In a city that loves to eat, Chinese is among the most popular cuisines in Manhattan. From Chinatown to Midtown, I frequent a handful of Chinese restaurants that consistently serve my favorite dishes with no disappointments, but there is always room to add one more to that list. Open since late August 2019, Red Peony, located in the heart of midtown’s upscale shopping district, is an elegant Chinese restaurant that feels like a secret oasis within the congested urban landscape. Specializing in both Cantonese and Szechuan-style dishes, Red Peonyaims to be fully inclusive of every palate; with an extensive menu featuring both familiar favorites and exotic-sounding, visually tempting dishes I’ve not seen on other menus. Judging by the number of Chinese families gathered at its large round tables on the night of my visit, Red Peony offers a truly authentic dining experience.
The peony is the unofficial Chinese National Flower. It stands as a symbol of spring and female beauty, and it also represents richness, honor and high social class. A Red Peony specifically represents life and celebration, and you will find all of these values reflected in the restaurant’s opulent interior decor. The first floor dining area features the above pictured, tufted seating in vibrant red fabric, flanking ample-sized tables for two. Larger round tables in the center of the room can accommodate families and larger parties, and there is also a second floor, which is ideal for events and special occasions.
Second Floor Dining Room With Windows Looking Onto 56th Street
Above Image Courtesy of Scout 22 PR. All Other Photos By Gail, Except Where Noted
New York City knows how to do food. No matter what type of cuisine you’re craving, finding a great restaurant is easy. But when you’re vegan or vegetarian, you might end up settling for a place that offers just a few meatless choices, rather than walking into a restaurant where you can enjoy every dish on the menu. And while there’s a Sweet Green or Chop’t on nearly every block, it’s challenging to find a healthy, quick lunch alternative when you are tired of eating salad. This is why the NYC arrival of vegan restaurant chain Copper Branch is cause for genuine excitement!
Copper Branch was founded in 2014 and currently has 50 locations across Canada (and six in Europe), but the chain’s new store in NYC marks its first US location. In mid-September, just a few days after the store opened, I was invited to a private tasting at Copper Branch where guests had the chance to taste not only bite-size samples of many popular menu items, but were also invited to order anything on the menu that we wanted to try. As a confirmed meat-eater myself, what I discovered is that Copper Branch is about so much more than veggie burgers and tofu: this is vegan food that even a die-hard carnivore can get enthusiastic about. Check out just a few of the items offered on Copper Branch‘s very extensive, all plant-based menu.
The satisfying Mushroom Galaxy Burger starts with an oven-roasted portobello mushroom, which is topped with zucchini slices, carmelized onions, vegan provolone cheese, lettuce and aioli sauce. All burgers and sandwiches are served on your choice of organic kamut (an ancient variety of wheat) or gluten-free bun, collard green wrap or organic spelt wrap.
Copper Branch also offers a delicious Spicy Black Bean Burger (which I tasted but neglected to photograph) and a Beet Burger, bites of which are pictured above. I love beets, so I really enjoyed this item, which is served as a patty comprised of beets, organic brown rice, pea protein, sesame seeds organic hemp seeds, sunflowers seeds and lemon juice. These sample bites were dressed as the burger is, with sprouts, caramelized onions, shredded lettuce and Dijon and maple ‘vegenaise.’ I would definitely go back for this burger alone!
Beet fans can also enjoy organic Beet Hummus served with house-made Blue Corn Chips!
I know there’s a lot of greenery here but underneath fresh lettuce, sprouts and tomatoes is one of Copper Branch‘s tasty specialties: Shiitake Teriyaki Mushrooms, which can be served as a Sandwich or a Burger. The taste and texture is comparable to teriyaki chicken.
Pictured above is a bite-size tasting of the Zucchini Noodles with Italian-inspired ‘Coppernata‘, a take on Caponata, the delicious Sicilian eggplant dish. This combination is available in one of the Signature Bowls for a hearty, healthy vegan meal that you won’t find anywhere else in the city!
