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Restaurant Introduction


My mission is to eat at the most authentic ethnic restaurant for every country in NYC

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Restaurant Introduction


My mission is to eat at the most authentic ethnic restaurant for every country in NYC

The countries/restaurants listed below are those that I have reviewed. (Click on name of country to read) This list will grow as I continue my quest to "eat my way around the world" in NYC. ***PLEASE NOTE for country/restaurant #68 and moving forward you must click on my BLOG link. (which is located on bar above) Thank you.

1. Ukraine - Tara Bulbas (Manhattan)

2. Colombia - La Bonia Roja Steak House (Queens)

3. Denmark - The Copenhagen (Manhattan)

4. Sri Lanka - Lakruwana (Staten Island)

5. Nepal - Lali Guras (Queens) 

6. Greece - Bahari (Queens)

7. Somalia - Safari (Manhattan)

8. Bosnia-Herzogovina - Cevabzinica Sarajevo (Queens)

9. Puerto Rico - Casa Adela (Manhattan)

10. Czech Republic - Koliba (Queens)

11. Uzbekistan - Cheburechnaya (Queens)

12. Austria - Cafe Sabarsky (Manhattan)

13. Indonesia - Sky Cafe (Queens)

14. Peru - Urubamba (Queens)

15. China - "Dongbei" cuisine - FU RUN (Queens)

16. France - Chez Napoleon (Manhattan)

17. Afghannistan - Balkh Shish Kabab (Queens)

18. Mexico - La Morada (Bronx)

19. India - "Gujarati regional" - Vatan (Manhattan)

20. Switzerland - Maria's Mont Blanc (Manhattan)

21. Armenia - Almayass (Manhattan)

22. Senegal - Joloff Restaurant (Brooklyn)

23. Korea - Mapo Korean BBQ (Queens)

24. El Salvador - Izalco (Queens)

25. Tibet - Spicy Tibet (Queens)

26. Philippines - Ihawan (Queens)

27. Argentina - El Gauchito (Queens)

28. Bangladesh - HAAT BAZAAR (Queens)

29. Dominican Republic - Malecon (Manhattan)

30. Montenegro - Cankor (Bronx)

31. Yemen - Yemen Cafe (Brooklyn)

32. Malaysia - Palau Pinang (Quuens)

33. Paraguay - I LOVE PARAGUAY (Queens)

34. Cuba - Rincon Criollo (Queens)

35. Norway - Smorgas Chef  (Manhattan)

36. Georgia - Mtskheta Cafe (Brooklyn)

37.Venezuela - Arapas Cafe (Queens) 

38. Israel - Taim (Manhattan)

39. Kosher Delicatessen - Ben's Best (Queens)

40. Macedonia - Balkanika (Manhattan)

41. Pakistan - Kashmir 9 (Manhattan)

42. Bhutan - Ema Datsi (Queens)

43. Haiti - Kombit (Brooklyn)

44. Poland - Karczma (Brooklyn)

45. Myanmar - Cafe Mengala (Manhattan)

46. Uruguay - El Chivito D' Or (Queens)

47. Ghana - Accra (Bronx)

48. Australia - The Thirsty Koala (Queens)

49. Iran - Taste of Persia (Manhattan)

50. Thailand - Ayada (Queens)

51. Brazil - Via Brasil (Manhattan)

52. Moldova - Moldova (Brooklyn)

53. Spain - Cafe Riazor (Manhattan)

54. Cambodia - Angkor Cambodian Bistro (Manhattan)

55. Ecuador - La Puntilla (Queens)

56. Egypt - Tut's Hub Royal Cuisine (Queens)

57. Russia - Russian Samovar (Manhattan)

58. Barbados - Cock's (Brooklyn)

59. Turkey - Taci's Beyti (Brooklyn)

60. Albania - Pravue Cafe & Albanian Grill (Queens)

61. Bolivia - Cumbre-Renacer (Queens)

62. Cyprus - Zenon Taverna (Queens)

 

63. Hungary - Andre's Cafe & Bakery (Manhattan)

64. Chile - San Antonio Bakery (Queens)

65. Germany - Zum Stammtish (Queens)

66. Mongolia - Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (Queens)

67. Italy "southern" - IL Triangolo (Queens)

1. Tara Bulbas (Ukraine)


Taras Bulbas in Soho, with it's colorful, quirky, creative decor, high-spirited wait-staff and authentic savory Ukraine dishes, makes this my favorite Ukrainian restaurant in New York City! 

1. Tara Bulbas (Ukraine)


Taras Bulbas in Soho, with it's colorful, quirky, creative decor, high-spirited wait-staff and authentic savory Ukraine dishes, makes this my favorite Ukrainian restaurant in New York City! 

When I first heard that a Ukrainian restaurant was opening in Soho on West Broadway,I thought what's a restaurant like you doing in a place like this?  Ukrainian restaurants in the past (Odessa, Kiev, the Ukrainian Club) had always clustered together in the East Village. Soho with its chic this and that did not seem like a natural fit . . . But I was wrong, as Taras Bulba delivers fully with authentic food, colorful atmosphere and genuine warmth of service. 

The restaurant which now has been open for three years, takes its name from a short story by Nikolai Gogal, "Taras Bulba," which describes the life of an old Zaporozhian Cossack and his two sons. Bulba though fictionalized, is based on the legend of Cossack captain Sava Chaly.  He is a figure that is romanticized about, and is considered a national hero.

Taras Bulba's interior pulls out all the stops in creating a vivid, high-spirited Ukrainian feeling. The decor is imaginative and detailed; photos of weathered Cossacks, an array of weapons, pitchforks, colorful dresses adorn the walls. A vital Ukrainian pop group song is heard, and Ukraine cartoons play on TV. The wait staff is in native Cossack dress bound about with joy. Kitschy, yes, but it works and is fun!

The restaurant produces sixteen flavored vodkas which can be enjoyed at the restaurant or taken home. This is horseradish vodka served with pickle wrapped in dough.

For cold appetizer try the "Vareneki," (Ukrainian dumplings) You have a selection of either beef filling, or potato and cabbage. I found the dumplings light in texture, not heavy as dumpling at times can be.

I am crazy about the "Potato Drankini" (potato pancakes) for a hot appetizer. Cooked golden brown, slightly crunchy and served with sour cream.

The servers all wear native Ukrainian dress and are delightful. Most seem to be from Ukraine, others from Russia and one from Moldova. They are all so engaging filled with positive energy that the restaurant takes on a feel that you are at a party in Ukraine. You feel their genuine love in serving food and letting you know about their culture.

Probably Ukraine's most famous dish . . . Chicken Kiev. A boneless chicken breast that is pounded and rolled with garlic butter and herbs, then breaded and baked. LOVED IT!

One can not possibly exit Taras Bulba without the hostess giving you one last shot of vodka for the road. A wonderful way to end of festive evening.

Ukrainian Language lesson - "Hello"  (Vitaya) "Thank you" (Diakuju)  "Delicious" (Chudovy)

Interesting fact about Ukraine - With the depth of 345 feet, the Arsenal'na subway station in the city of Kiev is considered the deepest subway station in the world.

Address - 357 West Broadway (212) 510 - 7510

2. La Boina ROJA Steak House (Colombia)


La Bonia Roja Steakhouse in Jackson Heights with its savory rice and beans, calamari in a special hot-sauce, and the grilled Entrada (Skirt Steak) set among a cozy friendly setting, makes this my favorite Colombian restaurant in New York City.

2. La Boina ROJA Steak House (Colombia)


La Bonia Roja Steakhouse in Jackson Heights with its savory rice and beans, calamari in a special hot-sauce, and the grilled Entrada (Skirt Steak) set among a cozy friendly setting, makes this my favorite Colombian restaurant in New York City.

For ethnic dining enthusiasts Jackson Heights Queens is "Nirvana," representing New York's most diverse gastronomic neighborhood. Indian, Bangladeshi, Himalayan, southeast Asian and virtually every country in in South America. Today, I am pleased to take you to my favorite Colombian restaurant, La Bonia Steak House (The Red Beret)  For eighteen years the Salazar family has been serving up mountain-sized portions of delicious Colombian food in a cozy setting.

Fried calamari is a dish that seems to be served everywhere, and it always is pretty good. But, here at La Bonia is is fantastically good. The key is in the spicy red sauce, a taste that like I have never experienced before. As much as I have tried to get the recipe it remains, "a family secret."

My favorite entree is the "Entrada" (Skirt Steak). It is grilled just the way I like with a tad of charcoal burn and juicy. It arrives sizzling in a black skillet and "smoking," which adds to the anticipation of the taste.  I especially like it smothered with the green chimichuri sauce.

Rice and beans, can any dish be more common?  However, at La Bonia, I have NEVER tasted such great tasting beans in my life anywhere! They are amazingly tasteful. 

This dish is my second favorite entree, "Cazuela De Mariscos" Creamy mixed seafood soup.

La Bonia Steak House is cozy place seating about forty. It is a favorite with large Colombian families and is spirited. The walls are adorned with wooden sculptured art of rural Colombia settings. The TV always seems to have soccer (football) on, however, the sound remains down with Latin music playing.

One of the major reasons why this is my favorite Colombian restaurant is because of the fun-loving wait staff. The woman on the left is Paula, she is one of my favorite servers in the city. 

Colombia (Spanish) lesson - "Hello" (Hola)   "Thank you"  (Gracias)  "Delicious" (Delicioso)

Interesting fact about Colombia - Colombia has the biggest salsa festival, biggest theater festival, and the biggest outdoor horse parade in the world.

Address - 8022 37th Avenue  Jackson Heights (Queens)   (718) 424 - 6711

3. The Copenhagen (Denmark)


3. The Copenhagen (Denmark)


The Copenhagen is New York's sole Danish restaurant. It opened nearly four years ago bySonne Yitting, from Denmark who previously was a school teacher at Manhattan's Park Side School. She opened it because she was frustrated not being able to have the food from her home country she missed so much.  The restaurant is located in Tribeca close to the Holland Tunnel.

Whatever your preconceived vision of what you think a Danish restaurant should look like; minimal, clean lined . . . this is indeed reinforced on entering The Copenhagen. Floor to ceiling front windows makes way for an abundance of natural light that spills across the teak wood floor where tables made of pine with slender curved chairs are positioned spaciously. Walls are graced by contemporary Danish art. The lighting fixtures are sleek.

On a first visit I strongly recommend the Smorrbrod (pronounced Smurbird) or as foreigners know it as the "open face sandwich." On this visit I had two sandwiches; the Duck with Spiced Red Cabbage and the Cured Salmon with Herb Ailoli and Scallion. I liked them both, but preferred the Duck.  Both were served on a slice of dark rye bread which is made at the restaurant.  Other sandwiches include; Beef Tartar, Eggs & Fresh Shrimp, and Pork Liver Pate.  The plate that the sandwiches are served on is made of granite, and like everything else in The Copenhagen it is imported from Denmark.

The Copenhagen has an easy relaxed vibe which oozes with mellow. Billie Holiday's unmistakable voice coos, the cool jazz of Jerry Mulligan, little candles flicker. The service is friendly but low key.

The Copenhagen serves eight home made Aquavits, the liquor which the country is most well known for producing. The selection is a s follows: Fennel, Dill, Elderberry, Pear Vanilla, Sea Buckhorn, Beet, Licorice, and the "Copenhagen House" which is the most popular.

ADDED VALUE!  Here is a picture of my friend Steen Petersen who is a native of Copenhagen.  I met him five years ago when I was traveling in Laos. He is visiting NYC.

Interesting Fact about Denmark . . . The Danish monarchy is the oldest continuing monarchy in the world, and has existed over 1,000 years.

Language greetings:  "Hello" (hej) "Thank you" (tak)  "Delicous" (lifig)

4. Lakruwana (Sri Lanka)


Lakruwana is clearly the best Sri Lankan restaurant in New York City. The food is authentic and delicious, and the decor of the restaurant is creative and beautiful.

4. Lakruwana (Sri Lanka)


Lakruwana is clearly the best Sri Lankan restaurant in New York City. The food is authentic and delicious, and the decor of the restaurant is creative and beautiful.

New York has it's share of rich ethnic neighborhoods; be it "Little Italy," "Little Korea," or "Little Odessa." But, did your realize that there is a "Little Sri Lanka" which is located on Staten Island, not far from the Staten Island Ferry? (approximately 5,000 in population.)  Most arriving in the early 1980's with the the breakout of the Civil War, which went on for nearly twenty-five years.There are five Sri Lankan restaurants on the island, but Lakruwana which opened five years ago is clearly the best - in it's fantastic Sri Lankan food, and amazing decor of the restaurant. 

The outside of of Lakruwana does not look like much.  However . . . open the door and you are transported to a world of calm and beauty.  The restaurant takes on a feeling of part Buddhist shrine, part Sri Lankan museum.  Stone walls, several statues of Lord Buddha, colorful masks, spears, roped back chairs.  Even the menu is a two foot wood carved piece of art. Everything in the restaurant, all the artistic ornate objects were transported from Sri Lanka.

The restaurant is named after this man, Lakruwana, and his story is fascinating.  Arriving in 1983 on the break of the Civil War he worked in a video store for several years, and then met his wife Jantha who was a chef at her father's restaurant in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.  They opened a place in Manhattan (44th and 9th) for ten years, however a fire destroyed it, they regrouped and then opened in the current Staten Island setting. Jantha is the head chef at Lakruwana.

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Lakruwana has a Brunch Buffet on the Saturday and Sunday, but I encourage you NOT to partake as the two most traditional and famous dishes are not on the Brunch menu.  (Hoppers and Lamprais) This is a photo of Hoppers, they are prepared from rice and flour and take on the texture of a crepe and shaped like a half bowl. Your order comes with four Hoppers, one which always contains a fried egg, and you have a choice of the following spicy curries; goat, mutton, chicken, beef, or prawn which you put inside the Hopper. (You got all that?) This is a food item that can be crazy crazy spicy hot if you ask for it. While I traveled Sri Lanka the heat was so searing that they serve shredded coconut "to cool it down.”

This is the other dish you MUST have, Lamprais. Sri Lanka is a country created out of many diverse ethnic groups and foreign exploration, and because of this there is influence from other nationalities on their cuisine. One prime example is Lamprais which has strong Dutch influences. Here you see it resting calmly wrapped up in a banana leaf. It actually looks quite lovely. But, then you slowly open it . . . 

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Ah, when opening the leaf you are hit with the overwhelming fragrant aroma of all the flavors infused.  The banana leaf contains: basmati rice, eggplant curry, seeni sandal, sambol, fish cutlet, cashew curry, banana curry, blachan spicy shrimp paste, and your choice of either chicken, mutton, beef, or fish. I had the mutton. And on top, a hard boiled egg. The dish is so flavorful and such a different taste, totally unique to itself. This is one of my favorite food items in NYC, and if you dine here please make sure someone at your table has Lamprais.

Make sure you look on the side of the restaurant to see this colorful Sri Lankan mural. I did not see it when initially entered. The restaurant is not as difficult to get to as you may think.  When you exit the Staten Island Ferry, the bus either # 51 or # 76 are waiting outside and takes ten minutes. If you take a cab it is about a seven minute ride.  Lakruwana is clearly a "destination" restaurant, but one certainly worthy of a gastronomic pilgrimage!

Interesting Sri Lanka fact -  Sri Lanka is the largest exporter of tea in the world.

Speaking Sinhala - "Hello" (ayubovan)  "Thank you" (sthuthiyi)  "Delicious" (rasavata)

Address - 668 Bay Street Staten Island(347) 857 - 6619

5. Lali Guras (Nepal)


Terrific Thali platter and momos in this very authentic Nepalese restaurant in Jackson Heights. This is my favorite Nepalese restaurant in New York City.

5. Lali Guras (Nepal)


Terrific Thali platter and momos in this very authentic Nepalese restaurant in Jackson Heights. This is my favorite Nepalese restaurant in New York City.

The seven year old Lali Guras is located in Jackson Heights, Queens which is fast becoming the epicenter for the recent immigration of people from the Himalayan region. (Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan.) The restaurant is named after the country's beautiful national flower (Lali Guras) which grows all over the hillsides and valleys of Nepal.  The Nepalese are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the city with an estimated population of 35,000, the high majority in Queens; especially Jackson Heights and Sunnyside. Lali Guras is a restaurant that is beloved by the local Nepali.  

The restaurant is small, with just eight tables (seating two each) which always seem to be pushed together to form two long communal tables seating about twenty people.  The place is always packed. But packed in a good way, in that it is such a natural place to get significant contact with the local Nepali people and learn more about their culture. It is a place where the Nepali linger, eating slowly, sipping tea, flipping though one of the two locally published Nepali newspapers, catching up on news from home. I find that the people, though shy at first, once you begin to talk they are quite demonstrative and pleased to talk about their country on a wide range of topics.

The "momo" . . . this little dumpling ubiquitous to the Himalayan region is very tasty. Lali Guras offers four selections; beef, pork, chicken, or vegetable. They are served eight on a plate with two optional sauces, either hot or hotter.

"Thali" is the national dish of Nepal.  If your stomach has room for only one entree I recommend the Thali as the "must have" entree. If you are not familiar with Thali (south India has their similar version also) you are in for a treat.  First, the visual alone, is colorful as the meal is served on a large silver circular platter with seven varying food items.  The Thali can be vegetarian, but I prefer the non-vegetarian chicken Thali which contains: rice, daal, saag, chanti and vegetables. 

Anu, a native of Nepal, she is the lone server and goes from table to table carefully checking out each person's Thali platter and refilling if you need more of anything. This is at no extra cost. You feel very "loved and comforted" at Lali Guras.  

Kamula (on the left) is the head chef, her husband is named Gopal. They are the owners of Lali Guras. They immigrated to the US fifteen years ago.

Lali Guras is the place to find out about the latest Nepali film "Blockbuster."

Interesting fact - The flag of Nepal is the only national flag in the world that is not quadrilateral in shape.

Nepali language - "Hello" (Namaskara)  "Thank you" (dyanybhad)  "Delicious" (mitho)

Address - Lali Guras - 37-76th Street. (718) 424 - 0617

6. Bahari (Greece)


The combination of the quality of the food, lamb chops, grilled fish, and the service makes this my favorite Greek restaurant in New York City. A terrific ethnic restaurant.

6. Bahari (Greece)


The combination of the quality of the food, lamb chops, grilled fish, and the service makes this my favorite Greek restaurant in New York City. A terrific ethnic restaurant.

I want to take a moment to say that there are a couple of Greek restaurants that I do like in Manhattan, such as Milos Estiaorio.  However, to me Greek is better in the atmosphere of a Greek Astoria (Queens) taverna. And yes, the grilled fish at Taverna Kyclades on Ditmars is absolutely the best. However, for "having it all," meaning the Greek restaurant that can excel at both grilled meats and fish, and having the right atmosphere (surrounded by mostly fun-loving Greeks) I look to Bahari on Broadway in Astoria.  The restaurant formerly known as Stamatis changed its name a couple years ago, and Bahari has been going great guns ever since. Overseeing the restaurant is the charismatic Anna a native of Athens and instills the Greek hospitality of "filoxenia" . . . a love for strangers.

