Lucky Cheng's — whose décor was immortalized in lush photos printed in NY Magazine — has billed itself as "the Drag Queen Capital of the Universe" since its inception 20 years ago, when it was still located in the East Village. Today, it sits amid the bustle of Times Square, but many aspects of the business still remain: lively drag cabaret, menus of pan-Asian fare, cocktails made with house-infused vodkas, and an ever-growing list of outrageous celebrity antics to make even the most seasoned tabloid reader blush. Under the soft, pink glow of delicate paper lanterns, Ashley Olsen allegedly threw a tantrum. On a break from filming The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey were rumored to carouse on Martin Scorsese's dime at a late-night bash. Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton were spotted here shooting scenes for an upcoming flick, and Ethan Hawke allegedly escaped here to nurse post-breakup wounds. And, enveloped in an all-red cabaret room, Britney Spears is said to have stormed the stage and plucked off the clothes of patrons competing in a boxers-or-briefs contest. Lucky Cheng's has also appeared on iconic small-screen shows, making cameos on favorites such as 30 Rock and Sex in the City.
But for all its association with Hollywood stars and Page Six-level shenanigans, Lucky Cheng's boasts plenty of drama of its own. The establishment's famed drag performers adorned in jewels, shimmering embroidery, and sharply contoured cheekbones bring their most incandescent selves to the stage every night, as diners enjoy pre-fixe meals and sometimes even join in on the act.
Over a plate of fresh Maine lobster that they brought back to the city themselves, husband-and-wife duo Ralph Gorham and Susan Povich wondered aloud, “Why doesn’t someone in New York start a fresh-seafood business?” Their destiny as restaurateurs was realized the moment those words were uttered: they opened Red Hook Lobster Pound a mere six months later. Gorham began traveling to Maine every weekend, scoping out catches and making deals with fisherman, choosing only those that partook in environmentally sustainable practices. Meanwhile, Povich experimented with recipes in order to add to an already lengthy repertoire of lobster-based recipes she learned while growing up in the Northeast. Word of mouth helped spark interest in their eatery, and before long, the demand compelled them to expand their storefront to include a picnic-style dining room. They’ve even added a food truck––nicknamed "Big Red"––that brings lobster-based dishes to diners across the city. According to The New York Times, success has had little effect on Red Hook Lobster Pound’s menu: “It tastes as fresh as can be, which matters when you’re dealing with a trend that’s growing so fast.” Their lobster rolls—served on split-top buns and garnished with just enough homemade mayo—have been lauded by Zagat, Bloomberg News, and Gourmet.com. Other popular dishes include lobster bisque, lobster mac-n-cheese, and a lobster dinner, served with homemade coleslaw, potato salad, and fresh, lake-caught corn.
At Pescatore, chef Kenneth Johnson and his team honor the deceptive simplicity of Italian cuisine's commitment to culinary fundamentals. The restaurant's menus showcase the importance of using a base of simple, vibrant ingredients, then adding flair and complexity. This is evident in dishes such as the eatery's ricotta appetizer, which is accented by chives, hazelnuts, clover honey, and mint, and its roasted red- and yellow-beet salad, dotted with pickled shallots and dressed with champagne-honey vinaigrette.
Competing on a National Stage
Whether he's cooking for a crowd of diners or competing on national television, Johnson uses basic techniques to craft delicious dishes. So, when faced with the daunting task of preparing a dessert using spiral ham, spiced rum, green plantains, and water chestnuts, he created a traditional streusel. Sticking to a straightforward dessert netted Johnson a first-place finish on the Food Network's Chopped?his second victory in as many appearances.
Key Ingredients at Pescatore
The chefs at The Eastern Pearl may specialize in gourmet Cantonese dishes, but they don't always limit themselves to the flavors of South China. An expansive menu celebrates the diversity in Cantonese food while also drawing from other regions of China and Hong Kong, and spices are used only in moderation to put the focus on the meats and vegetables. Chicken, beef, pork, and fish are the focal points of colorful plates ranging in flavor from sweet and sour to bold and spicy. House specialties, meanwhile, include a massive peking duck platter and flaming prawns that can be used to light romantic candles. And it isn't just the cuisine that pays tribute to other cultures: lavish interiors whisk diners away to warmer climes with accents of saffron and red. Thin dark-wood partitions with geometric designs divide the booths, and replicas of the famous Qin terracotta warriors stand guard on one wall.
The Original Crab Shack hauls in fresh fish, crab, lobster, shrimp, and clams every day from the ports of Boston Harbor, often getting the seafood in less than 12 hours after it comes off the boats. In the kitchen, cooks transform the catches into seafood through the power of steam or a fryer, filling pots with clams and lobster or baskets with tender fried shrimp and clam strips. Behind their full bar, which is decorated with fairy lights and nautical décor such as anchors, cheery bartenders pour beers or wine and mix specialty cocktails. Light blue walls, punctuated with Cape Cod–style windows, surround the interior of Crab Shack, which is filled with small tables as well as two 10-seater farm tables in the center of the room.
Viru Restaurant demonstrates its authentic Peruvian roots with a wide variety of traditional dishes. Causa rellena de camarones satisfies bellies with shrimp, as long as those bellies like their shrimp hiding inside chilled mashed potatoes that are spiced up with lime and yellow chili ($12). The parihuela, a soupy sea of seafood cooked with white wine, spices, and panca chili, moisturizes parched stomachs with a torrential downpour of flavor ($24). Representing the eternal battle between land and sea, the bisteck a la chorrillana—a grilled New York steak with a sauce made of panca chili, onions, and tomatoes ($24)—wields haricots verts clubs against the pescado sudado, the fish of the day poached in seafood broth and herbs ($19). Placing a comforting cap on dinner, flan reminds diners of former days when sweet, creamy desserts grew everywhere all the time and only cost a nickel ($6). In addition to edibles, Viru Restaurant nourishes guests at the bar, which stocks its shelves with an impressive supply of domestic and imported beers, sangria, wines, and chicha, a drink made of fermented maize.