Do you like Nachos? Who doesn’t! Featuring black beans, vegan cheese, jalapeños, olives, tomatoes, vegan sour cream and guacamole piled onto organic blue corn chips, at Copper Branch, you can enjoy this Mexican favorite guilt-free!
Soy-based Spicy Buffalo Wings (served with sriracha cole slaw and a choice of dipping sauces) could please the most discerning palate. They taste just like your favorite spicy wings and they even look like chicken on the inside.
Also on the menu are oven-baked Copper Cubes (made with white potatoes) and Sweet Potato Copper Cubes as a popular and health-conscious alternative to french fries.
You can make you own bowl or choose from a selection of Copper Branch‘s own creations, such as the Asian Fusion Bowl seen above, which features edamame salad, organic kimchi, lettuce, beets, spiced chickpeas, carrots, broccoli and non-GMO General Tao sauce. The bowl above was customized with the addition of Tofu Scramble.
Image Courtesy of Scout 22 PR
A breakfast menu, featuring Copper Branch Blueberry Cocoa Waffles, is served all day!
Image Courtesy of Scout 22 PR
Copper Branch will cater your next event or office party!
There’s also a selection of house-made vegan desserts, like this most and decadent Chocolate Zucchini Brownie!
And now, dear readers a Special Offer: To further celebrate Copper Branch‘s New York City location, the restaurant is offering a FREEGeneral Copper Bowl or a Black Bean Burger — two of their most popular menu items — to both new and repeat customers at the Greenwich Village location for one day only! The General Copper Bowl is a specialty that features General Tao tofu, fresh avocado, sriracha coleslaw, steamed broccoli and organic brown rice. The Black Bean Burger is a classic, featuring a black bean and sweet potato patty, tomato, lettuce, vegan Southwest sauce, all on an organic Kamut bun. This special promotion will be held all day on Friday, October 25th, 2019. Store hours are 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM. The offer is valid for one item per customer and it cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion. Tell them Worleygig.com sent you!
Copper Branch NYC is Located at 195 Bleecker Street (Between 6th Avenue and Macdougal), in New York’s Greenwich Village. For More Locations, Menus and Other Details, Visit Eat Copper Branch Dot Com.
Image Courtesy of Lawlor Media. All Other Photos By Gail, Except Where Noted
One of the best things about the expansion of uptown Q Train service is that it’s now so much easier for downtown foodies to escape their dining comfort zone and visit great restaurants on the upper east side, such as TBar Steak & Lounge! At TBar, you’ll encounter the same high quality steaks served at classic, old-school establishments like Morton’s or Bobby Van’s, but TBar’s sleek, contemporary decor elevates the atmosphere to something a bit more festive, while they also offer a broader menu. Despite the word Steak being prominently displayed in its name, TBar’s also serves expertly-prepared fish, chicken and duck dishes as well as burgers, pasta, and huge fresh salads, so there really is something on the menu for every palate.
Image Courtesy of Lawlor Media
You will feel welcome right away in the the well-lit, open space of the main dining area, though it can get a bit lively when the room is full. If you are looking for a quieter, more intimate dining experience, you can ask for seating in the back room, which has a cozy feel with its recessed, red lighting.
Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali once said, “It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” Promoting itself as a Taste of Istanbul in the Heart of New York City, Uskudar Turkish restaurant’s 30-year dedication to authentic and delicious dishes has earned them a reputation for serving the very best Turkish cuisine in the City. Stop in for a visit and you will soon discover that the food speaks for itself.
Uskudar’s Chef/Owner Ibrahim Ozdemir began his 40-year career in the restaurant industry baking bread in one of Istanbul’s biggest hotels. When he opened Uskudar on the upper East side in 1987, his objective was to serve dishes whose flavors could transport diners to his homeland, if only for a few hours.
