A trip to exotic locales—right in Manhattan!
Junoon (27 W 24th St, 212-490-2100, JunoonNYC.com) presents a perfumed excursion through a modern Indian spice market with a hefty price tag. Do attempt the Tandoori Tequila concoction featuring mashed tropical pineapple, curry leaf redolent of damp earth and insinuating pippali pepper poured over crushed ice. Go for crispy slices of baby eggplant chaat with chopped red onion and tamarind to begin. Aloo paratha crepes with a thin layer of mashed potatoes and cilantro are a fine accompaniment to daal makhni, a gingery dish of black lentils, red kidney beans, split chick peas and lots of clarified butter. Coconut rice pudding with bruléed bananas is a must try.
Take off your shoes (mandatory), submerge yourself in the floor and settle into some fine, elevated vegetarian Korean food at the very Zen-like little cavern Hangawi (12 E 32nd St, 212-213-0077, HangawiRestaurant.com). The avocado stone bowl rice is fairly essential; the avocado bending beneath the fork to create a sumptuous mash, mixed with vegetables and tofu over rice dressed in a miso sauce—served in an actual stone bowl! Check out hot pot lunch specials or the Emperor’s Tasting Prix Fix with four dinner courses. There’s a gluten-free menu too. Whatever your path, you still have to remove your shoes.
Sharing plates and serious cocktails fill the “dining car” at Orient Express (325 W 11th St, 212-691-8845, OrientExpressNYC.com) with the lure of exotic train travel from yesteryear and the swinging sounds of Ellington, Porter and the Gershwins floating over the sound system. The signature drink list summons up tales of espionage, suspense and murder at the hands of Agatha Christie and James Bond, with a cognac-laced Leopold, a gin-based The Agatha and a vodka-fueled From Russia With Love as blinding evidence. The staff may serve with simmering indifference, but try the tarama plate of rich red roe with briny Kalamata olives and fruity olive oil or the thinly sliced Turkish cured beef with wonderful fresh oranges and a pomegranate-balsamic drizzle.
Bento box-sized Hakata Ton Ton (61 Grove St, 212-242-3699, TonTonNYC.com) has a whole lot of Japan going on. Simmering, at first unnamable aromas wafting about reveal garlic fried rice with pork and Hakata’s motsu hot pot with a stunning broth flavored by Kobe beef motsu, otherwise known as…intestines! Sesame chanpon noodles are a requisite accompaniment.
Lotus Blue (110 Reade St, 212-267-3777, LotusBlueBar.com) offers flavors of the Yunnan region (sandwiched somewhere in between Tibet, Vietnam and Burma) found in its verdant forests and ponderous streams. Now, for a trip to this transporting TriBeCa cuisine, go for the Melon Breeze (shown), a Perfumed Basil Affair cocktail, a salad of chrysanthemum greens, bamboo pith mushroom soup and chicken cold noodles. Do enjoy all of it in the inviting room that is warm and glowing, with suspended, tasseled lamps, the color of lychees.