a spotlight on the chef Wes Avila’s Angry Egret Dinette and its “fine-dining-quality ingredients, handled with care, but served without any of the associated pretensions,” in Los Angeles’s Chinatown.
Our reporter Christina Morales took a deep dive into the world of gravestones etched with family recipes.