The atmosphere of Bahari is high-spirited, heavily Greek with a wide range of ages out enjoying. Anna and her staff are masters at mingling with the diners to make sure everyone is enjoying to the very maximum possible.  There are two large rooms, I strongly prefer the elevated room which is not quite as crowded and more intimate, especially the table in the back right corner. (Will show photo later)

Greek Salads are a dime a dozen.  But this is the best in the city!

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"Kyra Piklia" five traditional Greek spreads: Taramosalata, Tzatziki,Skorddalia, Nelintzanosalata, Tyrukafteri - spread on warm pita is a classic way to start a Greek dinner.

Saganaki! Take a big wedge of Kefaloraviera cheese and fry it. I know this is about as far as you can get from "health food." But I don't care . . . I love this appetizer! 

Grilled squid, slightly charred plied with lemon, is classic Greek.

My favorite entree dish at Bahari is grilled lamb chops. So tender with slight chard taste, perfection.

Bronzini (Mediterranean Sea Bass)  A very large piece of terrific tasting fish, succulent and charcoal grilled.

My favorite table at the restaurant - located in the back elevated room, the table in the back right corner.

Interesting fact - No one in Greece can not vote. Voting is required by every citizen 18 years or older.

Greek language - "Hello" (YA soo)  "Thank you" (Efxaristo)  "Delicious"  (Efgefstos)

Address - 3114 Broadway in Astoria (Queens)  (718) 204 - 8968

7. Safari (Somalia)


The only Somalian restaurant in the city. A colorful ethnic restaurant in New York which serves delicious food, with warm service.

7. Safari (Somalia)


The only Somalian restaurant in the city. A colorful ethnic restaurant in New York which serves delicious food, with warm service.

Located on West 116th Street in an area so well know for immigrants from West Africa it is nicknamed" Le Petit Senegal," Safari New York's only Somali restaurant stands out. And though only opened since May Safari has clearly won the hearts of local West Africans, and many others for its unique flavorful food and colorful service, and cool fun vibe.

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Though Ethiopia and and Somalia are neighbors their cuisines are very different. (I bring this up as many New Yorker's have tried Ethiopian cuisine) The front dish on the photo is Kismaayo Chicken Suqqar (a hearty flavorful chicken stew) a traditional dish from the southern part of Somalia. To the left is Sbaayad (chapati) and in the back is a plate of Roasted Goat. Please note that there are a couple of "pasta dishes" as well, this influenced from Somalia's nearly fifty years under Italian occupation.

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One of the main reasons that I am enchanted by Safari is because of the owner and her staff. They are not just warm and accommodating, but FUN! During my lunch the beat of Zulfa Somali music filled the small space vibrantly, and the staff broke into dancing displaying "special Somali steps" for myself and others dining. Questions were asked about the music scene in the country, various artists, etc. Very cool. The owner is Maymuuna Birjeep who goes by the name "Mona" (pictured left)  She was born in the southern Somalia, but grew up in Sweden.  She worked in the financial industry in the city for thirteen years before opening Safari seven months ago. Standing to next to her is her cousin Jamal Hashi who is the chef of Safari. He previously owned two restaurants in Minneapolis.

Next to him is another "Mona," she is the main server.  Minneapolis by the way has the highest number of Somali immigrants of any city in the US as many immigrated in the mid 1990's escaping the Somali Civil War.

The Roasted Goat.  Roasted for a full six hour. Note the little dish on the plate, this contains "bisbaas" sauce and it is served virtually with every main dish. The sauce has a searing hot flavor and is always accompanied by a small banana to "cool the heat" down. I loved the sauce as it was and decided to take the banana with me for later. The goat was pretty tender and tasted good, however,as with all goat dishes there are a lot of bones to work about.

Apologize that this photo slightly out of focus. This wall inside Safari is fascinating, as it displays the thirty-six letters that make up the original Osmanya Somali alphabet. 

There is the banana, to "cool down the heat" from bisbaas sauce. 

Somalia interesting fact - British Somaliland gained independence from Britain on June 26, 1960 - and Italian Somaliland gained independence a few day later from Italy on July 1, 1960.

Somali language - "Hello" (Assaalum Alaykum)  "Thank you" (Mahadsanid)  "Delicious" (Dhadhanah)

Address - 219 West 116th(646) 964 - 4250

8. Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina)


The delicious grilled Cevapi, at this small Astoria ethnic restaurant makes this my favorite Bosnian restaurant in New York.

8. Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegovina)


The delicious grilled Cevapi, at this small Astoria ethnic restaurant makes this my favorite Bosnian restaurant in New York.

Located in Astoria, Cevabdzinica Sarajevo owned and operated for fifteen years by Ifeta and Ismet Huskovic, serves up NYC's best tasting cevapi. The couple native of Sarajevo, where in their mid-twenties ran a successful cevapi restaurant. Then in 1992 the Bosnian War broke out and life was was turned up-side-down. Their story is moving and inspirational as they were "separated" for over a year (she fleeing with two young children to upstate New York he remaining in Bosnia) before they were reunited.

This is cevapi, pronounced "che-va-pi,"it is made of grilled minced meat,it is three inches long resembling a muscular breakfast sausage. Yes,it is small, but itis busting with flavor and has a distinct taste all its own. When plied with ajvar, (the sweet roasted pepper) and sliced onion, the taste of cevapi is crazy good, findingit almost addictive. During my travels in the Balkans two years ago; Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, the air was always filled with the grilling of cevapi. I could not stop eating them.  However, true cevapi aficionados agree that the cevapi in Bosnia, and specifically the capital city Sarajevo are the most renowned.   

Ifeta Huskovic, a highly engaging woman shared with me the origin of the restaurant's name and it's translation. "Cevabdzinica," from the word "cevabdzija," which is a person who prepares the cevapi from scratch, using a secret recipe that is inherited from family members. I could sense a selling of pride as Ifeta spoke that Ismet, her husband each day mad the cevapi down below in the basement.

Cevabdzinica Sarajevo is small seating perhaps twenty-five, but it is colorful and captures the national pride of Bosnia. The walls are adorned with the blue and yellow national flag, and photos of FK Sarajevo football players. The television is always turned on to a favorite Bosnian station, Balkan music plays. The atmosphere is lively and upbeat.

What I especially found heart-warming about Cevabdzinica Sarajevo was the positive interaction of the people from various Balkan countries. (Their history is a stormy one) Serbian, Croatians, Albanian, Macedonian, Bosnians coming together at the restaurant to enjoy cevapi, soccer and good cheer.

Bosnia-Herzegovina interesting fact - The country consumes the ninth most coffee of any country in the world. This is quite amazing considering how small the country is.

Bosnian language - "Hello" (do-bra-den)  "Thank you" (Hvala)  "Delicious" - (U-kos-no)

Address - 37-18 34th Avenue   Astoria (Queens)  (718) 752 - 9528

9. Casa Adela (Puerto Rico)


The roasted chicken is the best of any restaurant in New York. This little Puerto Rican restaurant run by the high-spirited Adela for 40 years makes this one of my favorite ethnic restaurants in New York.

9. Casa Adela (Puerto Rico)


The roasted chicken is the best of any restaurant in New York. This little Puerto Rican restaurant run by the high-spirited Adela for 40 years makes this one of my favorite ethnic restaurants in New York.

Since 1976, Casa Adela located on Avenue C off 5th Street has been serving up mouth-watering Puerto Rican cuisine, looked over with loving care by the vital Adela Ferguson. 

Casa Adela has the classic Puerto Rican dishes; such as Monfongo (mashed plantains with garlic port crakling), Bacalaoa a L Vizcaina (codfish with tomato sauce, onions and potatoes), and Pernil Asado (roast pork) . . . But it is the chicken with rice and black beans which Casa Adela has earned it's deserved storied reputation. 

"Yes Mr. DeMille, I am ready for my close-up." There it is the infamous Adela's chicken. When it comes out of the rotisserie it is agolden glow, and the taste, both crispy and so succulent, with a hint of spice to it. I have eaten many rotisserie chickens in the city, and Adela's ranks at the very top.  Asking Adela how she makes such superior chicken, she shakes her said and says, "It is a secret."

There she is, Adela Ferguson, the animated, ever-energetic seventy-nine year old owner/head chef that makes the restaurant such a very special place. Next to her is Hector, a huge fan of Adelas, saying "I have been eating here for years, it is my second home!”

Casa Adela is a tiny restaurant eight tables seating perhaps twenty. But, certainly enough room to clearly show the passion and pride for Puerto Rico in some of the artifacts on the walls, including impressive paintings from Puerto Rican artists.

This is called "Sancoch," it is a hearty stew of oxtail, root plants, plantains and vegetables. Especially good on a cold winters day.

Casa Adela, a restaurant that oozes with atmosphere.

Puerto Rico interesting fact - The two oldest churches in the Americas are located in Old San Juan.

Address - 66 Avenue C (212) 473 - 1882

10. Koliba (Czech Republic)


The roasted duck, the Czech beer makes this one of my favorite ethnic restaurants in New York. For authentic Czech food in New York, this is the place.

10. Koliba (Czech Republic)


The roasted duck, the Czech beer makes this one of my favorite ethnic restaurants in New York. For authentic Czech food in New York, this is the place.

On a cold winter night there are few dishes that leave me so happily sated as roasted duck. . .and no country does duck like the Czech Republic. And in NYC the place to get your Czech duck is Astoria (Queens) at a restaurant named Koliba. Koliba which means "small shepherds hut" has been around for fifteen years. I was there the first week they opened and I proud to say I have been a faithful patron ever since.  It remains one of my favorite ethnic restaurant in the city.

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Koliba of course serves other dishes besides the roasted duck, including the Czeck andSlovak classics as: Pork Schnitzel, Boiled Beef with Dill Sauce, and Potato Spaetzle with sauerkraut and bacon . . . but today, I focus only on my love of the Roasted Duck. On the menu it is described as "1/2 Roasted Duck with Red Cabbage or Sauerkraut". (I prefer the red cabbage, but sometimes I get half red cabbage, half sauerkraut as seen in the photo.) Dumplings come with the entree. These are not delicate one-two bite dumplings,but a dumpling the size of a bagel with a sponge like texture. (The photo shows them positioned above the plate.)

Koliba takes on the feeling of a part hunting lodge, part Czech Folk Art Museum.  The restaurant is spacious with large handsome wood tables. There is a TV always on without sound in lieu of  Czech music.  At least two-thirds of the diners are usually  Czech or Slovak nationals which only adds to the authenticity of Koliba. 

Koliba's off white walls are adorned with Czech national costumes, ceramic plates, ceremonial axes, dolls, and a healthy collection of stuffed animals and pelts which include: a pheasant, deer's skull, a set of antlers, a goat pelt, and a menacing snarling wild boar.

Along with being famous for their roasted duck, the Czech Republic is equally famous for their high-quality beers. On tap at the restaurant  are the following; Pilsner Urquel, Brovczec, Krusovice, and my personal favorite Strapramen.

Crazy about the dish so much one last parting shot . . . close up of the roasted duck.

Czech Republic Interesting Fact -  Reporters Without Borders ranked the Czech Republic number 5 out of 168 countries for freedom of the press.

Czech language - "Hello" (dobry den)  "Thank you" (dekuji)  "Delicious" (lahodny)

Address - 31-11 23rd Avenue Astoria (Queens)  (718) 626 - 0430

11. Cheburechnaya (Uzbekistan)


For New York's best Uzbekistan cuisine head out to Rego Park for the restaurant Cheburechaya. 

11. Cheburechnaya (Uzbekistan)


For New York's best Uzbekistan cuisine head out to Rego Park for the restaurant Cheburechaya. 

The cuisine of the "Silk Road" comes alive in Cheburechnaya in Rego Park, Queens. This is the food of Central Asia, home to the Bukharians, one of the oldest most isolated Jewish communities in the world, who have evolved a unique language blending Farsi and Hebrew.  About 40,000 Bukharian's have settled in New York following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Rego Park is sometimes referred as "Regoistan," as it along with Forest Hills has the most immigrants from Central Asia in the country.

The cuisine of Uzbekistan is heavy on savory grilled kebabs, rich stews, and noodle dishes. The signature dish is Palou Rice with Mutton and grated carrots and onions. (this the plate pictured on the left.)  

Langman one the the traditional dishes of Uzbekistan.  A hearty lamb or beef soup with thick noodles.

The Sionov family has owned the restaurant for sixteen years. It is the oldest Uzbek restaurant in the city.  Dining at Cheburechnaya is a fun and colorful experience, and you will hear a wide array of languages; Uzbek, Tajik, Farsi, Russian, and Hebrew.

This is a Chebureki and this is what the restaurant is named after. The empanada shaped food item is filled with various tasty fillings; mushroom, meat, potato and cabbage. I was instructed by my waiter to eat it with both hands (instead of knife and fork) to truly appreciate the juice. There is a spicy sauce on the side which even added more flavor to it. 

The manager sounding like my mother when I was growing up came running out as I was leaving, "you must have vegetables, please try our special salad." And on the house they brought out the "Cheburechnaya Salad."Crispy and healthy, I especially liked the asparagus. 

Uzbekistan Interesting fact - The way to greet an Uzbek woman is to bow to her with your right hand placed on your heart.

Uzbek language - "Hello" (salom)  "Thank you" (rahmat)  "Delicious" (mazali ovqut)

Address - 9209 63rd Dr, Rego Park, NY 11374 (718) 897-9080

    12. Cafe Sabarsky (Austria)


    Cafe Sabarsky for the best in Austrian cuisine in New York,  among a very atmospheric setting bespeaking the Successionist period of Vienna. 

    12. Cafe Sabarsky (Austria)


    Cafe Sabarsky for the best in Austrian cuisine in New York,  among a very atmospheric setting bespeaking the Successionist period of Vienna. 

    Cafe Sabarsky is housed inside the Neue Galerie, a jewel of a museum dedicated to early Twentieth Century Austrian and German art. It is a world-class collection, containing works of: Klimpt, Schiele, Kokoschka, Kirchner, Beckman, Hoffmann, Loos to name a few. The Neue Galerie was conceived by the friendship of two men; art dealer and museum exhibition organizer Serge Sabarsky and art businessman, philanthropist, and art collector Ronald Lauder.

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    Cafe Sabarsky is named after the museum's co-founder Serge Sabarsky.  The restaurant/cafe is highly atmospheric transporting one back to the great cafes of Vienna that served as a vital meeting place for intellectual and artistic life at the turn of the the century. The restaurant specializes in Austrian cuisine, and provides a healthy sampling of the the country's finest dishes. Cafe Sabarsky has huge windows that offer bright sunshine and impressive views of Fifth Avenue.

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    Cafe Sabarsky is decorated with period objects, including the magnificent light structure designed by Joseph Hoffman. Long, beveled, ornate, and dazzling. It's style looking straight out of the Vienna Seccession movement of the 1890's.

     

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    The restaurant includes other museum-quality piece of this era, such as the chairs designed by Adolph Loos, and banquettes upholstered with a 1912 fabric from Otto Wagner.

     

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    At Cafe Sabarsky, I am headlining with desserts first, as Austria is justly famous for their legendary desserts.  And, at Cafe Sabarsky they do desserts VERY WELL.  The dessert on the left is an Apple Tart.  On the right is the Sachertorte, the most famous of all Austrian desserts; it is a dark intensely rich Viennese chocolate cake with apricot confiture.  The dessert is so worshiped in Austria that it is celebrated with a National Holiday every year on December 5th.

     

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    The entrees though perhaps not receiving quite the recognition of the desserts are full of flavor and authentic. The dish on the right is Beef Goulash Soup, an Austrian classic. On the left is Chilled Smoke Trout Crepes with Horseradish, a dish I enjoyed very much.

     

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    Back to talking about the desserts . . . this glorious raised marble counter (a museum-worthy piece itself) displays the seven to eight desserts. What a view it is, almost as each dessert is trying to compete for the most "oohs and aahs."  Looking closely at the photo and you will see a piano, this is an impressive Besendofer Grand, which is played when Cafe Sabarsky stages it's classical music programs.  These programs are devoted to Austrian and German music between 1890 - 1930. Check with the restaurant for dates of performances.

     

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    Being an enthusiast of espresso, I felt I had achieved espresso Nirvana in having this. On the menu it reads "Einspanner." Translation, Double Espresso with Whipped Cream. Please note that one does not have to purchase a ticket to the museum to dine at Cafe Sabarsky.

    Austria (German) Language lesson - "Hello" (Guten Tag)  "Thank you"  (Danke)  "Delicious"  (Kostlic)

    Interesting fact - Austrian composer Franz Schubert, was nicknamed "Schwammerl" (Little Mushroom) by his friends because he was just five feet tall, and contemporary pictures show him as being dimpled and pudgy with a snub note and sensitive eyes, peering from behind thick glasses.

    Address - 1048 Fifth Avenue (at 86th Street)   (212) 628 - 6200

    13. Sky Cafe (Indonesia)


    13. Sky Cafe (Indonesia)


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    I was down in the gastronomic dumps regarding the prospect of  discovering an authentic Indonesian restaurant when I stumbled across Sky Cafe on a small side street in Elmhurst Queens. Sky Cafe has been open now a little over a year and every time I visit I am guaranteed to taste delicious Indonesian food (with special focus on dishes from the island of Sumatra) and a fun time talking with colorful local Indonesian patrons. 

     

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    This is Lilly, she is the owner, head chef, and the "savior" to many in the Queens Indonesian community of Elmhurst who were hoping (like me) for a terrific Indonesian restaurant to eat and generally hang out and enjoy. Before coming to NYC, Lilly and her daughter ran a very successful restaurant in Philadelphia by the same name, Sky Cafe.  New York Indonesians would visit her restaurant in Philadelphia and "beg" her to open a Sky Cafe in New York. Well, thankfully, this wish came true and Lilly now runs Sky Cafe in the city, while her daughter still maintains the restaurant in Philadelphia.  

     

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    On my first visit to Sky Cafe aching to taste the savory rare taste of Indonesian food again . . .  It is important to mention that Indonesia which is made up of 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited) and over 300 ethnic-minority groups has a vast array of regional tastes.  Lilly's family is from Medan, the largest city on the island of Sumatra and the restaurant produces are some of the true classics of Indonesian cuisine; such as Beef Redang. Beef Redang (photo at top of table) originated from the Minagkabau ethnic minority in Sumatra and is considered by many the most "revered dish" in Indonesia cuisine. The beef has a unique taste to it, spicy, moist, covered in sort of a carmelized curry. The dish on the right is Nasi Goreng, one of the most popular dishes, is fried rice with chicken, cucumber and fish cake (I lived on this during my time traveling in Sumatra). And the dish on the left is one that Lilly insisted I must try is Soto Mei - a special of northern Sumatran, which contained noodles, egg, spring roll, celery and beef broth. Glad she recommended! 

     

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    Each time I eat at Sky Cafe I meet open and kind people from Indonesia. The woman on the left is Malassey, she came to the US by herself almost twenty-five years ago.  She is here with her daughter.  I also appreciate Malassey's as she has shown big enthusiasm to my book INSATIABLE (I have a chapter on traveling Sumatra) and plans to share with her church. I had to worn her to not read Chapter 18, however, which is entitled "Singapore Sling: Brothel Gets Nasty."

     

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    Sky Cafe like the best of New York's ethnic restaurants gives you a feeling of "transporting" you to the country. The television varies from the stock market report from Jakarta, to a teary-eyed Indonesian soap opera. Indonesian magazines are tossed around for browsing.

