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"I know this awesome _________ place."
February 13, 2013 12:05 PM   Subscribe

I grew up in New York City with an open mind toward cuisines of other cultures, so I've got both a broad palate and (reasonably) broad experience. Which cuisines do I stand a chance of not having encountered and where can I go to try them?

I am looking for the "Astoria hole-in-the-wall"/"Mott Street basement"-type places rather than $100/plate Michelin-rated restaurants.

I'm also open to suggestions of hidden gems for the more frequently-encountered ethnic cuisines.
posted by griphus to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you haven't been to Awash (Ethiopian) by 106th and Amsterdam, go.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:08 PM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


You may be interested in this blog. "When I moved to New York City, I decided to try to eat food from every country in the world without leaving the city. Why? Because I think NYC is probably the only place in the world where you could do something like this."
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:09 PM on February 13, 2013 [24 favorites]


Tibetan - Phayul in Jackson Heights
posted by 0110 at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're looking to be introduced to great foods from different cultures, you should check out noshwalks.
posted by brookeb at 12:17 PM on February 13, 2013


I like Top Cafe Tibet on Cortelyou for Tibetan.

Can't go wrong with Georgian Bread.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:25 PM on February 13, 2013


showbiz_liz, I am in love with that blog. Everybody should read the "Malawi" link in the "Favorites" sidebar, it is perfectly delightful in every way.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:26 PM on February 13, 2013


have you tried all of the northern chinese regional places in Flushing? Burmese? Might have to go to Boston for that though. Given your background I assume you've had all of the foods from the former soviet republics? Whole litany of them. There is a specifically Bengali place in the Bronx that is awesome. Tamil Sri Lankan at New Asha on Staten Island. Every once in a while a Garifuna place pops up - its a small belizean ethnic group - I think the last one closed, but the chowhound folks are always up on it. Yemeni in Bay Ridge?
posted by JPD at 12:27 PM on February 13, 2013


I love Georgian Bread. I wouldn't go to any of the "real" Georgian restaurants in NYC - I'd just get take out from them.
posted by JPD at 12:31 PM on February 13, 2013


"When I moved to New York City, I decided to try to eat food from every country in the world without leaving the city. Why? Because I think NYC is probably the only place in the world where you could do something like this."

In a similar vein, EatTheWorldNYC.com.

I also love Dave Cook's Eating in Translation.

While probably a little out-dated in terms of intel, this Chowhound "obscure" ethnic eats conversation might help.

Also keep in mind the vast variety within cuisines, such as Cantonese, Sichuan, Taiwanese, Shaanxi, Henan, Hunan, Fujian, and more, within Chinese cuisine. All of which are available within the five boroughs now!

Pro-tip: take the LIRR from Penn Station to get to Woodside or Flushing much faster than the 7 train will take you. Especially on weekends.

A Zipcar membership will also come in handy in your quest.
posted by kathryn at 12:32 PM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which cuisines do I stand a chance of not having encountered and where can I go to try them?

Corsican food. As far as I can tell, no place in NYC has a Corsican restaurant, and the nearest easily-accessible location (outside of Corsica) is Paris.
posted by deanc at 12:35 PM on February 13, 2013


I don't know how much Portuguese is in NYC proper (I would assume a fair share), but I know the guys my husband worked with in NYC (one of whom was married to a Portuguese woman) used to take the PATH out to Newark and eat at the Portuguese restaurants in the Ironbound, walking distance from the train station. Delicious!
posted by immlass at 12:45 PM on February 13, 2013


The only Burmese restaurant I saw outside the country itself, was in Broome Street, but we're talking more than a decade ago. On MenuPages I found the cafe Mingala in the Upper East Side. Reviews look ok'ish. If you're there try lepet salad, made from fermented tea leaves & roast nuts. And ask these guys why they called their restaurant Cafe Mingala, as the (formal) greeting in Burmese is Mingala(r) Bar.
posted by ouke at 12:58 PM on February 13, 2013


If Cafe Mingala is a newer incarnation of the former Village Mingala, which was on 7th St in the E Village, then it will be really good. Used to eat there all the time.
posted by gaspode at 1:02 PM on February 13, 2013


I love this question!!

Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach is great for Central Asian food. It's supposed to be Uyghur, although it's not exactly like what I remember eating in Xinjiang - a bit more Russian-ized, but still very good. If you don't want to go all the way out to Brighton, Taam Tov in the Diamond District does great kebabs, plov, and other Central Asian food, but they're closed on Shabbat.

For Indonesian, I love going to Mie Jakarta in Elmhurst. Literally everything on the menu is delicious - you can't go wrong. But I always get a bowl of bakso (noodle soup with beef meatballs), some satay, and gado gado (a sort of salad with peanut sauce). If you can get to the Indonesian food fairs, go - they hold them in summer, once a month outside the Indonesian community center in Astoria and you can try all sorts of awesome Indonesian food at the same time. Chowhound Outer Boroughs board usually has a thread with the schedule.

There are obviously plenty of great Korean options in Flushing but my favorite place so far is Joo Mak Gol. Everything I've had there is great and you get a ton of side dishes. It's really good value for money.

One of my favorite restaurants in Flushing is a Taiwanese place, Red Chopsticks. Another place that is amazing value for money - I always order an entire table of food and walk away having paid less than $30 for the two of us to be utterly stuffed. I always get the stinky tofu here, and I think it's one of the best in NYC, but if that isn't your thing, three cup chicken and gua bao (steamed bun "hamburger") are other Taiwanese classics.

I live in Chinatown and I don't think there's really any hidden gem restaurants around here that aren't already well known in foodie circles. Henan Flavor (it's renamed now, but exact same owners and menu) is one of my favorite places. Their food is somewhat similar to Xi'an Famous Foods, but much less oily. The spicy chicken noodles ("dry" kind, not in soup) are probably their best dish, but I like the dumplings in lamb broth too.