Ozdemir still bakes the fluffy, chewy bread that arrives at your table hot from the oven, and he takes care that every dish he serves is as fresh and authentic as possible. Even the lamb they serve is butchered on site. Uskudar’s extensive menu offers something for every palate, including chicken, seafood, lamb and an array of vegetarian dishes. The narrow space is warm and cosy, with exposed brick, and back & white photographs of Istanbul landmarks adorning the walls. With the attentive, friendly service, you will feel at home right away.
I dined at Uskudar with a friend who had been there many times before, and she had been talking to me about the restaurant for weeks before we were able to finally a make date. There were so many dishes that she wanted me to try that we ended up ordering way more food than two people could possibly eat, but it was worth it.
Two must-try appetizers are the Mucver — shredded zucchini fritters fried to a golden brown crispiness on the outside, but moist on the inside — and Borek — crispy pan-fried phyllo rolls, stuffed with crumbled feta and spinach. Both taste great topped with a little dollop of tangy homemade yogurt.
Mediterranen Meze Platter
An excellent way to sample many different tastes is to opt for the Mediterranean Meze Platter, featuring generous portions of assorted vegetarian appetizers including Yalanci Dolma (Grape leaves stuffed with rice, black currants, onions, pine nuts), Spinach Tarator (Spinach dip made with labne — a strained-yogurt cheese — with garlic, and minced walnuts), Hummus (traditional Chickpea dip with tahini, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice), Fasulye Pilaki (White Kidney Beans with scallions, tomato, garlic), Ezme (Tomato, onion, parsley, and walnut spread), and Patlican (Smoky eggplant dip with garlic, yogurt, herbs). Two hungry diners could easily make a satisfying meal from this selection of exotic and flavorful dips, accompanied by a basket (or two) of fresh bread and a generous pour from the wine list. If you are dining with a group, the Meze Platter can easily serve as an appetizer for three to four people. It’s huge!
Chicken Yogurt and Rice Pilaf
For an entree, I wanted to try a dish that I had not tasted before, but which had familiar ingredients, so I chose the Chicken Yogurt, which is chunks of chicken breast baked with sautéed pita and yogurt in a little casserole dish. Like all entrees, it comes with a side of your choice of rice or vegetables, and I chose the fluffy rice pilaf.
Here’s a close-up shot, where you see that a few colorful peppers and tomatoes have been added for flavor and texture. The chicken in this dish is absolutely succulent, and perfectly season. The sautéed pita maintained the consistency of a firm noodle, and the yogurt blended with the natural juice of the chicken to create a light sauce. This dish was excellent, and it would also be a good choice for a non-adventurous diner (we all know them) who had not tried Turkish food before.
My dining companion wanted to try the Vegetable Casserole, because although she eats meat, it was one of the few dishes she had not tried before. This dish is very simple, comprised of a variety of vegetables such as carrots zucchini, potatoes and onions stewed in a tomato sauce, and served with a side of rice or vegetables. My friend asked if she could have a bit of both rice and vegetables as her side, and they were happy to accommodate her.
I will admit that after enjoying so many delicious appetizers, I purposely ate only about half my entree (taking the leftovers home), because I knew what was coming up next: Dessert!
Uskudar makes all of their authentic Turkish desserts on premises, and while they may have unfamiliar names, you will surely recognize Baklava, a pastry made with many layers of flakey filo dough, baked with nuts and honey syrup. There are also Turkish versions of Flan, Chocolate Pudding, and Rice Pudding on the menu.
Trio of Desserts
Since my friend is a regular customer, she asked our server if the kitchen could put together smaller servings of three of her favorite desserts for us to share. Again, they were happy to do so. Here’s what we ate.
This is the Baklava, which is studded with chopped pistachio nuts, gooey with honey, and very rich. One tiny piece was plenty after such a large meal.
This dessert is called Kadayif, which is a pastry that’s very similar to Baklava, except is it make with shredded wheat.
Last but not least, you must try the Kayisi: Pouched Apricots stuffed with a whole Almond, and topped with sweet Whipped Cream and finely chopped Pistachios. This sweet treat is simply divine, and I will order it every time I come back to Uskudar. Amazing.
