Top Ten Summer Eats

By Kiat-Sing Teo

Asian Fusion Magazine rounds up ten of our some favorite restaurants so that your summer will be sizzling with Asian food galore. Whether you are looking for a tasting menu, a sophisticated luncheon with a business associate, a romantic date or some family friendly dining with the little ones, we’ve got it all covered.

Top Choice:


Kelley and Ping

127 Greene Street, Soho, NY 10012

For nearly two decades, Kelley and Ping has sat quiet and unaffected in the upscale shopping paradise of SOHO, with Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and other designers for neighbors. In summer, when it’s hot and humid, the eager shopper who stops at this old-fashioned teashop for a bite is cooled by an almost authentic tropical breeze generated from electric ceiling fans and transported back to circa 1970’s Southeast Asia. Unfinished dark wood cabinets line the walls with limited Asian groceries on display and for sale. The experience is completed with an Asian dish from a regularly updated menu featuring favorites such as Thai Satay and Vietnamese pork chop. Or, the adventurous can always count on something that will intrigue the taste buds. This season’s special is the Soondubu, a spicy Korean tofu stew with seafood.

Having traveled extensively to Asia, owner Kelley declares his passion for food, “I would eat anything”, but he handpicks only the choicest delicacies for the restaurant. With two young boys of his own, it’s no wonder that kids enjoy a free meal from the children’s menu between 5:30pm to 7:00pm on Saturdays, while entertained by Asian themed coloring and activity sheets provided by the restaurant.

Check out the pastry section if you are looking for a sweet treat; we recommend you wash it down with a house infused iced tea. Come evening, the atmosphere relaxes easily into a chic parlor, the perfect place to lounge with a complete drinks menu that includes premium sakes and specialty drinks such as a Cucumber Wasabi Sojutini.


Bak Korean Anju & Craft Beer

11 E 13th Street New York, NY 10003

For the young and fun, Bak Korean Anju & Craft Beer is a must-try. Besides more than 120 varieties of craft beer from biere de garde and cream ale to golden lagers and pilsner, paired with anju (Korean finger-foods tapas-style) or consumed with entrées to be garnished with conversations among friends, the restaurant/ bar’s other attraction is a 10 by 18 feet screen constantly on the sports channel or playing movies. A good blend of sophistication and affordability, Bak puts a modern twist on traditional Korean anjus, so expect pleasant little surprises. Try the Teok Kochi (pan fried rice cake, glazed with sweet chili sauce) and Jeon (kimchi pancake) with a Six Point Bengali Tiger (an intense pale ale spiced with floral notes), or a Fruili Strawberry Beer for those newly initiated into the beer culture.

Chalk drawn Korean caricatures on tall walls guard the spacious dining area, and random spotlights shine from high ceilings. Friendly, discreet waiters add light-heartedness to the chic and casual atmosphere. The ideal spot for a private party conservative enough for the bosses, but dimly lit enough for anything to happen. As evening approaches, groove to “fun music” personally selected by proprietor Jay Bak. Or, if you are feeling up to it after a soccer game on the big screen, there’s also Karaoke Cave in the basement, where you can sing your heart out for only $1 a song.


The Good Fork restaurant and bar

391 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231

Lured by the delicious scent of fusion foods, Asian Fusion happily confirms rumors that The Good Fork’s Fish Taco (marinated Florida grouper, achiote pasilla marinade, avocado tomatillo and kimchee salsa), Berkshire Pork Ribs Vietnamese Style (cornbread with Chinese sausage, pickled summer vegetable slaw and apricot glaze) and the all-time popular Steak and Eggs Korean Style (grilled skirt steak, kimchee rice, fried Sullivan Farm eggs) are out of this world, or rather, definitely out of Manhattan, at least. The Good Fork is a hidden gem that Brooklynites want to keep from the city dweller. We thwart this plan now, of course. A little out of the way, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, but nevertheless worth a visit, especially if you need an excuse to get the city out of your hair for an evening, or keep clear from the paparazzi.


Spice Market

403 W 13th St New York, NY 10014

Priced at only $48, Spice Market is probably one of the most value-for-money tasting menus in the market, featuring Spiced Chicken Samosa with Cilantro Yogurt, Cod with Malaysian Chili Sauce and Thai Basil, Ginger Fried Rice, Ovaltine Kulfi, Caramelized Banana and

Spiced Milk Chocolate Sauce among a long list of mouth watering and ingenious dishes. The lunch special Crispy Pork Belly Sandwich is tasty, and the Lunch Prix Fixe (3 courses) is only $24. The brainchild of internationally celebrated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Spice Market combines flavorful Asian street food with an unusually exotic interior. A good place to entertain visiting family or for an urban sophisticate’s midweek perk-me-up.


