Fat Choy – Vegan Chinese in Lower East Side

The catchy name Fat Choy immediately drew me in. I knew exactly what kind of restaurant Fat Choy, a small scrappy restaurant in the Lower East Side, would be, and I wasn’t wrong. It was playful and homey, a little bit familiar and a little bit not, a perfect description of the “kinda Chinese” but mostly tasty ethos that drives the cooking at the Fat Choy kitchen. Kinda Asian restaurants are in abundance these days. You can imagine some second or third generation chef making some tweaks to a family recipe, smiling if it works and shrugging her shoulders if it doesn’t. The angle at Fat Choy is that its kinda Chinese food is vegan. It sounds impossible at first, since we tend to associate Chinese food with pork or chicken, but when you think about how tasty Chinese vegetables are on their own, then it makes a lot of sense.

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Tong – Thai Small Plates in Bushwick, Brooklyn

hoy jor (fried stuffed tofu skin roll with pork and crab meat)

I usually equate small plates with dim sum and tapas, but not with Thai food. Thai food brings to mind either big heaping plates of pad thai noodles or fiery servings of curry and minced meat. You don’t really go to a Thai restaurant to nosh on some small snacks while drinking some beer. But Tong, a new Thai restaurant in Brooklyn–more gritty Bushwick than fancy Williamsburg–wants you to do exactly that. Its menu features kub klaem or small plates that are meant to be ordered in multiples so that you can nibble on a few things here and there. Which is great because the small plates are fantastic and you’ll want to try as many things as you can.

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Outdoor Dining at Carbone in Soho

Carbone, despite its proximity to my apartment, is the antithesis of a neighborhood restaurant. It’s expensive, exclusive and reservations are hard to come by. But now with the pandemic, it’s become a lot more accessible. Reservations are easier to get now that they’ve expanded their outdoor dining areas to include the sidewalk near Sadelle’s. It used to be the case that you’d open Resy and hope that you’d get off the waitlist for a certain day you wanted, but now when I look at the app, I can usually see availability on any day I’m interested in. And obviously, since it is winter, they’re wide open. Now’s the time to make this the neighborhood spot, if I didn’t care about my wallet or my waistline.

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Eleven Madison Park EMP At Home Roast Duck Dinner

It’s been a very, very hard year for restaurants. Many have been able to pivot to a mostly take-out or a food/wine retail model, but what do you do when you’re a fine dining restaurant like Eleven Madison Park? You’re known for bringing out course after beautiful course in a gorgeous dining room, but executing this outdoors and in cold weather is impossible. Some places like Daniel have gone the outdoor route, which certainly has some issues, while EMP has remained closed during the pandemic and is instead offering “EMP At Home” dinner kits. These dinner kits are outrageously expensive–the EMP At Home holiday Roast Duck dinner kit for 4 cost $475 pre-tax, $518.16 all in. But what the hell, I was in a festive mood, I wanted to do something a little special for New Year’s, I probably saved a lot of money this year from not eating out, so I decided to treat myself with this Eleven Madison Park EMP At Home Roast Duck meal kit.

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Outdoor Dining at Daniel (The Terrace)

There are certain chefs in New York who are so acclaimed that they need only go by their first names. Daniel of Daniel Boulud is one of those lucky few. His two Michelin star restaurant Daniel on the Upper East Side is a famous fine-dining destination that’s typically reserved for special occasions. Or perhaps if you’re a fabulous wealthy UES local, it’s just your local neighborhood spot. The pandemic has been especially rough on the fine dining segment. Coordinating multiple plates of a meticulous tasting just doesn’t work when you’re outdoors. So Daniel has momentarily put the tasting on hold and has pivoted to a more casual bistro format–The Terrace at Daniel–although the prices remain sky high. Now Daniel has resumed indoor dining, something I am not quite ready for, but The Terrace remains open.

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