     

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    My last visit to Sky Cafe Lilly insisted on this "special dish." She is always pushing with such love her "special you-must-try dishes, and I love that she does. This is called "Lontong Sayur" (Rice Cake Soup) It consists of a big bowl of veggie curry with two large pieces of beef redang soaked in coconut milk, with spicy egg, sambal tauco and tpped with colorful rice cake. Spicy, but not searing in its heat, very flavorful. Highly recommend!

     

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    The latest in Indonesian Cinema.

     

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    Sky Cafe is a true family affair.  Lilly and her husband, with son Eddie run the restaurant in New York. The daughter runs the successful Sky Cafe in Philadelphia.  There are approximately 100,000 Indonesians living in the USA, making it the 15th largest Asian-American community. Los Angeles is the largest Indonesian community.

    Indonesian Language lesson - "Good morning/day/evening"  (Selamat pagi/Selamat Siang/Selamat malam)  "Thank you" (Terima Kasih) "Delicious" (Lezat)

    Interesting fact - Borobudur Temple located on the iland of Java is the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

    Address - 8620 Whitney Avenue  Elmhurst (Queens)   (718) 651 - 9759

    14. Urubamba (Peru)


    For the best and most authentic Peruvian cuisine in New York visit Urubamba in Jackson Heights. One of my favorite ethnic restaurants in New York.

    14. Urubamba (Peru)


    For the best and most authentic Peruvian cuisine in New York visit Urubamba in Jackson Heights. One of my favorite ethnic restaurants in New York.

    Peruvian cuisine is the most varied and sophisticated  of any country in South America, and in recent years has gained the reputation as one of the truly amazing cuisines of the world.  The richness and diversity of Peruvian cuisine is influenced from the indigenous population including Inca, and cuisines brought from immigrants from Europe (Spain, Italy, Germany) and Asia (China and Japan.)  Here in New York the best place to try the cuisine of Peru is Urubamba located in Jackson Heights. The restaurant named after a town in the sacred "Valley of Incas" serves about a wide variety of delicious food with local flavor making it one of my favorite restaurants (for any type of cuisine) in New York.

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    Ceviche Mixto a classic dish from the coastal region of Peru made from raw fish cured in lime or lemon juices. The fish consists of bass, calamari, octopus and shrimp. Onions, sweet potato and corn are also part of the mix. The dish is said to be over 2,000 years old and brought to Peru by a Moorish women from Granada with Spanish colonizers.

     

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    Lomo Saltado a very much beloved dish in Peru. Strips of marinated sirloin in vinegar with soy sauce, with onions, tomatoes and other spices. Served with with and french fries. Yes, the combination of rice and fries sounds odd, but this dish works. It is delicious and filling.

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    The staff at Urubamba is gracious and enthusiastic. Most are native of Peru.

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    Urubamba is an attractive restaurant with a warm atmosphere and colorful decor.  Please note the restaurant does not take reservations and on the weekends can get crowded, (especially popular with Peruvian families) but the wait is rarely over twenty minutes.

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    Sudado de Mariscos con Pescado (steamed seafood broth with onions, tomatoes, scallops, shrimp, talopi) served in a large iron pot. I am crazy about this dish!

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    Chicken tamale served with onion.

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    Colorful Peruvian art graces the walls at Urubamba.

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    More examples of the art at the restaurant.


    Peru indigenous language of Quechua lesson - "Hello" (Imakullaki)  "Thank you"  (Solpaki)  "Delicious"  (Sumacmi)

    Interesting fact - Peru has the largest number of "Shamas" in the world, second only to India.

    Address - 86-20 37th Avenue  Jackson Heights (Queens)  (718) 672 - 2224

    15. Fu Run (Northeast China Cuisine)


    15. Fu Run (Northeast China Cuisine)


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    Because of China's vast and varied ethnic regions I plan to do at least three restaurants for this country, focusing on their remarkable regional flavors. Today we go to Flushing to dine at FU RUN which specializes in cuisine known as "Dongbei." This is a cuisine from Liaoning Province in the Northeast bordering North Korea. There are three "Dongbei" restaurants in Flushing, but FU RUN which has been around for eight years, is the most authentic, serves the best food, and has the nicest setting. The restaurant serves one of the most unusual, special dishes in New York, called the Muslim Lamb Chop, and by itself alone is worthy of making a trip to FU RUN for.

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    Well there it is . . . On my initial visit to FU RUN, when I saw the waiter heading toward me with this gigantic platter piled with ribs literally falling over the plate, I looked behind me thinking it was for someone else. But, no, it was for me . . .  Eight HUGE ribs caked heavily in cumin and red pepper. When I say "caked" in cumin and red pepper, it is as if the chef just took the spice jar and shook the entire contents  on it.  However, the ribs, oh my, what a taste!  The ribs are very moist, and the combination of the cumin, sesame, red pepper and garlic provides powerful flavor and with a burning sensation, that to me was pleasant, and not searing in its heat. The Muslim Lamb Chop, is a fantastic dish, not to be missed.

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    FU RUN is an attractive restaurant with gleaming hard-wood floors, substantial wooden beams where colorful lanterns sway, and large front windows makes way for lots of natural light. One of the walls contains two significant, good-sized calligraphy paintings by Zhen Guam Zhong, a well known artist in China.

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    Though it is the Muslim Lamb Chop that is the 'must have dish," there are other dishes that are very good as well; such as Conch with Scallion. 

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    The staff at FU RUN is young, energetic and takes big-time pride in talking about Dongbei cuisine, and the Northeast part of China where most are native of.

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    This dish is called Crispy Sliced Fish with Chili Pepper and Cumin. Tasty with a distinct satisfying burn to it.

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    Here is what I look like when I am "in love with a food item." The Muslim Lamb Chop. I have been to FU RUN probably a dozen times and this dish continues to win my heart.  It is more than just the taste . . . it is a dish that you ache to be "savage" with. Try to eat it with chop sticks, then a fork, and I guarantee you will put these down and just gnaw!  For those seeking an ethnic eating adventure, FU RUN and the Muslim Lamb Chop is worth a gastronomic pilgrimage. 

    Mandarin (China) language lesson - "Hello" (Ni how)  "Thank you"  (shay shay)  "Delicious" (How chu) "I am full"  (Cha bula)

    Interesting fact about China - China is often considered the longest continuous civilization, with history marking 6,000 BC as the dawn of Chinese Civilization. It is also the world's longest continuously used language.

    Address - 40-09 Prince Street Flushing (Queens)  (718) 321 - 1363

    16. Chez Napoleon (France)


    16. Chez Napoleon (France)


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    Chez Napoleon rests deeply in my heart. For over thirty-five years I have had a love affair with this unassuming theater district restaurant. Relishing time and again the delicious bistro cooking all prepared lovingly by the Bruno family who have owned the restaurant since 1982. It is a "family restaurant" in every sense of the word - Margaritte Bruno, known as "Grandmere" is ninety- five (that's right 95) and she still overseas the kitchen. Her daughter Elyane is one of the waitresses, and her grandson William is at the small bar. (There was a previous owner open Chez Npoleon in 1960.)

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    Chez Napoleon is not hip, and to me this is one of the charms of the place. Thumping music does not ring out, an aspiring actress does not seat you. But instead, you are greeted graciously by a middle-aged French woman. The sound of Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, or Yves Montand is likely playing. A wall divides the restaurant in two parts, but wherever seated, you can't miss the profusion of paintings, puzzles, and photographs devoted to Napoleon. It sounds cheesy and camp, but here in Chez Napoleon it works.

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    If you want your escargot HEAVY with garlic, this is the place. I want my escargot busting with flavor, and at Chez Napoleon it is.

    I love Boeuf Bourguignon and no where in the city does it better than Chez Napoleon. The restaurant deftly prepares other bistro classics, such as: Confit de Canard, Cassoulet, Coq au Vin, Ris de Veau, Choucroute, Lapin Stew, and Bouillabaisse.

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    Bouillabaisse, the famous fish stew from Marseille is difficult to find prepared with authenticity in New York. Here at Chez Napoleon it is outstanding, and presented table-side.

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    This is Janine, she is my favorite waiter/waitress in New York. She is not part of the Bruno family, but is so vital to its success. She has been making customers happy with her warmth, flare and high-spirited humor for forty years.

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    I am crazy about the appetizers at Chez Napoleon and often find myself gorging out on them before my entree. My favorites; the escargot, the Cocquille St. Jacques, and here photographed, Artichaud Vinaigrette. 

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    However, my favorite appetizer of all is the Saucisson Chaud, which is an Alsatian regional specialty. It is warm garlic sausage with warm potatoes, and with a little mustard . . . heaven.

    French language lesson - "Hello"  (Bonjour)  "Thank you"  (Merci)  "Delicious"  (De-leuse)

    Interesting fact about France - France is the world's most popular tourist destination. (84.7 million tourists in 2014)

    Address - 365 West 50th  (212) 265 - 6580

    17. Balkh Shish Kabab House (Afghanistan)


    Balkh Shish Kabab House, my favorite Afghani restaurant in New York. Offers delicious authentic Afghani cuisine  in a colorful atmospheric setting.

    17. Balkh Shish Kabab House (Afghanistan)


    Balkh Shish Kabab House, my favorite Afghani restaurant in New York. Offers delicious authentic Afghani cuisine  in a colorful atmospheric setting.

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    Since 1978 Balkh Shish Kabab House has been turning out succulent kebabs and classic savory Afghan cooking. The restaurant is named after the northeast province (Balkh) where one of the partners and main chef Abdul is from. Located in Astoria under the clattering tracks of the elevated subway, bu once inside you feel "transported" by the cuisine, atmosphere, and the mostly Afghan clientele. 

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    One of the most popular and traditional appetizers is mato. Beef dumplings with curry and yogurt. They are  accompanied by red and green sauce, both of which are spicy but each with different taste. I enjoyed both.

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    The restaurant to it's name, does shish kababs very well. They feature over a dozen types and they are juicy and have that little taste of burnt which I love. However, tonight, at the coaxing of my animated waiter Mohammed, I opted on one of the restaurants "very most special dishes" . . . Qaw Lamb Meat. The dish could be best described as an Afghan version of a lamb shank with brown basmeti rice, raisins (huge delicious raisins) and carrots. The lamb is baked in the oven after hours of special marination. The lamb is so tender and succulent. Not only delicious, but the portion is very large.

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    One of the two owners, Mohammed Nasim in front of the grill. Mohammed is not usually the chef but in charge more of the business side of the restaurant. However, he was pleased to put on the red apron for this photo. He is warm, engaging and patient in explaining the wide array of dishes at Balkh Shish Kabab House.

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    Balkh Shish Kabab House presents a colorful decor; with paintings, fine Afghan area rugs, and portraits of fierce Afghan warriors. This painting which is finely detailed is of the famous mosque in the northeastern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.  

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    I found this painting fascinating. It is a portrait of the late Sur Ahang, one of Afghanistan's most beloved "traditional" singers. 

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    Another popular appetizer is Bolanee Kadu, (fried pumpkin) I was not crazy about it, but still a new rather interesting taste sensation.

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    A puzzle map of Afghanistan adorns the back wall, it displays the respective provinces, thirty-four of them which make up the country.

    Afghan language lesson - "Hello" (Salam Aluikum)  "Thank you"  (Tashakur)  "Delicious"  (Mazadar)

    Afghanistan interesting fact - The national sport is called "Bushkash," translation - goat grabbing. The sport is played between to teams trying to catch a goat while riding on horseback. There are photos of this in the restaurant. 

    Address - 23-10 31st Street Astoria (Queens)  (718) 721 - 5020

    18. La Morada (Mexico)


    18. La Morada (Mexico)


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    At long last love . . . Love in the form of an NYC Mexican restaurant. Since moving back to the city from Los Angeles I have been frustrated to find true happiness with Mexican food in New York. I strongly prefer New York to LA . . . except for the Mexican restaurants. My frustration ended last Wednesday when I discovered gastronomic bliss in a restaurant named La Morada in the South Bronx.

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    Mole Blanco with Chilie Relleno with Pine Nuts and Almonds. The word mole, "molli"originated from the Nahuati language (Aztec) of Central mexico, meaning sauce or mixture. There are several of moles, the flavors ranging from; sweet, nutty, chocolate, slightly bitter, at times spicy. It takes a good deal of time to make a classic mole as it is slowly roasted. I have found few restaurants in the city that capture the true flavor of mole dishes. La Morada is the exception. They do the best moles of any restaurant in New York.

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    Head chef and owner Natalia Mendez with her son Marco. The daughter Caroline is also involved with the cooking. Natalia's story is inspiring, as in 1992, at the age of twenty, she and her husband, native of the state of Oaxaca crossed the Sonoran Desert and arrived in New York not knowing anyone. Marco is a recent graduate of Kenyon College, and is an artist well. They both are very kind and warm, and will go at length to explain the their cooking in-depth. 

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    The first mole dish was so fantastic that I had to have another. At La Morada they serve five types of mole dishes and sometimes a sixth. My luck was with me today, as the "sixth" type mole was available, named Mole Oaxaqueno. This mole dish includes seven different varieties of dry peppers was very spicy and absolutely delicious. The mole sauce is smothered thick on top of two juicy substantial legs of chicken.

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    La Morada with Royal purple walls is average sized, seating about twenty-five. A couple of Marco's paintings decorate the walls. There is a small library in back, where you can take out books, a television overhead broadcast news and soap operas from Mexico. La Morada is a comfortable, very inviting place. Besides the best moles in town, they also serve delicious burittos, fish tacos, quesadillas, and tamales. 

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    The walk from the subway station (Brooks Avenue) is eight minutes and takes you by some impressive mural paintings, such as this one.

    Mixtec vocabulary lesson (this is the indigenous language of Oaxaca where the Mendez family is from.)  "How are you?" (Ndesa kuro)  "What's your name?"  (Ndesa naniro)

    Interesting fact about Mexic - The Chilhen Iza Pyramid has made it into the new list of Seven Wonders of the World.

    Address - 308 Willis Avenue (Bronx)  (718) 292 - 0235

    19. Vatan (Gujarati regional cuisine)


    This India restaurant serves food from western state of Gujarat. Amazing decor and 19 dishes arriving to your table.

    19. Vatan (Gujarati regional cuisine)


    This India restaurant serves food from western state of Gujarat. Amazing decor and 19 dishes arriving to your table.

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    Vatan which means "motherland" in Hindi is one of the very few restaurants in New York that specializes in the cooking from India's western state of Gujarat. Gujarati cuisine is vegetarian, and is served in classic Thali tradition where a wide range of various small food items are served on a large silver platter. At VATAN there is no decision making, as for a fixed price of $32 you receive an onslaught of dishes . . . NINETEEN of them to be exact, and you can continue to order more (at no cost) if you are still somehow hungry after. This is an eating experience that is exotic and festive. VATAN is only open in the evening, closed Monday. Because of it's uniqueness in is almost always full, and a reservation is strongly advised.

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    The interior of VATAN is amazing! It is designed to take on the feeling of being in a rural Indian courtyard. This includes a twenty foot Banyon Tree (though fake it looks terrific) a water well, and murals of life in small-village India cover the walls. Overseeing the restaurant is a pinkish glowing Ganesh, the Hindu God of "good fortune and luck, and so embraced by Hindus all over the world. The seating is made up of deep ample booths, some of the booths sitting up to 8 - 10 people. Some might feel the design is a little over - the - top and Disney-like, but I found it wonderful and everyone I have spoken to has felt the same. This is a place that has atmosphere!

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    At VATAN you are served a massive amount of food. There are three different Thali platters that will arrive to you. The largest of the two platters in the photo is called the "Entree Thali," this is made up of seven items, which includes: Toor dal (boiled lentils cooked with Indian spices) Ful-Cobi (Cauliflower and green peas sauteed in a savory sauce) Bhaji (Sauteed spinach and corn) Kheer (Rice Pudding with saffron and dry fruits) Papadam, and the bread Puri.  The smaller platter is called "Entree Complements," which include: Pulao (Boiled rice with peas) Kadhi (Soup with yogurt and chickpeas blended with four distinct spices) and Khichdi (Lentils mixed with rice and assorted vegetables.) 

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    The warm and engaging Usha and Marleeni positioned by VATAN's water well. They are VATAN's servers and are pleased to explain any questions you have about the array of food dishes. Usha who is on the right has been with the restaurant for twelve years. VATAN opened for seventeen years.

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    A closeup of the mural painting which completely cover all wall space at the restaurant. The paintings are done with an acute sense of style and very colorful.

    This is the "Appetizer Thali"and is as you would expect is the first platter to arrive. It consists of eight food items: Chana Masala (Garbanzo beans with onions and coriander) Muthia (Steamed flour with spinach) Sev Puri (Potatoes, garbanzo beans, yogurt, and chutney filled with crispy bread) Batatavada (Fried potato balls in chickpea flour batter) Khaman (Puffed cream of wheat flour cakes) Mirchi Bhaji . . . 

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    Another mural, they are done with great craftsmanship. Also, you can see the large booths with the over-hanging straw roof.

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    The tables are painted in colorful Indian themes.

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    Even the wash rooms doors are painted colorfully at VATAN.

    Gujarati language lesson - "Hello" (Kem cho)  "Thank you" (Dhuhn ya vaad)  "Delicious"  (acha khaa) - this is actually a Hindi phrase.

    Interesting fact about Gujarat - Over 60% of the Indian population in North America is from the state of Gujarat.

    Address - 409 Third Avenue (28 - 29th Street)   (212) 689 - 5666



    20. Maria's Mont Blanc (Switzerland)


    New York's only Swiss restaurant. Cozy and in the heart of the theater district.

    20. Maria's Mont Blanc (Switzerland)


    New York's only Swiss restaurant. Cozy and in the heart of the theater district.

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    One of my favorite New New York theater restaurants is Maria's Mont Blanc. For thirty-eight years this cozy, somewhat quirky establishment has been serving up Swiss cuisine, a cuisine which ranks as one of New York's most "endangered cuisines." Maria's Mont Blanc is the ONLY true Swiss restaurant in the city. Maria's Mont Blanc has a timeless "old world" feel about it and deserves to be cherished.

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    On entering Mont Blanc, the owner Maria is there to greet you. Her "greeting" has such a genuine glowing way about it that you feel that you have arrived at a place you have been many times before. Maria's presence is felt all though the evening as she moves from table to table in a maternal way making sure everyone is having a good time. Maria, though a native of Vienna has been associated with the restaurant for thirty-five years. 

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    Being a Swiss restaurant, Maria's Mont Blanc naturally serves fondue, three types (cheese, beef, and seafood) and the fondues are very good. However, this evening I was not in the mood for fondue, but to explore other Swiss classics; such as the above appetizer, "Viande des Griscon" (fifteen pieces of dried beef) served with tart small pickles. If you like beef, I recommend. 

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    The entree of "Emince de Veau Zuerichoise," (traditional Swiss Minced Veal, Cream with Mushrooms and Onions) The night I ate at Maria's Mont Blanc it was freezing cold outside, and this dish was absolutely perfect for the weather. Warming, delicious and comforting. What makes the dish special is how it is served in a big deep green casserole pot, and just as I was finishing (savoring every bite) Maria popped up at the table to ladle me more. This dish I enjoyed so much that I tried to make it at home a week later, not bad, but Maria's clearly much better.

