New York loves Asian food. But I remember a time when you could pretty much count the number of sushi places on one hand, but now every grocery store and corner market in the city offers sushi to go. And since David Chang opened his Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004, noodles of all sort, especially Japanese ramen, have become the object of almost cultlike interest. For the most part, the places purveying Asian foods have been relatively modest in size and scope, Chang’s restaurant, found in the East Village, being a perfect example. But that has changed in the past year or so, with the opening of ambitious upscale places.
With its large Chinese population, the city has long enjoyed the food these immigrants brought with them, but the restaurants have not fallen into the “fine dining” category, with a couple of exceptions such as Shun Lee Palace on the East Side and an old favorite of mine, Chin Chin, which was forced to close due to a punishing rent hike in 2014. Now I would add La Chine to the list. After Chinese investors bought the Waldorf Astoria New York in 2015, I wondered if they would open a Chinese restaurant. Here it is, in a space once occupied by Oscar’s — a loss not mourned. The food is imaginative and well-presented, with noteworthy dishes such as raw seafood appetizers, crispy Spanish mackerel, Sichuan chicken with cashews, and beef tenderloin in a black-pepper glaze.
540 Lexington Avenue. Tel. (212) 872-4913
New York’s appetite for sushi is now insatiable. But I confess that I also have a passion for tempura. Opened in mid-2015, Tempura Matsui is the first place in the city to serve a tempura omakase tasting menu. Tempura master Masoa Matsui came out of retirement to debut the 19-seat restaurant, a serene temple to his craft. (Sadly, Matsui died in early 2016; happily, his well-trained disciples carry on.) The three menu options include a variety of beautifully prepared tempura dishes, which, enwrapped in the diaphanous casing of fried batter, looked like filigreed jewelry.
222 East 39th Street. Tel. (212) 986-8885
For reasons I’ve never fully understood, Indian food has never gained much prominence in New York. An exception is Dawat, the driving force behind which has been actress and acclaimed cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey. I also admired the cooking of Suvir Saran at his restaurant Devi, the first Indian restaurant in the United States to earn a Michelin star. Saran’s latest venture is Tapestry a beautiful space of white walls and a white quartz bar in Greenwich Village. Saran explores the traditions of other countries while keeping the spicing rooted in India. The results are delicious, with dishes such as paneer, sultanas and almond croquettes with frisée, grilled fig salad and tamarind chutney; and coconut-cashew arancini with green curry, tomato chutney and green bean stir-fry.
60 Greenwich Avenue. Tel. (212) 373-8900