For centuries, the diverse cultures of Asia have been borrowing culinary traditions from their neighbors, transcending borders to swap cooking techniques and seasonings. At China Spice, chefs that hail from locales such as China, Nepal, and Tibet illustrate these time-honored pastimes on plates, harmoniously uniting the spices and styles of Indian, Sichuan, Thai, and Nepalese cuisines. Flecks of coriander and turmeric—hallmarks of Indian and Thai kitchens—might pepper dishes doused in classic Chinese soy sauce. Provincial Hakka specialties, such as chili chicken, neighbor dishes from cosmopolitan Shanghai. Ample rice and noodle dishes, vegetarian fare, and seafood populate tables next to long banquettes, which unfurl amid low lighting and deep earth tones.
A plush, scarlet-accented interior welcomes diners to Nanking, whose namesake city—plotted equally between Canton and Peking—boasts a strong history of mingling Chinese, Thai, and Indian flavors. The fusion fare descends on appetites as natural light from a wall of broad windows washes over gleaming wooden floors, punctuated by a long bar stocked with wines, cocktails, mocktails, and ice sculptures chiseled by a famous cubist. Velvety, modern red chairs support diners as they feast on everything from spicy seafood to rich goat-meat curries and numerous vegetarian options that offer protein in the form of chickpeas, paneer, and tofu.
Along with importing Portugal's unique recipes to the shores of Newark, Sol-Mar Restaurant envelops patrons in an atmosphere that recalls a sidewalk café in Lisbon. Adorned with leafy foliage, murals, and terra-cotta awnings, the dining room features large, arched windows through which commedia dell'Arte archetypes can make their dramatic exits. To top the earth-toned tablecloths, a menu of authentic Iberian fare features dishes such as creamy clams casino, stuffed salmon with crabmeat, and grilled veal chops.
A restaurant, no matter its size, can be an intimate place. Bobby Van knew that well. If you'd walked into his first restaurant in the Hamptons 40 years ago, you might have found him playing the piano or slinging drinks behind the bar—inflecting the place with his personality, making a connection with the guests who dined there. He made such a big impression that 40 years later his name still graces a family of grills and steakhouses with a meaty legacy all their own.
The menu at each eatery opens with an assortment of salads and seafood appetizers, which may include delicate crab cakes or chilled lobster cocktails. Entrees may prove to be the hardest course to decide on, with a selection that includes lamb chops, fish, and steaks ranging from filets to sirloin to marbled porterhouses big enough to feed two, three, or four. Each space also holds a full bar stocked with spirits as well as wines handpicked by the sommelier.
The culinary wizards at Spanish Pavillion adroitly sate hunger pangs with their multifarious lunch and dinner menus that feature authentic Spanish cuisine. Noontime noshers feast on handheld victuals such as an imported ham-and-cheese panini with saffron aioli ($8) or delve carnivorously lunching forks into the meaty depths of the 8-ounce filet mignon with mojo verde ($16). During dinner, put kindergarten-honed sharing skills into practice with the savory tapas menu, which dishes out small plates including a Galician bean stew ($4), grilled chorizo ($9), and octopus with hot paprika ($11). Larger entrees include the paella calasparra, hosting a toothsome protein party of clams, mussels, prawns, calamari, scallops, chicken, shrimp, and chorizo congenially hot-tubbing in a saffron seafood broth ($26, $49 for two). Red-wine-braised short ribs delight mouths with their tender flavor-kisses ($24), and the 1.25-pound grilled twin lobsters team up in matching red costumes for a palatable duet ($31).