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    Maria's Mont Blanc has two rooms. The back room is quieter and actually ideal for a private party, where the front room has more buzz, is lively and has a little bar as well, but it doesn't get too loud. There is an interesting collection of eclectic art-work at the restaurant; from a rather expressionistic-like painting of Mont Blanc, Europe's tallest mountain, (The mountain is actually in France) to the Swiss artist Kyle Rinquest's acrobats painted on glass on two wall of the front room.

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    My dining companion had the entree of "Veal Dumplings a la Viennes." It is actually an Austrian dish. Savory and very filling.

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    The national dish of Switzerland is Rosti pictured above. It is similar to hash brown potatoes, but it is more like a potato paancake. Coarsely pressed, and fried, it contains bacon and rosemary and is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

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    Maria's Mont Blanc has an unusual surreal looking painted mermaid on the ceiling. Interesting enough, but even more so is that no one knows how it got there. When they moved into the building years ago the painting was already there.

    Romansh Language lesson - Switzerland is made up of German, French and Italian languages. However, there is a rare fourth language called Romansh spoken by only 22,000 (in population of 8 million) almost all from the Canton of Grisons in the southeast.   It is an ancient language and its origins are from the Roman Empire.  "Hello" (Tgau)  "Thank you"  (Grazia)  "

    Interesting fact about Switzerland - The country is broken twenty-six Cantons. Each Canton acts as a separate state and has its own constitution, legislature and government.

    Address - 315 West 48th Street    (212) 582 - 9648


    21. Almayass (Armenia)


    New York's only Armenian restaurant. Thankfully it is a fantastic one!!

    21. Almayass (Armenia)


    New York's only Armenian restaurant. Thankfully it is a fantastic one!!

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    Almayass, which means "when hanging leaves dance to the rhythm of a delicate breeze." Opened four years ago it is the ONLY Armenian restaurant in New York City, fortunately it is a terrific restaurant in every way. Armenian cuisine . . . think Mediterranean meets the Middle-East. Many of the food creations I had never tried before creating original and new taste sensations which I found original and delicious. The setting is handsome with a contemporary flare. Located in Manhattan's Flat Iron district.

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    The dips/spreads each unique from each other in taste and texture, but found all delicious.  I especially enjoyed the Moutabbal, Hummus with Poegrante seed, and Mouhammara.

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    Fattoush - a salad of tomato, fresh mint, purslone, cucumber, radish, sumac, parsley, lemon, olive oil, with fried pita bread. The taste fresh, bracing, and enjoyed the texture, the crunch brought on by the pita bread.

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    Soujuk Almayass - Armenian sausage canape topped with fried quail eggs. Unusual dish, original, I found it crazy good.

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    Shant Alexandrian is the owner of Almayass. His wife Rita designed the restaurant, and his son in law, Mario is the General Manager. Shant grew up in Lebanon where his parents fled during the 1915 purge. The original Almayass is in Beirut, other restaurant locations include Kuwait and Riyahd. 

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    Mantee Traditional - oven baked boat shaped ravioli filled with seasoned fresh ground beef served with fresh garlic walnut, red pepper paste and pomegrant molasses. 

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    Almayass's interior has some stunning contemporary art painting and sculpture.

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    Sweet and Sour Kebab - this dish is a mind blower! A grilled beef kabab with cherries on top. Sounds weird, but one of the most memorable dishes I have had anywhere in New York.

    Armenian Language lesson - "Hello" (Barev)  "Thank you" (Merci)  "Delicious" (Hamov)

    Interesting fact about Armenia - The Armenian Diaspora is significant with 10.5 million Armenians living around the world. Largest population centers are the countries of Russia, Lebanon and France. USA has a significant concentration also, especially in Los Angeles and specifically the town of Glendale.  The population of the country of Armenia is 3 million.

    Address - 24 East 21st Street  (Manhattan)  (212) 473 - 3100

    22. Joloff Restaurant (Senegal)


    New York's best Senegal restaurant is Joloff in Brooklyn. Authentic dishes served in vibrant decor.

    22. Joloff Restaurant (Senegal)


    New York's best Senegal restaurant is Joloff in Brooklyn. Authentic dishes served in vibrant decor.

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    Joloff Restaurant, named after after "joloff rice" which is unique to West Africa, for twenty years has been serving up authentic delicious Senegalese cuisine in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Four years ago they moved to their new location pictured above. The doors to Joloff open wide to give the restaurant an airy welcoming feel.

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    Tiebu Jeun, this is the National Dish if Senegal. It contains the special Joloff rice (rice added with tomatoes, tomato paste and onions) baked fish, which is usually Blue Fish, carrots and cabbage. The rice was succulent and the fish had a texture and taste similar to tuna. I enjoyed their National Dish very much.

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    The handsome and affable Papa K. Diange, and his lovely wife Rana have been the owners of Joloff from the beginning. They are both natives of Dakar, the capital city of Senegal.

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    Joloff  is vibrant with color . . . the walls painted in green, yellow and blue are adorned with paintings and photographs from Senegal.

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    Joloff has a cozy corner which I especially like with large sofas to relax, and have more intimate conversation, Note the colorful wall painting. The restaurant breathes a natural cool vibe about it.

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    This is another Senegal's most popular dishes, it is called Mafe Yapp. (Lamb stewed in peanut butter sauce with Okra.) The combination sounds somewhat strange, but it was very tasty, and the peanut butter did not overwhelm the lamb but gave it a unique and new taste experience for me.

    Wolof language lesson (the main language of Senegal)  "How are you?"  (Na nga def)  "Thank you"  (Jere jef)  "Delicious"  (Nekha)

    Interesting fact about Senegal - Wrestling is the traditional and national sport of the country.

    Address - 1168 Bedford Avenue (Brooklyn)    (718) 230 - 0523

    23. Mapo Korean BBQ (Korea)


    My favorite Korean restaurant in NYC is Mapo BBQ. Located in Flushing the serve the very best Korean BBQ in New York.

    23. Mapo Korean BBQ (Korea)


    My favorite Korean restaurant in NYC is Mapo BBQ. Located in Flushing the serve the very best Korean BBQ in New York.

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    Though Korean restaurants offer a wide range of tempting food selections, it seems that I always get most excited by the BBQ, especially during very cold weather. I had searched all over NYC seeking out the best Korean BBQ; from up and down "Korea Way" on Manhattan's 32nd Street, and of course Flushing. And the winner for my taste buds is . . . Mapo Korean BBQ in the Murray Hill area of Flushing. This year the restaurant is celebrating tenth anniversary. The restaurant is run by the engaging Pilan Park.

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    Even before entering Mapo Korean BBQ you can see what the restaurant is famous for . . . as the entire side of the wall of the restaurant advertises their stellar reputation for BBQ. Note Pilar Park proudly featured.

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    Mapo Korean BBQ is not fancy, but basic and comfortable. Nine tables each seating four with their own chimney. The decor is basically Korean Television and an autographed photo of a Korean pro golfer. But these surrounding are not important, the key element is the the table, the grilling.

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    The customary banchan, the small dishes, sixteen of them circle the grill. The basics; kimchi, seaweed, spinach, pickles, etc - some other items arrive "on the house" steamed scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese corn.

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    The coals burn hot . . . and this is one of the vital reasons that makes Mapo my favorite Korean BBQ in NYC, as most restaurants use gas stoves. And of course the superior quality of the beef, Black Angus Short Rib, though the Koreans call short rib "kalbi." Also, the marination they use is a special secret. The two servers, both lovely Korean ladies, who also spoke a little Chinese, and a tiny bit of English cut the chunks of beef with such concentration and watched each piece of beef with a sense of reverence. 

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    Mapo Korean BBQ also serves a delicious Seafood Pancake.

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    The owner, Pilan Park (on the left) and her associate Ms. Lee are gracious hosts at Mapo Korean BBQ . . . my favorite Korean BBQ in the city.

    Korean language lesson - "Hello" (an nyoung ha se yo)  "Thank you"  (kome som be-da)   "Delicious"  (Mashi su yo)

    Interesting fact about South Korea - South Korea has the world's highest estimated national IQ, with leading rakings in; math. science and problem solving.

    Address - 14924 41st Avenue Flushing (Queens)  (718) 886 - 8292

    24. Izalco (El Salvador)


    Izalco in Woodside Queens makes delicious papusas. This is the best Salvadorian restaurant in New York.

    24. Izalco (El Salvador)


    Izalco in Woodside Queens makes delicious papusas. This is the best Salvadorian restaurant in New York.

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    Izalco for the past thirty-three years (eighteen in the current location) has been a fixture in Woodside Queens serving up delicious Salvadorian cuisine in a colorful setting. The restaurant is named after the famous volcano which is one of the most active in the Americas. Izalco first erupted in 1770 and it's eruptions became so frequent that over the years it became known as "The Lighthouse of the Pacific."

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    The most well-known dish in Salvadorian cuisine is Papusas. Papusas are made of thick handmade corn tortilla and filled with an array of items, ranging from cheese, beans, beef, or pork. I selected cheese with jalapeno which  had a nice spicy bite. It was accompanied by a hot sauce which I liked, and shredded cabbage which I did not care for. Papusas are similar to the Venezuelan arepa, however the difference is that papusas are filled "prior" to cooking where arepas are filled "after."

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    Now there is a handsome beaming face to greet you.  Jose Tejeda the animated manager of Izalco for the past fifteen years takes pride in explaining not only the cuisine of his country, but the rich culture and beautiful landscape of El Salvador.

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    The interior of Izalco is creative and atmospheric. From paintings of the volcano, to the fourteen miniature wood-carved buses representing each state in the country, to an iguana perched above on a red tiled roof, and the lovely folkloric music playing, this is a restaurant with a lot of personality and says "El Salvador!"

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    With the so tender and moist chicken tamale (wrapped in green) Jose insisted I must try the corn tamale also. It's taste was much different, a distinct "sweetness" about it, I enjoyed the variation.

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    Well there it is . . . the iguana on the red tiled roof looking down on the happy restaurant patrons. On the other side of the roof is an armadillo.   

    El Salvador (Spanish) lesson - "Hello"  (Hola)  "Thank you"  (Gracias)   "Delicious"  (Delisioso)

    Interesting fact about El Salvador - El Salvador is the smallest in land size of the Central American countries - but the most densely populated with a population of 6.2 million.

    Address - 64 - 05 Woodside Avenue  Woodside (Queens)    (718) 533 - 8373

    25. Spicy Tibet (Tibet)


    Jackson Heights in Queens New York has now several Tibetan restaurants but Spicy Tibet is my favorite. Delicious thunka and momos. 

    25. Spicy Tibet (Tibet)


    Jackson Heights in Queens New York has now several Tibetan restaurants but Spicy Tibet is my favorite. Delicious thunka and momos. 

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    There are ten thousand Tibetans living in new York City, the vast majority in Jackson Heights.  And with this colorful ethnic influx there are several authentic Tibetan restaurants clustered together to choose from. I found selecting my favorite a difficult decision as each serves authentic Tibetan cuisine,  but I stand confident in my choice of Spicy Tibet as number one. What make my selection somewhat controversial is that it is "the new kid on the block," having been open only eight months. However, the menu is diverse, the food outstanding, and it is always crowded (more than any of the other places) with enthusiastic Tibetans giving it an extra colorful energy.

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    Then Thug (pronounced Ten Doog) is one of the most common dishes of Tibet. It is a very warming thick soup, almost stew like, with noodles, vegetables and either chicken, beef, or pork. Very satisfying on freezing day.

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    One of the main reasons that Spicy Tibet is my favorite is because like it's name, they do very good "spicy" dishes. Here is a dish of Chicken Chili which arrives with a large dumpling which has a doughy feel. The dumpling is a good compliment to the heat of the chicken.

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    Spicy Tibet is very popular, it is almost always full, and sometimes there will be line out the door waiting to get in. There is a sense of close camaraderie of the place and most of the time I eat at a table with local Tibetans. The Tibetan people are shy at first but very kind and I learn greater in-sight into their country and culture by dining with them.

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    Warmth of service is a trademark at Spicy Tibet. The two waitresses; Doma on the right is from Tibet, Kuenulyn is native of Bhutan.

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    The momo, the most well-recognized of any Tibetan food item. These juicy dumplings come filled with a selection of; chicken, beef, pork, or vegetable. They are served with a fiery red sauce on the side.

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    Spicy Tibet has several handsome black and white photographs on the walls. These photos range from dramatic landscapes, to places of worship, to strong character faces of the people.

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    Like all the Tibetan restaurants I visited in Jackson Heights, homage is always paid to the 14th Dalai Lama.

    Tibetan language lesson - "Hello"  (Tash delek)   "Thank you"  (Tujay - chay)

    Interesting fact about Tibet - Tibet is the highest region on Earth and is commonly referred to as the "Roof of the World."

    Address - 75 - 04 Roosevelt Avenue  Jackson Heights (Queens)   (718) 779 - 7500

    26. Ihawan (Philippines)


    Ihawan does the very best Filipino grill in New York. Chicken and beef so succulent. 

    26. Ihawan (Philippines)


    Ihawan does the very best Filipino grill in New York. Chicken and beef so succulent. 

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    Located in Woodside under the rumble of the 7 Train, Ihawan has been hosting loyal Filipino patrons from all across the tri-state area for twenty years. The name Ihawan means to "grill" and there is no restaurant in New York that does better Filipino Barbeque than Ihawan. 

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    Ihawan serves other classic Filipino dishes as well, such as; Pancit Bihon (sauteed rice noodles, with shrimp, chicken and vegetables) and Sizzling Sisig (pork ears marinated with lemon and hot pepper) But . . . it is the Barbeque that the faithful continue to make the gastronomic pilgrimage for. The Barbeque Plate consists of two skewers of either chicken, pork or a combination of both, rice and pickled salad. The meat is very succulent and carrying that fine slightly burnt taste.

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    The Ihawan "grill master" at work and enjoying. As you enter the restaurant you pass the griller (usually two in tandem) the aroma is soooooo good. The grillers are high-spirited and playful, which is the nature of the Filipino people.

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    Lumpia, this traditional and very popular Filipino food is often eaten as a side dish. Small fried wrapped rolls with shredded meat and vegetable inside.

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    Sinagong, another Filipino classic, this soup has a distinct sour taste. It is tamarind based with guava and bilimbi, and sometimes contains small pieces of beef, shrimp or pork. I am not crazy about it, but it is good try as it is a traditional part of Filipino cuisine. 

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    Ihawan is a good-sized restaurant holding around eighty people. The photo was taken during lunchtime, in the evening Ihawan is usually full, especially on the weekends when large Filipino families come out in droves and waits can be up to an hour. I found the interior of the restaurant pretty uninspiring with virtually no art, or colorful posters, nothing that bespeaks "Philippines!" They do have a huge floor to ceiling mirror (no ballet bar though) Music is soft-rock leaning toward a tad sweat, Carpenters, Air Supply.  However, I was so sated with happiness from the taste of the Filipino barbeque that the music hardly mattered.

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    The hostess, Rosa. The service at Ihawan is warm and big-hearted. Because Filipinos are so high-spirited it is the type of place if you come alone you will probably meet several people at other tables inquiring to make sure you are having a good time. And I always do here!

    Tagalog (Philippines) language lesson - "Hello"  (Ma bu hi)   "Thank you"  (Salamat)   "Delicious"  (Massarap)

    Interesting fact about Philippines - Philippines is by far the "texting capital of the world." As up to 400 million texts are sent out daily by 35 million users. This number is more than the USA and Europe combined.

    Address - 4006 70th Street Woodside (Queens)                     (718) 205 - 1480

    27. El Gauchito (Argentina)


    El Gauchito  is the best most authentic Argentinian restaurant in New York. Fantastic grilled steaks among highly atmospheric setting.

    27. El Gauchito (Argentina)


    El Gauchito  is the best most authentic Argentinian restaurant in New York. Fantastic grilled steaks among highly atmospheric setting.

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    El Gauchito located in Elmhurst, Queens for thirty-five years has been serving up exceptionally good Argentinian cuisine. Specializing in grilled meats which the country is justly famous for, but also pasta dishes. El Gauchito is a restaurant with a remarkable colorful atmosphere that transports one to Argentina. The restaurant is named for the "gaucho" a resident of the desolate pamaps, similar in some ways to the image of the our cowboys. The gaucho is known for their hard-working ways rustling up cattle and their horse-riding talents. They are beloved in Argentina and appear in many folkloric songs and in Argentine literature.

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    The restaurant has two rooms, both seating approximately fifty people. It is vividly and creatively decorated with gaucho capes, imitation grape vines, and the walls sport paintings of classic Argentinean "themes;" tango, a dare-devil on horse-back, women carrying jugs of wine in the fields. What is especially unique, really quite fantastic, is the vibrant colored tiles of "famous Argentinians" that snakes its way through both rooms. From my count there seemed to be a total of seventy-five tiles. I easily recognized the likes of Argentinian sport heros, such as Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, and Mono Ginoblie. When I asked where the tile for the country's embattled President Christina Kurshner Fenadez was , he dismissed me quickly saying, "if they are in politics they will never be allowed on the wall."

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    Great grilled meats and Argentina go together, and at El Gauchito this reputation is played out as they prepare a wide arrange of savory meat dishes. The most popular is the "Parillada Completa" (Mixed Grill.)  This platter is an enormous amount of food, made up of short ribs, skirt steak, sausage, blood sausage, sweet breads and kidneys. Dining alone, I found this dish too daunting, and instead settled very happily on the shell steak which was wonderful, especially when applied with the green chimichuri sauce. 

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    El Gauchito is family run. This is the son, and co-owner Marcello Civelli standing by the restaurant's in-house butcher shop. His father, Mario arrived in the city started as a dishwasher, opened his own butcher shop, and finally opened El Gauchito in 1979. The restaurant has been a smashing success.  

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    This is the Argentinian specialty called "Matambre." This was presented to me as I sat down as "a gift on the house." Both the Matambre and the potato salad are available for purchase at the in-house butcher shop.

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    Close up of the Empanada, chimichuri sauce, and plate of provolone wrapped around ham.

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    The original room of the El Gauchito. It is draped with small National Flags of Argentina. There is a big TV elevated that almost always in turned into the current football (soccer) match, as you would expect.

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    Close up view of the tiles for two of the most beloved of all Argentians; Carlos Gardel, the late Tago singer/actor, and Mercedes Sosa, the inspiring folk singer, known as "La Negra." Each tile in the restaurant is 15" by 15" and it is not just arresting to look at, but an education in learning about the important Argentinians in the country's history. For an atmospheric ethnic restaurant El Gauchito makes a strong impression. 

    Argentina (Spanish) lesson - "Hello"  (Hola)  "Thank you"  (Gracias)  "Delicious"  (Delisio)

    Interesting Fact about Argentina - Argentina has the highest concentration of psychologists in the world. Taking part in psychoanalysis is a central part of their culture, as nearly one-third of the population has been to an analyst at some time.

    Address - 94 - 60 Corona Avenue  Elmhurst  (Queens)  (718) 371 - 8198

    28. HAAT BAZAAR (Bangladesh)


    HAAT BAZAAR is the best and most authentic Bangladeshi restaurant in New York. They prepare delicious Kacchi Biriyani and many fish dishes, including the very popular Hilsa fish.

