10 Restaurants You Need to Visit For a Cultural Adventure (Passport Not Required)
1. Mombar (Egypt)
Lebanese, Moroccan, and Israeli restaurants abound in any borough in NYC, but if you want to get your Egyptian fix, you’ll be heading to Queens. Egyptians are known for dishing out a good challenge, and we’re up for it.
Across the bridge in Astoria stands one of the few traditional Egyptian restaurants- Mombar. Chef and Owner Moustafa El Sayed will make you feel right at home- and is very much a fabric of the restaurant, conversing and telling you tales of his Egyptian homeland. You’ll most likely leave befriending this artistic genius.
Lamb Cheeks/ Brain, Tongue; Glazed Duck; Rabbit Tagine; Koshari (Egypt’s national dish and full of carbs- fried and caramelized onions, macaroni, lentils, and marinara sauce); Karkady (Traditional Egyptian tea- tart and delicious made from hibiscus).
2. Odda House (Georgia)
Georgian food is a cuisine that really needs to be more represented here in NYC, and for one and good goddamn reason- khachapuri. What is khachapuri you ask? Aside from one of the best meals of my life, khachapuri is a rather simple yet flavorful dish- a perfectly baked lifeboat of bread filled with salted cheese and a par-cooked egg.
My favorite part of the place is the owner and executive chef, Maia Acquaviva. A former plastic surgeon, she pours her soul into the restaurant and food, and loves her guests enjoying her home-made meals. You’re awesome, Maia!
Don’t forget to bring your friend who doesn’t eat dairy. That’ll be a fun experience.
The Must Orders: Adjaruli (khachapuri with melted mozzarella and feta cheese with a poached egg on top); Khinkali (Georgian Soup Dumplings), Georgian wine served in a clay cup.
Chef and Owner Soulayphet Schwader has truly blessed us with Khe Yo, Manhattan’s only traditional Laotian restaurant. A wanting for a taste of Mr. Soulayphet’s home, he partnered with restaurateur extraordinaire, Marc Forgione and settled in haute Tribeca for the ultimate experience.
Particularly unique to Laotian cuisine and Khe Yo in general is the use of their ubiquitous sticky rice, offered at the beginning of the meal and found in powdered form in many of the dishes, resulting in a playfully umami finish.
As Laos being a landlocked country, this restaurant is meat-centric and executes on such dishes incredibly well.
Another sell in my book was their recommendation to eat with your hands. Finally- a place where I can be myself and not be judged.
The Must Orders: Pig Face; Bamboo Grilled Quail; Duck Laap; Crunchy Coconut Rice with Sausage
Staten Island is home to the most Sri Lankans living in NYC, while Manhattan is still quite underrepresented. So while there aren’t too many Sri Lankan restaurants in the main borough, there is one gem and a half in the East Village- Sigiri.
When half the tables are filled with Sri Lankan expats, as is the case at Sigiri, you know you’re in good hands. It’s 100% authentic cuisine, going as far as ensuring the spice level is reflective of what you’d expect in Sri Lanka. Unless you know your way around spicy food, we’d recommend starting off the with either a mild spicy level, or a medium spicy level with a side of yoghurt.
It’s BYOB, which is a perfect opportunity to head two doors down to Dual Specialty Store, and pick up a case of Lion beer- Sri Lanka’s favourite brew. It’s cash only, but fear not! They take Venmo (no word on when they’ll be accepting bitcoin).
The Must Orders: Black Curry; Chicken Lampiris; String Hoppers; Aaapa.
Chef and Owner Ralf Kuettel dishes out some serious Swiss cuisine, having somehow left out Swiss Cocoa and Chocolate. Another restaurant doing its best to represent its country of origin, you’ll find dishes you would never expect, or know, were Swiss. When it heats up in the summer, their outdoor garden is not to be missed. You’ll be yodeling all day long in no time.
