Asian food, once relegated to takeout, has fast become the cuisine of the moment. While New York magazine heralded 2012 as the “Year of Asian Hipster Cuisine,” the trend continues to spread across the city like hot chilies in your nasal passages.
In the past year, two of the most raved (and tweeted) about spots in the city served Asian cuisine: Mission Chinese Food (closed for renovations) and Pok Pok NY. Both are West Coast transplants -- Danny Bowein began serving Mission’s creative Chinese in San Francisco and Andy Ricker started serving his outer-region Thai and Vietnamese in Portland, Ore.
And in just the past two months, establishments like Pho 66, (now closed) and Nightingale 9 (345 Smith St., Carroll Gardens) have opened.
What sets these restaurants apart from their takeout counterparts is more than just price, though the cost difference can be quite noticeable. The quality of the ingredients is one thing; whether the food is buzzed about on blogs and on social media is another. But the main difference is culinary adventurousness. Artisanal cocktails with fresh juices and esoteric spirits help, too.
Pho 66 was opened by Greg Hugunin earlier this year. The restaurant serves Pho (Vietnamese-style noodle soup), noodle and rice dishes, appetizers like pork belly two ways (a food that’s been having its hip moment for some time) and cocktails, some with house-made lemongrass syrup. Hugunin described eating at Pho 66 as a "more full experience" than eating in Chinatown.
“It’s an American take on Asian food,” he added. “It’s designed for people in New York.”
Nightingale 9 takes even more liberties with the food on its menu. Chef and owner Rob Newton has created a menu that is certainly Vietnamese, but his passion for local ingredients and Southern food is visible in dishes like Cha Ca Catfish Vermicelli Bowl and Marinated Hudson Valley Beef with potato chips.
“Steak frites, Vietnamese style,” Newton joked at the restaurant’s press preview.
If you love Asian food, it’s a great time to be eating in New York City.