Geisha

33 E 61st St New York, NY 10065

A quaint space decorated to reflect the delicate sensuality suggested by its name, Geisha is conveniently located on the Upper East Side. While the restaurant boasts a menu created by executive chef Michael Vernon in collaboration with four-star chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, signature dishes such as Geisha Chirashi  (chef’s mix of sashimi over seasoned rice) and Soy Braised Beef Short Ribs, the innovative dessert menu with Teamisu (Green tea and Zen liqueur infused lady’s fingers served with layers of mascarpone cheese) and list of rare teas and dessert wines are excellent conversation starters and ice-breakers, or a sweet way to seal any deal. Especially for a business crowd looking to soften a serious meeting with an underlying tone of fun, the atmosphere of Geisha is definitely a pull factor.


Pukk

71 1st Ave New York, NY 10003

Vegans, vegetarians and the health-conscious haunt Pukk for its Thai vegetarian cuisine served while you sit on almost transparent chairs or at low-key, tiled furniture that seem to grow out of its barely decorated walls. There’s a strangely innocent air that can be described as youthful and ‘cool’. Nevertheless, its minimalist decoration also elevates the experience of a meatless meal into one that is mystical and somehow detoxifying, whether real or imaginary. Nondescript and almost easily missed if you are not looking hard enough, Pukk is confident of the lure in its menu. Begin with appetizers such as the Pumpkin Egg Roll – which comes with two dipping sauces, Tofu Parcel or the house special Pukk Samosa. The purist would do well to stick with delights such as Thai Suki (glass noodles, Chinese cabbage, boy choy, spinach with spicy garlic sauce) or Seven Grain Fried Rice, while the perennial carnivore would not be disappointed in the change of palate with the Avocado Hot Pot (roasted spice chicken – vegetarian soy meat, young avocado, broccoli, baby carrot, string bean and fresh basil in pineapple red curry) or the Black Bean Ginger Chicken. Reasonably priced, you may want to consider the short but satisfying dessert menu for afterwards.


Momokufu Ko

163 1st Ave New York, NY 10003

Momokufu Ko is a dynamic of tastes powerpacked into a tiny restaurant, with only 12 lucky ones able to sit; who will be honored with the tasting menu –usually 10 courses at dinner and as much as 16 at lunch, all lovingly devised by the chef and his aides who go beyond the mundane frying, boiling, steaming, blanching and/or baking. Ingredients are teased and tormented, seduced and manipulated into submission so that the Momokufu experience transcends words and befuddles descriptions. Food becomes alluring and wicked, passive and obediently gratifying at the same time. Suffice to say that this is not for the faint-hearted or timid, but those brave (and patient, because reservations do not come easy!) enough to venture here will live to remember and crave for more. Two Michelin stars for four years. Reservations necessary, and allergies not recommended.


Ghandi Café

283 Bleecker St, New York NY 10014

The first table, right on the edge of glass folding-doors thrust wide-open in the summer heat, where restaurant meets the street, is the best table at Ghandi Café in the West Village. The prime spot to people watch, over standard but well-prepared Indian fare, in one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Manhattan, while remaining in the comfort of the deep velvetred restaurant spoiled silly by waiters and the maître d, who makes it a point to make you feel at home. In this liminal space, over Malai Kofta (fresh mixed vegetable balls in mild creamy sauce) or Saag Ponir (fried cottage cheese cooked with fresh spinach) with Garlic Naan, watching the eclectic crowd of hipsters and partygoers in the night light, a sense of surreal begins to pervade, and one remembers this area was known as “Little Bohemia” in the early 1900s. We recommend you lose yourself over a glass of cold mango lassi on a lazy Sunday.


Nobu 57

40 W 57th St New York, NY 10019

Nobu 57 lives up to its name as one of 22 restaurants globally owned or co-owned by celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Most well-known for blending traditional Japanese dishes with South American ingredient, such as his signature Yellowtail with Jalapeno and Black Codwith Miso, Matsuhisa is not the only celebrity associated with this midtown restaurant, which is also co-owned by Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro and producer Meir Teper. Upscale and classy, the restaurant attracts connoisseurs and calls out to bold, successful and confident individuals who dare appreciate the finer things in life. Highly recommended dishes include the Toro Tartare with Caviar and King-Crab Tempura.


Tian at the Riverbank

679 Riverside, New York 10031

Tian at the Riverbank by the Riverbank State Park is a piece of heaven in Harlem. Serving a fusion menu of Brazilian-Asian cuisine such as Grilled Lemongrass Marinated Double Cut Pork Chop, Arroz Con Pollo (chicken marinated with mild curry sofrito and served with rice), Duck Ham and Melon Salad and even Asian Guacamole (with an added tinge of ginger), diners at Tian enjoy the exquisite Hudson River view in the backdrop while entertained by various performers throughout the evening. Tian is a wholesome venue for family brunches on weekends. In the evenings, chill to the full bar with its signature cocktails such as a Ginger Mojito and their special creation, Road to Tian.

So we have sussed out ten of the best for you to savor this summer. Bon appétit, and let us know what you think!

Kiat-Sing Teo is a New York based actor/ writer and lover of the arts, film, music and holistic living. Email your comments to kiatsingteo@asianfusion-mag.com

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