    28. HAAT BAZAAR (Bangladesh)


    HAAT BAZAAR is the best and most authentic Bangladeshi restaurant in New York. They prepare delicious Kacchi Biriyani and many fish dishes, including the very popular Hilsa fish.

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    The Bangladeshi community is one of the fastest growing in recent years in New York, and Jackson Heights, Queens is the epicenter. The streets of 73rd/74th Streets between Roosevelt Avenue and 37th Avenue offers several Bangladeshi restaurants, but clearly the best for quality of food and atmosphere is HAAT BAZAAR. The cuisine of Bangladesh is similar in some ways to northern India with it's flavorful biriyanis, but differs in its strong leaning to fish dishes. Bangladeshi cuisine also has a tendency is more spicy than Indian.

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    Plate of Kacchi Biriyani, this is considered the National Dish of Bangladesh, it is revered and served at weddings and special gatherings. It maintains the the classic look of Muglai cooking of northern India, but this biriyani centered in Dhaka has its own unique preparation and flavor. Served with mutton as the meat, fine rice, yogurt, and shelf load of exotic spices and a hard boiled egg this is a dish, busts with rich flavor and is not to be missed. The word "kacchi" means "raw" referring to the biriyani ingredients and how they are cooked in layers all together instead of cooking the meat first and rice separately.

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    The manager of the twelve year old HAAT BAZAAR is Sarrer Ranjit, he was very informative in explaining his country's cuisine and instrumental in helping me select the dishes that "I must have." The restaurant is good sized seating about seventy-five, the decor is pretty spartan except for the three TV's overhead. However, the "atmosphere" of the restaurant is made up of the people themselves, animated and enjoying the terrific food. HAAT BAZAAR on weekends gets especially  colorful with large families attending.

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    There is a Bengali saying. 'Mach-e-bhat-e' . . . "fish and rice make a Bengali."  Bangladesh is a country of rivers and it is famous for its vast array of fish dishes. HAAT BAZAAR usually serves ten fish dishes daily. During my visit, Sarrer suggested I try the country's most popular fish, that being Hilsa Fish. The fish (photo above) is served in spicy pungent curry with squash, and despite the amount of tiny bones, I enjoyed the flavors. Bangladeshi curries are well-know for their "heat" using a good amount of mustard oil and very liberal on the use of green chilies. 

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    Known as "Mix Boto," this vegetable platter includes: potato, beans, broccoli, pumpkin, tomato and grounded shrimp. It had a decisive spicy kick.

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    At HAAT BAZAAR there is not the usual table service with a menu, but instead an impressive food counter running a good twenty feet containing some thirty food selections. There are four friendly young Bangladeshi's behind the counter who will help you navigate what you want. After you select the dishes you want, you go to your table and they bring the food to you.

    Bengali language lesson - "Hello"  (Ka mon acho)   "Thank you"  (Dhon no baad)   "Delicious"  (Moja)

    Interesting fact about Bangladesh - Bangladesh with a population of 157 million is the most densely populated country in the world (with countries with over 10 million) Its population is greater than that of Russia which has one hundred times the land mass.

    Address - 

    29. Malecon (Dominican Republic)


    Located in Washington Heights Malecon  is best Dominican restaurant in NYC! Make sure to have the roasted pork with beans!

    29. Malecon (Dominican Republic)


    Located in Washington Heights Malecon  is best Dominican restaurant in NYC! Make sure to have the roasted pork with beans!

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    For thirty-two years Malecon located in Washington Heights has beeen the go to place for mouth-watering gigantic portioned Dominican cuisine. Besides the terrific food, the atmosphere with customers from all over the world is festive and colorful. The restaurant Malecon, is named after the the famed beach area in Santa Domingo.

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    The Dominican classic . . . "La Bandera," (The flag) which consists of a plate of yellow rice, red beans, and a meat. Today I opted on the roast pork, very tender and juicy. At the top left of photo is the Empanada, which quite frankly I was disappointed with, too dry and thin. Directly to the left of the main plate is a dish called Quipe a deep fried bulgar roll. This is a version of the Lebanese kibeh which was brought over by a wave of Mid-East immigrants arriving in the 19th Century. I found this taste and texture interesting and worth trying. And of course, the Dominican beer of choice, Presedente, one of my favorite brews. 

    Sancocho, this is the traditional stew of oxtail, pork shoulder, and red pepper, served with rice. YES!

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    My waiter Louise, highly animated and fun-loving. On each dish he would bring to my table he would gesture to kiss the food as with deep reverence and say to me, "Oh, so special, so very good taste."

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    Malecon is a large bustling place. It has a terrific upbeat vibe and as mentioned a wide range from diners seemingly from all over the world. On this visit I saw tourists (they had their maps/books with them) from China and Japan. I heard French and Russian being spoken as well. The restaurant is narrow but runs very deep seating about 150. The decor is softened by attractive glowing light of red and blue tones.

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    A closeup of the roasted pork with yellow rice and red beans. The pork is highly recommended.

    Malecon is famous for its delicious succulent rotisserie chicken. This can be eaten at the restaurant or taken "to go." The day I want there were a good twenty people in line to get their chicken.

    Spanish language (Dominican Republic) lesson - "Hello"  (Hola)   "Thank you"  (Gracias)  "Delicious"   (Delisioso)

    Interesting fact about the Dominican Republic - Dominicans are not the largest foreign born group in NYC with 747,473 recently surpassing Puerto Rico with 717,444.

    Address - 

    30. Cakor (Montenegro)


    Cakor's owner is from the beautiful country of Montenegro and serving food from his country. Located in the Bronx, make sure to have the Sujak and the Civapi meat dishes.

    30. Cakor (Montenegro)


    Cakor's owner is from the beautiful country of Montenegro and serving food from his country. Located in the Bronx, make sure to have the Sujak and the Civapi meat dishes.

    I love Montenegro! Is there any country in the world so small in size that has such a wide range of magnificent landscape? (Country is the 160th largest in the world, smaller than Connecticut) Rugged coastline, towering mountains, a breathtaking fjord, and the deepest gorge in Europe. Feeling in the mood for some authentic cuisine from this country I headed up to the Bronx, the restaurant of Cakor which is located off Arthur Avenue in the area of "Little Albania." Cakor which has been opened four years is not only popular with native of Montenegro, but with the diaspora from the other Balkan countries as well. 

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    For the hungry carnivore, I highly recommend the "CANKOR COMBO." Three meats; Sujak the item looking somewhat pink in color, Qufte, resembling a small hamburger patty, and the Civapi, the small sausages. Each of the meats had their own distinct robust flavor, and all very tasty. The trio of meats was accompanied by a generous piece of Bulgarian feta, red peppers and potato. Cakor also pours a very nice "House Red" from Montenegro, full bodied, and semi-dry.

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    The CAKOR COMBO more than filled me up good for lunch, however, when the owner Ismet Sujok learned of my travels and love for his country, especially that I stayed three days in the village of Gusinje ( a spectacular mountain setting on the Albanian border) where he is from, he insisted that I try the "special dish" for this evening, assuring me, "my treat, my treat."  Stuffed Red Pepper with Mashed Potatoes (yes, they are orange in color) and pieces of Montenegrin lamb. Wow, sooo very good! 

    Ismet Sujak, the big-hearted, highly animated owner of CAKOR with his wife. His "story" is amazing, arriving alone to NYC by himself at the age of sixteen not knowing anyone. He met his wife when she was fourteen. Ismet explained to me that CAKOR is named after a dramatic high-ridge mountain pass between Montenegro and Kosovo.

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    No this is not the Bronx . . . but one of my favorite dinners in Montenegro. What a  combination, yummy prawn risotto and the setting looking across the Adriatic in the village of Milocer. I encourage travel to Montenegro, however, do not go in the height of summer, but off-season if possible. I went in mid-May and it was wonderful and not expensive. Do you see that house jutting out over the water? I stayed there for only $70 a night.

    31. Yemen Cafe (yemen)


    31. Yemen Cafe (yemen)


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    Located on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, Yemen Cafe this years celebrates its 30th anniversary. I encourage those who have not been to visit this very special restaurant and join in on the celebration. Yemen Cafe will delight you with their large portions of authentic Yemeni cuisine, warm hospitality amid colorful surroundings.

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    My two appetizers; on the left is Fasoolia, (white kidney beans sauteed with onions tomatoes, minced scallions, and seasoned with fresh garlic and cumin.)  Interesting taste, though felt a little on the dry side. On the right is Baba Ghanouch, (pureed roasted eggplant, sesame paste and olive oil.) This was outstanding. All appetizers are served with a "Khaz" the warm bread cooked in a clay oven. The bread is delicious and nearly 15 " wide.

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    The signature dish at Cafe Yemen is Lamb Haneeth. On the menu it is promoted as "World Famous," and believe me it is worthy of its self-praise. The lamb is seasoned and slow cooked for five hours and when the big shank arrives on the plate the lamb is so tender that it is literally falling off the bone. It is served on a bed of long grain basmati rice and topped with vegetables. 

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    One of the true hallmarks of Cafe Yemen is the hospitality and so that little extra to make the customer happy. When I sat down to eat I was greeted by my waiter with a bowl of "Mareg" (Lamb soup - with lemon on side) a nice gesture. Yemen Cafe is looked over by the day to day managers Momad (on the left) and Abdul (on the far right) They are the respective sons of the two original two owners. In the middle is Sayed, my waiter today.

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    Saltah, this is the national dish of Yemen. It is a root vegetable stew served in a bubbling hot clay bowl with tangy fenegreek and lamb sauce. A distinct flavorful taste recommend.

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    Yemen Cafe has a decor that presents at least a dozen photographs of Yemen capturing the glories of its breathtaking northern mountainous landscape, UNESCO villages such as Jilba, and the one-of-a-kind architecture of the buildings in Sana's "Old Town." They also have a a large video screen which plays continually the most beautiful and interesting visuals of the country.

    Arabic (Yemen) language lesson - "Hello"  (Marhaba)  "Thank you"  (Shukran)  "Delicious"  (Lazeez)

    Interesting fact about Yemen - The Yemeni are proud of their elaborate weddings where people feast for 21 days.

    Address - 176 Atlantic Avenue  (Brooklyn)  (&18) 834 - 9533


    32. Palau Pinang (Malaysia)


    Palau Pinang located in Elmhurt Queens is the best Malaysian restaurant in New York. Make sure to try the roti canai, and the delicious beef rendang!

    32. Palau Pinang (Malaysia)


    Palau Pinang located in Elmhurt Queens is the best Malaysian restaurant in New York. Make sure to try the roti canai, and the delicious beef rendang!

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    With the abundance of good Thai, Indian and Chinese restaurants in the city, I find that Malaysian cuisine is often overlooked. Yes, their cuisine draws from these countries, but it has a distinct flavor all its own and should be explored. Pulau Pinang (named after the Malaysian island) in Elmhurst, Queens is a terrific place to start. The restaurant before was named Penang, but it has been under new management for the past two years and it has never been better.

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    Though only an appetizer, there is no dish that is so recognizable as being "Malaysian" as Roti Canai (pronounced Roti Chin-ni) It is a crispy Indian style pancake served with chicken curry as the dipping sauce. It is so popular that I can't recall a time when dining with others that someone did not order this tasty simple dish to start with. 

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    Hainanese Chicken is a nice balance to some of the more spicy Malaysian dishes. The chicken is steamed and served with two different sauces, one soy based, the other with more fire.

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    Beef Rendang, one of the true classics of Malaysian cuisine, and my personal favorite. Beef cooked with coconut milk, chilies and spices (including cinnamon cloves) cooked over low-flame and simmered for hours. It has some heat, but not to the point where the spice overwhelms.

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    The manager of Pulau Pinang, Yoke Hong (on the right) with waitress Jiang. They are more than happy to explain the foods of Malaysia and the country as a whole if you are interested.

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    The interior of Pulau Pinang is attractive with soft light blue walls accented in orange, and like the ethnic make up of the country (28% Chinese, 15% Indian) one will find images of the Buddha and the Hindu God Ganesh as well.

    Malaysian language lesson - "Hello" (Selemat Tiggal)  "Thank you"  (Tera mikasi)  

    Interesting fact about Malaysia - The world's largest is flower is on the Malaysian island of Sabah. It's name is Rafflesi, and is 3 feet in diameter.

    Address - 82-84 Broadway Elmhurst (Queens)   (718) 672 - 7380

    33. I LOVE PARAGUAY (Paraguay)


    I LOVE PARAGUAY is the only Paraguayan restaurant in New York City. Make sure to have the Chipa Guaza (part quiche/part souffle.)

    33. I LOVE PARAGUAY (Paraguay)


    I LOVE PARAGUAY is the only Paraguayan restaurant in New York City. Make sure to have the Chipa Guaza (part quiche/part souffle.)

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    The name of the restaurant says it all . . . I LOVE PARAGUAY.  Me too!!  As New York's only Paraguayan restaurant, (located on a quiet street in Sunnyside, Queens) it won my heart for its cozy atmosphere, warm service, and hearty "interesting" first time ever-tried food items.

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    Chipa Guaza one of the most traditional dishes of Paraguayan cuisine. It is part quiche part souffle packed with creamy Muester cheese and large kernels of corn. There is a fascinating story involving this dish and 19th Century politics.  I encourage you to ask the manager Fabrico Ojeda to tell you it.

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    Wow, mama, what a feed! This is not just a cheeseburger, but is called the "De Lomito I LOVE PARAGUAY Sandwich." Take a close look at this artery buster - Filet mignon steak, lettuce and tomato, and a fried egg underneath, with a mountain of french fries. Messy yes, but very yummy!

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    I LOVE PARAGUAY is a family run restaurant. On the right is the manager Fabrico Ojeda. His mother Nancy is the head-chef and she with her husband Carlos have owned the restaurant for eight years. To the left is Carlos, the primary cook. The family is from Paraguay's capital city Asoncion. Fabrico is gregarious and more than pleased to discuss Paraguay's culture as well and the cuisine.

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    I LOVE PARAGUAY has several good hearty soups, and feature one each day. On the Monday I visited I had "Lorco" soup (white corn with beef in a tomato base.)

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    Mbeju is an ancient Paraguayan food of round cheesy bread. The texture is chewy and has a slight burnt edge to it. The word "Mbeju" is from the indigenous Guarani language which was spoken one thousand years before the Spanish arrived. The language is alive and well today, as five million of the total population of seven million have the ability to speak it in Paraguay. 

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    With large wooden beams, the cozy restaurant seating about forty takes on a slight feel of a Swiss chalet. The walls display large images of the best of nature and and ancient ruins of Paraguay.

    Guarni (Paraguay's indigenous) language lesson - "Hello"  (Mba eichap)   "Thank you"  (Aguije)

    Interesting fact about Paraguay - In December 2013, Paraguay became the world's first country to legalize the marijuana trade.

    Address - 43-16 Greenpoint Avenue Sunnyside (Queens)

     

    33. Rincon Criollo (Cuba)


    When it comes to Cuban food Rincon Criollo located in Corona (Queens) is the best and most authentic Cuban restaurant in New York. Love the shredded beef and colorful atmosphere.

    33. Rincon Criollo (Cuba)


    When it comes to Cuban food Rincon Criollo located in Corona (Queens) is the best and most authentic Cuban restaurant in New York. Love the shredded beef and colorful atmosphere.

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    For forty years the Acosta family has owned and operated this nearly landmark-status restaurant on Junction Blvd. in Corona, Queens. The two brothers Jesus and Rodobaldo's mission was to bring themost "authentic Cuban cuisine and feel" to New York from their native Cuba, and their earlier restaurant which they opened in the village of Santiago de Las Vegas, a small town north of Havana in the early 1950's.

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    I am a huge fan of the Lechon Asado (Roasted Pork) and the "Paella for two" (excellent for New York standards), but the signature dish to have is the Ropa Viejo (Shredded Beef in Tomato Sauce.) and with the Black Beans and Rice.  Fantastically flavorful.

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    The food here is very good, but what makes this Cuban establishment so extra special and a "must visit" is the ambiance of Rincon Criollo. As you enter you are engulfed immediately with the buzz of a jam-packed room with festive diners. (most Spanish speaking) The decor is extremely atmospheric paying homage to Cuba with paintings, posters, vintage photographs occupying every available inch of the restaurant's wall space.

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    The painting of the "Hatuey Girl." Hatuey is a well-known malta beverage in Cuba.

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    More colorful Cuban wall decoration.

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    Here is another dish I like, Friturasa de Bacalao (Cod Fritters) good for an appetizer, especially when plied with a good amount of lime.

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    Sorry photo out of focus, these wood carvings of each of the Latin America countries wraps all around the restaurant. They were done by one of the Acosta brothers.

    Spanish (Cuba) language lesson - "Hello"  (Hola)  "Thank you"  (Gracias)  "Delicous"  (Delisioso)

    Interesting fact about Cuba - Cuba actually possesses one of the best health systems in the world. The life expectancy is equal to leading progressive nations.

    Address - 40-09 Junction Blvd  Corona (Queens)  (718) 458 - 0235


    35. SmoRGas Chef (Norway)


    At the Scandinavian House is the best and probably the only Norwegian restaurant in New York. The Swedish Meatballs are especially good.

    35. SmoRGas Chef (Norway)


    At the Scandinavian House is the best and probably the only Norwegian restaurant in New York. The Swedish Meatballs are especially good.

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    There are really no purely Norwegian restaurants in New York. One of the main reasons is that the few restaurants that do embrace Nordic Cooking are billed as "Scandinavian Cuisine" and the countries of Scandinavia are incorporated together. However, because Morten Solberg, the Executive Director/Head Chef of  Smorgas Chef in the Scandinavian House is Norwegian, I will feature this restaurant under Norway.

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    One of my favorite features of Smorgas Chef at Scandinavia House is the space itself. The space is airy with soaring ceilings, colorful bright wooden chairs, and a large birch tree in the center of the dining room. That's right, a real birch tree! The restaurant has an arresting feeling of calm, as if you are in a bucolic setting, and certainly far from the hectic crush of mid-day lunch in Midtown.

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    I have eaten at Smorgas Chef many times, as I am a big enthusiast of the art/film/music programs that Scandinavia House puts on. The food is good and very representative of "Scandinavian cuisine." I am especially fond of the Swedish Meatballs and the Cured Gravlox Plate. However, for a diner wanting to try this cuisine for the first time, I strongly suggest the Classic Smorgasbord.  This plate will give you an outstanding overview of the important Scandinavian foods. It consists of the following: Gravlaks, Jasson's Potatoes, Swedish Meatballs, Spiced Hearing, Rosolli Apple-Beat Salad, and Dill Cumbers. 

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    The 72-Hour Aquavit Cured Gravlaks, house-cured salmon, fingerling potatoes, dill cucumber salad, mustard sauce.

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    Swedish Meatballs, with lingonberries, mashed potatoes and pickled red cabbage.

    Smorgas has some very delicious desserts. My favorite is the Swedish Princess Cake.

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    The Scandinavia House is one of the most underrated museums in the city, and is an excellent place to learn more about the cultures of the Scandinavian countries. Currently on view is the exhibition "Painting Tranquility,"  featuring the 19th Century Danish artist, Vilhelm Hammershoi. The show runs until February 27th.