While menu prices are very reasonable, Uskudar also offers a three-course price fixe lunch for just $19, and a three-course ‘early bird’ dinner (served 4 – 7 PM) for a mere $27 — which are unbelievable bargain prices for Manhattan restaurant dining. Whether Turkish cuisine is your favorite, or you’re just in the mood for trying something new, be sure to put Uskudar on your radar to enjoy an unforgettable culinary experience.
Uskudar is Located at 1405 2nd Avenue (Between 73rd & 74th Streets), Just One Block from the 72nd Street Q Stop, In NYC. Uskudar also offers outside catering, and they can host private parties, or small corporate events. Visit Their Website at This Link for More Information!
One of the most enjoyable parts of dining in an Indian restaurant, especially if you possess an adventurous palate, is the experience of being able to taste many different dishes as part of one meal. If I am looking for an incentive to step beyond the comfort zone of my ‘stand by’ favorites, and the quality of the food is still reputably high, I might check out a place that has unique decor, or that features the dishes of a region or state whose food I haven’t yet tasted — because all Indian cuisine is definitely not the same.
I was recently offered the opportunity to visit Vatan, a Vegetarian Indian Restaurant in Kips Bay which specializes in Gujarati cuisine. A little bit of Googling told me that Gujarat is a state on the western coastline of India, with a strong influence of Jain culture and philosophy, which explains why Vatan favors purely vegetarian dishes. Vatan is also distinct for its prix fixe dinner, which includes a thali-style arrangement (many servings of various foods all served together on a large silver platter) of appetizers and condiments, followed by a thali-style main course array, including bread, followed by dessert. The price is $34 per person and it includes all you can eat of any featured dish from any of the three courses. Exciting!
As soon as you enter Vatan, it is clear that you will be dining in an immersive atmosphere unlike other Indian establishments in Manhattan. Vatan’s cozy main dining area emulates the look of a beautiful open courtyard, so you will almost feel that you are dining outside. There is even a tall, leafy tree in the center of the room, whose branches spread out across the ceiling. If you look closely, up high you will see a couple of monkeys perched among the leaves, ready to playfully pelt you with an orange! Just kidding, of course, but it does look that way!
Two seating options are offered for your optimal comfort: you can either remove your shoes and sit cross-legged, or sit western style.
The focal point of the dining room has to be this glowing red monumental figure of Ganesha, the Elephant-headed God who is the Remover of Obstacles. It is really captivating!
The walls also feature may colorful murals like the one above, which is just outside the kitchen, and the mural below, which was adjacent to our table.
All of the staff are dressed in beautifully-detailed, traditional costumes, which gives the experience an even more immersive and authentic feel.
Our server arrived promptly to take our drink order (beverages are not included the fixed price), and they do have both beer and wine on offer. I ordered a glass of this lovely, full-bodied Merlot, which provided a nice complement to the spicy food. Menus are not really necessary, since Vatan serves a fixed fare (though you can choose a vegan, or gluten-free option), but they do have a few specialty sides, which are available for an additional charge. With the Entree Thali, you also have the choice of your preferred degree of spiciness. I opted for mild (which trust me, was still quite spicy) while my dining companion went with medium spiciness.
Appetizer Thali and Condiments
When our appetizer course arrived, our server took a few moments to describe the ingredients in each dish, as well as brief details of how each was prepared (boiled, fried etc). She even offered suggestions as to which condiments went best with which appetizers, or main course dishes. The service was truly impeccable throughout the meal. Here’s a description of everything on the Appetizer Thali:
Chana Masala (Chickpeas With Onions And Coriander)
Khaman (Puffed Cream Of Wheat Flour Cakes)
Muthia (Steamed Flour With Spinach)
Mirchi Bhajia (Fried Hot Peppers With Garam Masala)
Batatavada (Fried Potato Balls In A Chickpea Flour Batter)
Ragda Patis (Potato Cutlet In A White Bean Sauce)
Sev Puri (Potatoes, Garbanzo Beans, Yogurt, And Chutney Filled In A Crispy Bread)
Samosa (Triangular Savory Pastries Filled With Spicy Potatoes And Green Peas)
Despite what you may be “used to” when dining out, I encourage you to just surrender to this unique experience. You may be tempted to ask for bread and raita (popular cucumber yogurt dip), since many Indian restaurants serve those items with the appetizer course, but sit tight, because that’s coming up.
