Middle Eastern food is experiencing a surge in popularity these days, particularly downtown. And like many new-wave ethnic restaurants, the food is more refined and inventive than what you might find in a more traditional restaurant. Two additions to this recent wave of modern Middle Eastern restaurants are 19 Cleveland and Shuka, both of which chose to set up shop in the Soho area. Expect to rub elbows with the trendy, fashion-y types who like their avocado toast with a little sprinkling of za’atar on top.
La Mercerie in Soho is such a beautiful restaurant that it could just coast by on its looks and be successful. The space is quite stunning, as it serves double duty as a dining room and as a showroom for exquisite and expensive home furnishings. You almost feel obligated to dress up a little so that you don’t ruin the look and feel of the place, which goes well with Gucci and Celine, less so with anything much more modest.Read More
Ato is a restaurant that’s very easy to miss, even if you’re looking for it. It looks like an abandoned retail space from the outside with no obvious signage around. Once you do a double take and notice the menu taped out front, you might be inclined to enter, although you’ll still wonder if this place is fully open. Something about it feels like it hasn’t completely repurposed its original retail space as a restaurant, even though there is an omakase counter and proper tables set up in there. But sure enough, Ato is very much fully operating, despite looking like a work in progress.Read More
The restaurant industry is tough. Even if you’re a famous, respected chef like Floyd Cardoz pushing the envelope on Indian food at a restaurant like Paowalla in Soho, it’s still not enough to make it. And it’s an even tougher sell when your concept is fancy Indian. Indian food hasn’t entered the mainstream dining consciousness in New York City like it has in London or elsewhere, so I’d imagine people would need to embrace regular naan bread first before going more upscale.Read More
When I first reviewed Cafe Altro Paradiso, I couldn’t help but compare it to Estela, its older, more accomplished sister restaurant, and in doing so, I set myself up for disappointment. The food at Estela was quirky and delicious, whereas Cafe Altro Paradiso’s by comparison seemed a little too conventional. It’s been awhile now since I’ve been to either restaurant, so when I recently had lunch at Cafe Altro Paradiso, I felt like I could eat with more of an open mind, as faded memories of past meals exerted less of an influence.Read More