Lisa Markiewicz lends more than her zen-like surname to the wine bar and lounge she recently opened in Mount Vernon. Her extensive knowledge of pan-Mediterranean cuisine?including grecian tapas and grecian lamb chops?informs the menu at Waterstone Bar & Grille, and her love of the region?s signature libation shines through in a drink menu that features more than 100 wines sold at retail price.
The restaurant?s chic lounge space, recently opened for lunch in addition to dinner, strikes a balance between Old-World elegance and the hipness of the Mount Vernon neighborhood that surrounds it. Exposed-brick walls give way to plum pastels?a contrast mediated by the gauzy black curtains draped over windows and doorways, and the restaurant's prime location puts theaters such as the Hippodrome, Lyric, and Centerstage within close walking distance.
His entrées may be named after animals, but chef Tai keeps his Chinese cuisine absolutely free of meat. He uses imitation meats to craft standout dishes such as pumpkin chicken, kung pao squid, and shredded pork. As if to emphasize his passion for natural foods, Tai cooks only with pure vegetable oil and refrains from flavoring his dishes with MSG or dark magic. These restrictions sometimes force him to get creative, but the results are delicious whether he’s using soybean protein to make chicken or transforming white yams into baby shrimp and squid.
Behind an entryway guarded by brass and ceramic figurines, Rasoi—which means kitchen in Hindi—serves up traditional Indian fare bursting with aromas of cumin, garlic, and ginger. Black, lacquered tables populate with salmon and lamb dishes roasted in a clay tandoori oven. A full menu page of vegan and vegetarian dishes mingles fresh chickpeas and eggplant with dry mango powder and green cardamom. And, after sopping up the last of a three-course Thali feast, guests can sip on a sweet mango lassi or rub the mint-green walls to test whether they’re scratch-and-sniff.
For the Hoang family, opening Pho 14 was a dream come true. Owner Tommy was inspired by his mother, Nga, who grew up in a small town in Vietnam, where she became well-known for her culinary skill, especially with vegetarian dishes. She and her husband hoped to one day open a family restaurant where she could share her talents with others, but their dream was dashed when he was taken prisoner at the end of the Vietnam War. By the time the couple was reunited more than four years later, their plans to open a restaurant had become a distant memory. Today, Nga's passion for cooking has been reignited at Pho 14, where diners feast on authentic Vietnamese dishes inspired by her recipes. There are steaming bowls of pho, of course, brimming with tender rice noodles and garnished with bean sprouts, hot peppers, and fresh basil leaves. Banh xeo (Vietnamese crepes) are rolled up with shrimp and green onions and served with a homemade fish sauce, while five types of spring rolls help get meals off to a delicious start.
Levante’s derives its name from Levantine, the term that refers to the easternmost swath of the Mediterranean region, which includes coastal cities across Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, and Israel. The bistro-style menu reflects this name by featuring flavors and recipes from each of these distinctive yet regionally bound cultures. A wood-fired oven dominates the open kitchen, charcoal grilling veal cutlets, chicken skewers, and eggplant as the chefs load plates with freshly baked scraps of pita and flatbreads. Even the dining room's color scheme echoes the Mediterranean theme with its deep blues and stark whites, mimicking the vista of a sun-bleached village beside the sea.
The counter staff at Amsterdam Falafel Shop fries their signature fare right before your eyes and hands you your sandwich roughly three minutes after ordering. But it’s a collaborative process. After that, you can head to the garnish bar and dress the deep-fried chickpea balls any way you like, ladling, scooping, and drizzling on any of the 21 garnishes, pickles, and sauces to craft a meal that’s customized to your taste buds or those of the roommate living off your crumbs. And, in the Dutch tradition, the shop also serves fries that may be jazzed up with a choice of dressings, including dutch mayo, homemade peanut ‘saus,’ malt vinegar, and Old Bay seasoning.