Detail shot of the Chana Masala (foreground), Muthia (right rear), Khaman (left front ) and Batatavada (left rear).
I enjoyed every dish on my tray, though I did offer my hot pepper to my friend, since I did not want to tempt fate. We were asked if we would like seconds of anything, but not knowing how much food was still coming, we declined.
The Entree Thali arrived next, and it was just as beautiful as the previous tray. Here’s what we ate, as seen in the photo above:
Toor Dal (Boiled Lentils Cooked With Indian Spices)
Bhaji (Sautéed Spinach And Corn)
Ful-Cobi (Cauliflower And Green Peas Sautéed In A Savory Sauce)
Batakanu Sak (Potatoes Cooked In A Mild Red Gravy)
It is not uncommon in Gujarati cuisine to have both savory and sweet dishes in the same course, such as the entree dishes of Rice Pudding and Mango Soup, which I enjoyed mixing together in a single bite.
The little puffed Puri breads are ideal for holding small bites of food and making little tacos with them. Super tasty, and also, fun!
Because you are not quite exploding just yet, they also bring you delicious Entree Complements (Seen Above):
Pulao (Boiled White Rice With Peas)
Khichdi (Lentils Mixed With Rice And Assorted Vegetables)
Kadhi (Soup With Yogurt And Chickpea Flour In Authentic Spices), which is similar to Raita, and which we shared for use as a sauce to cool the fire of the spicier dishes.
Roti Flat Bread
Everything was delicious.
After a short break to let our food ‘settle’ a bit, it was time for the final Dessert And Chai course, consisting of mango and one other flavor of Homemade Indian Ice Cream, which we split evenly.
There is also Gulab Jamun , a warm Donut Ball in a Sugar and Rose Syrup, which I just added to my ice cream because I thought would be more fun, and it was.
Masala Chai is a sweet Indian Tea with Cardamom, Ginger and Milk; the perfect ending to a perfect meal. While we were advised that we could have as much as we wanted of everything, frankly, the cumulative portions served were very generous. The fixed price menu is an excellent value and I could not possibly have eaten one more bite. .We really enjoyed our evening at Vatan, and I am looking forward to returning for future visits with new friends!
Vatan is Located at 409 3rd Avenue (Between 28th and 29th Streets), in the Kips Bay Neighborhood, New York City. Visit Vatan NY Dot Com for more Information and to Make a Reservation.
Opening an art gallery inside a restaurant may not be an entirely original idea, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen more often. In fact, I think it’s a spot-on idea whose time as arrived! In a thrilling and logical partnership, TAO Group and Pop International Galleries have joined together to create a new art gallery in the vestibule of Vandal, one of the coolest contemporary pop art-themed restaurants and lounges in New York City.
Art by Dom Pattinson (Left) and Flore (Right)
It’s worth noting that Pop International Galleries’home base is located just a few doors down the street from Vandal, and the Pop gallery insideVandal features works by a select handful of popular street artists that the gallery represents. Along with original artworks by UR New York, Sean “Layercake” Sullivan, Flore, Dom Pattinson and RESO, a portfolio of ten very affordable, signed and numbered limited-edition prints by this group of artists are on exhibit and available for purchase.
