Latest on where to eat in New York City: Korean, southern Indian, Japanese and more

korean tapas

Steak tartare with quail yolk, toasted pine nuts, asian pear at Danji

I have just returned from a fantastic two-week holiday in New York City where I indulged in my favorite ethnic food (Japanese, Korean, southern Indian, Italian, Vietnamese). Here’s where I ate:

(1) Sakagura: Japanese sake bar (over 100 types of sake) and restaurant that serves small plates of very creative combinations of raw fish, tofu, vegetables, roe and other ingredients. It is in the basement of an office building. There is no sign on the street. When you descend into the basement, you enter into a world that looks like Tokyo. Reservations are absolutely necessary, but if you must go without reservations, go late in the evening around 10:00 pm. It is open till the wee hours of the morning.

211 East 43rd Street (Basement Level)
New York, NY 10017
+1 212 953 7253

(2) Saravana Bhavan: southern Indian restaurant with affiliates all over the world including Singapore, Paris and Sunnyvale (California); known for its dosas and thalis, it is a favorite among Indian families who patiently waited outside for more than half an hour on weekends. You must order the South Indian thali. This is nothing like the food most people think of as “Indian food”.

Saravana Bhavan
81 Lexington Ave
(between 26th St & 27th St)
New York, NY 10016

(3) Danji: tiny 36-seat restaurant which calls itself a “Korean tapas joint” whose chef “fuses French techniques with Korean cuisine”. They serve dishes like poached sablefish with spicy daikon; braised pork, scallion, dehydrated daikon kimchi cabbage wrap; spicy yellowtail sashimi; kimchi bacon chorizo ‘paella’. They take reservations only for groups of 6 or more. Otherwise, you have to wait (long) but it you arrive very early or very late, you can find a table. Oh and they got a Michelin star a few weeks ago.

346 W 52 st
New York, NY 10019
+1 212 586 2880

(4) Nha Trang: inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant (dishes for $6) very close to NYC courts and city hall. Delicious cheap pho and other Vietnamese dishes.

Nha Trang
87 Baxter St, New York 10013
(Btwn Bayard & Walker St)

(5) Frankie’s: tiny restaurant in Lower East Side that serves amazing Italian food, mostly small plates meant to be shared with your dining companions. The all-Italian wine list is excellent and offers wines that are good and reasonably priced. My favorites are: Sicilian White Anchovy on crostini, Cremini Mushroom & Truffle Oil on crostini, house-made pappardelle with lamb ragu and tarragon, farro with parmigiana. Make sure you get for dessert the plums stewed in wine and served with mascarpone. They don’t take reservations and it is a small place so go late or early. I’ve been to Frankie’s on previous trips to New York and they have not changed. Just as good as before.

Frankie’s 17
17 Clinton St
New York, NY 10002
+1 212 253 2303

(6) Gari: one of the best places in New York City for sushi. If you feel like splurging, get the omakase, which means let the chef choose. Reservations required.

370 Columbus Ave., New York, NY 10024
nr. 77th St.
+1 212 362 4816

(7) Gazala’s Place: Israeli Druze cuisine  on the upper West Side on Columbus Street in front of the Museum of Natural History. Get the mezze plate to sample as many Israeli dishes. I love the babaganoush and tabouleh, but the kebabs are also excellent. This is my second time at Gazala’s. I went a few months ago and the quality has remained as excellent as before.

380 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10024-5104
+1 212 873 8880

(8) Piccola Cucina: down to earth Sardinian food served in this tiny gem of a restaurant on Prince Street in Soho. Go for lunch to take advantage of their special prices: $10 for any main course or appetizer. My favorite is the pasta with sardines. I advise getting a starter and main course because the food is just so good. I ate at Piccola Cucina months ago and it’s still as good as it was. Best to reserve for lunch or dinner.

Piccola Cucina
184 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012
+1 212 625 3200

(9) Boulud Sud: On this trip, I ate at one of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants, the recently opened Boulud Sud, which features Mediterranean food. The restaurant is beautifully decorated with lots of light streaming through tall floor-to-ceiling windows, very comfortable chairs and tables that are not too close to one another. If you are going to a concert in Lincoln Center or simply find yourself in the area, make sure you check out Boulud Sud. Reservations recommended.

Boulud Sud
20 West 64th Street (between Broadway and Central Park West)
New York, NY 10023
+1 212 595 1313

(10) Hangawi: I’m not vegetarian but I love vegetable dishes that are piquant and flavourful. That is why I love Saravana Bhavan, the south Indian restaurant listed above, and I always return to Hangawi, an atmospheric Korean vegetarian restaurant in New York City’s Koreantown. When you enter the restaurant, you take off your shoes, then you sit at a sunken table with your friends. You don’t sit cross-legged, which would be uncomfortable for most Westerners. They have a $45 prix fixe tasting menu, as well as a gluten-free menu. Reservations are necessary.

12 E. 32nd Street (between 5th and Madison Avenues)
New York, New York 10016
+1 212 213 0077

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About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.