The Must Haves: Bure Rosti / Swiss-Bacon Potato Hash, Homemade Sausage, Melted Cheese, Two Eggs Over-Easy; Crispy Duck Necks; Greenmarket Omelette; Steak Tartare / Quail Egg, Toasted Baguette
6. Honey Bee’s Kitchen (Nigeria)
Quick- what’s your favourite Nigerian restaurant in NYC? If the cat got your tongue, you’re not alone. Unfortunately still esoteric, we’re hoping for more Nigerian restaurants to come over the next few years. Their food is like an unexpected party that you can’t say no to. One under-the-radar and hidden gem is Honey Bee’s Kitchen in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The restaurant certainly won’t scream Eleven Madison Park, but one you get a taste of the food, you’ll know it’s cooked with love and passion.
P.S: We’ll be having a Nigerian Pop Up Dinner this Saturday. Try out some of the foods!
The Must Haves: Goat Pepper Soup (A Nigerian Classic); Peppered Snail, Jollof Rice and Dodo (another must served with plantains), Asaro / Cubed Yams, Pepper and Tomato Sauce; Chapman / Sprite, Fanta, Orange Juice, Lime, Grenadine, Bitters
7. Angkor (Cambodia)
Venture up to the Upper East Side to the only known restaurant serving traditional Cambodian cuisine.Co-owner and Executive Chef Minh Truong left Cambodia under tumultuous times for the United States. Luckily for him (and for us), he’s a damn fine cook. After a recent visit to Cambodia, Mr. Truong was essentially disgusted to find his home country filled with burgers and fries. Returning back to the States mission-driven, Angkor Cambodian Cuisine was born.
The Must-Haves: Grilled Amok
Everyone loves a good Kiwi, also somewhere on the menu at one of the few New Zealand restaurants in NYC. Started by Saxon & Parole Alum and New Zealander, Matt Lambert, Matt is one inspiring chef to watch.
Starting out at New Zealand’s Meredith’s as a dishwasher, one of New Zealand’s most lauded restaurants, he went on to further develop his skills in NYC at Saxon & Parole and Public, before successfully raising funds via Kickstarter for Musket Room. His love for his country must have really shone through, because only a few 4 short months later, his restaurant earned a Michelin star.
The space itself is cozy, rustic, and perfect for date night. Ask to be seated at one of the nooks for the optimal experience. Expect beautiful venison and quail to serenade you and your tastebuds.
The Must Haves: New Zealand Red Deer with flavors of gin; Smoked pork with apple chutney; Quail with blackberries
I’m a sucker for Nordic and Scandinavian cuisine after visiting and falling in love with some of my now favourite countries- with Norway taking the cake, or should I say, Kvaefjordkake. Though not Norwegian, one of my favourite restaurants in this family is run by Swedish Chef, Fredrik Berselius.
Called Aska, this place is more of an sensory adventure than a restaurant. Located in a rustic 1860’s barn along the Williamsburg Bridge, you’re greeted to an open kitchen serving only 10 tables a night.
Expected Nordic techniques like pickling, fermentation, curing, and preserving are applied. Dishes are inspired by Fredrik’s dreams, like ashed goat hearts spread under burned bedstraw, in inspiration drawn from a vision of sheep in the Catskills running about hills laden with bedstraw. A 2 Michelin-star rating is no surprise at this must-visit spot.
The Must-Haves: Offering a 10 or 19-course tasting menu, the lamb heart ashes steal the show.
10. Cock’s (Barbados)
Our final restaurant takes us to the paradise-like Carribean hometown of Rihanna- Barbados. Located in Crown Heights is an unassuming venue with 3 small tables doing most of its business in takeaway orders.
Better known as Baja cuisine, Hugh Chandler has been running the show at Cock’s for over 17 years. Hugh makes this restaurant, as his love for every dish he serves is palpable.
Some of the must-try include their national dish, Cou Cou, a savoury cornmeal dish that tastes even better with gravy. The Other must-try is their Flyin’ Fish (Flyin’ not Flying). It’s typically lightly fried and finished with a tomato and hot pepper sauce.
What To Get: Cou Cou; Fliyin’ Fish