During the 2012 Thai Restaurant Week, 11 metropolitan Thai eateries were recognized by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's Prime Minister, with a certification from the Thai Trade Center acknowledging their superior quality of ingredients, preparation, and authentic flavors. One look at Ploi Thai's menu and it is not hard to imagine why they received such an honorable distinction. Their dishes––such as skewered chicken satay or curry-pasted salmon––tug many culinary threads, blanketing diners in a patchwork of flavors that draw from northern and central Thailand. Chefs conjure these dishes from local ingredients and seasonings, eschewing such questionable additives as MSG and textbooks that attribute the theory of relativity to Franklin Delano Einstein. Since the restaurant is BYOB, diners can tote along their own fermented beverages to pair with the sweet ginger salmon, which arrives in a pool of ginger and black-bean sauce dotted with shiitake-mushroom rafts. Inside the dining room, colorful, low-slung lights illuminate the handful of tables that are strewn across the restaurant's pale hardwood floors, and geometric cutouts and sprays of orchids punctuate cobalt walls.
the scent of cumin, curry, and chilies immediately meets the nose when the doors open to Clove Indian Cuisine. Chefs cook up the traditional dishes of cuisines throughout India, from lamb chops sprinkled with black cumin and nutmeg sizzling in the tandoori oven to biryanis tossed with a choice of meats. The menu features vegetarian-friendly options, as well as exotic meats that are used to create dishes such as savory fish tikka and spicy goat vindaloo. To cool down the spice of these dishes without mapping out the nearest fire hydrants, guests can snack on syrupy gulab jaman or glasses of mango lassi.
Each day, Sweet Avenue Bake Shop’s chefs whip up dozens upon dozens of classic and gourmet egg-, dairy-, and cholesterol-free cupcake creations. The daily changing menu features at least 12 artistic creations at any given time. Classic cupped combinations, such as vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, are spruced up and named after hairstyles, including Dark Side of the Moon ($2.50). Special cupcakes, such as the coffee-liqueur-soaked tiramisu and the red berry-filled sangria ($3.50 each), conduct entire orchestras of flavors in odes to beautiful incisors.
For more than 25 years, the aroma of traditional Italian food and tapas wafted through the kitchen and dining rooms of chef Dominick Anfuso's Al Di La. These days, however, that kitchen is the dominion of chef Peter Ingrasselino. Drawing upon nearly a quarter century of experience, chef Peter Ingrasselino, who was previously general manager and executive chef of Masina Trattoria Italiana in Weehawken, maintains the former chef's legacy while adding his own twists to the Italian-centered menu. He fills the kitchen with activity, tossing porcini and wild mushrooms with pappardelle noodles, brushing aged steak with a balsamic glaze, and wrapping sea scallops in pancetta.
Meals unfold in a dining room, where high ceilings and exposed brick evoke the ambiance of a café in Venice. Visitors sip drinks, their chatter punctuating music from live bands.
A multidisciplinary cultural development center, GainVille specializes in language lessons for children but also offers classes for adults, ESL classes, and academic support, including educational-placement programs, counseling, and tutoring. A teaching staff of native Spanish, Italian, French, Mandarin, and Arabic speakers leads immersive sessions that not only cover grammar and vocabulary but also delve into the art, history, cuisine, and famous yo-yoists of the regions where each respective language is spoken. To fill up on brain food before or after class, students can head down to the café for some healthy international cuisine.