New York’s scene is consistently expanding with new dining destinations. It becomes a challenge trying to figure out a dining option that provides delectable culinary creations, lavish settings and a welcoming ambiance all under one roof, writes Lola Cristall
Periyali (www.periyali.com) has been a prime staple amongst New Yorkers and tourists alike for more than three decades in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood. Offering authentic Greek cuisine, the appetizing selections are delicious and decadent. After a brief interruption, Periyali recently welcomed guests into a revamped and refurbished room. The small entrance leads diners into a vast and cordial atmosphere as the aroma of fresh and delectable cuisine lingers. The two-storey location, with private as well as semi-private spaces, is an inviting setting for a gathering amongst friends, colleagues and family.
Start the culinary journey with their palatable mezze selection; small plates of a variety of dips accompanied by hot pita bread revive the tastebuds in preparation for the dishes that follow. Smoked eggplant entices the senses with garlic and herbs while the fish roe spread provides a faint seafood taste with bursts of citrus-filled flavours. The appetizer selection is endless, offering their grilled graviera cheese with Metaxa brandy as well as crispy spanakopita, delicately seasoned spinach enveloped within a crisp phyllo dough. As a tasty entrée, the Canary Island branzino is flavourfully profound, at the very core of each bite, with hints of olive oil and lemon emerging.
A Greek experience would be incomplete without a gratifying slice of sweet syrup-infused baklava or an airy and absorbent sponge cake soaked in pungent notes of orange. Each dish is a celebration of its own, transporting guests to an exceptional Mediterranean oasis.
While continuing the concept of authentic Greek gourmet culinary creations with a modern twist, the newly opened Paros (www.parosnyc.com), in downtown Manhattan, is next on the list.
Derived and inspired by a Greek Island in the Ægean Sea, brothers George and Nicholas Pagonis bring a delightfully decadent scene to the Tribeca neighbourhood within a 3,500 ft² space accommodating 100 guests indoors and 40 guests on their outdoor patio. With the help of architect Ben Webne, with artistic touches brought forth by the Shashi Construction Group, along with design notes by Demetris Charalambous, the clean-cut and crisp ambiance offers an elegant and sophisticated escape.
Chef George, a finalist from season 12 of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, offers fresh seafood, freshly crisp vegetables and delicious seasoning in the presented dishes. Each platter is a celebration, from the Greek salad with tomatoes, feta cheese as well as dried mint, roasted beet salad with pomegranate seeds and almonds with a tinge of balsamic vinaigrette, grilled octopus with roasted peppers and capers, and halloumi cheese with candied orange and Paros honey, to the marinated and grilled swordfish kebab and the simply grilled pink snapper with a subtle trifle of olive oil.
Paros NYC emphasizes the chef-d’œuvre of the stunning island through culinary craftsmanship.
From the island of Paros we make our way to the ‘Arm of the Mediterranean Sea’ also known as the Ægean Sea, found at Thalassa (www.thalassanyc.com), which is also located in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighbourhood. The fine dining destination, located in a significant historic building, has been a go-to spot since the earth 2000s. The restaurant’s name is considerably fitting considering the focus on fresh seafood including oysters, dover sole, royal dorado, loup de mer as well as wild king shrimp. Traditional Greek influences are emphasized in each dish through the chef’s deep passion.
Chef Ralphael Abrahante is a master at his craft, fusing intense tastes with highly fresh and organic ingredients, leaving diners mesmerized and captivated by his skilful culinary talent.
Just a few examples on the menu: a vegetarian moussaka with layers of zucchini and eggplant set in a creamy béchamel sauce, a triangular-shaped spanakopita with well seasoned feta and spinach, a yellow split pea spread with shallots, chives and olive oil, a seafood salad with lobster, shrimp and scallops embraced by hints of fennel, olive oil and a dab of lemon juice, as well as a Greek salad with vine ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, onions peppers and feta cheese soaked in olive oil and lemon, proved to what extent simplicity can still be a divine treat. While appetizers and small sharing plates are a journey on their own, one can only imagine how much of a pleasing treat the main courses are: a delicate grilled swordfish with tomato concasse; grilled asparagus and gigante beans (extra-large white beans with a meaty and wholesome consistency, commonly used in Greek cuisine) burst with flavour, while a simple branzino is stuffed with shrimp, lentils, tomato, dill as well as beets, delivering a satisfyingly pungent texture.
