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Around the World in 12 New York City Restaurants

Category General

|by Mark Robinson |


Experience the best of Manhattan’s international cuisine

If you like to indulge in recipes from all over the world, but you don’t necessarily have the price of airfare to take you to the seven continents, a visit to New York City can solve your dilemma  With neither a passport in hand, nor a bag to check, the Big Apple offers a chance to dine across the continents without ever leaving the isle of Manhattan. Taking Antarctica out of the equation (you can have ice in your beverage), here are some great places to dine in NYC that give you an around the world dining experience. 

Italian cuisine is just one variety you can find in Manhattan (Photo: iStock)

Italian cuisine is just one variety you can find in Manhattan (Photo: iStock)

Africa

Meskerem Ethiopian Cuisine (124 MacDougal Street)

For an experience in African (Ethiopian) cuisine that will open your stomach up to a barrage of new and exciting flavors, check out Meskerem Ethiopian Cuisine. The menu offers several variations on beef, including Minchet Abish Wat (ground beef cooked with butter, garlic and finished with curry) and Gomen Besaega (prime beef seasoned with garlic, onions and ginger, then finished with boiled collard greens). Their lamb dishes, however, are some of their most-flavorful, with Yebeg Alecha (lamb marinated with butter then sauteed with ginger, garlic and curry) and Lega Tibs (tender, boneless leg of lamb sauteed with rosemary, onions and green peppers) not to be missed. Meskerem Ethiopian Cuisine also provides a variety of poultry and vegetarian dishes, each one more flavorful than the last.

Le Souk ( 510 La Guardia Place) 
Moving from Africa’s East coast to its West coast, Le Souk is one of the city’s finest establishments for Moroccan cuisine. Le Souk offers a brunch that is out of this world, with items such as Mac and Cheese Pancakes, Moroccan Chakchouka (a tomato stew and poached eggs) and The Le Souk Omelet as some out-of-the-box choices. The dinner menu dazzles with a parade of deliciousness in the form of the Moroccan Feast. Guests pick from first course options (including Babaghannouh, Crab Cakes, Short Rib Cigars), a second course of Seven Vegetable Couscous and a third course (options: Fish Tagine, Moroccan Stuffed Peppers, Grilled Short Ribs). Finish off the feast with a piece of baklava, flan, mousse or panna cotta.

Asia

Pure Thai Cookhouse (766 9th Avenue)

For the zesty, refreshing flavors of Thai cuisine, a trip to Pure Thai Cookhouse is a must when dining in NYC. Specializing in wok stir-fried dishes such as Chili Pepper With Chicken, Ginger Curry With Calamari and Vegetable Medley With Tofu, pure Thai noodle dishes including Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodles, Sukhothai Pork Noodles Soup and Nakorn-Patom Duck Noodles Soup, and wok stir-fried noodles and rice dishes such as Jungle Curry Fried Rice With Chicken and Pad Mee Bo-Lan With Vegetables, Pure Thai offers something for everyone. The restaurant will also cater to the level of heat and spiciness that you prefer.

The Original Buddha Bodai Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant (5 Mott Street)
For its name alone The Original Buddha Bodai Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant was going to catch our eyes, but the tasty morsels to be found there will also grabbed your stomachs. Yes, the food is both kosher and vegetarian. It also happens to be full of flavor. Just try their comfort-inducing Sweet Sticky Rice Sesame Balls or Pan Fried Turnip Cake, or dive into a delicious plate of their Bean Curd with Organic Mushroom and Basil. Vegetarian Meat Buns, Braised Bean Curd Skin and Shitaki Mushroom in Black Bean Sauce make for sumptuous options, all proving that a dish doesn’t require meat to be totally satisfying. 

Australia/Oceana

The Polynesian (400 West 42nd Street)

For diners who like their experience in Polynesian food to be accompanied by colorful and ornate alcoholic beverages, The Polynesian will usher you into Oceana with tempting tipples such as Planter’s Punch, The Rita Hayworth, the Make Your Banana Stand and the Chief Lapu Lapu. More a cocktail bar than a restaurant, the Polynesia nevertheless offers some exotic snack items on their menu, including Pork Spring Rolls, Coconut Rock Shrimp, Bacon Rum Sliders, Green Curry Cauliflower and Hot Jerk Chicken Satay. You’ll swear you are enjoying your meal inside an upscale Tiki hut.

