New Yorkers and tourists alike have come to expect dining adventures from the city known to push boundaries across every corner of the food and beverage industry. From the well established to the up and coming hole-in-the-wall, New York’s chefs are elevating experiences and changing common practices to be more sustainable from food sourcing, all the way through to how staff are trained. Check out some of the biggest culinary themes making their way through New York’s innovative kitchens.
New York restaurants are getting increasingly serious about sustainability. They’re finding creative ways to limit their environmental footprint by sourcing organic produce and proteins. Sustainable-focused ingredients have become prominent, including ancient grains and climate-friendly legumes that add carbon back into the soil and require little water and energy to produce.
Reducing food waste is another key sustainability focus for restaurants. Popular wine bar and eatery Rhodora is a prime example of how New York is prioritizing all parts of sustainable practices from food sourcing, to conscious nose to tail menu-planning.
Creative Cocktail Concepts
New York’s cocktail scene is renowned for its creativity and innovation, and it’s no surprise that mixology trends continue to evolve. Take Apoetheke’s chemistry-like lab that is stirring in vegetable juices and infusing herbs from their garden into craft cocktails, and salting the rims with punchy flavors like wasabi or sumac.
Other spots including Martiny’s or Junoon’s are taking teatime to the bar by combining floral and black teas into warmed whisky or bright tequila spritzers. From amuse bouche cocktails to kick things off an evening, to briny coastal garnishes like crab legs, to Instagrammable venues, cocktail creativity makes New York one of the desirable places to drink.
The Next Coffee Wave
Just when we thought coffee had reached its peak, New York showed us it’s just getting started. White coffee is a Malaysian style of brew roasted at low temperature and only halfway through–has become popular in the city. It contains a higher level of caffeine (less caffeine is roasted out of the bean) and has a nutty, sweet profile people love.
Butter coffees and coffee cocktails are also gracing coffeeshop menus, along with wellness coffees and coffee with fruit juice. Shops like Black Fox Coffee, for example, are making their own milk alternatives and others are putting their own twists on lattes, like Upstate Stock’s smoked maple latte in Brooklyn or The Coffee Project’s deconstructed lattes that allow you to taste each component individually and experiment with your own proportions.
New York City’s food scene has long been known for its progressive offerings, and in recent years, vegan and vegetarian cuisine has been making waves. When Eleven Madison Park, one of the city’s most acclaimed fine dining restaurants, announced their big shift to a completely plant-based menu, it wasn’t long before others followed. But even before this radical shift, restaurants all over the city were already adapting their menus to be more plant-friendly.
HappyCow, a popular vegan and vegetarian site, named New York the second most vegan-friendly city in the world in 2019, with over 100 vegan spots within a 5-mile radius. From Kentucky-fried butternut squash at Dirt Candy, to Willow restaurant’s vegan take on American comfort cuisine (think porcini chicken marsala and cashew cheesecake) and vegan soul food at Cadence, plant-based experiences are now an integral part of the city’s culinary scene.
The melting pot of New York City has always been a hub for cultural exchange, and this diversity is reflected in its food scene. Japanese cuisine is one that continues to evolve and entwine itself with other food cultures. Take the beloved nikkei cuisine, an artful mesh of Japanese and Peruvian food, at Llama San. They’re serving dishes like scallops with wasabi, kohlrabi ceviche, or sancochado broth with clams. New York is also home to Japanese-Mexican fusion, Takumi Taco and Japanese-Italian menus, known as itameshi, at Kamika.
The omakase concept is going beyond the traditional in New York. Omakase is a Japanese word commonly used in sushi restaurants, that essentially means “I’ll leave it up to you.” In omakase-style dining, the chef prepares whatever she or he is feeling, often consisting of extensive seasonal bites. It’s almost like an artistic performance, watching the chef carefully select and craft each bite for diners.
New York restaurants like Noz 17, for example, offer up drinking snacks and fermented soups along with their extensive sushi preparations. Or take Yakitori Torishin, which offers an omakase of yakitori grilled over binchotan coals. Another example is Sush On Me, a fun, all you can drink, cash only sushi counter with a speakeasy vibe that elevates the omakase dining experience.
West African Gastronomy
While global dining continues to be at the forefront of New York’s dining scene, African food is just recently seeing getting the credit it deserves. Innovative chefs like Ayo Balogun and Kwame Onwauchi are at the forefront and have created important concepts to showcase the flavors of their cultural heritage. At the Dept of Culture, Balogun is using his menu and platform to educate diners on environmentally sustainable African ingredients and West African flavors. At Onwauchi’s new concept, Tatiana, he has designed inspired menus based on a melting pot of his own culinary heritage. sustainable. Think egusi dumplings with crab, curried goat patties, and shrimp with decadent creole butter.
Korean Fine Dining
Korean food has been a mainstay of New York’s food scene for years, but Korean chefs aren’t getting comfortable with the status quo. Instead, they continue to elevate Korean cuisine and introduce highly creative fine dining concepts to local diners. Little Mad on Madison Avenue, for example, reflects Chef Sol Han’s “mad” background with a lively combination of Korean fare and French techniques.
Mari restaurant’s gourmet Korean hand rolls are also pushing the boundaries of contemporary Korean cuisine with taco-shaped gim seaweed filled with fun combinations like tuna salad and potato chips, or octopus and pork sausage. Other notable ventures including Cote Korean are revitalizing the steakhouse with Korean flare, or stepping out of the box with sweet and savory combinations like the doughnuts and duck legs at Joomak Banjum.
With sustainability and plant-forward menus at the forefront of New York City’s food trends, cultivated meat presents a whole world of ground-breaking gastronomic and environmental possibilities.
New York City’s experimental cuisine scene helps to set the standard for the industry at large, as chefs look to redefine traditional flavors and cooking techniques. Whether you’re a foodie looking for your next culinary adventure or simply curious about the latest food trends, NYC’s experimental food scene is well-worth the exploration. Be prepared to have your taste buds and expectations challenged.