Cultural Cuisine

From dim sum to chopped liver, these four restaurants serve all the international classics at their most authentic

Some say art, some say fashion, but many say that there’s no better way to get a glimpse into a culture than through its food. Whether it’s definitive dishes prepared to perfection or modern takes on flavors from far-away, these four restaurants offer a wide array of global gastronomy at its finest.

When Carbone opened in 2014, it made just about every where-to-eat-now list, and for good reason. The West Village dining room that lived a former life as Rocco was adopted by Italian food kings Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick, who decked it out with cool modern art to complement the original brick walls and checkerboard tiles, and topped off with a slam-dunk menu. It’s definitely fine dining, but with panache rather than pretense; the restaurant’s 72 seats fill with foodies who like their Italian fare with finesse and their décor with style. Waiters in tailored uniforms bring out plates heaping with Milanese sweetbreads, spaghetti Puttanesca, and veal parmesan meant to be shared family-style, but the cocktails? You’ll want one (or three) Negronis to yourself. (Thompson St. nr. Bleecker St.)

No trip to New York is complete without a meal in Chinatown, but with myriad storefronts seemingly beckoning with the same menu, it’s easy to find yourself choosing one at random and wishing you’d researched more carefully. Take our advice and head to Golden Unicorn, which will immediately have you feeling whisked into Asia as you ride the elevator up into the ballroom of a dining room decorated with heavy drapes and dragons. As made evident by the large Chinese families seated around the tables, the Cantonese food is as authentic as can be, from the standard sweet and sour dishes to shark’s fin soup and every kind of fresh seafood to steaming carts of dim sum always rolling through. (East Broadway at Catherine St.)

In the heart of Midtown, Korea Town is a neighborhood all to its own, filling 31st to 33rd streets between Fifth and Sixth with too many barbecue joints, karaoke bars, bakeries, and bubble tea shops to count. But for a more gourmet take on the Korean classics, you won’t find it on ground level, but in a 39th-floor penthouse at the Michelin Guide–recommended Gaonnuri. Aside from the fact that it overlooks Herald Square, the sleek modern dining room feels like what one might find in one of Seoul’s chicest hotels, and the food is made to match: pungent kimchis and julienned ginger, stews and hot pots, tableside barbecue and traditionally prepared whole fish. (Broadway at 32nd St.)

Sure, New York may be the melting pot of international food, but arguably the most quintessential New York cuisine is its Jewish cooking. From matzo ball soup to marinated white fish, oversized sour pickles to rye-bread sandwiches stacked thick with briney meat, the salty decadence of well-made deli food is a craving hard to quench without a chef trained in the art of kosher cooking. For the tried-and-true, head to Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse which has been serving up all the classics on white tablecloths for more than 40 years; for a more hip approach, Jeffrey Chodorow’s Kutsher’s Tribeca adds in modern twists like deconstructed borscht and micro-green details, but the sandwich bar excels at all the basics too. (Chrystie St. nr. Delancey St.; Franklin St. nr. Greenwich St.)