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.
Beyond Madiba Restaurant's metal-plated storefront, South African music dances through the air, and hanging masks beam down on an eclectic assortment of chairs and tables. Designed by South African native Mark Henegan and his wife Jenny, the dining room evokes the lively, communal ambiance of a South African shebeen—an informal dining hall where locals gather to eat, drink, and socialize. A chandelier of vintage coke bottles illuminates the mismatched assortment of tabletops, plates, mason jars of water, and bottles of house wine.
In the kitchen, Henegan and his kitchen staff whip up authentic platters assembled with imported and local ingredients that garnered praise from Time Out New York and Gourmet magazine. As slow-cooked oxtail stew simmers in a cast-iron pot, cooks baste meats in the apricot, red wine, tomato, and raisin medley that makes up their signature sauce. Chefs whip up a range of seafood entrees and curries, using fish imported directly from South Africa after granting sets of wishes to three local fishermen.
The restaurant hosts a variety of live events throughout the week, from local South African bands to DJ dance parties. Madiba divvies up a percentage of its profits to benefit several community-outreach programs, aiding people locally and internationally with funds for education, urban farming and renewal, and equal rights.
It might be surprising to find a kids menu at an upscale bistro, but as little ones gaze at Bistro Ten 18’s stone fireplace, they can dig into mac ‘n’ cheese with gruyere and pan-roasted chicken. Meanwhile, grownup foodies from across the city mingle with neighborhood regulars as they sip wines curated from France, Austria, and the Napa Valley, and, depending on the night, live jazz drifts past the stone fireplace and onto a patio.
For the past decade, Bistro Ten 18’s chefs have paid close attention to the tastes of their community, using only fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients to create a menu of "unpretentious yet upscale offerings," as New York magazine described the bistro’s lunch and dinner options. A cheese and charcuterie selection mixes and matches Les Frères cheese from Wisconsin-based Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese with rustic salami and chorizo. Small plates of simply spiced veggies also make for a sociable start before diners erect a silverware fence around entrees such as Prince Edward Island mussels and berkshire pork chops.
The gastronomists at La Tee Da created a menu showcasing an Italian bonanza of pasta, rice, seafood, and steak. An appetizer of gluten-free escargot, flavorfied in a butter and parsley sauce warms up cuisine intake apparatuses for larger edible inputs ($10). The gluten-free, vegan caponata weaves together roasted pine nuts, red and yellow peppers, onions, garlic, eggplant, and zucchini squash over a choice of penne pasta, spaghetti, or rice ($16). For culinary couplings, the fresh tilapia with caper ($18), like flying a kite, can be enjoyed with a Casal Thaulero pinot grigio ($7 by the glass) from the extensive wine list and a New York strip steak ($24) slides down gullets with the help of a Martin Ray pinot noir ($10 by the glass) from California.
Without a month or so of vacation, it'd be almost impossible to sample authentic noodle dishes from four different countries. However, aja noodle co. can help you accomplish this feat over the course of a single lunch hour. Its pan-Asian menu incorporates regional dishes from Japan, China, Vietnam, and Thailand, all made individually and from scratch using fresh produce and proteins.
Though the food has its roots in tradition, it's all fully customizable. Guests choose which protein?including veggies, tofu, chicken, beef, or shrimp?they want mixed in with their pad thai or rice bowls. They can also swap out one type of noodles for another, perhaps exchanging lo mein for soba or rice noodles for shoelaces they brought from home. Sauces infused with spicy black beans or sweet coconut milk give the bowls a flavorful base, and vegetarian and vegan options are available for folks with dietary restrictions. aja noodle co. also offers a selection of beer and wine by the glass or bottle and a wide arrange of original recipe sake cocktails.
After building up a restaurant empire throughout Europe and India, Parveen Malhotra assembled a team in Forest Hills to cultivate a menu of Indian cuisine that draws from regions throughout the subcontinent. Diners at Haveli can feast on lamb and chicken kababs from along the northern borders, or they can sample eseafood and shrimp curries from coastal Goa and Cochin. Dishes of Bombay bhel puri rice puffs and okra bhindi masala arrive in colorful, elegant arrangements, while an extensive list of wines and tropical martinis pair perfectly with every meal.
The restaurant’s interior evokes its namesake Haveli—a term for a mansion reserved for the upper echelons of Indian society. Crystal chandeliers cast light onto linen covered tables, white leather sofas, and table settings of crisp napkins. From the saffron-colored walls, murals of jewel-bedecked elephants parade past dinner tables, while paintings of Mughal rulers look down upon banquet spreads with stern, peckish looks.