    Norwegian language lesson - "Hello"  (God Dag)   "Thank you"  (Takk)  "Delicious"  (Saftig)

    Interesting fact about Norway - Norway is the world's most peaceful country, according to the Global Peace Index.

    Address - 58 Park Avenue (37-38th Street) inside Scandinavia House  (212) 847 - 9745

     

    36. Mtskheta Cafe (Georgia)


    Mtskheta Cafe in Brooklyn is the best Georgian restaurant in NYC. Make sure to have the khinkali and chakapuli. High-spirited setting.

    36. Mtskheta Cafe (Georgia)


    Mtskheta Cafe in Brooklyn is the best Georgian restaurant in NYC. Make sure to have the khinkali and chakapuli. High-spirited setting.

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    In the shadow of the D Train (25th Avenue stop) in Brooklyn is the most authentic Georgian dining experience in New York.  Authentic in in the classic richly flavorful dishes, and the "feel," the atmosphere, as it is usually packed with high-spirited Georgian natives. Mtskheta Cafe is named after the ancient town of Mtskheta which is revered as it is the headquarters of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

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    Eggplant with walnut pomogrants. A distinct and appreciated taste from other eggplant dishes.

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    Wow!! Now that is what I call a sizzling platter of pork. Absolutely busting with flavor.

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    On the menu it reads simply, "roasted mushrooms with potatoes," but this dish surprisingly steeped with glorious taste.

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    Two classics . . . top left in Khinkali, over-sized dumplings with seasoned ground beef and broth. And, Chakapuli, veal stew with sage. This is one of my favorite of Georgian dishes, love the "heat" of the dish. Don't confuse Georgian food with Russian. Georgian has a spicier quality and bigger flavors. I prefer Georgian between the two cuisines. 

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    This man joined by our waitress came to our table on hearing that I would be traveling to Georgia soon. He wished me safe and great travel and set us over some drinks. This gesture is typical of the warmth and hospitality that the Georgian people are known for. Later, I would experience this big time as I traveled the country.

    Georgian language lesson - "Hello"  (Gah mahr joh ba)  "Thank you"  (Gmahd lohbt)

    Interesting fact about Georgia - Many consider the Georgia as the oldest wine producing country in the world. In the fertile valleys of the South Caucaus houses the source of the world's first cultivated grapevines from 8,000 years ago.

    Address - 2568 86th Street (Brooklyn)   (718) 676 - 1868

    37. Arapas Cafe (Venezuela)


    Love Arepas Cafe, this is my favorite Venezuelan restaurant in New York. Love the arepas, I had the shark, they have some twenty fillings. Cool atmosphere also.

    37. Arapas Cafe (Venezuela)


    Love Arepas Cafe, this is my favorite Venezuelan restaurant in New York. Love the arepas, I had the shark, they have some twenty fillings. Cool atmosphere also.

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    I felt a strong immediate attraction for Arepas Cafe as I entered the the eight year old Venezuelan restaurant in Astoria. Attraction is the colorful native decor, the glorious voice of Franco De Vita (one of the country's biggest stars) the warmth of the manager . . . and soon, and best of all, the food. A cuisine I have never had before, and it proved not only to be delicious, but uniquely different from other South American cuisines. 

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    One thing that jumped out at me immediately were two large impressive painting. Both paintings splashed with bold colors and expressive. I found the artists style reminiscent of a Frida Kahlo. I was disappointed that the manager did not know the name of the artist, though confirming that she was from Venezuela and now living in New York. In addition to the paintings, there is a huge map of Venezuela gracing the one wall, and a large flag of the country on another. Cafe Arepas is a restaurant that is vibrant, and indeed has "personality."

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    This is Venezuela's National Dish, "Pachellon Criollo," (shredded beef, white rice, black beans, and sweet plantains which are sprinkled with grated cheese.) The beef was very moist and flavorful. 

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    The shredded beef might be the "national dish,"  BUT . . . the most well recognized and beloved is the Arepa. Arepa is a flat bread made of ground maize and served with a wide variety of fillings. The above is known as "Gazon" (baby shark) with red and green peppers. An unusual taste, but I liked it. At Arepas Cafe they have THIRTY selections of Arepas. Some of the fillings that looked especially attractive were; the mixed seafood, white mushroom, and roasted pork.

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    The head-chef, Mauilec (on the left) and the manager, Adriana.

    The Mini Platter, which contains; 3 tequenos, 3 mini cahapas, 3 mini empenadas, a 4 fried yuca. I found it interesting to look at, but the taste a little flat.

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    Each of these bottles contains a special and unusual flavored sauce which works terrific on the food. The greenish one on the left has a cilantro like taste, and on the right, the one which I preferred, is papaya but not sweet tasting, but with a spicy bite. 

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    "Jugo de Papelon con Limon," (Brown sugar, homemade lemonade) a Venezuelan specialty.  Very refreshing.

    Spanish (Venezuela) language lesson - "Hello"  (Hola)  "Thank you"  (Gracias)  "Delicious"  (Delisioso)

    Interesting fact about Venezuela - The world's highest uninterrupted waterfall is Angel Falls in Venezuela's Canaima National Park, at the height of 3,212 feet, and direct plunge of 2,648 feet - from Auantepui Mountain. 

    Address - 33-07 36th Avenue  (718) 935 - 3835

    38. Taim (Israel)


    For the best Falafal Sandwich in New York head to Taim in the West Village. Delicious!

    38. Taim (Israel)


    For the best Falafal Sandwich in New York head to Taim in the West Village. Delicious!

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    Taim in Hebrew means "tasty, delicious," and this tiny restaurant located on a quiet street in the West Village more than lives up to the name. Taim was created eleven years ago by Einat Admony, a trained chef, and her husband Stefan Nafzinger, both natives of Tel Aviv. They missed the "street food" of their city and decided to do something about it, and created Taim. The restaurant despite being tight on space has been a smashing success to the point of having a loyal almost cult like following. There is a Taim on Spring Street as well, larger in size, but I prefer the original.

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    The Falafal Sandwich (chickpea croquettes, hummus, Israeli salad, pickled cabbage, and tahini stuffed in pita bread) at Taim is far and away the best falafal sandwich I have eaten in New York. At Taim you have a choice of three types:  The Green Falafal, which is mixed with parsley, cilantro and mint, the Red Falafal, which is mixed with spicy red peppers, and (my favorite) the Harissa Falafal, mixed with Tunisian spices.

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    Ingredients at Taim are so fresh. Here is a closeup of the Israeli Salad. (Freshly chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, and lemon mint dressing.)

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    The menu board at Taim. The restaurant is tiny with just eight stools. At times the place can get a little too packed and cramped.  But despite, it is worth it. Many people who come to Taim do "take out."

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    The most popular dish and offering a very good overview of Israeli cuisine, is the "Mixed Falafal Platter," which comes with two each of the three types of falafal (the Red, Green and Harissa) humus, Israeli salad, Tabouli salad, and toasted Za'atar pita bread. Not only delicious, but a very large portion as well. Please note that since the creation of Taim Ms. Admony has opened two other restaurants in New York, Balaboosta and Bar Bolonat.  Both outstanding, more formal and sophisticated, but my heart remains with Taim.

    Hebrew (Israel) language lesson - "Hello"  (Sholam)  "Thank you"  (Toe-DAH)  "Delicious"  (Tah-EEM)

    Interesting fact about Israel - Israel has the highest percentage of college degrees of any country in the world.

    Address - 222 Waverly Place (Manhattan)     



    39. Ben's Best (Kosher Delicatessen)


    For best tasting pastrami sandwiches in New York head to Ben's Best in Forest Hills, Queens. Wonderful warm staff also.

    39. Ben's Best (Kosher Delicatessen)


    For best tasting pastrami sandwiches in New York head to Ben's Best in Forest Hills, Queens. Wonderful warm staff also.

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    One of the truly iconic institutions of New York  is the Kosher Delicatessen.  Unfortunately in the past years there has been a serious decline in the delicatessen. In the 1930's there were nearly 1,300 delicatessens in the city. Now there are twelve. I have long been an ardent enthusiast of the delicatessen and do my best to continue to visit all those remaining and enjoy each for their own specific feel. However, my favorite, and the delicatessen that I visit most frequently is Ben's Best in Rego Park Queens.  Best of Ben's is now celebrating seventy-one years of delicious home-cooked kosher foods with a homey warm staff that makes you feel like family.

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    The pastrami sandwich at Ben's Best is good sized, but don't expect the HUGE sized sandwich that some of the other delicatessens in the city serve which border on the ridiculous. But . . . what is HUGE is the TASTE of the pastrami at Ben's Best. The pastrami dark, slightly spicy and so juicy, and is still cured by hand in barrels.  And the Rye bread such a vital ingredient to the satisfaction of the sandwich is custom baked daily.

    The Matzo Ball Chicken Soup so satisfying and heartwarming.  After eating, I could only agree with the the survey which Ben's Best conducted in 1986 . . . of 110 Grandmother's they found that 104 stood behind chicken soup as opposed to over-the-counter remedies. 

    Jay Parker has been the owner of Ben's Best for thirty-two years. Jay who was previously a successful bond trader on Wall Street and took over the restaurant when his father, Ben, passed away in 1984. The youthful and gregarious Jay is a man of  multi-interests.  He was featured last year in the documentary film "Deli Man" by Erik Greenberg Anjou, a film which chronicles the history of the delicatessen and select deli owners across the country today.  It is highly informative, entertaining and also somewhat poignant. 

    One of the reasons I like Best's Best so much is that it has stayed true to itself, it does not try too hard, and feels so comfortable. The walls at the restaurant are adorned with old black and white photos of Rego Park. There is also a handsome painting of Jay's father Ben, the original owner.

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    Stuffed Cabbage, you can get this as an appetizer (as shown here) as well as an entree portion.

    One of the best things about Ben's Best is the staff. Hard working, but a sense of enjoying what they do and playfulness with customers. (from left to right - Richy, Anna, Steve and Ivan)

    The poster from the documentary - Deli Man

    Address - 96 - 40 Queens Blvd  Rego Park (Queens)   (718) 897-1700

    40. Balkanika (Macedonia)


    At Balkanika you get an authentic feel of the taste of the food of Macedonia and their delicious wines. It is the only Macedonian restaurant in New York.

    40. Balkanika (Macedonia)


    At Balkanika you get an authentic feel of the taste of the food of Macedonia and their delicious wines. It is the only Macedonian restaurant in New York.

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    Over the past years one of my favorite "surprise destinations has been Macedonia.  I traveled this country, "Land of Alexander the Great," embracing it's rugged landscape, tasty wines, and vibrant highly intelligent people. And, saw virtually no tourists. I ached for a piece of Macedonia in NYC, and last week I found it in the restaurant Balkanika. Located in Hell's Kitchen Balkanika as the name says features "Balkan cuisine," a cuisine which is similar between the seven Balkan countries, though each Balkan country takes pride in certain dishes which they relish as their own. The clincher that got me excited to seek out the restaurant was learning that the owner is from Macedonia.  

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    Macedonian cuisine is not especially sophisticated, but it does taste good. Take a look at the photo, the dark looking object on the right part of the plate is Macedonian Pleskavica, (ground beef stuffed with herbs and Kashkaval cheese.) The taste is flavorful with a slightly spicy and burnt grilled taste.  To the left is the infamous Shopska Salad, a salad that Macedonian's proudly claim as their invention, however, Bulgarians will dispute this.  The salad contains tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, and olives.  

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    Seeing the painting of Lake Ohrid at the restaurant brought back vivid memories of my visit to Macedonia. The lake with its quiet and majestic beauty separates  Albania and Macedonia, and is one of the deepest and oldest lakes in the world. There is a magical feeling here and it remains one of my favorite places.

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    The Macedonian owner of Balkanika was unfortunately not in the evening I went. However, I did have a good lively with the waitress Balay (on the right), a native of the Skopje the country's capital. She has been in the city for six months and told me that she enjoyed New York, but missed "the beauty of the land" in Macedonia. The young lady on the left is from Istanbul.

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    This dish was very good, personally recommended by Balay. A mixture of toasted walnuts, roasted red peppers, onions and lemon, with an olive on top. A unique taste sensation and interesting texture.

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    One of the highlights of dining at Balkanika was drinking Macedonian wine which is difficult to find in New York. The wine area in Macedonia is in the central-eastern region of the country. They are best known for their reds.  This wines name is Tgaza Jug, it is a red, medium bodied with just a touch of sweetness at the finish.

    Macedonian language lesson - "Hello"  (Zdra-vo)  "Thank you"  (Bla-go-da-ram)  "Delicious" (TOH-ah BEH-sheh)

    Interesting fact about Macedonia - Macedonia was the only foreign Yugoslavian territory that gained independence peacefully in 1991.

    Address - 691 Ninth Avenue (47-48th Street)   (212) 974 - 0300

     

    41. Kashmir 9 (Pakistan)


    Best Pakistani restaurant in New York is a tiny hole-in-the-wall over on Ninth Avenue. Not much to look at but food very good!

    41. Kashmir 9 (Pakistan)


    Best Pakistani restaurant in New York is a tiny hole-in-the-wall over on Ninth Avenue. Not much to look at but food very good!

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    For twenty one years, at all hours of the day and night (open till 5 AM) taxi's have been lining up, natives of Pakistan, and a wide mix of everyone else has been making their way to this humble rather drab looking restaurant on Ninth Avenue and 36th to enjoy authentic Pakistani Cuisine. The cuisine of Pakistan (which is not that easy to find in the city) is similar to Northern Indian but incorporates noticeable Central Asian influence and is more meat oriented.

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    The decor is beyond sparse, really nothing at all except the white walls, a long mirror and a TV which always seems to have Pakistan cricket matches on. There is a small prayer rug in the very back of the restaurant. There are eight booths each serving four. The place is usually always crowded with a good portion of the diners dong "take out." You order at the counter as twelve trays are presented broken into "Meat" and "Vegetable."  

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    Chicken Biryani with chic peas, very tasty and a huge portion. Though you order at the counter they bring the food to you. All the dishes come with an order of nan bread, and a small salad green salad with tomato. The dishes are served on paper plate with plastic utensils.

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    Chapal Kabab one of the most popular of all Pakistani dishes and eaten in all regions of the country. Minced meat (in this case chicken) with onion, chives and green chilies.  It looks a little grizzly, but don't worry - it is busting with flavor with nice spice bite.

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    Shaid on the left runs the counter, and Altof is the chef. Both are from Lahore, the most culturally-rich city in Pakistan. Both are animated and generous in their portions they serve.

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    Kashmir 9 has "Daily Specials" such as Meat balls with eggs on Monday, or White Turnip Lamb on Tuesday. On Friday they serve Haleem, this is one of the most revered dishes in Pakistani cuisine and is not to be missed. (Photo above) Haleem made of wheat, barley, lentils, with meat (either beef, chicken or mutton) a slew of spices (red chilies, mint, cloves, coriander, cumin) is slow cooked for 5-6 hours. It has a sticky almost paste-like consistency.  It's taste is distinct and must be tried.

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    The Pakistani cricket team is one of the best in the world, and is a constant presence at Kashmir 9. Perhaps their greatest player of all time, Imran Khan in 1996 formed his own political party Tereek-e-Insaf ("Movement for Justice"). In 2012 he was selected "Asia Person of the Year."

    Urdo (Pakistan) language lesson - "Hello"  (Assalaam-o-Alaikum)  "Thank you" (Shukriya)  "Delicous"  (Mazadar)

    Interesting fact about Pakistan - Pakistan holds four of the fourteen highest peaks in the world, including K2 which is the second highest. The world's highest paved road in the world is Pakistan's Karakoram Highway.

    Address - 478 9th Avenue  (36-37th)   (Manhattan)  (212) 736 - 7745

     

     

    42. Ema Datsi (Bhutan)


    Ema Datsi is the only Bhutanese restaurant in New York and it is serves very good food in a colorful setting.

    42. Ema Datsi (Bhutan)


    Ema Datsi is the only Bhutanese restaurant in New York and it is serves very good food in a colorful setting.

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    Bhutan perched high in the Himalayas is the world's last remaining Buddhist Kingdom, a place of  renowned natural beauty, it is a country that some day I am determined to visit.  Until then . . .  I make my way out to Woodside (Queens) to Ema Datsi to get my Bhutan fix of cuisine and culture.  The one year old restaurant Ema Datsi is named after the country's "National Dish," and is the only Bhutanese restaurant in New York.

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    This is Ema Datsi the national dish of Bhutan, it is composed of melted cheese, green chili peppers and garlic. The dish is spicy hot, but I liked it. Bhutanese food is similar in some ways to Tibet and Nepal, but has dishes unique to itself, and also they do not eat the ubiquitous momo dumplings which is so popular in Tibet and Nepal.

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    Sekan Thali, a very traditional dish in Bhutan. Rice, dried pork, potates in a tangy sauce, and seaweed with radish. Please note color of rice, yes it has a reddish look and is.  It has a a texture of brown rice, but with slightly nutty taste.

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    On the right is Lekey the owner of Ema Datsi. He has been in New York for several years and is excited to finally open his own restaurant which has long been a dream of his. He informed me that he likes things about the city, especially the diversity of peoples, but he misses the landscape and nature of Bhutan. On his left is the waiter, Dolge.

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    The restaurant is one the small side but is charming with colorful painted walls, photographs of Bhutan and an ornate tin roof.

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    Taktsang Monastery, probably Bhutan's most iconic image, also known as the "Tiger's Nest" built in 1682 just clings dramatically on the mountain cliff-side. 

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    Suja Tea - "butter tea," interesting tasting, somewhat bitter, an acquired taste. If you want "milk tea" ask for Ngaja Tea.

    Bhutan language lesson - "Hello" (Kuzoozangpo La)  "Thank you" (Kaadinchhey La)  "Delicious" (Zhimbay)

    Interesting fact about Bhutan - Bhutanese are not allowed no marry foreigners.

    Address - 67-21 Woodside Avenue, Woodside (Queens)  (718) 458 - 8588

     


     

    43. Kombit (Haiti)


    Kombit is my favorite Haitian restaurant in New York. Family-run the restaurant serves very authentic Haitian cuisine.

    43. Kombit (Haiti)


    Kombit is my favorite Haitian restaurant in New York. Family-run the restaurant serves very authentic Haitian cuisine.

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    Since 2004 Kombit has been a mainstay on Flatbush Avenue serving the Haitian community with flavorful home-cooked Haitian cuisine and a wonderful comfortable place to hangout with friends.  It is one of those places that just feels right. Kombit is named after the traditional farming ritual where workers unite in a collective effort. This "effort" is carried out in spades by the three Felix sisters, Denise, Pascale, and Maryse that own and operate Kombit. Beyond the food, there is a nice vibe to the restaurant, especially on the weekend with the live Haitian band playing.

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    Akra, is a well-known Haitian appetizer made from Yautia (Taro Root) and grated with fine herbs and fried to a light crisp. The small dish to the side is called Piklis, which is made of cabbage-carrot slaw, pepper and vinegar, and has a distinct spicy bite. It is served with every dish that is fried, and I found it was enhanced by it.

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    Haitian cuisine is comparable to creole cooking, with flavors of Africa and France blended in. The Gumbo Shrimp blended with cut okra, onions, and bell peppers and stewed in a "Kreyol" sauce is an example of this. Very flavorful.