While the majority of the dishes are seafood-based, Chef Abrahante also offers choices from the land, a grilled rib eye steak with oregano, lemon potatoes and asparagus or grilled New Zealand lamb chops gratifyingly oozing with flavourful components in one dish. Desserts are just as delightful: a delicate panna cotta accompanied by poached pear, as well as a moist and rich honey walnut cake, are among the options to choose from.
From Greek and Mediterranean culinary escapes to Mexican flavours, we arrive at Casa Carmen (www.casacarmennyc.com), led by prominent chef ‘Titita’ Ramírez Degollado along with her grandsons Sebastien and Santiago. The family restaurant welcomes guests into a distinguished and lavish setting reminiscent of México with the aroma of fresh gourmet plates from the kitchen as well as the enticingly simple setting. With two Manhattan-based locations, one in the Flatiron district and the other in Tribeca, diners can enjoy the same experience of quality and hospitality according to their destination of convenience.
Mouth-watering selections include highly flavourful guacamole with jalapeño, cilantro and cacalas (seeds that are found in many of Chef Degollado’s dishes, which are specialities of the regions around Puebla and Oaxaca), quesadilla with melted cheese and seasonal vegetables, ceviche with fresh catch of the day, olives, jalapeño, tomatillo, avocado and lime, as well as tacos with either vegetables, pork, lamb or steak, each bursting with flavour. For a house speciality, the ensalada Carmen is the way to go, a mélange of diced cactus, grilled queso fresco, oregano and tomatoes.
For a decadent palate-cleanser, diners may opt for the crispy brown sugar and cinnamon-coated churros (similar to beignets or doughnuts in elongated form), accompanied by a rich melted dark chocolate fondu or a full-bodied caramel flan. Casa Carmen also offers an array of cocktails with an array of mescal and tequila for a supreme Mexican experience.
SOL Mexican Cocina
For a more casual and relaxed spot in the city, SOL Mexican Cocina (www.solcocina.com) offers a taste of coastal Mexico in a tavern-like setting. With various locations nationally dispersed, diners may enjoy various platters including a number of guacamole renditions: from simple cilantro and lime or pomegranate seeds, green apples and sweet-spicy peanuts, to a slightly more complex texture with goat cheese and pumpkin seeds. Generously sized salad portions, fresh ceviche and tacos with assorted toppings and sides to choose from are some of the many suggestions. The delightful spot is a lively city destination located in the Flatiron District, with ample dining space and bar area for a variety of cocktails and drink options to be relished. The friendly staff makes the experience a pleasant go-to.
Claudette (www.claudettenyc.com), a costal French bistro located in Greenwich Village, a stroll away from Washington Square Park, is reminiscent of a restaurant located on the prominent Boulevard Saint-Germain. The fast-paced surroundings, with hospitable staff catering to their guests’ every need, the smell of fresh homemade baguette from the kitchen and the sight of appetizing dishes flowing, provide a cozy and delightful experience.
Bouillabaisse immersed with sea bass, prawns, mussels and lobster in a flavourful tomato broth, goat cheese ravioles in a lemon beurre fondu with tarragon and grilled octopus with hazelnut romesco, olive oil potatoes and pickled onions emphasize creativity and flavoursome options. A French dining experience would be incomplete without a proper crème brûlée topped with a vanilla anglaise or gâteau au chocolat enveloped by a chocolate ganache and topped with a vanilla chantilly crème.
A vast wine list is also available to complete the culinary French inspiration à la Claudette for a full epicurean touch.
For a highly luxurious and elegant encounter to the New York City culinary scene, Cucina 8½ (www.cucina812.com), in the heart of midtown Manhattan in the iconic Solow Building, is a captivating escape from the city chaos. Making one’s way down a grandiose red-carpeted spiral staircase, a grand piano, majestic floral displays and an extensive bar await. The delightful service, the stunning surroundings, the grand dining area as well as the vast kitchen is a sophisticated experience for all the senses.
