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.
It's been nearly two decades since Hard Grove Cafe opened, and in that time, the Cuban-themed restaurant has evolved into a place where locals gather to see art exhibits and dance to live music. Of course, the biggest draw is still the authentic Cuban cuisine. Diners can dig into seafood mofongo—roasted chicken glazed with guava-infused barbecue sauce—and tangy ropa vieja, amid other exotic dishes. Vegetarian-friendly alternatives are available, along with sandwiches and burgers for diners who are afraid to use forks. Bartenders whip up refreshing mojitos and cosmos for accompaniment. Sundays bring an extensive brunch with optional bottomless bloody marys and mimosas.
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.
The chefs at Kulcha Corner fire up a traditional clay oven, in which specialty Kulcha, or Indian-style flatbreads—concocted from flour, salt, yogurt, and milk—bake until golden brown. Servers ferry trays of tandoori kebabs and hot vegetarian curries to tables, where diners can revel in the entrees’ spiciness. The oblong eatery invites patrons to relax at tables for four and gaze toward an HDTV positioned near the back of the venue. Glossily stained wainscoting underscores sconces that emit vectors of romantic yellow light, and a deep-red back wall reminds guests of what would happen if a lipstick truck crashed into a wall.
Named for the Spanish word for nostalgia, Añoranzas Colombianas helps diners to understand Columbia’s culinary history with traditional recipes. As the restaurant's televisions play salsa and cumbia dance videos, affable waiters ferry plates of shrimp in lemon sauce and chicken fajitas. The Bandeja Paisa, or country platter, mingles chorizo and fried pork belly with marinated steak, sunny-side-up eggs, avocado, and rice and beans served atop a 4-H manual. Not to be outdone by the main courses, cups of strong Colombian coffee and plates of flan add their own complex flavors each meal.
Aromatic spices perfume the air at Khaja Haleem & Grill as diners sit down to platters of freshly prepared, authentic North Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Hefty portions of biryanis and tandoor-cooked meats and veggies feature marinated chicken, minced mutton, or goat. Vegetarians find their wheelhouse in the selection of six veggie entrees, including fried okra and spicy soup. Seven styles of naan come stuffed with garlic, jalapeños, cheese, or smaller pieces of naan.