2018/09/07

Four top restaurants in NYC with fusion cuisine

Where to dine as a fine food lover in Midtown

My recent trip to NYC together with my husband brought us not only to the world’s No. 1 chef of 2017, Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park (see my blogpost), but also to other recommended restaurants for lovers of fine food. As chance would have it – or maybe our preference for it –, all of them are
establishments offering fusion cuisine. And all of them are located in Midtown, that means in the area between 34thStreet and 59thStreet. This is due to the fact that we also stayed at a hotel here. More to this subject you will find in my next blogpost. In case you should be interested in excellent restaurants south of Midtown, have a look at this blogpost. All the restaurants mentioned here are still hip places. We even revisited one of them, Restaurant Musket Room in Soho, and we liked what we got once again!
But now to the fusion restaurants we went to in Midtown.

1. Empellon: Mexican, mid-range, casual

This hip bi-level restaurant with its lively atmosphere
is not Alex Stupak’s first restaurant under the name of Empellon. According to the New York Times his “earlier Empellons weren’t necessarily meant for anybody”, but this one is more a crowd-pleaser. The chef is still a “technical wizard” (New York Times) – he used to work as pastry chef at the renowned WD-50 (molecular gastronomy, where we had dined too – his creations are more harmonious now. On offer here are inventive tacos but also pasta, meat and fish dishes, all Mexican-inspired but by no means typical Mexican food.

We went for the Restaurant Week Menu for 42 $ where you can choose an individual starter, a taco dish (two pieces per person) and an individual dessert. To start the meal, we ordered guacamole with seven salsas
for the two of us to accompany the fantastic Margaritas, a great choice! An excellent starter was the sticky rice tamal with red Chile duck.
As to mains, we found the tacos with falavel accompanied by red and white sauce excellent.

When it came to desserts, my husband and I opted both for pineapple with piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar), pee pollen and chamomile ice cream.
What a treat! You could clearly notice that the chef is a virtuoso in this field ... 

Not only the ambiance and the food were convincing, also the service was up to level, relaxed and cool yet friendly and informative. I look forward to the further development of Empellon, maybe also towards a new fine dining place as the chef has it in mind!

2. Atoboy: Korean, mid-range, casual

While Junghyun Park oversees the kitchen here, his wife Ellia does the same for the dining room. We had dined on a previous occasion at Restaurant Jungsik, a two Michelin starred Korean restaurant, where the chef used to be responsible for the kitchen and were thrilled with the offered (although we found it a bit too expensive at the time, being one Michelin starred). Anyway, here at Atoboy you do certainly not overpay for what you get! Food is inventive, Korean-inspired and family-style.

The concept here is simple but totally fits, you order three small plates (42 $ per person) from a dinner menu with 15 options form which the majority are more like starters and the minority clearly mains. These are put in the middle of the table to share together with an individual bowl of rice. All the dishes we had were equally terrific, I cannot determine favorites. Here are three of the sampled ones, lotus root
– dubu (tofu), seaweed, chili oil –, octopus
– yellow peach, mojo verde (green sauce), fermented dubu – and pork jowl
– barley (cereal grain), ssamjang (spicy dipping sauce), cipollini onion.

Also the desserts are totally worth a sin, here the ginger panna cotta
– grapefruit, ginger crumble.

The interior is kept understated with parts of the plastering kept rough, simple tables and chairs as well as cutlery and napkins in a box to help yourself from it.
Service is kind, attentive and makes thoughtful suggestions what to order.

Bottom line, if you are in for excellent Korean-inspired food, reasonably priced, in a fun place, then you must go to Atoboy, a feast is guaranteed here! By the way, the couple just opened a fine dining establishment, Atomix, which almost certainly will be a success given the past experience made with the chef!

3. Nerai: Greek, mid-range to expensive, fine dining

This is not your usual taverna offering simple Greek food but an elegant restaurant featuring sophisticated Greek cuisine with a contemporary twist in a hospitable ambiance.
It is not a newly opened place as the two before mentioned restaurants, but has helped to enhance the local fine dining scene as to high-end Greek establishments for five years now.

Chef here is Israeli-born Moshe Grundman who boasts an exciting Greek fusion food, think of Haloumi Me Sika,
grilled haloumi cheese with fresh figs over shaved fennel salad with toasted hazelnuts and balsamic glaze or Astakomakaronada,
poached Maine lobster with squid ink linguine in Metaxa (spirit) bisque. Whereas many dishes that are served here sound unfamiliar, you might have heard of moussaka. However, a new take on it is available here, Papia Moussaka,
crescent duck moussaka with pan seared crescent duck breast over beluga lentils and chanterelles fig jus. And leave place for desserts, they are delectable just as the other dishes, for example Saragli,
hand-rolled baklava, tahini parfait, sesame brittle and pistachio gelato.

In terms of pricing, you get here sound value for money. There is a prix fixe offer at 79 $ where you can choose four courses from a menu including starters, pasta, mains and dessert.

4. Indian Accent: Indian, expensive, casual fine dining

This modern Indian restaurant was not new to us as we already had dined at chef Manish Mehrotra original restaurant in Delhi/India (see my blogpost). This establishment is not only considered as India’s best restaurant, but even listed No. 90 in the World’s Best Restaurants.

We had high hopes as to the New York City branch, opened in 2016 – there is another in London –, as we had immensely enjoyed our diner in India in this spring. And we were not disappointed although the menu was quite different from the one in India: less choice, fewer vegetarian dishes and a more Americanized style. That said, I can vividly imagine that is no easy thing to transplant an approach that worked well in New Delhi to New York City.

My husband and I went for the four courses costing 90 $ and found it reasonable value for money. Grilled summer corn, chutney butter, corn kebab
was an inventive and delicious starter at the same time. A real treat was the middle course, sweet pickle ribs, sundried mango, onion seeds.
The ribs were tenderly melting in the mouth, seasoned with a sublime tart mango sauce! Another highlight was the main, chicken malai tikka, green chili cream, sugar snap peas, summer truffle,
which was a complex taste experience. And the chef did not disappoint in the department of desserts either. Doda barfi treacle tart, vanilla bean ice cream
was heavenly! The fudge-like sweet made with milk, sugar and nuts was crumbly and not smooth as other barfis I have tasted so far.

We really liked our dinner experience at this restaurant with its own rendition of Indian food. Just as in New Delhi, the place does not feature many Indian elements but is of a contemporary appearance boasting bare wooden tables and a sleek bar.
Servers are accommodating, personal and keen on explaining the dishes. I look forward to getting to know also the London branch of Indian Accent on my next visit to the UK!

Apropos UK, although giving account of my two favorite New York City hotels in my next blogpost, there is a reference to this country too. Fact is that both places I will go into are part of an English hotel group, and even has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise four times, most recently in 2018 for its achievements in International Trade. Curious? Come back later ... 
Date of visit: August 2018

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