Eating in Translation blog mentioned above is very good, and I also trust LauHound's opinion on Chinese restaurants.
posted by pravit at 1:03 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and Thai food - Chao Thai in Elmhurst is the best I've had in NYC (and I think it's better than Sripraphai actually) but Zabb Elee in the EV is decent for Northern Thai if you don't want to go all the way to Queens. There's a new pad thai place in the LES, Pok Pok, that does pretty good pad thai, but their best dish is actually the mussels pancake - probably one of the best renditions of the dish I've had in NYC. The guy who owns that place also runs a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn way out on Columbia St which is not bad, but in my opinion not worth the 2+ hour wait.
posted by pravit at 1:09 PM on February 13, 2013


Have you had Afghani food? The only place in NYC I can personally recommend is worth recommending because it's absolutely outstanding: Ariana in Hell's Kitchen. So good. So, so good.
posted by item at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


...and I second Awash. I spent a couple of weeks eating hospital food in 2005 and stopped in there on the way home upon my release. I made myself very physically sick because I couldn't stop eating. How's that for an endorsement?
posted by item at 1:22 PM on February 13, 2013


The guy who owns that place also runs a Thai restaurant in Brooklyn way out on Columbia St which is not bad, but in my opinion not worth the 2+ hour wait.

If you go on a weekday right when it opens (5:30), the wait isn't too bad.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:22 PM on February 13, 2013


While I find Caracas arepa bar fantastic, there is nothing like an authentic Venezuelan arepa. My cousins found more than one hole in the wall Venezuelan place that was the real deal. Look for the reina pepiada arepa.
posted by LaunchBox at 1:33 PM on February 13, 2013


Another good place for arepas is Arepas cafe on 36th Ave btwn 33rd and 34th St in Astoria.
posted by gaspode at 1:43 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Malaysian food, Elizabeth St Tunnel Mall. It's a little tunnel in the middle of Elizabeth St. just south of canal. The tunnel runs from Elizabeth to Bowery. Restaurant is closer to Bowery. It's "famous" for it's Duck Blood Soup.
posted by milarepa at 1:53 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can get some great Tibetan and Nepali food (and occasional live music) at Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:03 PM on February 13, 2013


Oh please please please don't waste your time with Pok Pok. Its good, but the Queens thai places are better enough to be worth the trip and at a much lower price point.
posted by JPD at 2:03 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, also for some really good and occasionally really spicy southern Indian (pretty different from most Indian restaurants), Dosa Hut in Flushing is a great little hole in the wall, right around the corner from the big temple to Ganesh.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:05 PM on February 13, 2013


Ooh, one more, Upi Jaya is a great Indonesian place in Elmhurst
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:07 PM on February 13, 2013


Speaking of Indian. I really like Vatan in Murray Hill. You sit down, and they bring you these big trays with all sorts of little dishes on them. You don't choose anything, you just ask for more of a particular dish if you like it, but in practice I've never had to because they give you so much food. It's all vegetarian too.
posted by pravit at 2:11 PM on February 13, 2013


I haven't tried it yet, but I've been meaning to check out this Indian-Chinese place in Elmhurst, Tangra Masala, since I read that article.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:53 PM on February 13, 2013


Best dumplings in queens - an exhaustative study

---

from a chowhound recc

.....check out yunan flavor snack for really distinctive regional chinese noodle soups -- the only yunnan spot in the city irrc
Yunnan Flavour Snack Shop
 775 49th St, Brooklyn, NY 11220

Strong, strong second on Yunan Flavor Snack. Their hot and sour dumpling soup is, at very least, the equal to anything I've tried at any mall in Flushing.

---
posted by lalochezia at 4:29 PM on February 13, 2013


Archive of Robert Sietsema's Articles in the Village Voice is a good place to browse.
posted by lalochezia at 4:32 PM on February 13, 2013


El Cocotero 228 W 18th St #1, Chelsea for the Venezuelan arepas.
posted by LaunchBox at 4:36 PM on February 13, 2013


Serbian food, from Kafana.

Bosnian food, from Cevabdzinica Sarajevo.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:04 PM on February 13, 2013


Apparently there's a great Egyptian place in Queens, Mombar. See also: Little Egypt.
posted by limeonaire at 5:16 PM on February 13, 2013


I was also going to ask if you'd had any Sri Lankan food on Staten Island yet (I think there are 2-3 places). Staten Island has the largest population of Sri Lankans outside of Sri Lanka, apparently?
posted by unknowncommand at 5:18 PM on February 13, 2013


Joe's on Avenue U for Sicilian.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:52 PM on February 13, 2013


Oh, there used to be a Cambodian restaurant (called "Cambodian Cuisine", conveniently enough) in Fort Greene, that is now a food truck in the West Village. I believe that Num Pang is the only other Cambodian restaurant in the city, but it's just sandwiches.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:17 PM on February 13, 2013


Western Chinese - Xi'an Famous Foods.
Cumin, lamb, tanginess, savouriness... so delicious.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:24 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite of this variety is Yemen Cafe in Brooklyn.
posted by jessamyn at 8:01 PM on February 13, 2013


1,001 Nights for Uzbek and Turkish cuisine. Plus, bellydancing shows on the weekends!
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:50 AM on February 16, 2013


I haven't tried it yet, but I've been meaning to check out this Indian-Chinese place in Elmhurst, Tangra Masala, since I read that article.

Sagar has a good South Asian slash Chinese location in Jamaica, Queens.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:52 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


P.S.: Thelewala near W 4th is a fave of mine. Get the okra roll extra spicy.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:43 AM on February 21, 2013


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