Veteran restaurateur Auguste Ceradini took over the space in 2021 and has maintained its luxurious and lavish aspects. What used to be called Brasserie 8½, which focused on French, European and American fare, now offers Italian gourmet cuisine under a slightly modified name.
Chef Sam Hazen exceeds a diner’s expectations, providing the freshest ingredients, the finest quality components with supreme flavour throughout his gourmet and culinary offerings. His preparations are an art, transforming ingredients and recipes into total masterpieces. While each dish is attractive on the plate, they are even more sublime to the taste.
Start the exceptional gourmet journey with Cucina 8½ signature focaccia accompanied by olive oil, ricotta and hot honey, mixing the savoury and sweet components together, continue the culinary trip with the insalata di castelfranco, taking a considerably simple element to the next level with white radicchio, gorgonzola, balsamic and honey-roasted pear. Why not also opt for a dish prepared tableside? It’s an experience that allows diners to hypnotically watch a fascinating plate coming together.
The ricotta ravioli is a bite of powerful texture and complexity while the spaghetti al limone, with parmigiano reggiano, is packed with bold flavours contrasted through the cheese’s nutty notes.
Chef Hazen’s pizza creations are just as exceptional and delightful with a thin crust and a variety of toppings to choose from, whether a simple margarita, a spicy salami, a basil pesto or a truffle and caramelized onion option. Chef Hazen is a connoisseur of good food and his passion is incorporated by utilizing the freshest components in each dish, relying on proper seasonings and distinct skill. Vegetables, meats and seafood are transformed into monumental formations.
Rosevale Kitchen & Cocktail Room
Nikolas Koenig/Rockwell Group
From Italian delight to American fare, Rosevale Kitchen & Cocktail Room (www.rosevalenyc.com) offers an inconspicuous two-storey escape, including a restaurant and bar area, at the Civilian Hotel in the Theater District in Manhattan. The upstairs discreet Broadway Blue Room is a practically a hidden spot to host intimate gatherings surrounded by theatrical memorabilia with Broadway-based pieces, including sketches, costumes and stage props.
Curated by Rachel Hauk and David Rockwell (the prominent American architect and designer), the ambiance offers a scenic journey through numerous Broadway shows including The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Hamilton. For an imaginative occurrence, the cocktails on the menu are inspired by each artefact presented in the room, reviving the Broadway spirit through taste.
The kitchen downstairs offers an extensive menu of culinary options: the lobster roll packed with flavours, the shrimp cocktails with a horseradish sauce, the sautéed branding with potatoes, and salsa verde as well as the endive salad with apples, blue cheese and spicy pecans.
Nikolas Koenig/Rockwell Group
When talking about a theatrical journey away from the city through culinary creativity, Journey (www.journeyexperience.nyc), located in the Flatiron District, as the name suggests, does just that. Journey 360 invites diners to step into epic destinations within a small room where an elegantly decorated vast communal table (accommodating up to 20 people) awaits and a five-course prix fixe menu is ready to be served. The two masterminds who orchestrated such an awe-inspiring concept are Marc Routh, theatrical producer and entrepreneur, and Alex Vanderbilt.
High-end gastronomy merges with theatre, presenting an immersive experience. A hostess, adorned in FashionTech couture, welcomes diners to participate in the trip. With each dish, a new projection emerges on the surrounding white walls. Travel around the world, see the beauty of the earth, dive underwater, hear and see a raging waterfall and feel the heat of a volcano’s spewing lava through floor-to-ceiling and table-top projection. The constantly rotating dishes are just as appealing to look at as they are to eat.
The multi-sensory dinner is a fascinating and intriguing experience thanks to the culinary creativity of Chef Edward Hong, successfully presenting diners American cuisine with a Korean spin. The farm-to-table ingredients and prime quality food are demonstrated with utmost precision and attention. •
Lola Cristall is Paris editor of Lucire.
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