Burke & Wills (226 West 79th Street)
You rarely hear of Australian restaurants with the frequency you encounter Italian or Chinese eateries. They are out there and New York City plays host to one of the best: Burke & Wills. This bistro takes diners “down under” with such Australian-inspired dishes as Brick Pressed Chicken (with roasted spring vegetables, salsa verde, au jus), the Sirloin Bavette (with watercress, triple-fried chips, ramp butter) and, for the slightly more adventurous, the Kangaroo Burger (served with arugula, pickle onions and tomato chutney). Red Pepper Soup and the Little Gem (market vegetables, bacon, boiled egg, crème fraiche-dill vinaigrette) are great ways to start your meal. Don’t forget the Sticky Toffee Bread Pudding for dessert.

Europe

Budapest Cafe and Restaurant (1631 2nd Avenue)

Entrees, pastries, strudels and wines await you at the Budapest Cafe and Restaurant, a restaurant that offers a vast array of Hungarian and other Eastern European dishes. Choose from such headliners as Veal Goulash with Nokedli, Rakon Krumpli (layered potatoes, eggs, sour cream and sausage), Turoscsusza Repertovel (noodles with farmer’s cheese, bacon and sour cream) and Wienerschnitzel. Among their delectable gourmet desserts, patrons can partake in a variety of strudels (sour cherry, cheese, apple, poppy seed), as well as Palacsinta (Hungarian crepes) and Babka.

Toscana 49 (143 East 49th Street) 
For traditional Italian food that celebrates the flavors of Tuscany, visit Toscana 49, where the Old World cuisine will have your moth watering in no time. Fettucini di Agnello (homemade fettuccini with lamb ragu and pecorino cheese), Costata di Maiale (roasted pork chop with apples, raisins and spinach), Pollo alla Casseruola (boneless chicken with sausage and peppers) and Risotto ai Funghi Porcini (risotto with porcini mushrooms) are among the tantalizing eats awaiting you. They also offer a brunch menu with highlights such as the Florentine Omelet, Uova e gamberi (scrambled eggs with shrimp), and Uova salsiccia e fagioli (Eggs served with Italian sausage and cannellini beans) tempting the taste buds.

North America

Hunt & Fish Club (125 West 44th Street) 

The Hunt & Fish Club is a great place enjoy many of the foods that are indigenous to North America. Maine Lobster, King Salmon, Swordfish, Scallops, Alaskan King Crab and Steak, all specialties of North American cuisine, are served with distinction. Surf and turf not exactly your thing? The Hunt & Fish Club also offers a variety of pasta dishes and salads. The King Crab Risotto is highly recommended, and for dessert, be sure to order a slice of the Carrot Cake or the Twenty-Four Layer Chocolate Cake.

La Contenta (102 Norfolk Street) 
Mexican cuisine can be found aplenty in the Big Apple, but great Mexican cuisine is most assuredly found at La Contenta. This, folks, is authentic Mexican food, with each bite bursting with spice and flavor. Try the Pollo En Mole Poblano (braised chicken breast, mole sauce, wild rice and chicken risotto, sweet plantains), the Chile Relleno Y Succotash (chile poblano, baby spinach, oaxaca cheese, succotash, chile de árbol salsa), the Fish Tacos (tempura catfish, avocado sauce, cole slaw, chipotle aioli) and the Torta Ahogada (shrimp slider drowned in mild and spicy sauce, dollop of guacamole). For a “South of the Border” meal you will always remember, make La Contenta your destination. 

South America

Balvanera (152 Stanton Street) 

Argentinian cuisine abounds at Balvanara, where Empanadas, Pulpo de Playa (octopus), Lubina (striped bass, romesco sauce, chickpeas, green onion), Croquetas (caulifower and rice croquettes, with quince purée) and Chorizo are just a few of the menu highlights. Of course, Argentina is known for its beef, and Balvanera offers plenty of choices in that category, including the Entrana skirt steak, and the bone-in ribeye. For dessert, heavenly options await you, with the Tarta de Chocolate, Torrejas Lola (sweet milk brioche, dulce de leche, berries) and Membrillo en Almibar (saffron poached quince, queso blanco gelato, toasted pistachios) making your decision an impossible one.

Pio Pio (604 10th Avenue)
Completing our world tour is Pio Pio, one of Manhattan’s finest choices in Peruvian dining. Enjoy their soup of the day, then dive into a refreshing order of Ceviche Limeno (seafood tossed with citrus marinade). Juanita’s Chicken is a signature dish of the restaurant and one you’ll want to try. Their Arroz Chaufa is Peruvian-style fried rice mixed with chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions and soy sauce. The Lomo Saltado (filet mignon strips, stir-fried with soy sauce, spices, red onions, cilantro, tomatoes, served over french fries with white rice) will have your taste buds performing a standing ovation.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. His forthcoming book, Sitcommentary: The Television Comedies That Changed America, will hit the shelves in October, 2019. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com

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