Explore New York City

Exotic Dining in New York

Travel around the world without leaving NYC at these restaurants featuring exotic cuisine. Then head to Koreatown for some karaoke!

New York City is an eating town. From casual to fancy, there are restaurants that invite you to eat your way around the world, without ever leaving the city. Here are six of the more exotic cuisines that say “mm, mm good” in any language.

SOUTH AFRICAN At candlelit Braai, try one of the many South African wines lining the shelves with a side of slap chips (quickly cooked soft fries). Small dishes include ostrich sliders and chakalaka (spicy mixed vegetables). For mains, ostrich is pan-seared, with curry mashed potatoes. Finish up with the malva pudding (apricot sponge cake and cream). 329 W. 51st St., 212.315.3315.

ETHIOPIAN Your hostess Hibilst will educate you in the proper way to eat Ethiopian-style at Bati, using injera (spongy bread) instead of a knife and fork. Dishes at this Brooklyn bistro can be very spicy so take care in ordering or ask if it‘s possible to turn down the heat. Kitfo is a beef tartare-like concoction; doro wett is a spicy stew with a hard-boiled egg. To cool the heat, try tikil gomen, cabbage with garlic and ginger. Greek baklava seamlessly connects the pastry’s honey glaze with Ethiopia’s honey wine. 747 Fulton St., Fort Greene, Brooklyn, 718.797.9696.

Qi Esarn and Pig and Khao
Pork neck salad at Qi Esarn and the garden at Pig and Khao (©Phakkapol Pasuthip; ©Justine Dungo)

FILIPINO, ETC. Former Top Chef contestant Leah Cohen has brought her Filipino cooking to New York in a welcoming sliver of a restaurant. Pig and Khao invites you to enjoy the spicy, cilantro-filled menu that characterizes Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese and Burmese cooking. Sizzling sisig is served on a platter where you do the mixing: a whole raw egg, pork head and chili. The halo-halo dessert is a monstrously messy concoction of shaved ice, leche flan and bright purple ube ice cream. 68 Clinton St., 212.920.4485.

VIETNAMESE Vietnaam is not glamorous, but it serves some of the most authentic cuisine. Enjoy a menu with traditional phos (soups) as well as noodle, poultry, vegetable and meat dishes. There are 11 kinds of banh mi sandwiches, a rarity on most Vietnamese menus. 1700 Second Ave., 212.722.0558.

THAI Peasant Thai cuisine is featured at Qi Esarn, an elaborately decorated restaurant near Union Square. Be adventurous and try fried silkworms and grasshoppers. Neua namtok is a dish made with hanger steak, mint, chilies and rice powder: Side it with coconut sticky rice cake. 31 W. 14th St., 212.929.9917.

AUSTRALIAN At Flinders Lane, go with the tasting menu, paired with Australian wines. The restaurant imports Australian products weekly, including kangaroo, barramundi and lamb cutlets. Finish with an authentic flat white (Australian coffee) and ice cream in flavors like wattleseed (from the native Australian acacia tree) and ANZAC crumble (biscuits crumbled into ice cream and named for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps). 162 Ave. A, 212.228.6900.

Karaoke in Koreatown!

Centered on one block of 32nd Street (btw Fifth & Sixth aves.), Koreatown offers private karaoke rooms so you can sing to your heart’s content. Korean karaoke here comes with bottle service at reasonable prices, Korean snacks and lots of international songs to choose from. The clubs offer hourly rates, usually around $30-$50 per hour for a karaoke room for four people, with an additional per person charge. Two microphones, comfortable seating, several screens with easy-to-follow lyrics and a background of Korean videos complete the setting. Most clubs open mid-afternoon and stay open until 4 a.m. on weekends, and 2 a.m. during the week. 

You can skip the bottle fee altogether at Gagopa Karaoke (28 W. 32nd St., 212.967.5353), a BYOB. Players Sports Bar & Lounge (25 W. 32nd St., 212.868.2029) offers a happy hour and two-for-one drinks lasting until 9 p.m. MK Karaoke Lounge (11 W. 32nd St., 212.564.3436) riffs on a “card” theme with aces and spades gracing doorways, along with Banksyish graffiti. At Chorus (25 W. 32nd St., 212.967.2244), you’ll find a public lounge, rare in Koreatown. Music fans will love the Rolling Stones Room at Karaoke Wow! (10 W. 32nd St., 646.454.1777), or the Beatles Room at The Music Story (34 W. 32nd St., 212.594.4344), both filled with posters, records and other paraphernalia from the bands.