If you’re looking for delicious and authentic Indian cuisine in NYC, it really isn’t hard to find. There are even a few neighborhoods — like East 6th Street or Curry Hill — with a concentration of reliable eateries that can satisfy any craving you might have for Indian Cuisine from a variety of regions. Great Indian restaurants are everywhere, but I have a couple of favorite places that stand out for me as being worth going out of my way for, and one of those is Benares. My foodie friend Anne and I attended an event at Benares back in 2012 to celebrate the opening of its now-former midtown location, and I still recall the delicious small bites and refreshing craft cocktails, along with gracious service and a comfortable but classy vibe that we experienced. So I jumped at the chance to revisit Benares now that the restaurant has relocated to Murray Street in Tribeca. We felt welcome the minute we walked in the door.
Benares takes its name from the city located in the Western state of UP (Utter Pradesh), and the extensive menu includes a medley of Indian dishes, with an emphasis on the cuisine of that region. The city of Benares is known for vegetarian dishes, and the restaurant features over 20 delicious and unique vegetarian specialties, making it an ideal destination for groups with diverse dining tastes or dietary restrictions.
Benares‘ menu also has many unusual seafood and meat dishes. Chef Peter Beck (formerly of Tamarind) prepares his signature dishes such as the Sevai Tomato Kurma (mussels, scallops, rock shrimp and crab claws tossed in a garlic tomato sauce over Indian style rice noodles) and the Tandoori Hen ( whole Cornish hen marinated in lime, ginger, cumin, garlic and garam masala and cooked in the tandoor oven). These are dishes that you will not find in other NYC Indian restaurantsI I brought Anne along with me, and we are served a tasting menu that included an enormous amount of indian specialties. Here’s what we ate!
Among a half-dozen or so appetizer bites that started off the dinner, we especially loved this Khasta Gobi: lightly batterrd and crispy fried cauliflower with garland crushed pepper in a tangy sauce.
Chicken Tikka: Tandoor grilled tender pieces of chicken marinated in yogurt and spices.
Makkai Ka Soweta: Lamb Shoulder marinated in yogurt, tumeric, chili , ginger and glare (very spicy) with fresh corn. Delcious!
Spicy Grilled Shrimp!
Our feast of several entrees — both meat and vegetarian — arrived quickly and included many of our favorites!
Basmati Rice with Saffron and Peas
Freshly Baked Naan Bread
One vegetarian dish that I had never tried before is the Malai Kofta: a Vegetable and Cheese Dumplings served in Cashew and Onion Gravy. It is perhaps comparable to an Indian Matzhoh Ball! Very tasty!
Saag Paneer is a popular dish that everyone loves: Cubes of Indian cottage cheese served in creamed fresh spinach with mild Indian spices.
Butter Chicken is another mildly spicy meat dish that is a universal favorite, and a great introductory entree choice for anyone who has not had Indian food before. In this dish, tandoori grilled tikka of chicken is cooked in a smooth tomato gravy, rich in cashews and, as the name implies, finished with butter. Sublime!
Lamb Rogan Josh is dish that always makes me think of the American journalist and political analyst, Josh Rogin, but the two are not related! Rogan Josh is signature dish from Kashmir, consisting of succulent pieces lamb in a sauce flavored with cardamom, aniseed and paprika. The meat is excellent quality and has the texture of very tender beef. If you think you aren’t going to like lamb, I would recommend that you try this dish, and be won over!
We were understandably stuffed after indulging in so many amazing dishes, but our host insisted that we have dessert, and how could we say no to this gorgeous creation which they call an Atom Bomb: Warm Chocolate Lava Cake with Rose Petal Ice Cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. It tasted as wonderful as it looks. Rose Petal ice cream is a delicate treat that I highly recommend. The subtle but distinguishable essence of rose gives this ice cream a very light and unique flavor. It is fun to try new things!
Benares‘s beautiful interiors and intimate dining spaces make it a perfect restaurant choice for any occasion from a business lunch to a first date or just a get-together with friends. Theres something for everyone on the menu and they will make you feel so welcome you will return again again.
Benares is located at 45 Murray Street (take the 2, 3, A or C trains) in Tribeca, NYC. See more photos, full menus, and make a reservation to dine at Benares by visiting Benares NYC Dot Com!