We spent the first eight months of our travels in Asia and Europe eating out every single day, but when we were settling into our flat in Northampton, MA in the beginning of November, we were looking forward to a period of home-cooked meals. It wasn’t because we were fed-up with eating out, but because we wanted to enjoy a more homely and quiet lifestyle for a while, predisposed by the cosiness of the season and the laid-back surroundings of the town we had taken refuge in.
And yet six weeks after that we were planning our trip to New York City, and we couldn’t wait to explore the city’s unrivalled food scene. Here are some of the best places we tried:
We stumbled upon the awesome Raclette NYC by sheer luck, as upon our arrival in East Village we found a parking spot right outside of it. Later, we discovered the hard way, via a $115 parking fine, that what we’d thought was a parking spot was actually not-supposed-to-be-occupied space in front of a fire hydrant. But, Raclette NYC was seriously mind-blowing and almost worth the fine! The place specialises in raclettes, croques and tartines, which it serves in a typical hip and trendy East Village ambience. We had the Savoyarde raclette, which was dramatically scraped onto a bed of baby boiled potatoes from a giant, melted wheel of cheese, as well as the Lolotte croque (jambon de Paris, gruyere, and dijon mustard). It was a great experience and we couldn’t have thought of a better culinary start to our trip in NYC.
Address: 511 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009 | www.raclette.nyc
Tacombi was my first experience of Mexican food in the USA and it was very different from Mexican restaurants in Europe and Asia. In all the positive ways! We run into it when we were roaming along Bleecker Street in search of an inexpensive and quick lunch joint, and this Mexican street food joint was just that, but also so much more! The fajitas were amazing – succulent, crispy and spicy – and we loved the ambience with its colourful tiles, white-washed brick walls, fruit bowls and industrial feel.
Address: 255 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014 | www.tacombi.com
Our first experience with Somtum Der was in Bangkok. We were looking for an authentic northern Isan restaurant and Somtum Der came highly recommended. And then six months later, the name came up again when we were leafing through reviews of New York’s best Thai restaurants. The New York branch, which is situated in the midst of the trendy East Village, radiates a feeling of nature with abundant wood furnishings, earth colours and subtle lighting. Somtum (papaya salad) is one of my most favourite dishes ever, but I find Somtum Der’s version of it a little too fishy for my taste. The charcoal grilled meats were cooked to perfection, though.
Address: 85 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 | www.somtumdernewyork.com
Diner in Brooklyn
Located in a 1920s dining car, the Brooklyn Diner has long been considered one of the creators of Brooklyn’s culinary scene. The setting was in keeping with its location – small-tiled floors, rough-around-the-edges furnishings, dim lights and rusty doors. The small menu changes daily and is presented by the waiters, who would handwrite it on the paper cloth of your table – a tad pretentious for our taste, but something you probably expect in the hipster capital of the world. We opted for the burgers – and we loved them!
Address: 85 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11249 | www.dinernyc.com
Georgian food is one of our favourite, and visiting Oda House was high up on the list of culinary adventures we wanted to undertake in New York. When a successful plastic surgeon becomes a cook, it is almost guaranteed that the result will be outstanding, with all the attention to detail, dedication and passion required for both jobs. And this is exactly the story of Georgian-born cook Maia Acquaviva and her East Village gem! We had reserved a table for a busy Saturday night, and were warmly welcomed by the staff into the cosy ambience of the restaurant characterised by exposed brick walls and an understated elegance. The khachapuri adjaruli, a homemade imeruli and sulguni baked cheese bread, served with a poached organic egg on top, was heavenly! We also loved the beef and pork khinkali, juicy hand-rolled dumplings filled with meat seasoned with herbs and spices.
Address: 76 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009 | www.odahouse.com