Henry grew up riveted by his father's stories of the mysterious, powerful people known as Falansai. Having fled to Vietnam from World War II?era China, Dad always had plenty of anecdotes about the Falansai, whom he'd often chauffeur across Saigon in his taxi cab. Throughout Henry's childhood, stories of these wealthy and mysterious Falansai bloomed in Henry's imagination.
Years passed before Henry learned why the Falansai weren't in the history books: his dad was mispronouncing "Francais"?the French.
The harmony of cultures that characterizes his dad's experiences, says Henry, exemplifies the multiculturalism of Vietnam as a whole. At his aptly named restaurant, Henry plumbs the expanse of Vietnam's culinary fusion to create a dynamic menu, drawing upon Vietnamese culture's blend of French, Chinese, and traditional elements to craft each dish. Sometimes Henry even imbues items with other cross-cultural fusion, as in the Buffalo-style wings made with Vietnamese tamarind and Thai?American Sriracha. In the same multicultural vein, the staff often suggests bottles of American beer and French wines, especially for patrons who need to send messages across the Atlantic.
Despite his restaurant's global ambition, Henry celebrates the local culture as well. Falasai often draws patrons' attention to their own community, maintaining an online presence that celebrates Bushwick's local gallery and street-art scene.
When naming their restaurant, the Iglesias family wanted find a moniker that reflected their bold take on traditional Mexican cuisine. What they found was “adelitas,” a historical term used to describe females who served as soldiers, cooks, and nurses during the Mexican Revolution.
Though their menu brims with innovative dishes such as fried pork chops marinated in tamarind sauce, they also serve traditional plates such as carnitas Don Julio. The roasted pork dish is served with tortillas and a secret sauce whose recipe is protected by a force field surrounding the kitchen.
Chinese hamburgers might sound like a distinctly American hybrid, but in fact, they've been served for some time on the streets of Xi'An. There and here, they're combinations of spiced meat and fresh garnishes, enclosed in a somewhat dainty bun that's midway between a Chinese bao and an english muffin. The star sandwich of Chinger's concise menu incorporates another Xi'An specialty: shredded, marinated pork, graced simply with cilantro and sauce. Other versions sub in beef spiced with cumin or a gluten-based meat alternative with sliced daikon and kelp. The kitchen also fills bowls with five styles of ramen and cups with tapioca pearls harvested by tiny milk-tea divers.
After five years managing a retail store, Ana realized she wanted to sell something else entirely: food. So she enrolled in culinary school, where she first honed the skills she now displays at Simplicity Wine Bar & Cafe. Her tapas range from spicy veggie empanadas served with pineapple-mango aioli to cayenne-spiced chocolate cupcakes. With numerous organic varietals to boot, a frequently updated selection of wine by the glass and bottle complements Ana's cuisine and confections.
When eyes aren't glued to Ana's artfully plated dishes, they're probably busy taking in Simplicity's nightly entertainment. The lineup includes plenty of café staples, such as poetry nights, open mics, and Sunday afternoon concerts by award-winning guitarist Jorge Arévalo Mateus. On weekends, live DJs convert the bar into a dancehall by spinning classic reggae and hip-hop tunes.
Even the most journeyed Thai-food connoisseurs may find themselves on foreign soil while perusing Zabb Elee’s menu. And it’s easy to see why, as familiar signposts such as pad thai and coconut curry are nowhere to be found, an absence both recognized—and celebrated—by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Chef Ratchanee Sumpatboon foregoes the well-tread Bangkok staples to shine a light on the cuisine of Isan, a northeast region of Thailand that borders, and borrows flavors from, Laos and Cambodia. Laos-inspired larb salads fill out plates of ground pork, beef, and catfish with shallot, fresh mint, cilantro, and chili powder, and specialty dishes such as the pad ped moo krob balance crispy pork with eggplant, basil, and spicy curry. The menu also features lemongrass soups and a small section of Bangkok rice and noodle dishes. Diners can align each dish with their palate’s own heat threshold thanks to Zabb Elee’s spiciness scale, which tops off at five and tapers off at one, the approximate spice level of dragon mouthwash.
The Himalayas are known not just for their towering peaks, but also for the rich cultures that have grown in their shadow. The all-Himalayan culinary team at Himalayan Yak Restaurant re-creates the best dishes picked from Tibetan, Nepalese, Bhutanese, and Indian cuisines. Their menu is subdivided by region and organized to indicate which dishes are vegetarian, letting chefs highlight classic dishes such as spice-laden chicken chili or exotic yak tongue sautéed in garlic and ginger and served with Tibetan bhaley bread. Most of the dishes can be customized with a choice of meat—including goat and buffalo—or vegetables. A live band plays traditional Himalayan tunes as diners dig into their meals, creating an atmosphere that mimics the serenity of the highest mountain peaks or the feeling of meditating at the top of several glued-together zen gardens.