    There is nice spacing between tables on handsome hardwood flooring, seating about forty.  Paintings of agrarian scenes decorate the dining room.

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    One of the several paintings.

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    One of the favorite Haitian dishes is Griot chunks of fried pork, marinated in citrus juice, garlic and herbs, and deep fried. It had a chewy texture, and with the Piklis applied it tasted even better.

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    The evening I was there Maryse one of the three sisters who own the restaurant arrived as I was leaving and insisted I try Haiti's famous Barbancourt Rum, very smooth. Maryse, is a vivacious attractive woman, however passed on my request to be photographed saying, "I only want photo taken when my sisters are also with me." 

    Haitian language lesson -

    Interesting fact about Haiti -

    Address - 279 Flatbush Avenue  (Brooklyn)  (718) 399 - 2000




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    44. Karczma (Poland)


    For authentic Polish food in New York make sure to head to Greenpoint area of city. Karczma is my favorite Polish restaurant in New York. Lots of hearty Polish food and attractive staff in national dress.

    44. Karczma (Poland)


    For authentic Polish food in New York make sure to head to Greenpoint area of city. Karczma is my favorite Polish restaurant in New York. Lots of hearty Polish food and attractive staff in national dress.

    Whenever I am in the mood for Polish food I immediately jump on the G train and get over to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. There has been much talk about the spiffy gentrification taking place in Greenpoint, and yes, it is changing some, but the area still resonates a special ethnic enclave, and remains the second largest concentration of Poles in the United States, behind only Chicago. And, when I am in Greenpont, my restaurant destination is Karczma. Established in 2007, Karczma serves heaps up hearty delicious food, in a cozy atmospheric setting. 

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    White Borscht Soup, served in a breaded bowl, the soup is creamy with chunks of seasoned sausage and a hard-boiled egg. This is a soup not to be missed, especially on a cold night, so warming and satisfying. This actually comes with a side order of mashed potatoes and bits of bacon as well.

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    Because I was torn between two entrees I decided to go with the "Plate of Polish Specialties," this was a good move as it contained them both and more. This plate was a mountain of Polish delights, including: 3 Pierogis, 2 Potato Pancakes, Polish Kielbasa, Hunter's Stew, and Stuffed Cabbage. I highly recommend this dish especially to those new to Polish cuisine as it give such an excellent sampling of some of their most well-known food items.

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    I am always drawn to ethnic restaurants that have a special atmosphere, and makes one feel that they have been "transported" back to the native country.  Karczma, absolutely has this quality. The restaurant's decor is part folk-art museum with costumes and pitchforks gracing the walls, large wagon wheels acting as light fixtures above, deep wooden booths which you can get lost in, Polish music plays, Polish beer is poured, and best of all the lovely and charming wait staff dressed in native Polish dress. The waitresses were all from Poland, except one from Slovakia.

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    It is not true, they DO allow vegetables into the restaurant. Here is a nice tasting appetizer I had - asparagus wrapped in Polish ham, with horseradish sauce.

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    Are you kidding me? I am totally stuffed, sated after eating so much food. But I was heavily persuaded by a couple of the waitresses that I must have the apple crepe, with whipped cream and blueberry. 

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    Karczma, has a special spirit, and this is even reflected on the message which was written on a board. It is written in Polish, and the translation is:  

      "Eating. drinking, smoking pipes. Dancing, laughing, having fun, They have almost smashed the pub, Having the time of their lives!" Karczma is a special place, and offers one of the best values in the city.

    Polish language lesson - "Hello" (Witaj)  "Thank you" (Dziekuje)  "Delicious" (Pyszny)

    Interesting fact about Poland - It boast 17 Nobel Prize Winners, including four Peace Prize, and five in Literature. 

    Address - 136 Greenpoint Avenue (Brooklyn)   (718) 349 - 1744



    45. Cafe Mingala (Myanmar)


    Cafe Mingala is the only Burmese restaurant in New York. Love the handsomely painted murals of famous places from the country that cover one wall of the restaurant.

    45. Cafe Mingala (Myanmar)


    Cafe Mingala is the only Burmese restaurant in New York. Love the handsomely painted murals of famous places from the country that cover one wall of the restaurant.

    Jammed under scafelling of the never-ending construction of the Second Avenue subway sits Cafe Mingala. The restaurant is easy to miss, even with the blue neon light vividly lit calling out, "Burmese Cooking." However, I encourage you to make the effort and pay a visit to New York's only Burmese restaurant. This is not a great restaurant, it has it's flaws, but for twenty-three years it has served some one-of-a-kind dishes found only here, and the place should be cherished as an endangered cuisine to the city which is always sad.

    Cafe Mingala has a at atmosphere that feels as if you are stepping back in time. As you enter wind chimes chime, maroon carpeting covers the floor, the banquets are deep with flowery patterns, and most noticeable are the murals of historic and religious sites special to Myanmar which completely wrap around the restaurant. Some will find this kitchy, but I found it quite amazing and wonderful.

    A terrific dish to start with and a classic of Burmese cuisine is the Green Tea Salad. Comprised of mango, ginger, sesame seeds, toasted garlic, lettuce, cabbage, peanuts, diced carrots and peppers. I found the dish to have a refreshing and unique taste and texture which had a distinct crunch to it.

    The manager of the restaurant Andrew Moo, a native of Yangoon, has been with the restaurant from the very start, he strongly suggested I go with the Banana Leaf Fish entree, the fish being flounder. Here is the photo as presented. I always am one to get excited about a dish wrapped in a banana leaf, just for the visual alone.

    And now the opening of the banana leaf, like magic seeing the food inside. I found the dish pretty good, however, I felt the vegetables were somewhat soggy and I was expecting a little more flavorful spice to it.

    The murals at Cafe Mingala are both fascinating from the perspective of "learning" more about Myanmar (as they focus on their most cherished sites) and the quality and style of work is excellent. Here is the famous Shwedagon Pagoda located in the capital Yangoon.

    Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, also known as the Golden Rock, is one of the most sacred of all Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Located in the Mon state of the country, it is said that a glimpse of the "gravity defying" Golden Rock is enough inspiration for any person to turn to Buddhism. 

    The most famous of the Burmese deserts is Thousand Layer Bread  with Sweet Coconut Milk. I am pleased I tried it, but I found the taste just too sweet for me. However, I suggest you try as many people seem to like the dish very much.

    Burmese Language lesson - "Hello" (Min-ga la-ba)   "Thank you" (Ce-zu tin-ba-deb)

    Interesting fact about Myanmar - Myanmar has 135 ethnic tribes, "Barma" being the largest, making up 68% of the population.

    Address - 1393 Second Avenue (72nd - 73rd St)  (212) 744 - 8000

    46. El Chivito D' Oro (Uruguay)


    If you love grilled steak this is the place to go. El Chivito D' Oro located in Jackson Heights is the best Uruguayan restaurant in New York. Get the double Entrada.

    46. El Chivito D' Oro (Uruguay)


    If you love grilled steak this is the place to go. El Chivito D' Oro located in Jackson Heights is the best Uruguayan restaurant in New York. Get the double Entrada.

    The South American country of Uruguay is small in size . . . but with a beautiful coastline, good wines, and more than anything world famous quality beef. In New York "the" Uruguayan of choice is El Chivito D'Oro, located in Jackson Heights, "The Golden Goat" (and no one I spoke with seemed to know how it got that name) for twenty-five years has been serving up outlandishly savory grilled meats in a lively setting.

    Contrary to popular belief they do allow vegetables into the restaurant and they as well offer an array of pasta dishes. But here MEAT is KING. My favorite is the Entrada (Skirt Steak) "for 2." Yes, I do sound gluttonous, but the steak is just so delicious especially when applied with the green chimichuri sauce. And, the dish is cost effective as well, the cost for "Entrada for 1" is $21, "for 2" it is $31. The dish comes with rice and beans.

    Before my entree arrives (the Entrada) a loaf of warm bread and two sauces in brought to my table. The chimichuri (green) and the onion/tomato (red) tastes very good plied to the bread. Almost sacrilegious that the beer is Quilmes from neighboring Argentina, but the waitress explained to me that Uruguay's leading beer Nortena is not very good, and the customers do enjoy Quilmes. I enjoyed the taste very much as well.

    Those dining at El Chivito D' Oro are mostly from Uruguay and they come in large groups and enjoy having a good time. When there is a football (soccer) on the TV, especially against rival Argentina the place gets rollicking. 

    El Chivito D' Oro has an excellent collection of vintage black&white photographs of memorable soccer matches and Montevideo, the country's capital and largest city.

    Uruguay is the fourth largest wine producing country in South America, and the restaurant houses some impressive bottles; such as, Marcichal Tannat, Las Brujas, and Nampe. However, I was disappointed that they do not pour any Uruguayan wines by the glass, and had to settle with a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.

    Carla (left) and Wanda waitresses at El Chivito D'Oro. Yes, they will explain the menu, and just as important instill with passion the glories of their home country, Uruguay.

    Uruguay (Spanish) language lesson - "Hello" (Hola) "Thank you" (Gracias) "Delicious" (Delisioso)

    Interesting fact about Uruguay - 88% of the population is of European descent. This is the highest of any country in South America.

    Address - 8402 37th Avenue Jackson Heights (Queens) (7180424 - 0600.

     

     

     

     

    47. Accra (Ghana)


    For the best in food from Ghana in New York head to Accra in the Bronx.

    47. Accra (Ghana)


    For the best in food from Ghana in New York head to Accra in the Bronx.

    I love this city! I love this city because it allows me to have a cuisine I have never had before and knew virtually nothing about. The cuisine I am speaking about is from Ghana, and the restaurant I went to (which had rave reviews preceding my visit) is named Accra, after the capital and largest city in Ghana. Located in the Bronx it was easy enough to get to as I boarded the 4 Train, exit at Burnside Avenue and about a seven minute walk up Davidson Avenue.  As I approached the Accra I had a good feeling about it, the colorful blue building and a sign over the door proclaiming, "Best African Food."

    Accra is a restaurant that does not have table service, so you go to the long counter manned by three ladies with easily thirty trays of hot food. Taking a close look at all the options my first thought was the color, it was an explosion of colorful dishes. Most of the trays looked foreign to me, I wanted to try so much, but not sure what to get.  So I turned to the ladies behind the counter asking them, with my question others eagerly spoke up on "what I MUST have." Not that I took an exact poll, but the dish "RED RED" came up the most and with hearty robust enthusiasm.  So "RED RED" it was.  The photo above is this dish. The beans cooked into a fine bean curry, and the dish containing also beef, peppers, black-eyed-peas and sweet plantains. It was very flavorful with some nice spice to it.

    The counter with the hard-working and high-spirited ladies behind the counter at Accra. Despite being crazy busy with the long line that waited to order they were pleased and took pride in describing the vast array of dishes.

    Okra is a beloved vegetable in Ghana and this dish, the Okra Stew with little pieces of chicken was a vibrant taste, with a definite spicy bite which I loved.

    This is called Fufu and it is a staple of Ghanaian cuisine. It is acombination of cassava and plantain mixed together, it is as large as a baseball and has a spunge-like texture. It has little flavor, but it is used very effectively in mopping up the sauce of the dishes.

    Fish is also well presented at Accra, both the dry salted fish which is very popular in Africa and here the Tilapia in hot-spicy sauce.

    The restaurant area is not large (as so many seem to do take-out) but it is colorful painted in vibrant glowing colors with a tropical theme. Accra has a very comfortable laid-back vibe, very welcoming. I look forward to coming back!

    Twi (Ghana) language lesson - "How are you?" (Eti sen?)  "Thank you" (Me daa si)

    Interesting fact about Ghana - Ghana has currently the best national football (soccer) team in Africa. They are the third team in history to reach the World Cup quarter-finals from Africa.

    Address - 2041 Davidson Avenue (Bronx)  (718) 584 - 8300

    48. The Thirsty Koala (Australia)


    As far as I have discovered the best Australian restaurant in New York is The Thirsty Koala in Astoria, Queens. Make sure to try the lamb chops really fantastic!

    48. The Thirsty Koala (Australia)


    As far as I have discovered the best Australian restaurant in New York is The Thirsty Koala in Astoria, Queens. Make sure to try the lamb chops really fantastic!

    In my foreign travels, especially to far flung destinations it is amazing the amount of Australians that I run into. They are terrific travelers and I feel I have a good "feeling" about them. However, despite this, I have never eaten at an Australian restaurant. In New York City there are now 17,000 Australians living, and from my latest count nine Australian restaurants. My favorite is the Thirsty Koala, in Astoria (Queens). The Thirsty Koala, now opened for three years is not the most most fancy Australian in the city, but it has a wonderful casual vibe, how I visualized an Aussie place would be, and the food is good, with a couple dishes especially being outstanding. 

    I usually do not lead-off with a "drink" when reporting on the various cuisines of the world, but this drink, the "Dingo" was so good, and just set such a nice mood for the Aussie meal ahead of me. The drink consists of: Bourbon, chambord, cucumber, lemon, lime and fresh cilantro. 

    One of the main reasons I like The Thirsty Koala is because of the service, specifically this woman, Christine. Christine is one of the five owners of the restaurant, and a native of Sydney. She worked the front of the house making sure everyone was pleased and understood the food. She has that classic outgoing Australian warmth and charm which I have found in most Australians. The decor of the restaurant is minimal, handsome hard wood floors and tanned colored walls. I would have preferred a slightly more "atmospheric," perhaps some Aboriginal art, or a vibrant photo of Ayers Rock, etc - something that "bespeaks Australia."

    I was torn between which of the "Pub Food" appetizers to eat as they all looked appealing. I expressed this to Christine and she jumped into action and created a plate of "a little of everything" so I could taste them all. Very accommodating. The plate includes; sausage role, calamari, fish&chips - all were good. However, the "Thea's Meatballs" were extraordinary in taste! 

    The Thirsty Koala offers five types of tacos, which they call "Boomerang Tacos," they include: Vegan, octopus, skirt steak, grilled chirizo, and the photo above which I had, the Fish Taco. The taco consisted of a healthy portion of mahi, avo salsa, cabbage, peppers, and cilantro. I thought it was very tasty, and brought back memories (though not as good) as my favorite fish taco place in Laguna Beach, California.

    Is there anything more synonymous to Australia than the Kangaroo? I felt a little pang when my dining companion ordered the Kangaroo Burger. But, hey, I had to try it, it did fascinate me. I was surprised and disappointed, as it was not as flavorful as I had hoped. It lacked the gaminess of venison, and not as juicy as bison. The burger comes with an egg and Canadian Bacon on it also if you want. There was a "sauce" on the side which when added put more zest into the dish. But overall the taste was lacking and not meeting the exotic taste sensation was hoping for.

    Here is the STAR dish!! Lamb Chops. Though on the menus at the Thirsty Koala they are called "Lamb Lollies," and they are fantastic! I love Lamb Chops and am very discerning on those that are good, and those that are terrific - and here they are terrific. They are also a little different in their preparation as there is a texture of crust on the lamb. The crust I was informed consists of Australian Wattleseed, and herbs. The taste very succulent and flavorful. This is clearly my favorite dish at Thirsty Koala and highly recommend. 

    Beers from "Down Under" . . .  at The Thirsty Koala you can try a sampling of four; Coopers Pale Ale, Coopers Sparkling Ale, Moa Imperial Lager and Koa Lager. I enjoyed them all, though Coopers Pale Ale was my favoirte.

    Interesting fact about Australia - The Australian city of Melbourne has the most people of Greek decent of any city in the world outside of Athens, Greece.

    Address - 35-12 Ditmars Boulevard Astoria (Queens)  (718) 626-5430




    49. Taste of Persia (Iran)


    At long last I found authentic and delicious Persian food in New York. It is called A Taste of Persia, it is a tiny place - but this is clearly my favorite restaurant for Persian cuisine in NYC

    49. Taste of Persia (Iran)


    At long last I found authentic and delicious Persian food in New York. It is called A Taste of Persia, it is a tiny place - but this is clearly my favorite restaurant for Persian cuisine in NYC

    Yes, it says "Pizza Paradise," but the "paradise" is really the tiny store-front window of "Taste of Persia" which serves the best and most authentic Persian cuisine of any restaurant in New York. Up until discovering "A Taste of Persia" two years ago, I was frustrated not being able to find a high-quality  Iranian restaurant in NYC . I had traveled Iran years ago, and lived in Los Angeles for several years (largest Iranian community in the US) so I was acutely aware of this very special cuisine. And then, my dreams were answered. 

    This is Saeed Pourkay, the owner, the chef, and the "all everything" of a Taste of Persia. His story in developing the restaurant is fascinating. For nearly twenty years, Saeed a native of Tehran, ran a graphic design company with his two brothers right around the corner from Pizza Paradise. Though his business was successful, he wanted more, as he expressed to me "I wanted to go searching for my happiness." Saeed always loved to cook, however, instead of going full blast to open a restaurant he wanted to "test the waters" to see if people enjoyed his cooking, and if there was a potential market for his food. So he rented out a stall during the Holiday Season in Union Square, where he sold his soups. His soups were a smashing success, with lines snaking all through the square. He was like a "nice version" of the 'soup Nazi' on Seinfeld. That was three years ago, and today the storefront that he works out of is actually from the pizza restaurant that he used to get a slice at when he ran his graphic business. He says now, that his cooking for others, both natives of Iran and first time tasters of Persian cuisine and "brings me much happiness."

    This is one of the most famous of all Persian soups, it is really more of a stew, called Ash Reshteh. The taste sensations erupting after a full eight hours of simmering; five kinds of beans play up against the herbs, and sensational distinct Persian spice of Funugreek, with cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. With somewhat burnt garlic, dried mint, crispy fried onion topped on with a white sauce called kashk, which looks like yogurt but taste more like feta. Though Persian food has some influence from neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan, it has a culinary style that is unique to Iran. Fresh green herbs are frequently used along with fruits such as plums, pomegranates, quince, prunes, apricots and raisins. 

    Fesenjan Chicken - chicken with pomegranate and walnut. So flavorful and that unique "sweetness." The taste of Persian food has such a distinct taste, a taste "onto itself" I thik it is one of the most special cuisines in the world

    As crazy delicious as the first soup (Ash Reshteh) was, believe it or not I like this soup, Abghoosht even more! I think that this soup, the translation being "lamb soup," it the very best soup I have ever had in my life!! Big pieces of lamb and the mix of so many special spices, some of the flavors coming on with big-time flavors, others more subtle. 

    The food at a Taste of Persia is fantastic, however, the surroundings are spartan, and food is served with plastic plates and forks. The seating which is shared with a good many pizza slice diners is under bright florescent lighting, both along the wall and a in a back room. Many customers at a Taste of Persia opt for take-out.

    This is the official menu at a Taste of Persia. There is no handwritten menu, just this simple board which displays usually two soups and three entrees. It does change daily. One of the other things I find special about the restaurant is Mr. Pourkay himself. He is outgoing and high-spirited and speaking with him about Iran, the culture, be it the latest films coming out, or the political situation always gives me greater insight into the country.

    Farsi (Iran) language lesson - "How are you?" (Haleh-shoma-chetor ast?) "Thank you" (Mamnoon) "Delicious" (Kheili khoobe)

    Interesting fact about Iran - 70% of the population is under 30 years old.

