One of the unique things about New York City is the food — plate upon dish upon bowl of glorious eats. And they aren’t all the Big Apple flavors people typically associate with the area. In fact, you can fill up on meals from all across the world, without ever leaving the five boroughs. From authentic Peruvian fare and Chinese food natives eat to the best artisan Mexican dishes you never heard of, the city is ripe with restaurants catering to all. The next time you dine out, take a trip to a new region and try trading in your classic hot dog for some flavor from abroad.
In NYC’s bustling Mexican food scene (think Alex Stupak of Empellón and Hecho en Dumbo‘s Danny Mena), chef and owner Luis Arce Mota’s La Contenta on the Lower East Side is the latest one to the party. Though it has just 14 seats, this spot is well worth the wait to try one of barman Alex Valencia’s cocktails mixed with pulque, a traditional beer made out of fermented agave. This rare libation pairs wonderfully with Mota’s blue crab-laden tostada, quinoa-crusted salmon or even the chipotle-braised short rib. Settle in next to a well-dressed hipster at the intimate, rustic bar and order another craft cocktail like the Oaxaca Express (mezcal, basil, cucumber and jalapeño-infused agave), and a side of chips and guacamole.
If you have ever been to Peru, you know the food there proves fresh, full of unique flavors and, overall, incredibly delicious. If you haven’t made your way down, worry not; there is authentic Peruvian food right in the West Village at Panca, a warmly lit eatery overseen by chef Ezequiel Valencia. Order one (or three) of their super fresh ceviches, and follow it up with the brightly colored Peruvian yellow potato terrine, lomo saltado (beef cubes stir-fried with onions and tomatoes) or a plate of Peruvian-style roasted chicken. As for drinks, make sure to order at least one of the specialty cocktails made with pisco, a tasty grape-based spirit that arguably originated in Peru. You may not have climbed Machu Picchu lately, but there is no reason not to dine like you did.
There are many wonderful Japanese restaurants to try, and they aren’t all sushi based. One of the best is Takashi, a cozy place in the West Village that specializes in premium Japanese and American Angus done yakiniku style, meaning it’s served raw and it’s left up to you to cook it how you want on tiny, personal grills bedded into each darling table. They don’t take reservations, so get there early or expect to wait a little. If you’re in the latter category, know that it’s definitely worth any time spent lingering over a glass of sake, because once you get to your seat and start sampling the selection of hand-picked beef, you will fully understand why the place is so packed each and every night.
Most people don’t think of ever dining out on Swedish food; after all, it’s just plates that are heavy with pickled herring and lingonberries, right? Should you head to acclaimed restaurant Aquavit in Midtown, however, you’ll change your mind. Here, the Nordic cuisine proves as beautiful as the people in Stockholm. Chef Emma Bengtsson does amazing things with gravlax, fennel and cod, plus the restaurant offers an outstanding wine program. It’s no wonder this sleek institution has dished out fine-dining experiences for more than 25 years.
In Malaysia, many people flock to the night market for dinner or a quick bite. At Pasar Malam, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, they have recreated the sensation — without you actually having to bop from one stall to the next, of course. Here, you can find half a dozen versions of the traditional roti, all types of authentic curries and fried rice dishes, and the best chicken satay we’ve had in town. The atmosphere is light and fun, and as you go through course after course of sweet, spicy and succulent food served on vibrantly painted plates from Southeast Asia, you’re served a rice-tinged water in matching glasses. But, if that’s not enough to satisfy your thirst, order a classic bandung with rose and basil seed or try a holistic, licorice-based Lo Honko.