    Address - 12 West 18th Street (917) 592 - 3467




    50. Ayada (Thailand)


    In the past several years, the best/most authentic Thai restaurants have come out of Woodside and Elmhurst in Queens. And now, make way for the latest and the very best Thai restaurant in New York City, Ayada.

    50. Ayada (Thailand)


    In the past several years, the best/most authentic Thai restaurants have come out of Woodside and Elmhurst in Queens. And now, make way for the latest and the very best Thai restaurant in New York City, Ayada.

    When I first moved to the city in 1979 there were just a handful of Thai restaurants and eating Thai was considered a pretty "exotic" dining experience. Today, Thai is almost ubiquitous. Thai is a wonderful cuisine, and one of those cuisines that it seems everyone enjoys, and because of this rabid popularity people seem especially passionate about their "favorite Thai discovery." However, for those seeking the most "authentic" Thai cuisine, and not the often "spiced-down" flavor, with a menu that offers some "unusual unfamiliar dishes," and a place where a good majority of the diners are native of Thailand, you have to come to Queens, especially the Elmhurst/Woodside area.  Sripraphai (in Woodside) was my first love, then it was the tiny Chao Thai, but now . . . for the past couple of years my go-to favorite of all Thai Elmhurst restaurants, and in all of NYC is Ayada. This eight year old Thai is the place for those seeking the most authentic Thai restaurant experience and worthy of the gastronomic pilgrimage.

    There are several appetizers/soups I am crazy about at Ayada; from the most delicious Tom-Kha soup I have ever had, to crab roll, to chive dumplings . . . but, my favorite is probably the Papaya Salad with seafood. Spicy, flavorful, big pieces of shrimp and calamari. L

    When I am with others I often go with one of the fantastic large fish dishes, such as Fried Fish with Mango Sauce. However, when i am dining alone my favorite entree is the Duck Curry. Succulent, crisp, and spicy - but not overbearing. 

    The restaurant is on the small size with twenty four seats and is attractive with retro black and white photos of Thailand gracing a soft green colored wall. A small Buddha shrine rests in the back upper corner. One of the main reasons in addition to the fantastic food of Ayada that makes it special, is that a good portion of those dining are from Thailand, which ensures a richer experience. There are approximately 30,000 Thais living in New York City, with the high majority being in the Queens neighborhoods of Elmhurst, Woodside and Jackson Heights.  Los Angeles is far and away the largest city in the US for Thais. 

    One of my very favorite dishes at Ayada is the Pork Larb Salad served with sticky rice, this a dish that is usually not on the menu of the majority of Thai restaurants in New York. Larb is known as E-Sarn, this is food from Thailand's "north" and also popular in neighboring Laos. This is dish soaked in onion and lime juice and can be searing in its spice. When you dine at Ayada please remember when they ask "how spicy would you like it?" - that they prepare the dishes/spice level for the "Thai diner" in mind.  So (and I learned this first hand) if you like "spicy," here you should say "medium," and if you normally like "medium spice" at Ayada, just say "little spice." It will all work out . . . and it will be delicious for you.

    Here is another E-Sarn dish, called Thai Northern Sausage. The taste is very distinct, more sour than spicy. I personally am not crazy about it, but if you want the fullest range of exploring Thai cuisine you must try this. The Thai Northern Sausage is found at few Thai restaurants in New York, as are other select dishes that are served at Ayada; such as the raw shrimp appetizer, and crispy catfish salad.

    And to add to the glories of Ayada . . . is the wonderful, kind, and fun, and very knowledgeable wait staff. Also, the largest Buddhit Thai temple in the city is just a seven minute walk away form the restaurant, the name is Wat Buddha Thai Thavor Vanaram.

    Thai language lesson - "Hello"/female speaking (Sa-wat-dee-ka) "Hello"/male speaking (Sa-wat-dee-krub) "Thank you"/female speaking (Khob-kun-ka) "Thank you"/male speaking (Khob-kun-krub)  "Delicious" (a -roi)

    Interesting fact about about Thailand - Thailand has the world's largest gold Buddha, largest crocodile farm, largest restaurant, world's tallest hotel, and longest single-span suspension bridge in the world.

    Address - 7708 Woodside Avenue Elmhurst (Queens)  (718) 424 - 0844

    51. Via Brasil (Brazil)


    Via Brasil is my favorite Brazilian restaurant in New York. They prepare a fantastic fejoda, also wonderful fish dishes. Live music on weekends adds to the atmosphere. 

    51. Via Brasil (Brazil)


    Via Brasil is my favorite Brazilian restaurant in New York. They prepare a fantastic fejoda, also wonderful fish dishes. Live music on weekends adds to the atmosphere. 

    There are certain countries that I have never traveled . . . but my desire is so great that I will often go to my favorite NYC restaurant of that country to soak up some of its essence. Brazil is one such country. And, when I need my "Brazilian fix" I head for Via Brasil. Via Brasil for 36 years, has continued to turn out the savory Brazilian classics, and with an atmosphere that oozzes with the country's rich colorful varied culture; from the live music of the cool sounds of Bossa Nova, and the fast happy rhythms of Chorinho, to the handsome decor, and the wait-staff with their natural fun loving ways. Via Brasil is located on West 46th Street known as "Little Brazil" as the heart of the Brazilian commercial center in the city. The "Little Brazil" street is not as significant as it was in the 1980's, however, today you will still find "Little Brazil" has four restaurants, as well as some specialty food stores, Brazilian travel agency, and magazine outlet. The annual Brazilian Parade is held here. There are approximately 100,000 Brazilians living in NYC area with majority is Astoria (Queens) and Newark.

    Immediately on entering Via Brasil the floor you walk on is a replica of the famous swirling  pattern of the boardwalk of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Off to the left is the little bar where the bartender makes the most refreshing Caipirnha (National Drink of Brazil) I have ever had. Even before you get to your seat Brazil is in the air!

    The restaurant has a wide variety of tasty appetizers, one of my very favorites is called Linguica Frita c/Manioc (Fried Brazilian sausage served with cassava) The Manioc or "cassava" looks like small potatoes but have a delicate taste and texture. The dish is served with this spicy sauce with small red floating peppers. I found the taste addictive and could not get enough of it, actually slurping it up by itself. This spice brings the appetize to a more intense flavorful taste.

    Brazilian cuisine merges the tastes of Africa and Europe, especially Portugal, and they have equally wonderfully delicious meat and fish dishes. The above dish is Bobode Camarao (Sauteed Shrimp in a light Manioc Puree, with Coconut Milk and herbs). The flavor is full, complex, and the coconut is more subtle than overpowering. 

    Well here it is . . . Feijoada, the National Dish of Brazil. This dish is for the true carnivore to say the least, containing a massive mix of salted pork and beef products and black beans and served in a heavy cauldron. The meats include: bacon, smoked pork ribs, at least two types of smoked sausages, jerked beef (loin and tongue) pork trimmings, such as ears, tail, feet. Feijoada's origins some say, though contested stems from slavery where this hearty dish was crafted as the slaves would throw together "leftovers" of portions of pork that the master of estate found unfit to eat. Today Feijoda is the most famous dish in Brazil and it is a family tradition to be served on Saturday for a midday meal.  

    Via Brasil has a handsome, tasteful decor, that bespeaks "Brazil."  A variation of rural themed paintings adorn the walls, one wall in a vivid yellow, the other in red brick, including this work of Ouro Preto (translated as "Black Gold") the hill-top village being famous for gold exploration in the 19th Century and an amazing number of churches most enriched in gold.

    One of the true pleasures of dining at Via Brasil is the quality of the service. More than just being professional and knowing the cuisine, is how they add to the "personality" of the restaurant. Brazilians are well-known for their easy-going, fun-loving ways, and at Via Brasil this exudes and makes the dining experience more fun. Photo above - waiters Rodrigo on left, Gaspar on right. In the center is head-chef Ailto. This is a restaurant that because of the staff you come away learning so much more about the country (if you allow yourself) as the staff includes people from all parts of Brazil; from Rio, known as "Cariocas," to Sao Paulo, known as "Paulitos," to the Bahia the northeast, and Goias in the central part of the country. There is lots of "regional pride" and it is fun to be involved in these conversations. The restaurant is managed by Dante, a handsome man for thirteen years has run Via Brasil and does an outstanding job at overseeing and will be extremely helpful for any concern you have. Please note that the "Live Music" is performed Wednesday-Saturday evenings, however, in the Winter months, only Friday and Saturday.

    Portuguese (Brazil) language lesson - "How are you" (Tu do Bom)  "Thank you" (Obrigado)  "Delicious" (Saborosa)

    Interesting fact about Brazil - About 1.6 million people who live in Brazil are of Japanese decent.. Most Japanese emigrating from Japan in the early 19th century to work on the coffee plantations.

    Address - 34 West 46th Street (212) 997-1158

     

    52. Moldova (Moldova)


    52. Moldova (Moldova)


    Moldova is the only restaurant in New York City serving Moldovian cuisine. On seeing this photo which was on the restaurant's website, I felt an immediate pang of love for this place. The passion, the can-do-spirit won me over, and I wasted no time by jumping on the Q Line out to Avenue M in Midwood (Brooklyn) to follow my heart. And my "swooning" turned out to be the "real thing" as Moldova impressed me with the quality of food, including some new taste sensations, the colorful decor, and most of all the high-spirited charming service of the restaurant staff. The photo above of Moldovan National Flag is held by the restaurant's manager Andrei Girla and his wife, Marina.

    The three year old Moldova is an attractive and atmospheric restaurant with a wide array of colorful objects that bespeak Moldova. Such as a handsome flat wooden sculpture of a Moldovan couple in traditional dress (you can see in photo on the right) to a wide range of pottery, lace, and painting. A small tapestry of Stephan the Great hangs handsomely. And, to top it off a TV with an ongoing video (sound off) of the country of Moldova featuring the country's cultural and scenic highlights. To dine at this restaurant you feel the essence of Moldova, it is impressive. Moldova is a large restaurant with two rooms, and yet feels cozy. The front room seating about 80, and the more private backroom covered in faux vines seats about 40, it is perfect for a private party.

    This is probably the most traditional of all Moldovan dishes, it is called Ursuleti, and usually eaten as an appetizer.  On the menu it says"House Special." Ursuleti is made with the beloved Mamaliga which is a traditional cornmeal (and used frequently in their cuisine), which in this dish is shaped in small balls and fried and comes with feta cheese, sour cream and fried pork belly. Andrei showed me how to enjoy it to the max as he squished the mamaliga flat with a spoon and then apply a special garlic sauce that accompanies the Ursuleti. I found it a truly new and unique taste and enjoyed very much.

    Meat is often eaten as an appetizer dish, this is called Mititei. Small grilled sausages made of beef, pork, and lamb and flavored with garlic, pepper some paprika. Busting with flavor! Onions, red pepper and peas accompany the dish.

    One of the major reasons I found this restaurant so special is the wait staff. They presented such a glowing spirit and genuine enthusiasm to share with you any questions you had on the cuisine or Moldova itself.  There was also wonderful  Moldovan music being played while I dined. The music had an infectious happy beat making me feel like getting up and dancing.  One of the waiters letting me know that the singer I enjoyed most was a woman named Natalia Gordienco.

    For my entree I had "Perjoale ca la Tiraspel" (Stuffed Chicken Breast with cheese and fried sour pickle) it reminded me of Chicken Kiev, but with a little more "bite." I thought the dish was very good.  It was accompanied by mashed potatoes. Please note that as of now there is no liquor license, but this should come, and when it does the restaurant will pour some Moldovian wines, which is terrific news as some of the wines from Moldova are very good. Until then in BYOB.

    After two filling appetizers and a hearty entree dish I was totally sated. Full, no more food, no desert, not possible! However, Andrei was persistent in that "you MUST try" the famous Moldovian dessert "Clatite cu Visine" (Moldovian style crepes with sour cherries and cream). Before I could get away, there he was with the famous dessert in front of me "on the house" Please just try one bite. Well . . . nine bites later, the dessert was finished. Fantastic! Moldova is the type of restaurant that I root for, it is a restaurant that does everything it can to push it's cuisine and culture and bring you a most memorable experience. On this the 25th anniversary of their independence from the USSR I toast to their success. "Lofta Buna!"

    Moldova (Romanian) language -  "Hello" (Boonaziwa) "Thank you" (Multumesc)  "Delicious" (De le chosay) 

    Interesting fact about Moldova - Moldova is the 12th largest wine exporter in the world, and the largest independent wine cellar in the world, the Milestii Mici's Wine Collection contains 1.5 million bottles.

    Address - 1827 Coney Island Avenue Midwood (Brooklyn)  (718) 998 - 2892

     

    53. Cafe Riazor (Spain)


    For authentic Spanish food head to Cafe Riazor on 16th Street in NYC. This is my favorite Spanish restaurant in New York. Wonderful atmospheric setting, and "special dishes" from the Galicia region of Spain.

    53. Cafe Riazor (Spain)


    For authentic Spanish food head to Cafe Riazor on 16th Street in NYC. This is my favorite Spanish restaurant in New York. Wonderful atmospheric setting, and "special dishes" from the Galicia region of Spain.

    Starting about five years ago it seemed there was a hot new "tapas" restaurant on every other corner in New York. I tried many of them, and was disappointed with most, there was a sameness about them . . . this coupled with my vivid memories of wonderful tapas eating traveling Spain just made these places hard to get excited about.  So, with that said, I will not be focusing on the latest cutting-edge tapas place in NYC, but instead a traditional, no make that an "ORIGINAL" family-run Spanish restaurant that has been in the same location for forty-two years, and that is Cafe Riazor.  Located on West 16th in Manhattan, the restaurant specializes in food from Galicia, the north-west corner of Spain.

    Cafe Riazor is not a trendy place, but would fall more under the heading of "a cozy little hide-away."  There is a wonderful quirkiness to Cafe Riazor, it is highly atmospheric. When you enter the restaurant you descend down steps, almost like entering a tomb. . . . But this is no cold tomb, but a warm gracious establishment. The white stucco low ceiling plays nicely against the red brick walls which are adorned with an array of "Spain-themed" images: Good sized bas relief sculptures of bronzed Conquistadors, colorful plates, the vibrant national flag of Spain hangs up in the corner, an ornate dark gate connects against the wall. There is nice spacing between the tables, about fifteen in all, and each sporting a little flickering candle with a small vase of fresh Freesia. A nice touch. There is an "old world" timeless feel about Cafe Riazor. It is the type of restaurant that is sadly fading out in New York, and should be cherished. 

    Yes, they have paella, which is very good by New York standards, but I strongly encourage you to go with what the restaurant is especially recognized for, the special dishes from their home-land of Galicia. Spanish cuisine is heavily regionalized, and because of the of the restaurant's roots in Galicia, the lush green rugged state in the northwest corner on the Atlantic. Cafe Riazor does expertly these traditional dishes, many of them involving seafood. Such as the "Mariscada en Sala Verde" (Seafood platter of mussels, clams, shrimp, and lobster piece in thick parsley sauce.)

    A very classic Galician appetizer is "Pulpo a la gallega" (warm octopus with potatoes, paprika, and olive oil) 

    Cafe Riazor is owned by the Romero family. This is David, the charming and gracious manager and host of the restaurant. His father, David senior opened the restaurant forty-two years ago. David's sister Martha is also actively involved with the restaurant.

    The menu is far from entirely fish/sea food based, as they prepare some outstanding meat dishes as  well. This is one of my favorites, "Ternera Riazor," (Veal cutlets sauteed in brown wine sauce with mushrooms and Spanish peppers.)

    Back to the coast, and this is probably my single favorite dish of all, "Bocalao," (Cod stewed with potatoes, paprika, garlic and olive oil.) Wonderful taste! Beyond the high-quality of the food, Cafe Riazor offers an impressive wine list and special liquors of the region. Especially rare in New York is the liquor called "RuaVieja," and suggest you try this. Martha Romero informed that you can't buy this anywhere in the city and they literally "carry the bottles back" when they go home to Galicia. Cafe Riazor has a tiny dim-lit cool bar that is a terrific place for a drink.

    Spanish language lesson - "Hello" (Hola)  "Thank you" (Gracias)  "Delicious" (Delicioso)

    Interesting fact about Spain - Spain has more bars that any country in the Europe.

    Address - 245 W. 16th Street  (212) 727-2131

     

     

     

     

    54. Angkor Cambodian Bistro (Cambodia)


    At long last a Cambodian restaurant in NYC! It's name is Angkor Cambodian Bistro. And, it is a good one with authentic taste and very attractive decor. 

    54. Angkor Cambodian Bistro (Cambodia)


    At long last a Cambodian restaurant in NYC! It's name is Angkor Cambodian Bistro. And, it is a good one with authentic taste and very attractive decor. 

    Eight years ago when I returned from three weeks of travel in Cambodia, one of my favorite destinations that I have ever been, and wanting to stay in my "Cambodian travel afterglow," I ached to eat at a Cambodian NYC restaurant. However, there were none in the city. Through the years I would continue to seek out a Cambodian place, but nothing, not one Cambodian restaurant in New York. And then, last week, my Cambodian gastronomic prayers were answered . . . A Cambodian restaurant named Angkor Cambodian Bistro located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan had opened. The restaurant run by Minh Truong, a native of Phnom Penh, is the head chef, and his wife Mandy who is from Guangzhou, China acts as the hostess. The couple for twenty years ran the very successful Royal Siam (Thai) restaurant in the Chelsea area of New York. We are all blessed that they have brought their talents and joy to finally . . . a Cambodian restaurant in New York!

    As soon as you enter Angkor Cambodian Bistro you are struck by the calmness, and the overall loveliness of the restaurant. A golden-sculptured head of Buddha greets you. Soft lighting lends itself well to the cool soothing soundtrack (mix of Tony Bennett, Jackson Brown) and the decor with an acute eye bespeaks a Cambodian (Khmer) feeling. Please especially note a couple of the fine paintings of the iconic Angkor Wat. The restaurant seats about fifty, the tables made of a handsome polished wood (hand-made by the Minh and Mandy) offering a healthy spacing between each other.

    Cambodia which is wedged in between Thailand and Vietnam borrows tastes from these countries (as well as France and China) but has its own distinctive flavor. Cambodian cuisine uses less chili and coconut cream than Thailand. It is a very flavorful cuisine, but one that is more subtle, less spicy, lacking the "heat" of Thailand, some dishes having a slightly "sweet" taste. With that said, however, there is a Cambodian ingredient known as "prahok," which is a pungent fermented fish paste and is an integral part of many Cambodian dishes (Thailand and Vietnam do not use). The taste is  distinct, tangy, a definite acquired taste for westerners. At Angkor Cambodian Bistro they do not have any dishes using "prahok," which to be honest, I was a little disappointed by, but I am sure they gave this a good deal of thought and geared the menu toward their clientele. That is my only slight complaint food wise though, as I found my dishes full of flavor and delicious here.

    Probably the most famous soup is Khmer Sweet and Sour Soup, which contains prawns, pineapple, tomato, young lotus stems, tamarind, sweet basil, lemongrass, coriander, lime leaves, sauteed garlic simmering in Khmer home-style broth.

    Nem Nuong, Khmer style BBQ balls of ground pork hash served with a thick sauce of sticky rice dipping sauce cooked like congee with peanut shavings. There is a very similar Vietnamese version of this as well.